Trials and Tribulations of Comic Books

As regular readers know, we enjoy going to comic cons. What you may assume is that we are avid readers and collectors of comic books. That would make sense, read and collect comic books, thus go to comic cons to find, share, and enjoy in our love of comic books. The reality is that we are not avid readers nor collectors.

A long time ago, up to the middle of high school I was an avid reader and collector of comic books. I sold them for something or the other I wanted at the time. No regrets, but that marked the end of my comic book reading and collecting.

Then children arrive. In an effort to move them from board books I think how much enjoyment I got from comic books. Plus, I had an itch to read something different. Perhaps I think, comic books might be another bridge for the kids and the adults, might spark some creativity in all of us, and show the kids that the don’t have to give up pictures and words for word only books.

Except the kids…well were kids. They had to see some of the Marvel movies first. Actually SEE Iron Man before they even wanted to open a comic book. Guess what happened then? If you guessed, Iron Man on a page did not look like or act like Iron Man on the movie screen you would be right.

Funny thing is that the stuff in a comic book store caught their attention; a poster, a statue or the cover of a comic book. Slowly over the years I try to introduce a comic book or two that I think one child or another will enjoy based…well based mostly on nothing because there is a problem with comic books and purchasing them, at least for me.

I can read story synopsizes and reviews until I am blue in the face. What I cannot not find out until I purchase something is how much other reading is necessary to make the comic or graphic novel make any sense at all. I know comic books have never been much on anything other than pumping out issue after issue, with variant covers, and crossover stories, and reboots, and blah blah blah…

That’s great for someone to dive in. For someone looking for a place to start for themselves or their children, a real crapshoot and not a crapshoot in favor of the parent. Yes, I am frustrated. If the children had remained immune to comic books I wouldn’t be. But they are interested and they have questions that I cannot answer because I, like them, have no clue about references and history no in the issue or novel they are reading.

That level of disconnect is not good. Try to imagine a book that billed itself as the “first” or “the whole story” and as you read you realized that there were hundreds of other books that were referenced directly and indirectly and you have no way of knowing what they mean. Frustrating right? Now imagine being a kid.

I am happy and surprised each time one of them comes out of the library with a comic book or graphic novel and finishes it, a single issue is confusing and graphic novels are never “the whole story or series” in one book. I hope that comic book creators figure out some way to address this, I know our kids and I would appreciate that. We might purchase more than we do.

Home To Chaos

We made a conscious decision to stay at home or at least as close to home as we can stay today and probably tomorrow as well. Typically, when Barb has a day or two off we go out so she can see the world beyond her counter. However, we have over the last few weeks seen a lot of the world beyond her counter and the world at home has suffered. Thus, we aim to correct, meaning clean and organize, the home so that the next time we go out to see the world beyond her counter we do not have to come home to chaos.

Two comic cons has seen an influx of posters. Sad thing was we went to both saying, “Not a lot of posters.” Not because we are lacking wall space, but because posters mean having to purchase poster frames and that means measuring posters and trust me when I say no poster ever fits the available frames. I bet if we could take all of the extra spaces around the posters on our walls we could put many of the new posters into frames.  Alas, we cannot, thus measure, go to the store, and hope to find enough frames and enough frames that are close enough.

The cons also saw a much desired and needed increase in reading material. Before we left, I cleaned and organized all of the bookshelves. I know I should have waited until we got back. In my defense, we rarely found books, let alone a lot of books, at previous cons. Which is probably why we found tons. Between the comic books, graphic novels, novels, and oversized books I am or was in the process of attempting to keep on row of books from falling off a shelf with one hand while trying to simultaneously create a space and insert new books into place. Yes, my books are organized.

Games. Why did we purchase games at comic cons when we have games and brought games with us to con? Part of me thinks that we like to carry large, awkward, and heavier than when we arrived bags. The other part of me says, some games were unique, some games were games we were on the fences about and with the sale price were worth trying, and others, the smallest amount, were just so cool looking that we had to get them.

Around here games are kind of organized. There is the cabinet, bookcase, and stacked cubes of must play and are playing games. There is the bookshelves and closest of we played it and may play it again. Lastly there is the never again box and shelf, currently occupied by Robotech RPG Tactics and Oregon Trail. I know Oregon Trail will come out of the box, because we are mad it at for the last game, and we tend to forgive our games. The other one…there forever.

And keep in mind the above is just the stuff from cons that we are cleaning up. There is still laundry, mowing, writing, painting, dishes, and cooking to go.

Final Thoughts

No the blog is not coming to an end. This is about our thoughts about our back-to-back comic book convention experiences. Over all a great time.

All of us found unique items that appealed to them and most of us. The shopping while entertaining and took up most of our time was not where the great time came from though.

