HeroesCon Final Thoughts

canete_elektra.jpg
Although we’re probably the very last person to get our HeroesCon thoughts online, it was such a good time, it would be wrong not to enumerate a few of the ways it rocked. Although everyone knows that Shelton Drum, Dustin Harbin and the rest of the Heroes crew know how to extend Southern hospitality to convention guests in a relaxed, unassuming way, the show — the largest HeroesCon yet by all signs — also served as a near-perfect capsule of the comics industry, thanks to a wide ranging, well-deployed guest list showcased in diverse, entertaining programming. While Indie Island is Harbin’s baby and remains a hotbed of amazing talent, the rest of the show showed off other elements of the cartooning world — there was a wall of strip cartoonists, for instance, and the “mainstream mainland” included an amazing lineup of artists from Brian Bolland to Jill Thompson to Adam Hughes and Tony Harris.

HeroesCon is known as a great show for original art, and nearly every mainstream artist we spoke to had been booked solid with commissions and sketches. Indeed, evenings found many of the artists holed up in their rooms finishing commissions instead of hanging out. In a time when the economy is still spotty, this alone ensured that pretty much everyone was hot to make a return appearance in 2011.

For the indie and webcomics crowd, HeroesCon is a little bit more of a question mark. Two years ago, indies staged a full scale invasion — an invasion which was largely warded off by the attendees, alas. However, this year featured a strong webcomic presence –Kate Beaton, R Stevens, Meredith Gran — as well as a strong indie showing — Sammy Harkham, Alec Longstreth, the Freewheel Tour, Joe Lambert. Although they weren’t vying with Adam Hughes for attention, there were indications that repeated exposure is paying off with more recognition for more challenging material. Sometimes you just have to invest some time in building an audience — or capturing a new territory — or at least that’s our optimistic takeaway.

Another element that made this “the artist show” was the lack of presence from Marvel and DC. Although there were perfunctory big company panels, they were lacking in news — as one of my journo buds told me of one of them, “It was over before it began.” Without a squad of editors on hand, everyone could just relax. “There’s no jockeying in the bar,” as one person put it. It was a pleasant scenario.

No wonder, then, that everyone had such a fine time. The Beat stayed on for the Sunday night Dead Dog party for the first time, and it won’t be the last , as it was a marvelously relaxed affair with lots of catch up chatter from the show. HeroesCon’s social events are always well arranged with shuttle service and snacks. On Friday, it was an art show at Gallery 22; Saturday, it was the legendary auction, where pieces went for as much as $8,000. While Hughes and Phil Noto had amazing entries, it was Eric Canete’s Elektra (above) that the artists of our acquaintance were raving over. Canete even wrote about it on his blog:

The whole event went off as it did in years past; entertaining, competitive and festive – all benefitting the show and its organizers. And at the end of the day, that’s what mattered to me most. I’ve included a shot of the piece (kindly sent to me by the auction winner) next to the chair so you guys can have a point of reference regarding its size. I hope now you can see where my “Holy sh*t! What the f*ck am I doing and who the hell said we could do this in color!? You’re a loser and you’re going to have harlequin babies, Canete!” state of mind came from. For a guy who does nothing but B&W images on 10×14″ paper, this was like asking a kid who plays ‘Operation’ to do a actual triple bypass.


An overwhelming number of people that we checked in with said it was either their first HeroesCon or their first in a long time, but pretty much everyone we talked to declared it wouldn’t be the last. Mike Mignola, who hadn’t been there in many years, said it was “The best show!” Surely part of the enthusiasm and the turnout is becuase (okay, you knew this was coming) San Diego has become Too Big And Scary. While people go to the Big Show for the business they need to conduct (and to make money — despite the hassles, a table at San Diego can be extremely lucrative), for pleasure, creators are starting to flock to smaller regional shows like Emerald City, WonderCon and HeroesCon. The shows are cheaper to do, much easier to get in and out of and, increasingly, a good place to make money.

