Boston Comic-Con 2016
a) Working for Jill Thompson
I got to spend the weekend working at Jill Thompson’s table at Boston Comic Con. My main duties were to talk to people that came up to the table while she was working on commissions because while she was more than happy to talk to people, she couldn’t really be looking up at the same time. So I was her alarm to let her know people were looking at her prints and sketchbooks and original art and wanting to say hi.
One couple brought their three daughters with them to meet Jill. Apparently the parents had met Jill at a previous con (I believe San Diego) and given her a drawing their daughters had made. So now their daughters finally got to meet Jill and present her with a new drawing (it was very good). Each daughter got a print to be signed, and the mother had a copy of one of Jill’s graphic novels (I want to say it was the “Delirium’s Party” storybook) and she was so emotion while Jill was signing it that she started to cry. Just goes to show the impact that art and storytelling can have on someone. It was a very nice moment and Jill hugged her and everyone was very emotional and happy.
When people wanted commissions I had a whiteboard to write down their names, what type of commission, which character, get a contact phone number, and mark down if it was paid for. I’d also handle transactions such as selling her prints, taking cash, running the square for credit card payments…. all things I’ve done at my own table when I’ve been in artist alley, so it was all pretty straight forward.
On Saturday the other task was letting people know Jill would be signing comics at 3pm, because she had several commissions on deck already. Fortunately everyone was very nice and understanding. Of course if someone bought a print Jill would obviously take time to sign it, and as I said, she was great about talking to everyone who approached the table even while she was painting. On Sunday, due to Jill having a morning meeting and then an early flight, she was more than happy to sign while she was at her table which, unfortunately, was only for a couple of hours. Of course that would also be the day where she got a full body, full color commission of the Metaluna Mutant and naturally that’s also the day when apparently everyone brought things for Jill to sign. By the time she had to start packing up her table, she as mostly done with the commission and made arrangements to finish it and mail it to the buyer (who, as it turned out, was Nick Bradshaw – a fabulous Marvel comics artist in his own right).
Speaking of which: it’s amazing to get to watch someone with Jill’s talent work right in front of you. From finding the reference she wants to use, to the pencils (which are very light and very basic) to how she works with the actual watercolors… working them on the paper and creating the tones and shades she wants. It’s one of those thing where you look at that, and if you have no experience with watercolors (like me!), it may as well be magic. She was working on a full color commission on Sunday and she didn’t have a lot of time (she had a meeting Sunday morning so didn’t get to the table until 12:30ish, and had to head out about 2:30ish since she had to catch her flight). In that time though she started and came pretty darn close to completing this full-figure, full-color MetaLuna Mutant commission. I mentioned how amazing it was that she could work so fast, but as I said to her, it reminds me of the meme that went around: “This only took you an hour to do”. “No, it took me a few decades to do that in an hour”. In other words, the experience she has makes it look easy, but that’s because people don’t get to see all the time it took to get to that level.
It’s also impressive to mention that Jill is an amazing painter despite only being at about 85% capactiy in her right shoulder. As she tells it, the way she was painting she had things set up in such a way as she had to make wide arcs with her arms going from the paints/water to the canvas. So the repetitive motion wore away at her shoulder muscles and could have required surgery. Instead she changed her diet and started seeing immediate results. Of course she also now trains and does Spartan challenges, so y’know… she’s very fit and is kick-ass at a variety of things. However it is a good warning for artists to be aware of how you’re working and figure out ways to work safe.
Side note: Jill also has the best rolling duffle bag I’ve come across. It is seriously large enough to smuggle a body. The top half is the ‘duffle bag’ part, while the bottom half unzips and is basically a large suitcase with a solid plastic body. With all her prints and supplies and whatever else loaded in there, that bag was really heavy. Good thing for the wheels and handle. Anyway, it’s now on my “convention accessory list” for the next time I table at cons.
Final side note: Jill Thompson has a new Wonder Woman graphic novel coming out on 9/28 so that’s something to look forward to.
B) The convention itself:
Ok, let’s get this part out of the way. Every year getting into Boston Comic-Con is kind of a giant pain. I know, I know…. it’s not much compared to waiting in lines at Denver Comic Con for example, but still. For example: I arrived at close to 10am (the ‘Doors Open’ time). I was supposed to go Section A, which is where people who bought tickets but hadn’t picked up their wristbands go to get the wristbands. Ok. So I went to the end of the line of Section A which was, by that point, down the block. So the line then goes down the side of the building, pick up the badge, go all the way down the rest of that side of the building, turn left and proceed to walk across the back of the building, left again and up the OTHER side of the building at which point you turn around to join the now-moving line to go back the way you came to get into the building. It’s just not a smooth experience, but at least on Saturday it was relatively cool and had a good breeze coming in off the ocean (the Seaport is literally on the wharf of Boston Harbor, which does help). On Sunday I got there about an hour early and this time section A went down the side of the building, around the back, and then back up to where you pick up your badge. Again, a lot of walking for no real reason because the line to get in was just forming. Why not allow people to just walk down to where the wristbands were and then get right into line? I have no idea. The other problem is Sunday was Sunny And Hot. By 9am it was probably already 80 degrees and there is NO SHADE on the one side of the building. I don’t know what kind of logistics could be put in place for next year, but some kind of change to the line direction would probably help. Anyway, it’s not the end of the world either way. One way or another you’re going to wait in line to get in unless you wait until an hour or so after the doors open. Once the doors DO open, things move fairly swiftly to get into the expo center.
