After 19 years of contact, I finally got to meet Mark Lungo when he came to stay at our house this past weekend for the Baltimore Comic-Con. Another old friend, Chuck Munson, arrived on Saturday and also spent the night at our place. We were sorry other "regulars" weren't able to make it, but "real life" has that annoying habit of sometimes intervening.
The Con was, as ever, a refreshing reminder of the ways comic-cons used to be. No hoo-hah about upcoming blockbuster films or cult TV shows -- just a plain ol' dealer's room and a slate of panels devoted, first and foremost, to comics and comics creators. Publishers were well represented, with the shocking exceptions of DC and Marvel (which, to be fair, did spoon out some "dish" at panels dedicated to the companies' upcoming projects). Boom!'s personnel were friendly and helpful and smiled "stay tuned" in response to our questions about future DISNEY CLASSICS hardback editions and additional titles based on Disney Afternoon series. As things turned out, there was some late-breaking news on the latter front that will surely have made a certain segment of DAFTies "nuts" by now. More below...
Saturday's itinerary included a side trip to Geppi's Entertainment Museum, which
was offering half-price admission to all Con-goers who brought their ticket stubs
with them. It didn't take long for me to notice that some of the artwork that had been on hand when GEM opened had disappeared. Half of the display cases in the 19th-century exhibit were empty for reasons of "renovation" (which, in Baltimore parlance, usually means that you've got a long wait ahead of you before things get fixed). But it was nice to see "all that cool stuff" again, and the gift shop is extremely well appointed, with a nice selection of books, plushies, and chatchkas.
From Geppi's, we met Nicky and proceeded to M&T Bank Stadium to watch the preseason game between the Ravens and the Giants. Nicky was able to get cheap tix via StubHub, and, trio of Con-going fanboys though we were, we weren't going to pass up the chance to see an NFL game, albeit a meaningless one. Unfortunately, we got stuck right in front of an obnoxious, drunken loudmouth fan who divided his time between yelling inane comments about how "great" preseason was and flirting with a girl in the row in front of us. (The girl's boyfriend was present, and we learned after we left that there had been a fight in our premises after halftime... Coincidence??) We were planning to leave early in any event, but the noisy nuisance and his neighboring enablers made it easier to depart. By the time we got home, we were pretty much pooped...
...On second thought, scratch the "pretty much."
Sunday morning saw Chuck take off to visit his mom in New Jersey and Mark and I essay another run at the Con. We saw a good panel, a "Spotlight on Sergio Aragones" in which the MAD cartoonist and creator of Groo dispensed with the usual interlocutors and worked the room while wielding a handheld microphone. He's funny, but not quite as wacky as I would have imagined him being. The ingenuous, "Spanglish"-speaking naif who occasionally pops up as "Sergio" in Aragones' works is evidently a fanciful creation. Aragones dropped the interesting news that he is working on another GROO miniseries that will feature Groo vs. ... Conan! So what do you do when two such towering titans meet? Doesn't one of them have to lose? All I'll say here is that Sergio appears to have come up with a good solution to that particular dilemma. Earlier in the Con, we also saw the tail end of a panel spotlighting Denis Kitchen (who's apparently preparing a biography of Al Capp -- no surprise there, given Kitchen Sink Press' series of LI'L ABNER reprints) and a panel starring Mike Allred, creator of MADMAN. Attendance could have been better at all three events, but no one was trying to "spin" anything, create "synergy," or establish "buzz"... just impart some interesting "inside infor" about comics.
Purchases? Yes, we made some purchases. I got about a dozen RICHIE RICH comics from the 1960s, continuing my tortuous crawl towards the glittering goal of a complete RICHIE collection... a goal I'm certainly never going to achieve. Chuck got Don Rosa (who originally wasn't on the list of attendees... but c'mon, those piles of Golden Age and Silver Age cover parodies aren't going to sell themselves!) to sign a print of Scrooge, Magica, and Glomgold for Chuck's daughter Kathryn. Mark got a 60s BUGS BUNNY comic "introducing" a female bunny character that I'm sure even the hardiest of die-hard Warner Bros. fans have forgotten about. The best news from the Con, however, was (as the ads have it) ABSOLUTELY FREE...
... Boom! will publish a CHIP AND DALE'S RESCUE RANGERS title starting in December. No doubt we have the surprising success of the DARKWING DUCK title to thank for this; I seriously doubt that the DuckTales material running in UNCLE $CROOGE had much to do with it. Boom!'s confidence is reflected by the fact that it's giving the Rangers a continuing title right off the bat, with no intervening mini-series to test the waters. Ian Brill, the writer of the DARKWING title, will also handle the writing chores for the Rangers, with Leonel Castellani doing the artwork. Nothing against Brill's involvement, but I'm kind of nervous about these original DAFT creations being assigned to a single writer; I'd feel a bit better if Boom! tried to find a C&DRR "specialist" at some point. The stakes are somewhat higher for a RANGERS book, as well; the well-organized and vocal C&DRR fandom, with its fond memories of Disney Comics' impressive RANGERS effort, will no doubt be a tougher crowd to please than the fans of Darkwing who'd never seen DW in a continuing title with original material (the four issues published by Disney in 1991-92 were simply an adaptation of "Darkly Dawns the Duck"). Give Boom! credit, though, for seeing an opening and attempting to "run to daylight."