But whatever the merits of HeroesCon as part of the con circuit, this year’s con showcased coimics art in an amazing manner. On Sunday night we found ourselves at a Dead Dog dinner with a stellar lineup of artists that incluided Jill Thompson, Ming Doyle, Jim Mahfood, Paul Maybury, Ben Templesmith, David Mack, Declan Shalvey and Eric Canete; myself, Ben McCool, Molly McIsaac and Jimmy Aquino held up the writing/photography/journo end of things, and 18-year old Karen Wang — whose portfolio was the talk of the show — represented the future superstar category. At one point Mike Golden came in to say hi, and I guess that made the circle complete. It was a little staggering to be in the company of so much talent, but that’s why you keep coming back to the comics, right? Most of the con reports I’ve read have been much the same thing — just hanging out and talking with an inspiring array of talented people.

Aside from the above we got to hobnob with Richard Thompson, Cully Hamner, Mike Mignola, Tommy Lee Edwards, Benard Chang, June Brigman, Steve Leiber, Erika Moen, Marc Bernardin, Chris Gage, Tony Harris, Joe Staton, Mark Morales, Jose Marzan, Rich Case, Steve Bird, Shannon Stewart, Nick Spencer, Tom Fowler, Kirby Krackle, and of course other people that we’re unjustly forgetting. It was ALL a blast.

We have a few mote newsy bits to type up from the weekend over the next day or so, but here are a few links in the meantime: the essential Dustin Harbin on the indie side:

We had a hugely expanded Indie Island this year, which was great for people like me who love “indie” comics, not to mention a large contingent of cartoonists whose work is best known on the web, like Meredith Gran, R Stevens, Kate Beaton, and a ton of others. I’m always nervous having bigger names from the “indie” world because Heroes is essentially a superhero show after all; it’s hard to know what kind of response they’ll get. But the consensus seemed to be pretty good–some people did pretty good, and I got a few reports of banner years. Some were a little more circumspect; I could tell they were sparing my feelings a little. I just want everybody who tables at HeroesCon to be FILTHY RICH by the end of the weekend, is that so wrong? But overall I was pretty pumped about how traffic was in Indie Island, I like how it’s growing and turning into its own thing, slowly but surely.


The Dollar Bin is posting almost all the panels; more will be up every day but here are a few:
Craft and Process in Comics
Vocational Comics: Comics As Career
and the one you MUST listen to, Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson.

Comments

  1. I’m an Elektra fanatic, and that piece is AMAZING! HOLY WORD!

    But then, if Marvel were to use a cover like this, they’d make it some random variant, my comic shop would jack up the cost four times, and I’d never get a copy anyway. So perhaps it’s better it’s just for a good cause. ;)

  2. Kevin Hynes says:

    Really have to stop missing cons, sigh.

  3. WallyStrong says:

    IMHO, HeroesCon is consistently the best convention for comic lovers. There is little, if any, distractions by the big two which allows everyone to relax and meditate on their affection for the art and joy of storytelling.

  4. Kevin Hynes says:

    The only con I’ve ever been to is Wizard World in Philadelphia, which is safe to say somewhat sad. I need to branch out…and actually go to a show that focuses on comics rather than professional wrestlers, 70s movie extras, etc.

  5. HeroesCon really is the best, we had a great time this year and are already looking forward to coming back~ Shelton, Dustin and everyone involved make it an amazing time for artists and fans! Not to mention I always look forward to the huge pile of books I come back with to keep me reading for another year!

  6. Mikael says:

    That’s a nice safe list of creators and publishers – all of which sound like friends of the Beat – but doesn’t really give the overview of scope of Heroes Con. What about the small-press and self published creators that don’t get coverage? What was their take on the show? Because I’ve heard from several that say that had really crappy placement which made sales suffer.

