Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wizard World Portland - My Experience

The weekend of the 1st ever Wizard world Portland has come and gone. I was able to partake in the Friday festivities... to a small degree. Unfortunately, do to my schedule I wasn't able to sit down with anyone for an interview as I had hoped. We'll try again later. Here are my experiences from my time at this con.

The traffic was horrible, as to be expected, but fortunately parking was not an issue as there was plenty in the underground parking structure for the Oregon Convention Center. I arrived around 3:30pm and registrations was quick and easy since I had purchased my ticket via Groupon at 50% off. I got my swag bag and was on my way in.
I was kind of sad that they used bracelets instead of badges, but oh well. The bag included a small selection of swag pictured above and below.
When I finally entered the actual convention hall, I took a moment to take it all in.

Having the most experience at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, Wizard World seemed quite a bit smaller. This wasn't a bad thing, I was just expecting that with the Wizard World title there would have been more. As it was, I was very pleased with the layout of the booths and I appreciated the positioning of the artists and media guests.

The one thing that struck me as odd was that there wasn't horribly huge lines for the media guests like there were at Emerald City. Perhaps this is by the design of selling tickets in advance. I found this to be very refreshing and almost made me want to get some autographs.

My first stop was to make sure that what I had brought with me to get signed got signed, so it was off to artist alley for me. My first stop was at Gail Simone. This was my first chance to actually meet her, but I have been following her on Twitter since I joined a few months back. She is a peach and very nice to talk with. I look forward to continue reading her books. As I didn't bring too much for her to sign, I kept my time there brief. I look forward to having another opportunity to see her again.

Next, I went looking for Scott Lobdell. As an old school X-Men fan, I am a fan of his writing and had a few items for him to sign. I met him a couple years ago in Seattle and was looking forward to another meeting. When I found his table, it was bare without a writer. I came back a few additional times before I left, and he never showed. What really disappointed me was that Chris Claremont, who was only scheduled to appear Saturday & Sunday, was there on Friday. Again, I mention that I am an old school X-Men fan and have several items that I would have loved Claremont to sign... but I didn't bring them since I was only attending Friday. Fortunately, this would be my biggest disappointment.

After finding that Scott Lobdell was a no-show, I then went to find Joe Keatinge who is currently writing the new Morbius comic for Marvel. When I first arrived at his table, it was setup, but with no Joe. I was very hopeful because he had a few variants of Morbius #1 that I didn't have in my collection (see my Variant Covers post to learn about my fixation on them). It only took a few second before I was greeted by Joe Keatinge himself where we spoke about our mutual desire to see Marvel publish trades of the Midnight Son's material. I didn't realize that he was a local writer from Oregon, but when I got home I made sure to follow him on Twitter so I can keep up-to-date on his writings.

Now that my quest for signatures was at an end... yes, I didn't have much to bring for others to sign... I went to Arthur Suydam's tables where I was met with a multitude of prints for sale. The guy who was helping to run the table informed me that there was a buy 5, get 2 free sale. I couldn't pass on that. I picked my favorite 7 and had Suydam sign them.

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I then decided to wander to see if I could find some good books to add to my ever-growing collection. Even though I had (kind of) promised I would add to my collection of trades and graphic novels until I had significantly reduced the number in my "to read" AND "to review" piles, I couldn't pass up a chance to add more when I came to the I Like Comics booth. They had their trades at 60% off, so I couldn't turn away. I limited myself a bit, and here's what I picked-up:

I also bought a copy of Marvel Zombies 3, but when I got home, I found that it was already in my collection. These things happen when your mobile database doesn't account for graphic novels in your wishlist.

As I continued to look, I found a couple other items that screamed "Must Have" for my collections:

Jabba the Hut (top) completes my non-exclusive collection of Star wars Funko bobbleheads. I couldn't pass this up.
Walking Dead #100 SDCC variant signed by Robert Kirkman. I found this for a very reasonable price, so it had to go into my collection.
And then I came to the CBLDF booth where I picked-up these 2 wonderful trades to add to my collection. Of course, from CBLDF, they were also both signed. I am proud of myself that I didn't go overboard while I was at their booth as there was so much wonderfulness to choose from.

