First of all, as people start uploading them, there are bound to be better pictures from the Con than what I took showing up online on sites like Flickr, so I highly recommend checking them out. There were a lot of people I missed. Some I didn’t see at all, such as a Green Arrow/Black Canary couple, a Magneto, a Black Adam, and others I saw but didn’t get a chance to photograph, such as a young Mary Marvel.
Overall I had a very good time – as mentioned the AH! compliment alone made the trip worthwhile – and it was very cool to get stuff signed by some of my favorite artists, and to shake hands with Marv Wolfman (and get my copy of The Judas Contract signed by him).
Still, I couldn’t help but feel a bit awkward and out of place – it takes a special kind of talent to feel awkward when surrounded by thousands of nerds – and I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn’t been there completely by myself. Being alone made me something of an anomaly; most of the people there were couples, groups of friends, or families.
Even if I weren’t pretty much uniformly terrible at that sort of thing, it wasn’t an environment that was conducive to mingling. Everyone was moving around trying to get somewhere, or jockeying for position in lines at the booths or just to get a picture of a cosplayer.
On Saturday I was kind of hesitant to approach people to photograph them, so I took a few pictures stealthily while they weren’t looking, or by riding on the coattails of other people who were taking their pictures. Eventually, towards the end of the day, I got a bit bolder, but I still felt kind of weird about it.
I had only brought things to be signed by a few specific people – and one of them, Greg Horn, was only signing prints and books that he was selling there, so I didn’t get the books I brought signed, and didn’t want to buy any prints, seeing as how I’d just bought two volumes of his collected work a bit ago – but there were a lot of other people whose work I like who were there. I felt weird about approaching them, since I didn’t have anything of theirs to sign, and while I could have gone up to them and just said hi, the idea felt kind of weird.
(And initially I was too flustered to remember to, you know, actually give them my Heroic Portraits card. I got better about that on Sunday, for all the good it’s likely to do.)
Beyond that, I was just kind of overwhelmed by being in an unfamiliar place surrounded by thousands of people. While I’ve lived in larger cities for several years now, I spent most of my life practically living in the wilderness, so while I’m not exactly a slack-jawed yokel, I can get a little intimidated by cities, which makes me withdraw (even more than usual) into myself.
That’s where I think it would have come in handy to have someone there with me. (Note: Scott, don’t take this as me sniping at you or anything; I know you would have liked to have been there.) I wouldn’t have felt quite so, well, alone in a sea of people. While I spend most of my non-work time alone, I don’t often feel lonely, but there, in Baltimore, surrounded by “my people,” I felt lonelier than I have in a very long time, and my excitement was dampened by the fact that I didn’t have anyone to share the excitement with.
(Sleeping in a ginormous King-size bed didn’t help matters any either.)
While there were a lot of places to eat within walking distance, they were a bit of a hike, so in the morning on Saturday I just had a peanut bar I’d picked up in the hotel gift shop, so by the time I was standing at Amanda Conner’s booth and was getting out the money to pay her for the prints I’d bought, I noticed that my hands were shaking. I thought, “Hmm, I’m not that excited about meeting her. I suppose I should eat something.”
Unfortunately, that was right before the DC Nation panel, so I put it off for and went to that. After that, I realized that I needed to skip the upcoming Mondo Marvel panel because I needed to eat something right now.
So I went to the food service place in the Convention Center and found that everything looked terrible, but ultimately decided on these overpriced cheese pizza bagels.
There seemed to be a significant portion of Con attendees who had showed up just because they were looking for a place to sit down – seriously, there were people who found a spot to sit, and then never moved all day – so I couldn’t find anywhere to sit to eat, so I just kind of paced around, and got to eating.
As mentioned, I was eating a bagel that had been made into a pizza. After a few bites I realized that it was, in fact, a cinnamon raisin bagel. They seriously just took whatever bagels they had lying around, sliced them, covered them with cheese and sauce, and heated them up, with no consideration of whether or not the kind of bagels they were would mix well with cheese and sauce.
It was nasty, but, again, need food now, so I channeled Bear Grylls and forced it down, and chased it with a $3 bottle of water (the somewhat cheaper vending machines, conveniently, weren’t working).
There was some enterprising woman selling water for $1 outside the Convention Center, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy anything from her. Why?
Because for hours on end – it’s still burned into my brain from all the times I heard it whenever I went out for a smoke – she loudly “sang,” in this monotone voice that, I think, was intended to sound robotic (presumably to appeal to the nerds):
I got that ice cold water. And it’s only one dollar. I got that ice cold water. And it’s only one dollar.
Over and over again without pausing, from around noon until the Con ended for the day at 6 PM.
Sometimes she would mix it up a little:
I got that ice cold water. And they only one dollar. I got that ice cold water. And they only one dollar. I got that ice ice. Cold cold. I got that ice cold water…
(On Sunday, it was a guy, who simply repeated “Cold, cold, cold.” for hours on end.)
I’d hoped to meet up with my friend Eric after the Con, but he wasn’t able to make it to Baltimore, so I was on my own for the evening.
I decided to walk over to the Hooters across the street to get some dinner, but the line there was almost as long as the line had been to get into the Con, so I opted instead for a sandwich from Subway.
And then…well, what was I going to do? I know there were lots of things that it was possible for me to do, the sort of things that other people would do, but what was I going to do? It needs to be understood that a lot of things that would appeal to other people are of no interest to me, particularly because, not to keep harping on this, I was alone. Honestly, how many of you go out and do interesting and exciting things completely by yourself? No friends, no spouses or significant others, no family? I had already stepped pretty goddamn far outside of my comfort zone just by being there in the first place.