    Perhaps some of that mainstream mainland should be divided up all over the con to keep the traffic going from one end to the other. When you pool all in one area you’re not really sharing the wealth.

    And this is from someone who loves Heroes Con.

  7. Zemba says:

    I went to Heroes Con last year and the year before after listening to all the buzz and I have to say I wasn’t impressed. I’d been wanting to go ever since I moved to NC, but wow, was it ever unorganized. Painfully unorganized. And it seemed last year was worse than the year before. The Roy Thomas panel, held in a tiny, poorly ventilated room with a microphone that kept crapping out was a disaster from start to finish. Even Thomas was looking pissed off.

    The panels were not centralized in one specific area of the convention center but scattered to the four winds as there were several other events going on like a couple of grad functions and something else that I can’t recall.

    The table that Dick Giordano was at was complete anarchy, there’s no other description. No lines, no convention workers even attempting to make lines at any artist tables. I think the only line that was remotely organized was the Comics Relief Fund that had George Perez I believe and they were raffling a gas card or something. I went to the TwoMorrows booth several times over a two day period only to find a sloppy table and two little kids that looked about 5 years old with no adults in sight. This was all three times, not just once.

    Dynamite Entertainment was supposed to have a booth there, but I looked for it for two days and couldn’t find it or any Dynamite Entertainment reps for that matter. Everyone in Indy Island looked like depressed zombies, and this was the FIRST DAY. Seriously, they looked almost pissed off. The small press stuff was not impressive and really pretty amateurish. Maybe the two years I went were aberrations, or maybe this con is looked at and reported on through rose color glasses and only seen through the eyes of the guests.

    I will say that there were some amazing deals to be had and the dealers for the most part were more than happy to cut deals on items that already had mind bogglingly low prices and I left with loads of great stuff.
    But the much touted “friendliest convention ever” thing I had been hearing was a bit much and rather hit and miss. One mylar/bag and board vendor next to the snack bar looked like he wanted to tear my head off when I committed the unforgivable sin of asking “how much?” Maybe I’ve just been to too many conventions and there are no surprises to be had anymore, I don’t know. But one thing is certain; Heroes Con has some major…MAJOR organizational problems to overcome.

  8. Army of Dorkness says:

    “But one thing is certain; Heroes Con has some major…MAJOR organizational problems to overcome.”

    You’re not even commenting on this year’s convention. You should be speaking in the past tense.

    I went in 2008, same as you, and I don’t recall any problems.

    Every convention has things it can improve upon. Heroes Con is a great show and far from “unorganized”. I have a few complaints, but nothing that prevents it from being a great show.

  9. Zemba says:

    Army of Dorkness…

    re: “I went in 2008, same as you, and I don’t recall any problems.”

    I mentioned specific problems with Heroes Con, mainly organizational problems. Saying “I don’t remember any problems” adds nothing to the point. How do you explain the problems I mentioned?

    These aren’t just minor “glitches” but major pain in the ass problems that had many people saying they wouldn’t come back. And you can believe I’m not the only one that was complaining about them in 08 and 09. Several Raleigh comic shops have stopped going for those same reasons I mentioned.

    re: “You’re not even commenting on this year’s convention. You should be speaking in the past tense.”

    Again, missing the point. The problems at last years con were so apparent that there is no way they could have all been adressed this year because they weren’t even noticed by staff or those reporting on Heroes Con the last couple years. I didn’t need to go this year to figure that one out.

    I also don’t need to go to this years San Diego con to tell you that there will be long lines for all the events. I don’t need to go because it’s obvious. So yes, I will speak in past tense.

    I’d just like a little more objectivity when reporting on these conventions instead of the opinions of the insulated “in crowd” for who these problems are not an issue.

    There is a lot to like about Heroes Con, but there is a lot not to like as well. I can listen to convention apologists all day long. I got those coming out my ears. I don’t think a little objectivity is too much to ask.