Another wonderful thing happened while I was waiting for my debit card to be charged for these trades. I was mentioning that I didn't receive the Walking Dead #1 Michael Golden variant cover that was exclusive to Wizard World Portland attendees. I guess that you actually had to buy a VIP ticket to receive one. A gentleman overheard my conversation and proceeded to offer me his copy as his would likely "just end up in a box somewhere". I expressed my gratitude (THANK YOU again, if you happen to read this) and once my transaction was completed with CBLDF, my course was set to Michael Golden.

When I arrived, Micahel was just opening-up his Subway sandwich. I asked if he wouldn't mind signing once more before digging into his Subway. His handler/assistant informed me of the signing fee and that if I purchased one of his prints, this fee would be waived. I agreed to that, and this is what I have to show for it:

I'm a sucker for G.I. Joe prints. :)

This isn't the actual copy of Walking Dead I got signed. At the time of this writing, I hadn't scanned it yet. Once I do, I will replace this placeholder for an image of the real deal with Michael's signature. :)

I guess the theme for me for this convention was about artist prints. I've never been an avid collection before, but I do have a small collection. If I were to have stayed for Saturday, I probably would have found myself pawing through longboxes to fill the holes in my collection of comics. I would have also been able to take part in some great panels.

I did make a major rookie mistake by not eating before going to the show. After 3-hours, my stomach was telling me to eat and the rest of my body was telling me to rest. I took their advice and made my way back home. I look forward to next year, but now my sights are on Stumptown in April.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Angel: Immortality for Dummies

Title: Angel: Immortality for Dummies

ISBN: 9781600106897
Price: $24.99
Publisher/Year: IDW, 2010
Artist: Brian Denham
Writer: Bill Willingham
Collects: Angel #28-32

Rating: 3/5

Angel is a celebrity, Kate from season 2 is back, and there are a couple of new characters that don’t really matter. There’s an angel guy, and a cat lady. But they don’t really matter. There is a great recap of the previous issues at the beginning of the book that will catch you up to a point if you need.

In Immortality for Dummies we get to see Connor not be a pussy for once. He is out on a mission when he runs into some demons from the dimension he came from. Some demon chicks show up and help him out, call him the chosen one and then tell him they are offering him an army. This can’t possibly go wrong right. I mean its Connor.

Anyway like I said everything is kinda back to status quo. The hangout is the Hyperion and everyone is back, with some extras with the exception of Wesley. Which is better than having him back for no reason at all like before. It looks like there will be someone who will fill the whole that Wes left in the group though.

The meat of the story lies in trying to get Angel back from this corporation that is using Angel to turn celebs into vampires, and then restore their souls. It wasn’t with evil intent, but I mean how could this not go wrong.

The art here is pretty amazing. Every character looks just right, and that coupled with the dialogue means that it was very easy to hear the characters in my head as I was reading. Something I can’t say for any other Buffy/Angel comic.

I don’t want to spoil anymore of the story, because it is clearly setting up for something big down the line for Mr. Willingham. The art is great, the story feels like an Angel story, and everything just seems to work. Go ahead and give this a try even if you didn’t read/enjoy the previous arc. It will be worth it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Variant Covers

I remember in the 90's that we were plagued by a multitude of different covers (before the term variant was used as much as it is today). There were chromium this and die-cut that, it all seemed too much.

And now here we are in 2013. There are ton's of variant covers from all over the place. There are sketch variants, blank variants, alternate covers, different artist's covers and so on.

Why do those who collect comic book subject ourselves to buying so many of these variants? Is it because we feel that they'll increase in value, somehow legitimizing our purchase? Is it just because the art is good and we like the way it looks, even though we buy a copy with a different cover that has the same internal material in it?

My excuse is that I am a bit OCD when it comes to my collecting, and I feel the need to have a copy of every variant in my collection for most of the titles I get. Good for my LCS. Not so much for my savings. :) I'm not complaining, just putting it out there.

Who is the worst offenders when it comes to printing variant covers? Marvel? DC? IDW? Dynamite Entertainment?

For what I have on my subscription at my LCS, I regularly get the variants of Lady Death, Vampirella, TMNT and Evil Ernie. I used to get all the variants of ever G.I. Joe title as well, but unfortunately the demand for those titles has gone down enough the my LCS doesn't get the variants any more... so I found a few places online to fuel that need.

With Lady Death, I can count on 4 separate covers for every issue when it is originally released. Then, they will occasionally put out additional covers ranging from holidays to conventions to auxiliary... and I pick them all up as I can. There was even a recent Holiday VIP cover that had a cover price of $29.99! Can you imagine? Needless to say... it's in my collection.

