Sunday, January 29

Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con 2012

I went to the second Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con 2012 yesterday. It was actually held yesterday and today, but my base of operations in south Louisiana is my sister-in-law's in Lafayette, two-plus hours away, and we needed to drive home to Natchitoches today anyway. So it was yesterday only for me. In that one day, however, I accomplished my one major goal – and got a bonus to boot!

My one major goal was to get a stack of hardcover and trade paperback collections signed by one of the modern legends of comic book art, George Perez. And I did, to the number of about a dozen. The hardcovers included both publishers' editions and some of my own library bound volumes of the original comics. I also got two individual comics signed by him – New Teen Titans #1 from the early 1980s and this year's new Superman #1 (Jesus Merino was sitting right beside Perez, and I got his autograph on it also).

When I'd heard that Perez was going to be at this year's Con, I had at first envisioned getting a sketch from him, but a little investigation had revealed that he no longer does ad hoc convention sketches, but rather does a limited number of sketches over the course of the convention as auctioned off beforehand through the Internet, with the proceeds to go to Hero Initiative, a very worthy charitable cause benefiting particularly the older comic book creators who had notoriously bad (or even no) benefits such as pensions or health insurance and now find themselves facing increasing financial hard times as age catches up to them. I tried to find out if he were doing such for this convention, but could find no information. So I had resigned myself to not getting a George Perez sketch …

… Until, after waiting in line to get up to him for about an hour I realized that the reason that the line was moving so slowly was because he was indeed doing quick sketches. Deciding what character I would want him to sketch was no problem – I had decided long ago that if I were to ever get a chance, I would ask him for a sketch of Aquaman and Mera, for two reasons. First, as I've indicated before, Aquaman was my first favorite superhero, and I've always liked the family aspect of his adventures; and second, stylistically I see a lot of similarities between George Perez and another of the greatest comic book artists ever, one very much identified with Aquaman during the 1960s, Nick Cardy. I had a moment's pang of disappointment when, after he had signed the various books I presented to him, I asked if he would possibly be able to do a sketch of the pair and he regretfully said he was only doing single-character sketches, but I had half-expected that answer. I then watched in amazement as he got down to sketching and one of my dreams took form in a mere five or six minutes.

Do you see what he did there? He worked in a picture of Mera after all!  If you don't see it here, scroll to the very bottom of this post.  I am immensely proud to have this sketch – which will be framed and, my wife permitting, will hang in a place of honor in our living room – , and to have met and be able to express my appreciation to Perez for the years of enjoyment he has provided me, from the early 1970s (I first remember him working on Marvel's Avengers ca. 1974). And yes, I specifically did thank him for the fact that, among all the titles of DC's New 52, his Superman title is almost (if not completely) alone in offering a satisfying reading experience both as single issues and as a continuing story. (Perez is writing the first half-dozen or so issues and providing “breakdowns,” which I understand to be layout sketches that Merino then provides the finished art to.)

One final comment: I was inside the con from a little after noon until about six. During that time, every time I would pass by the table where Perez was set up there he would be, cheerfully sketching away or signing books, chatting with the fans, seeming to truly enjoy what he was doing. He is a professional's professional and my esteem for him only grew through the day.

In addition to George Perez, I also got some books signed by Barry Kitson, mainly my library-bound collection of the first two years or so of his and Mark Waid's Legion of Super-Heroes. He was also doing sketches, but his would be better termed full-on finished drawings, complete with color. I would have loved to get one of his as well, but whereas Perez's sketch of Aquaman … and Mera (!) … was accomplished in five or six minutes, Kitson seemed to be taking at least an hour apiece. His line was barely moving, and I could easily see that there was no way he would get to me in the time I had at the con. During the breaks he would sign books, however, and also very personable.

I emphasize how engaging both of these artists were because, although the vast majority of comics creators I've interacted with in the half-dozen or so conventions I've attended have been very open to interacting with their fans, I have run into a couple of the big names (who will here remain nameless) who seemed to consider their convention appearance to be a chore and their fans to be a bother.

Besides meeting these two creators for the first time and chatting with a few others that I had met before, I also wandered around the vendors' stalls and spent quite a bit of money on discounted merchandise. I lost track of how much I spent by late in the afternoon, and haven't gone back and worked up a final tally. All in all I had a great deal of fun.

As I indicated at the beginning, this was the second year that Wizard World has sponsored a New Orleans Comic Con. It was noticeably bigger this year … and the one complaint I have is that it seemed to be a bit less well organized, particularly in the admissions area. None of the volunteer staff giving “guidance” seemed to have a clue as to what was going on, leading to conflicting instructions and a wait in line to get in that I know was longer than it had to be. I didn't experience but was hearing complaints that the convention floor map was inaccurate in the placement of some of the creators, but the only ones I was looking specifically for – Perez, Merino, and Kitson – were right where they were supposed to be. Finally – and this is not specifically the organizers' fault, I would say – late in the day I was hearing grousing from some of the vendors that while there were a lot of people looking around nobody was spending any money.

But from my perspective, as I indicated above, this NOCC was a success beyond my expectations. I have a sketch by George Perez!

* * *
Here follow a few random pictures I took with my iPod Touch through the day, just to give an idea of what the con looked like.  I apologize for the quality of some....

About 12:30, from where I was standing in Perez's line.
It's New Orleans.  It's Carnival Season.  It's the Krewe of Chew-Bacchus!
It came around every half hour or so, with various cos-players drifting in and out of it.
And so forth....
... with some kind of starfighters bringing up the rear.
A comics vendor...
and some more...
A booth selling tickets for the right to get an autograph from Stan the Man.
Besides Stan Lee, there were a number of other big name celebrities, actors, and the like.  With all due respect to them, however, they are not who I was there to see, and although in my wanderings I did catch glimpses of some, I did not seek them out or pay for the right to meet them.

And finally, George Perez at work:

and The Prize:

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