As we are still in the shadow of San Diego Comic-Con it had me thinking of have the idea of comic cons has evolved throughout the years. From these some groupings of huddled comic fans sharing their love of the medium to billion dollar companies using it as a launching pad to sell million dollar franchise. There was a time with the least thing talked about at Comic-Con was comics, instead focused shifted to the films and TV shows that have permeated pop culture like comics have not done in years. Why I understand why this has occurred as a comic fan first I appreciate the Cons that do not forget what brought us to this point. Cons that make it about the actual comics and their creators, which brings us to why I love the Baltimore Comic-Con.
Now I start this with the realization that Baltimore Comic-Con is not the only one that takes this approach, nor do I think it would reject the chance to bring the level of stars a San Diego does. Surprisingly despite being the home of the greatest television shows of all time The Wire, Baltimore is not a hotbed of A list celebrities. Still there are a lot of factors that make Baltimore Comic-Con a special Con that I will cover.
Location, Location, Location
Cons can take place at a variety of locations from hotel lobbies, convention centers, to dimly lit basements with the odd scent of mildew and broken dreams. A great Con location needs to have a number of factors. Baltimore Comic Con takes place at the The Baltimore Convention Center which is a prime location for a number of key reasons. For one it smells better than most damp basements…well outside the normal Baltimore odor.
In all seriousness one of the biggest headaches going to cons is parking. Depending on the city you go to it could be the most expensive part of your weekend and when you are trying to get as much stuff as you can every penny counts. Luckily for the convention center it is located right near the light rail stop. Seriously you walk out the door and it is right there. Instead of spending money on parking you can park at a light rail stop for free, buy a cheap ticket, and enjoy the wonders of public transit. Also you do not have to worry about fighting off a man dressed as Deadpool cosplaying as Harley Quinn for the closest parking spot.
Another important piece when it comes to location is how difficult is it to get food. I advise packing a lunch and saving yourself plenty of money and energy but if you do not have the room in your bag for a PB&J sandwich you might need to buy something. No matter where you go Con food is not ideal. It costs a lot of money, the lines are usually rather long, and the quality is squarely in between a low end movie theater and prison food. The BCC (It’s what the kids call the Baltimore Comic Con) is right in Inner Harbor so there are tons of restaurants (mostly chain) in walking distance. If you want something outside of Cheesecake Factory or Five Guys you can also hop onto the free Charm City Circulator on a quick ride to places like Little Italy or if you are up to it walk to Federal Hill which has tons of fantastic restaurants.
I have also gone to conventions when you quickly realize the venue is not suited for the event they are putting on. There is no room to breathe let alone walk around and you end simply wanting to leave to get to an area where your personal space won’t get violated on a consistent basis. Sure the Baltimore Comic-Con will get busy especially on Saturdays but there is always a place to go to when you need a moment or two. I have been going there for nearly a decade and the only lines I had to stand in were waiting to get in when it opens and waiting for signatures. Panels are easy to get to, rarely fill up, and are in rooms where there isn’t a bad seat.
A Celebration of Comics
Baltimore Comic-Con has media guests and stars like all Cons do. This year the biggest ones appear to be Mike Colter and Zachary Levi. However, it is by no means a celebrity Con that puts all the attention towards the people that play the characters and none towards those who made them great. One of the reasons it was home to the Harvey Awards for so many years, and now the Ringo Awards that celebrate and honor comics greatest creators past and present.
Looking at this years guests list you have Dan Slott, Tom King, Scott Snyder, Frank Miller, Neal Adams, Walt Simonson, Greg Capullo, Jim Starlin, Jim Steranko, Garth Enis, Mark Waid, Lee Weeks, and many more. One of my favorite experiences last year was a panel last year where creators like Tom King and Walt Simonson expressed their love Jack Kirby and what made him so special. You have the writer of the greatest Thor run of all time and probably today’s biggest writer all on one panel. The best part I showed up ten minutes before it began and got a pretty fantastic seat.
When I first started going I was never a person who went to panels, but over the last few years that has changed a great deal. I have been to larger cons like New York and Philly and I think since there is not as much media attention with Baltimore creators and publishers are far more open with ideas, stories, and potential news knowing the editor of Bleeding Cool probably is not in the audience.
It is the Goldy Locks of Cons. It is not too big to where things get overwhelming and comic creators are outshined by their Hollywood counterparts, nor is it too small to where no one of major note wants to go. I have talked to a number of creators who have nothing but amazing things to say about to Con, the people that come, and those who run it. I assume that reputation is why so many come back year in and year out.
Seeing comic creators is great but so is buying comics. Baltimore and the Maryland area are home to a lot of fantastic comic book stores like Third Eye Comics and Collectors Corner. Both of which traditionally have some of the best booths with some amazing deals. Both often have special events themselves after the Con so if you simply did not get enough comics you have a place to go after you leave…assuming you have any money left.
Small Things Matter
The difference between success and failure is in those nasty details. Those things that are easy to overlook or in some cases even be aware without the proper skills, experience, and organization. It does not take long to realize when you are dealing with a Con run by people who are way over their head. Lines begin to move far slower than they should, personal space becomes a luxury, anger starts to swell, and eventually if things do not get better pure chaos breaks.
Booths lack any type of structure to the point that many do not have proper electrical set up, or maybe someone forgot to make sure the Wifi was actually working. I am sure Baltimore Comic-Con has had their fair share a bumps and bruises but as a patron I have never really felt them. There are those restaurants where you sit around waiting for your food forever no matter how slow things are, and then there are those restaurants that you feel safe going to during lunch time no matter how little time you have and how busy they are. They run like a well oiled machine and for me that has been Baltimore Comic-Con.
One of Many
I know many reading this might be saying to themselves there are tons of cons that fit this exact description. Well…that’s a great thing! The reason I decided to write this is two fold. For one Baltimore Comic-Con has been very kind to us over the years. Secondly, to celebrate a con that is doing things the right way.
I feel like we only hear about Cons because they produce new stories or they are major train wrecks where everything possible went wrong. However, those reliable Cons that do things the right way are often overlooked. They are like those A+ students that are are so consistent that their accomplishments just become boring.
Also when choosing to go to a Con, especially for the first time, it can be very stressful. So if you know a Con that should be celebrated do just that! Perhaps those looking for one can use your recommendation to find one in their area. It simply never hurts to be thankful. Thank the creators for showing up, being kind, and willing to spend time with the fans. The retailers who offer great deals that allow you to catch up on years of comics in a weekend. (At least in regard to buying, the reading is another story) Not to mention those volunteers that take thankless jobs to help ensure things go smoothly. So on behalf of myself and Geekcast Radio thank you to Baltimore Comic-Con and all those who make it what it is. See you again next month!