Vampirella from Dynamite Entertainment is another that generally publishes 4-6 regular covers, and then has additional retailer incentive covers depending on how many copies your LCS orders. These incentive covers, or RI's as their also known as, are a real pain for collectors and retailers alike. As I explained above, I don't receive the RI's for G.I. Joe because of lack of demand. My LCS reduced the number of issues he was ordering because the issues weren't selling. A very reasonable and responsible decision. When the LCS reduces the number they are ordering, they stop receiving the RI covers and OCD collector's like myself are forced to turn to the internet to aid in completing our collection.

From my recent experiences, it seems to me that Dynamite Entertainment produces more variants per title than most other publishers. Granted, I don't generally buy many variants from Marvel or DC, so my knowledge on this topic is a bit skewed. I know that for many of their titles, both DC and Marvel push the variants, but I don't think it's nearly as much as either Boundless with Lady Death or Dynamite Entertainment with any of their titles. I could be wrong.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Pandemonium

Title: John Constantine, Hellblazer: Pandemonium

ISBN: 9781401220358
Price: $24.99
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2010
Artist: Jock
Writer: Jamie Delano

Rating: 3/5

In the 25 years since his first appearance, we've seen John Constantine in many places, from Swamp Thing to a reality television show in Hell, a God-awful film adaptation, and everything in between. In Hellblazer: Pandemonium, Vertigo's new original graphic novel from the first Hellblazer writer Jamie Delano and artist extraordinaire Jock, Constantine goes someplace new: Iraq.

That's right, the man who is devoutly against standing for something blindly with a uniform on is coerced by some government spooks to be their interrogation expert on a POW they've acquired that seems to be driving previous interrogators mad by some means of magic. After setting up an elaborate scheme to trap Constantine in their politics, our hero and a double agent named Aseera are en route to the center of the War on Terror.

Originally, I was a bit apprehensive at Delano using John Constantine as a soapbox for his opinions on the Middle East situation, but was relieved to find that Pandemonium was as much an exploration of the merits of war and torture as it was another occult adventure for everyone's favorite chain-smoking occult investigating cynic.

That's not to say I don't appreciate the merging of established characters and politics; it's been done before to great effect. Delano is cleverly able to tie in the war in Iraq with Middle Eastern mysticism, creating a world in which Constantine fits into easily, despite my initial trepidation. Delano's characterization of Constantine is spot-on with where he left him when he exited Hellblazer in 1991: potty-mouthed with self-indulgent wit, but always with that sliver of a soft spot. Though the relationship Constantine develops with Aseera is fairly predictable and winds up being one of the more drab elements of the story (though one of the most significant), the supernatural concepts, musings on the War on Terror, and trademark Constantine moments more than make up for it.

Delano is quite heavy on Constantine's inner monologue narration, which I normally find a distraction and/or cheap storytelling device. However, nearly every page is filled with intelligent words and nothing is wasted. There's no restating of what is happening in the panels, just emphasis. One scene in particular, in which Constantine is in the underworld of Nergal playing a poker game of sorts with an assortment of demons, is beautifully written. It's only a few pages long and told almost entirely through Constantine's monologue, but I can honestly say I can't recall any card game played out in a comic book that was even remotely interesting. Delano enhances the entire scene through the intense and meaningful words of his main character. Of course, the fact that Constantine's chips are human souls adds a little something as well.

Of course, Delano's script could be the most poetic Hellblazer piece ever written and it wouldn't mean squat if it wasn't rendered well. If you're a fan of Jock's, be it from The Losers, Detective Comics, Judge Dredd or his cover work on books like Scalped, you know what to expect. His work is frantic but with careful planning; his lines are incredibly sketchy and often thick with heavy inks and plenty of shadow. His coloring is very washed out and adds an appropriately grim aesthetic to the entire book.

It might seem like a wild comparison, but in many way's Jock's work is akin to impressionism. So many of his images, if analyzed up close, look like nothing more than a chaotic mess of scratches and shadow. When you look at the page as a whole, all of these lines come together in a way that tell the story beautifully and you realize the meticulous organization that goes into his work.

