Another pleasant change was that for the first time I was able to share the con experience with a friend. Usually when I come to Houston for whatever reason, I stay with my sister-in-law and her husband; last year, my wife and son came as well to visit with her sister. But this year my sister-in-law and her husband were away on a trip, so my wife had no interest in spending the day in Houston. Therefore a friend came with me. This was his very first convention, which was itself kind of cool to observe.
|Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Junior, |
and Mary Marvel
by Thom Zahler
Anyway, we arrived at the convention center shortly before the opening at 10 am and were allowed to redeem our prepaid tickets at the convention “command center” on the second floor and enter the building, although the main halls on the first floor, where the artists, guests, vendors, and so forth had their booths, were not open yet. So we went up to the third floor where the panels and workshops were to take place, scouting out the terrain. We made it back down to the first floor by a few minutes after 10 am saw the opening of the doors for hoi polloi. We found artist George Perez's table – and a quickly growing line in which we were already going to have a fairly long wait because he was indeed doing head-sketches by request. But Perez had come up with a system of numbered tickets so that once you had your ticket you could leave the line and come back later to be the next up if they had passed your number. My friend and I therefore secured our numbers and split up. He went to make sure he was there for a scheduled talk by Chris Claremont, long-time writer of The X-Men; I went and found Thom Zahler, from whom I had several months ago commissioned a couple of drawings to be picked up here. One was a group shot of the Marvel (or “Shazam”) Family, and the other was from My Little Pony, to be a gift for my niece. Thom signed the latest volume of Love and Capes that I had brought with me, and we chatted a bit. His friend Jesse Jackson from Dallas was there with him again, and took a picture of Thom and myself along with my two commissions. I visited with them until it was verging on 11 am.
|My Little Pony by Thom Zahler|
by George Perez
Once Claremont's hour ended, we went back down to George Perez's table, where they had indeed passed our numbers, but Perez's “minder” put us up next. We chatted with him a little as he signed our respective books we'd brought (mine was his 1987 Wonder Woman: Gods and Monsters in collected form), as well as did head-sketches – Wonder Woman for myself and Thor for my friend. This year, unlike New Orleans where he was doing the sketches for donations to The Heroes' Initiative, Perez was selling the sketches for a set dollar amount which was, given his stature, a bargain. It was in line with what most other, far less accomplished artists who were there, were asking, and I was happy to pay it. Perez himself was once again a very amiable gentleman, easily the most good-natured of the “big-name” creators I've ever met, one who obviously loves what he's doing, and loves his fans. Again, as at New Orleans a year and more ago, he was drawing away at that table for a line of eager fans every time I passed that area for the rest of the day. He did not, of course, remember me from our previous meeting, but he did seem to remember surreptitiously working in the ghostly form of Mera behind Aquaman in the sketch he did for me then – and was amused that I had not picked up that he was doing so at the time and only discovered it when I got home. My friend and I were able to chat with him for a few minutes as he did our respective sketches, and he was a little more forthcoming about the situation on the New 52 Superman that he was right in the middle of last year. He was very tactful, but basically confirmed that DC editorial is not in a good place right now. He's off Worlds' Finest, unfortunately and which I may have already known – I did know Kevin Maguire is off – but is in negotiations for another project which he understandably could not elaborate on. Again, unfortunately, my friend and I both got the feeling it's not with DC. (Well, “unfortunately” from my perspective as a DC fan – however hard that is lately; my friend is more a Marvel fan and thinks it may be there).
After our time with George Perez, we then split up and went our separate ways, occasionally happening upon one another but mainly doing our own thing for most of the rest of the day. I found a number of collections and a few old comics that I picked up for good prices, as well as got authors' signatures from Kevin J. Anderson (on his The Last Days of Krypton and Superman/Batman: Enemies and Allies) and Alan Dean Foster (the recent reprint of Star Trek Logs One and Two, which I purchased there just for him to sign, my original paperbacks probably long gone). One thing I missed out on was a workshop on “Inventing Languages,” which I've always found intriguing, but the location had changed between when they posted the third-floor layout online and printed it in the convention booklet that we got when we checked in, and they neglected to put any kind of notice on the door of the “old” location for that session. I was a bit irritated by that when I finally realized what had happened, but oh, well.
|Sir Patrick Stewart|
Comicpalooza Facebook page;
our view was not nearly so good...
My friend and I had tried to strategise getting good seats for the final highlight of our day, a panel talk at 5 pm by Sir Patrick Stewart, Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Professor Charles Xavier of the X-Men movies, by going to the venue it was to be in an hour before to see Avery Brooks' (Ben Sisko of Star Trek: Deep Space 9) panel which preceded it, and we met back up there, where we found a sign that Stewart's talk had been moved to a larger hall – a good move, because even though we immediately went to the new location right then, thus arriving almost an hour early, we ended up sitting on the interior of a row nearly all the way at the back. If we had arrived just ten minutes later, we would have gotten no seats, and in fact during his talk I looked around and the entire hall was filled with people standing, easily twice as many people who were sitting. The first location would have handled only a fraction of the number that turned out to hear him. The 45 minutes plus that we waited gave my friend and me a chance to catch up on each other's day, whereupon I found that he had drifted through an adjacent section of the convention center where Galacticon – a semi-decadal Battlestar Galactica convention – was being held in conjunction with Comicpalooza, and managed to get pictures of himself with several of the cast members for very good prices. I kind of wish he had let me know about that opportunity! In an ideal world, we both would have liked to do the same with Patrick Stewart, but in his case the prices were far too high for our budgets and the lines even just to meet him were far too long for our limited time. Nevertheless, we did get to enjoy an hour of listening to him talk about his career, Star Trek, the X-Men movies, and his other current projects and humanitarian efforts, including fielding some good questions from the audience. (EDIT 1 June: The most memorable exchange has become something of a Youtube sensation: link). That hour in itself was worth the whole trip, being the climax and the highlight of our day.
Stewart's talk and questions ended pretty much at 6 pm, whereupon my friend and I headed out, arriving back in Natchitoches about 10:30 or so. I think he had a blast at his first con – I know I did, and his company made the long drives back and forth go by much quicker.
* * *
Here follow some pictures I took of random cosplayers who were in attendance. My friend took many more, and if I can get copies from him I will come back and add those as well.
|Indiana Jones and the Caped Crusader|
|"Conan, what is best in life...?" |
(Click to see the answer)
|Iron Man and Iron Boy ...|
|... and Iron Woman?!|
(They were not together.)
|Spider-Man and Luke Cage?|
(actually simply another attendee)