  10. Army of Dorkness says:

    “I mentioned specific problems with Heroes Con, mainly organizational problems. Saying “I don’t remember any problems” adds nothing to the point. How do you explain the problems I mentioned? ”

    It adds an alternate point of view. You didn’t mention any specific problems in regard to 2008 but instead used a blanket “unorganized” criticism. Everything seemed well organized to me. I could easily find what I wanted to find and didn’t have any problems.

    Microphones crap out, comics aren’t the center of the universe and sometimes have to share a convention center, generally Heroes Con doesn’t have lines so it’s not surprising that there wasn’t someone trying to organize one–the aisles are big enough for people to get around and not be assholes about it so there’s no reason to worry about lines, TwoMorrows is responsible for the TwoMorrows booth, you get a program that lists everyone there and their location and there’s an information booth for the asking of the questions when you can’t find something–it’s not Heroes’ fault that you can’t find something and didn’t bother to ask anyone, your personal opinion about Indie Island and the Small Press area are your own and not subject to improvement by the Heroes Con staff, and vendors occasionally have attitudes especially when things are clearly priced and people still ask “how much.”

    There. Happy now? Sheesh.

    “These aren’t just minor “glitches” but major pain in the ass problems that had many people saying they wouldn’t come back. And you can believe I’m not the only one that was complaining about them in 08 and 09. Several Raleigh comic shops have stopped going for those same reasons I mentioned. ”

    It just sounds like you had a crappy time and hold a grudge. I’ve been to at least 3 of them and enjoyed each one without a single proglem.

    “Again, missing the point. The problems at last years con were so apparent that there is no way they could have all been adressed this year because they weren’t even noticed by staff or those reporting on Heroes Con the last couple years. I didn’t need to go this year to figure that one out.”

    The point being you didn’t like the last two years so this year must’ve sucked? That’s a dumb point and obviously I didn’t miss it… I just chose to point out how it’s irrelevant because you cannot evaluate something you did not experience. Make all the assumptions you want, but you were making claims based on past experience and passing them off as current complaints.

    I didn’t go last year. I went THIS year, and it was good times… all 3 days…well organized, good panels that were easy to get to, and lots of great people.

    “I also don’t need to go to this years San Diego con to tell you that there will be long lines for all the events. I don’t need to go because it’s obvious.”

    That in no way compares to what you were saying about Heroes Con. Plus, there probably won’t be long lines for ALL the events. Only some.

    “I don’t think a little objectivity is too much to ask.”

    Same to you, buddy. You don’t sound all that objective. You sound like you have an axe to grind.

    Shit happens. Everyone can’t be happy all of the time especially when dealing with loads of people in a small space on a tight schedule. The convention felt twice as big this year as it was in 2008, and probably in 2009 there were some growing pains.

    It sucks that you (and supposedly some other people) had a bad time, but that doesn’t invalidate all the good thing people say about their experiences at the convention.

    You want objectivity? Some people had a great time, some people didn’t. Some stuff went off without a hitch, some stuff had problems. Some stuff about the show is fantastic, some stuff they need to work on. C’est la vie. I just described pretty much every comic book convention there is. Of which, Heroes Con is one of the best and “most friendliest.”

  11. Army of Dorkness:

    Wow, you don’t even bother to hide the fact that you’re oblivious and a blatant con apologist do you? Is seems your non answer is that Cons suck, deal with it. I could have gotten something that deep from a 4 year old.

    The fact is, San Diego had problems and addressed them. Heroes Con has them and no one is adressing them. You’re solution seems to be “so what if it sucks, at least I had a good time”. Thank god people like you don’t run conventions.

    re: Plus, there probably won’t be long lines for ALL the events. Only some.”

    Wow….just…wow. It’s clear you have no business answering any questions about any conventions. Not that I was asking you, I was hoping for some objectivity from the beat, not subjectivity from someone that’s WAY too green to be taken seriously.

    But thanks anyways “Buddy”

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