I'm not sure that Pandemonium will go down as one of the prototypical Hellblazer tales, nor will it be the definitive mainstream comic’s political commentary of the War on Terror, but it damn sure is an enjoyable, visually poetic rendition of Vertigo's most enduring character.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

John Constantine, Hellblazer: The Gift

Title: John Constantine, Hellblazer: The Gift

ISBN: 9781401214531
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2005
Artist: Leonardo Manco, Frazer Irving
Writer: Mike Carey
Collects: Hellblazer #207-215

Rating: 3/5

Following a battle with his three demonic offspring, occultist John Constantine is left with most of his friends dead and his sister Cheryl murdered and her soul damned to Hell.

The only solution is for Constantine to make the perilous journey into Hell himself to rescue his sister. However, his only guide is the treacherous demon, Nergal, whose blood Constantine once accepted into his veins. Along the way, Constantine encounters enemies both old and new and quickly discovers that there is far more going on then he could have suspected. As Constantine is pitted against some of the oldest and darkest forces of Hell he is forced to relive painful moments from his past and confront the terrible price that must be paid for his powers.

This graphic novel contains the final nine issues of Mike Carey's work on the monthly Hellblazer comic book. The book is a powerful piece of urban horror taking the charismatic, chain-smoking "urban mage" and con-man antihero John Constantine into some of his darkest places yet. It collects three linked stories from the series which all follow on from each other, the six part "Down in the Ground, Where the Dead Men Go", the one issue "The Gift", and the two part "R.S.V.P.".

Blending gritty urban reality with startling supernatural horror, this collection is an example of Hellblazer its best.

This is a must read for fans telling a gripping and disturbing narrative with some powerfully evocative artwork, however it is not recommended for newcomers to the Hellblazer universe, due to its multiple references to earlier stories and the fact that it is a direct continuation of the previous collection Reasons to be Cheerful.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Joyride

Title: John Constantine, Hellblazer: Joyride

ISBN: 9781401216511
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2008
Artist: Leonardo Manco
Writer: Andy Diggle
Collects: Hellblazer #230-237

Rating: 3/5

Modern trickster mystic John Constantine has been many things in the decades since his introduction in the Swamp Thing story arc American Gothic. But what he’s never been since that debut is exactly what new writer Andy Diggle returns him to in this trade. When he first introduced himself to the giant vegetable Bog God, Constantine was a cool, sharp-dressing, smug, in-control and very dangerous man-of-mystery we weren’t supposed to like. He oozed menace and untold secrets and was always in charge of the situation.

After twenty years and more of going to Hell and Back, that menacing stranger returns, but with enough accumulated shared history now that the reader can still empathize with this unlikely hero whom no sane man would actually want to have a pint with. Moreover, despite being a Scouser (someone born and bred in Liverpool) by birth, Constantine is a Londoner by disposition, and Diggle writes him with that so distinct voice and attitude.

Back on top and dressed to impress, the hard man does a favor for an old acquaintance in the first tale of this chilling collection. Pearly Grey was an old-school East End gangster, but he’s in Wormwood Scrubs now, at Her Majesty’s pleasure. His daughter’s dead and she was murdered. He knows how but not who because she told him when her ghost appeared in his cell. Pearly knew everybody once, and if this isn’t a normal job, it needs the attention of a specialist…

Solving the problem of the unquiet dead is only the first step however. The grateful Grey repays his debt by giving Constantine a chance to clean up old business at Ravenscar, once the scene of the Magician’s greatest failure, but now part of the gangster’s extensive property portfolio. It couldn’t have gone better if Constantine had planned it…

The final tale introduces a new nemesis for the chain-smoking wizard in a grimy, nasty tale of possession in the blighted urban hell of South London. With triggers lifted from any daily paper, this is a tale of murderous wasted youth, privilege and social disorder, murder and witchcraft, prompted by greed and the utter contempt of the elite for the rest of society. Political corruption stalks hand-in-hand with blood-hungry monstrosity in this very British horror story and at its blood-soaked centr is a bloke in a raincoat with a smile that can make a statue sweat…

This is a welcome advancement and return to terrifying form for one of American fantasy’s most striking characters. Thoroughly British once more (our comics never got the handle on heroism: All the best and most memorable characters were villains like The Spider, The Dwarf, Grimly Feendish and Charlie Peace or maniacs like Judge Dredd) this is a unique character at his compelling best, and another superb horror tome to add to your “spooky” shelf.