If you haven't read it yet, begin here, the first post about my trip to Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina. This Day 2 entry is going to be shorter, because it's 3am, I'm low on stamina, and I really only did two things yesterday:
First, I hung out with my family. My wife Kathy and son Nate drove down from Boone, NC--our hometown--to spend the day at the con with me. Our daughter Mercer, who at age 7 is considerably less interested in sequential art than Nate, stayed back in Boone for a sleepover, but Nate did bring his friend Beckham Jacquot to the con. Kathy and I devoted our morning, then, to letting Nate and Beckham rip through Heroes con's massive Dealers Room. Nate bought a pile of Archie floppies and at least two Dark Horse Astro Boy volumes, while Beckham got some Dragon Ball Z books and a big Iron Man Essentials collection. (I recommended the latter, since Beckham enjoyed the Iron Man movie.) The kids had fun, though they were intimidated by the sheer amount of booths and sellers and stuff on sale. They also turned out to be scared by the prospect of meeting their favorite cartoonists. One of Nate's favorite comics is Alec Longstreth's Dvorak Zine, a primer for switching the layout of your computer keyboard from the traditional arrangement of letters to a more ergonomic system--yeah, I know, not the typical "favorite comic" of most 11-year-olds--but Nate couldn't get it together to say two coherent words to Longstreth. Likewise, he froze up around Darwyn Cooke. Ah, adolescence.
Second, I did my EC panels with co-conspirator Ben Towle. I'm not going to review my own panels, though I'd be grateful for any feedback (positive or negative) folks who were at the event might have to offer. (Take your best shots in the Comments section, punks!) The biggest problem with the first panel, "Kurtzman for Beginners," was time: poor Ben was understandably hard-pressed to briefly summarize Kurtzman's achievements, and I moderated a close reading of the Kurtzman/Wally Wood story "3-Dimensions!" that got through maybe half the material I wanted to cover. And then Al Feldstein showed up early for the second panel--a showcase for his remarkable career--and the rest of us couldn't keep up. At 82, Feldstein has more energy than any three men; he wrestles bulls to the ground by their horns and throws lightning bolts from his hands. Seriously. While I'm grateful to Roger Langridge and Richard Thompson for participating in the Feldstein panel, all of us--Ben, Roger, Richard, me--became superfluous as Al held court and told us stories about Jerry Iger, Will Eisner, Kurtzman, Wood, Nick Meglin, Jack Davis and, of course, Bill Gaines, who Al very touchingly referred to as "the Old Man." (It was clear that despite their many disagreements, his friendship with Bill Gaines had been very important to Al.) There were perhaps 50 people in the audience, and Al fielded smart questions from attendees, particularly Roy Thomas (who knows a thing or two about Golden Age comics, I understand) and my buddy Mike Rhode, who taped the Feldstein session and is putting pressure on me to transcribe it for a future issue of The International Journal of Comic Art. I'm also grateful to art collector Stephen Turner, who displayed several pages of original EC art drawn by Feldstein alongside our events. Stephen also brought an original Jack Davis piece--a splash for the "wrestling story" in the very first magazine-sized Mad (#24)--that made everyone who looked at it (especially Athens, Georgia cartoonist Patrick Dean) drool and swoon.
We'll improve what needs improving, and we'll do panels again next year.
The only ominous note struck during my second day at Heroes Con had to do with the sales of independent comics. While chatting individually with Kevin Huizenga, Frank Santoro and Dan Nadel, I asked how sales were going, and got three variations on "Not great." Dustin Harbin, one of Heroes Con's central organizers and the man responsible for the significant independent comics presence (the "Indie Island") at the show, is a dynamo himself--he too wrestles bulls to the ground by their horns--but I imagine it's a formidable challenge to convince the same demographic excited about Secret Invasion to sample Ganges or Injury. On Saturday morning, while riding my hotel elevator to the lobby to get breakfast, I struck up a conversation with a middle-aged fan who was excited about meeting Silver Age creators like Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich and Herb Trimpe at Heroes Con. He mentioned that all these Silver Agers were located near each other on the con floor, and then added, "So I'm gonna spend all my time in that Silver Age area, and avoid flashes-in-the-pan like Darwyn Cooke and Guy Davis." A guy like that wouldn't come within three miles of the PictureBox tables. Is it viable to have an "Indie Island" at a con where many of the attendees are superhero fans, and Balkanized superhero fans at that? Stay tuned.