The convention layout is fairly typical: You enter into the dealer’s area which takes up the first half of the show floor. This is where you’ll find your back issue dealers, toy dealers, etc etc. I didn’t get a chance to look at much of this on Saturday because I had to track down Jill’s table, but did do some exploring on Sunday. The back half of the show floor is the Artist Alley. On the right hand side from all this is the VIP/Celebrity/Big Name Guest area where people wait for their chance to meet the celebrity guests such as William Shatner, Karen Gillen, Frank Miller, etc. I didn’t get around to that area.
One thing that happened quite often on Saturday were people coming around looking for Brian Azzarello. He’d been listed in the program guide as being next to Jill’s table, but he ended up being moved to the wall section along with John Cassady and Frank Miller, etc. A couple of people seemed to think I was him and tried to get me to sign the convention poster, but I explained I was neither nor Jill (since Jill wasn’t at the table). Looking back i should have signed it anyway! Missed opportunity.
Brian’s table actually got occupied by the super-friendly Sandra Hope, professional inker. It was lot of fun to talk to her, and if I’d known she was going to be there I’d have brought my copy of Gen-13/Monkeyman & O’Brien to have her sign. As it was, I didn’t even bring that to get Art Adams to sign, although he did sign my Modern Master: Arthur Adams book, long with the Comic Book Artist issue he was in, and I bought his latest sketchbook so… no complaints on the Arthur Adams front.
I stopped over by Mitch Gerard’s table and got him to sign a copy of Sheriff Of Babylon #1 (already signed by Tom King), and stopped by Rich “Graveyard Gang” Claybaugh’s table to say hi as well. Also had to get over to see Leila Del Duca, artist on the Image comic SHUTTER which you really be reading if you aren’t already. I haven’t seen Leila since 2014 at Denver Comic Con, even though at one point I’d done a signing with her, Lonnie Allen, and Noah Van Sciver at a comic shop in Manitou Springs, CO (shout out to CK Comics!). That’s right, I rub shoulders with the cool kids!
On Sunday I did a bit of actual back-issue shopping, something I don’t usually do. I didn’t have anything too specific in mind, but I’ve been on a nostalgia kick lately so I found some stuff from the 70’s and 80’s I used to own. For the most part I refuse to spend more than a few bucks per issue on that sort of thing. It’s hard for me to justify spending $15.00 on a comic that originally cost fifty cents. Fortunately a lot of what I am interested in isn’t typically things other people are interested in and so everything I bought at the convention was $2.00 or less: Defenders, George Perez Fantastic Four, George Perez Wonder Woman, Blue Devil, Atari Force, a few John Byrne Avengers issues for good measure. Even though some of the issues aren’t in great shape, they’re good reading copies and if I ever find a better copy for a reasonable price I won’t be out much if I buy them again.
C) Cosplay Thoughts
I was really surprised by the lack of Deadpool cosplayers this year. Past few years, every convention I’ve gone to, Deadpool as far as the eye could see. This year? Not so much. A few, but not the horde I expected. Maybe with the success of the movie he’s no longer “fringe” enough? Also not as many Harley Quinn’s as expected. Not to say there weren’t a good amount of them, but I expected more. Mostly it was the Suicide Squad version, obviously, which I am not a huge fan of, but some of the Classic Harley as well.
LOTS of Steven Universe cosplayers though, even if you were to just count people wearing the Steven Universe red t-shirt with the star. However I saw a few Peridots, several Amethysts, a rockin’ Garnet, a few Stevonnies, a couple of Pearls and a great Jasper as well. There was also a fantastic Rose Quartz & Greg Universe, and I’m kicking myself I didn’t get a photo of them.
Also: Death, from the SANDMAN series, is still a popular choice, and there were a couple of Deliriums too. Raven from the Teen Titans is still popular as well.
D) Wrapping it up:
Overall I had a great time. Being able to talk to Jill Thompson all weekend was great, and especially being able to watch her work her magic with her watercolors. I wish I’d talked to Terry Moore a bit more, but his table was jumping all weekend long and I didn’t want to bother him. There were a bunch of artists I didn’t get to see because by the time Sunday was wrapping up for me (because I was starting to fade and had to drive home) I didn’t have the energy left, and my feet were starting to really hurt. Unfortunately that’s just how conventions go sometimes: so many people you want to see, but not enough time.
I think BCC may need to move to a bigger venue at some point. The Seaport is a good sized place, but the convention may be outgrowing the space. Perhaps the Expo Center a few blocks over would be a better fit in the future. Regardless, I’ll be back next year either with my own table (if I have stuff to sell) or as an attendee.
Or if Jill Thompson needs another table assistant obviously 🙂