Baltimore’s Comics-Focused Con Expands to Three Days
Baltimore Comic-Con occupies a middle ground between large pop culture events like Comic Con International’s San Diego Comic-Con or ReedPop’s New York Comic Con and smaller regional conventions like Asbury Park Comic Con and New York Comic Fest. Unlike many of the large comic cons, the Baltimore event is focused squarely on comic books.
Although the big two comic book publishers, Marvel Comics and DC Comics, didn’t have the booths on the show floor, representatives from both were present for panel sessions. A number of smaller comics publishers, including Valiant Entertainment, Avatar Press, Top Shelf Productions, and Archie Comics, all had booth presences.
In addition to the usual assortment of vendor booths featuring comic books, graphic novels, and related tchotchkes, the exhibition hall floor was filled with comic book creators. Tables where fans could have works signed by writers and artists extended well beyond the Artist Alley section to throughout the show floor, making Baltimore Comic-Con an ideal setting for interacting with comics creators.
The exhibition floor and panel sessions were largely devoid of content about movies, television shows, or video games. The only evidence of non-related businesses looking to ride the wave of pop culture fandom — an increasingly common site at some comic cons — was the Geico booth in one corner of the exhibition hall. While the Geico Gecko added a cosplay element to the company’s presence, no other relationship to comic books or popular culture was apparent.
This year the show expanded from two days to three, running from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening. Friday’s attendance appeared to be relatively modest. Saturday and Sunday drew larger crowds, with a long line waiting to enter the show on Saturday morning.
Vendors and artists I spoke with reported mixed results. A few vendors reported sluggish to moderate sales throughout the three days. Artists Brendon and Brian Fraim, on the other hand, said this was their most successful show in terms of sales and future commissions. One creator in Artist Alley reported that, sales notwithstanding, he valued the Baltimore event for the opportunity to network with other industry professionals.
The 27 Annual Harvey Awards
Since 2006, Baltimore Comic-Con has hosted the Harvey Awards, the industry’s longest-running awards ceremony recognizing excellence in comic books and graphic novels. While the dim mood lighting made the Harveys less camera-friendly than the somewhat more glamorous Eisner Awards held at San Diego Comic-Con, it was nonetheless an enjoyable evening. Michael Uslan served as host for the event, which featured a thoughtful keynote address by Gail Simone on gender roles in comics.
Many of the comics creators recognized at last month’s Eisners were repeat winners at the Harveys.
Image Comics’ Saga by writer Brian K. Vaughn and artist Fiona Staples was named Best Continuing or Limited Series, with Vaughn also receiving the award for Best Writer and Staples for both Best Artist and Best Cover Artist.
Dark Horse Comics’ The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by writer Vivek Tiwary, artist Andrew Robinson, and cartoonist Kyle Baker received two awards: Best Original Graphic Album and Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation.
Image Comics’ Sex Criminals by writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky received the award for Best New Series. Zdarsky was also named Most Promising New Talent.
Veteran artist Herb Trimpe received the Hero Initiative Lifetime Achievement Award. For a complete rundown of Harvey Award winners and presentations, see the coverage by Bleeding Cool.
Baltimore Comic-Con’s programming schedule included four or five simultaneous panel sessions throughout the three days of the event. This year’s presentations included:
The “Sexy or Sexualized?” panel with Gail Simone, Dave Gibbons, Marguerite Bennet, Paul Levitz, Adam Hughes, Christina Blanch, and Thom Zahler.
The “Walter & Louise Simonson Spotlight” session.
“CBLDF: Tales from The Code – True Stories of Censorship” with Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein in conversation with writer/artist Jim Starlin.
The “Marvel Universe” panel with Tom Brevoort, Charles Soule, Jim Starlin, Mark Morales, and Mark Waid.
The “Dave Gibbons Spotlight” session with Gibbons interviewed by artist Barry Kitson.
Writer and producer Vivek J. Tiwary speaking on “The Making of The Fifth Beatle: The Beatles in Comics.”
The “Valiant Comics: Armor Hunters, The Valiant, and Beyond!” panel with Hunter Gorinson, Dinesh Shamdasani, Laura Martin, Vivek J. Tiwary, Brian Reber, James Asmus, and Ray Fawkes.
The panel session “Creating Your Own Characters” with Amy Chu, Jamal Igle, Christina Blanch, Dean Haspiel, and Sarah Vaughn.
The “Matt Wagner Spotlight” session with Brennan Wagner and Matt Wagner.
The “Dynamite 10th Anniversary Celebration” panel with Duane Swierczynski, Gail Simone, Mark Waid, Christina Blanch, Molly Mahan, Frank Tieri, Garth Ennis, John Cassaday, and Bill Willingham.
The “Pros: Spawns of Fanzines & Fandom” panel with Aaron Caplan, Mark Wheatley, Marc Hempel, Paul Levitz, Walt Simonson, and Rickey Shanklin.
The “Paul Pope Spotlight” with writer/artist Paul Pope in conversation with Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein.
The “We Are BOOM!” panel with Ross Richie, Filip Sablik, Matt Gagnon, James Tynion IV, Marguerite Bennett, and Mark Waid.
And, of course, cosplayers were evident throughout the event, strolling around the show floor and posing for photos. Sunday afternoon the con was capped by a large cosplay contest.
For the full gallery of photos from Baltimore Comic-Con, see the Flickr photo album: Baltimore Comic-Con 2014.