As mentioned in the Comments on a previous post, at a couple of points in the evening I lurked outside the hotel looking for an opportunity to insert myself into a conversation with Adam Hughes, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and a bunch of other comics pros who were gathered there, but A. I suck at that kind of thing to the extent that I wouldn’t even have the first clue how to go about doing it and B. I was just some nobody, pissant fan.
I walked over to the Inner Harbor for a while, but, again, I just felt alone in a sea of people, so I went back to my room, downloaded Friday night’s episode of Eureka, watched it, and turned in for the night, feeling a weird combination of excitement, anxiety, sadness, and self-loathing.
Well, really, the only thing that makes that combination of feelings different from any other night is the inclusion of “excitement.”
Sunday came around and I was up bright and early. I walked over to a Panera Bread and got a breakfast sandwich, then walked back to the hotel and started packing. I transferred a few things out to the car, ultimately deciding not to take my laptop with me in order to spare myself the extra weight, since it didn’t seem likely that I was ever going to actually engage anyone to need it for showing off my artwork.
I took my time packing, and once it was close to the time for the Con to start up again, I hauled everything out to the car and checked out.
The line wasn’t quite as long to get in this time around, but I still spent about 15 minutes standing in the blazing sun.
Once inside I wandered around for a while before taking in my first panel of the day (I’ll write a separate post about the panels I attended), and then went back to walking the floor.
At 1 PM it was time for the costume contest. Most of the cosplayers had gathered in the lobby, so I went there and took a few pictures and handed out a few cards. The costume contest was supposed to be in one conference room, but it proved to be far more popular than anticipated, and the Con staff had to work out the logistics of getting more space and cramming in all of the people who were planning to attend, so it started about an hour late.
I was really only interested in the “Over 13, Female” categories (as was most of the audience), so I left after that was done, wandered around a bit more, took some more pictures, pointlessly handed out a few more cards, left cards lying around on various tables, and decided that I was ready to head home.
The drive home was uneventful, except for a few times when I had to take some detours to get back on the planned route, as there were a couple of times when the signs seemed to contradict the Nav system but actually didn’t, and one time in which the Nav system was just plain wrong, because it didn’t know about a new exit (it wanted me to make a “sharp left,” but there was a handy exit onto the road I needed to get on to the right).
Once I started getting closer to home, I realized that I was absolutely starving. As I got even closer to Leesburg, I thought about how I was in an area that I almost never get to, so I should try to be like a normal person and find some quaint little local eatery, but I didn’t really notice anything along the way, so I decided I’d just stop somewhere in Leesburg.
I was craving either a steak or ribs, so I opted for Ruby Tuesday. There were a bunch of cute waitresses, there, and only one guy, so guess who I got as a server?
“Hi, I’m Max,” he said, “and I’ll be your server this evening.” And I thought, “Of course you will.”
I opted for ribs, and found that I was so hungry that I was tempted to start crunching on the bones. I sucked my meal down with the efficiency of a Dyson vacuum cleaner.
And then I was home.
Again, while the trip was expensive, and engendered some unpleasant feelings about myself, The Universe, and my place in it, it was worthwhile, and I honestly did have a good time. The misgivings and angst are just part and parcel of being Jon, and serve as a reminder that “No matter where you go, there you are.”
My “take” for the Con:
An Absolute Edition of V for Vendetta, purchased for 50% off from the booth being run by my local comic shop (which was the only place where I saw people I knew/recognized, including the cute girl who works at the comic shop, who saw me, waved excitedly, and then wandered off with someone I’m assuming was her boyfriend).
Three signed Amanda Conner prints, two of Power Girl, one of Catwoman, and her signature, and Jimmy Palmiotti’s, on my copy of Power Girl #12 (their last issue on the series) and my copy of The Pro.
A signed AH! sketchbook (not an actual sketchbook, but a printed pamphlet of sketches), a sketch of Power Girl, and his signature in my copy of Cover Run, a collection of his DC Comics covers.
Two signed Frank Cho prints, one of which is of Playboy Playmate Tiffany Taylor, who’s actually originally from Leesburg, his signature in my copy of Apes & Babes – a collection of some of his work – and a signed copy of a Washington Post magazine insert that did a feature on Cho (which ran yesterday; he had advance copies to give out at the Con). (I don’t want to unroll the prints just to photograph them; I’m going to get them custom-framed and will take pictures of them then).
Marv Wolfman’s signature on my trade paperback copy of The Judas Contract.
I didn’t dive too deeply into the bins that the retailers had, as, apart from things that I’d never be able to afford, there weren’t really any particular back issues I was looking for. I did keep an eye out for issues of Superman Family, as I feel really nostalgic about that series and would like to have a complete run. I’ve been buying the Showcase Presents collections of that, but at the rate new volumes come out, it will probably be at least five years before they get past reprinting the individual issues of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen and Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane and get to the point at which the actual Superman Family title started getting published (taking over Jimmy Olsen’s numbering).
I found a handful of issues, but many of them were in pretty rough shape, so I decided to pass.
I did think about buying some Jimmy Olsens and Lois Lanes, but I didn’t see any particular issues that I’d like to have.
It’s a pretty good haul, I think. I wish I’d been more gregarious and had chatted some more cosplayers up, but, again, awkward, and when I did manage to corner them they were in a hurry to move on to the next photo opportunity.
But, again, and especially for me, I really did have a good time.