For Barb, meeting Wil Wheaton and spending quality time with all of us was here great time.

For the kids, again Wil Wheaton, missing a day of school, being away from home, and last but not least the stuff they bought with their own money. 

For me, family time, family time, and more family time. I got to watch the kids grow. Each of them was faced with one or more delimas, all money related, where they had to make a choice. Our boy spent 45 minutes weighing the pros and cons, eventually settling on the realization that “want” is not a good reason. As a result of his decision he got a great deal the next day.

Our girl, she went with “want,” but she’s younger. Watching her deal with spending money was insightful, as there is a process. Like I said, growth.

I met several new artists who I hope to talk to again. Met a famous artist whoover omelets. Saw Wil Wheaton’s head. And had a lot of fun.

As always there are the things we learned, such as hotel choice really matters, All Seaons in Kalkaska,great. While Comfort Inn in Wixom with the stains on the ceiling, bed, bathroom, and no forks, bad.

Sleep is mandatory.

Children need their own room, a thought for later.

Pace events better.

Know where local food nearby is located

Pack more snacks and food from home to reduce cost

Rest more

Talk to more people

VIP passes are a thing and may be worth the cost

Go with things in mind, cuts down on impulse purchases

Did I mention sleep?

Puddles and Whiskers will return tomorrow.

Wiped Out At The End of C4

And we are back from C4 or Cherry Capital Comic Con in Traverse City. If you are in Michigan, are looking for a smaller comic book convention, great for people new to cons, C4 is perfect.

In fact, the only complaint by everyone is a really lousy start to Saturday, of no fault of C4, but affected our day. If you can sleep in late, say on vacation, sleep in late, don’t wake everyone else up. 😦

Friday, was a preview day. Visit the convention for three hours, meet and greet, purchase and set up for your Saturday. Friday was the best day for all of us, we walked around Traverse City for a while before the con, enjoying several individuals playing musical instruments and singing. Checked into the All Seasons Hotel, a great hotel by the way, they even had forks for the whole breakfast service, something the Comfort Inn in Novi did not have. Speaking of breakfast, normally I avoid breakfast in hotels. Sure the food is free and there is a reason why. Not at the All Seasons all I have to say is biscuits and gravy…and forks.

The great thing about the preview day is a really small crowd. We as a group were able to make several purchases and met a few artists without having to jostle and maneuver around throngs of people.

Highlights of Friday…

  • Tex and the Omelet Guy
  • A lady really into Munchkin who gave me a Infinity Gauntlet promo just for talking to her (I have been after one of these cards since Munchkin Marvel was released)
  • Barb and the kids played a game, great to see our kids open to playing a game in the middle of a game room with unknowns
  • Getting a custom Thanos piece of art for Big Man
  • Meeting the Manley Cartoonist, I have been following him on Instagram and finally met him, very cool
  • Bumping into people from Motor City who remembered us

Saturday is the main convention day, everyone vendor and guest wise is there, as are the crowds. We went because we had tickets and we had scouted out booths we wanted to visit and a few games we wanted to take part in. Unfortunately, due to one person waking the rest of us up 3 hours early, there was a lack of energy and patience. This meant that after a few hours everyone was ready to leave. We did not attend the panels or join in the games we wanted to.

Sunday the other best day to go. Kids costume contest in the morning, then smaller crowds and good sales. Except we were still wiped from Saturday. However, that did not stop us for going, picking up the last few things we wanted (see it Friday and mull it over until Sunday) and because of this our boy who made an adult decision to NOT spent 115 dollars got an 80 model for 40.

While this was not perfect, this was a great weekend get away that has become family tradition. Hopefully, next year goes better, until then we need to unpack and play with our toys. Speaking of which, I did get comic books, lots of comic books, seems that if you express interest in an artist’s work they will sell you multiple issues at a discount. 🙂

 

One Hell Of An Omelet

It started as an accident, then turned into a epic…thing. Walking past a booth at C4 I saw two posters I had to add to our walls. The ghost rider is the important part of the story. For an extra 5 dollars the artist, “right behind you,” will sign your poster. Sure why not I thought. I don’t know him, but the poster is cool.

I had to help them make change, which is where things went off the rails. Again, I had NO idea who the artist is. His sign read, Tex.

Standing there with nobody but him, he set up his booth…kinda…

  • First he put his wallet away
  • Next find pens
  • Then someone with a limited edition frame jumps in front of me
  • Tex signs the poster, an elaborate 5 minute process, then flips it over and freehands a ghost rider on back, then…
  • A friend of Tex’s visits, they shake hands, bump chests, laugh, and then…
  • Tex finishes up the free hand ghost rider and takes pictures with the purchaser
  • Then resumes setting up his booth pulling out awesome artwork and taping it up all while maintaining a running dialog
  • Meanwhile, someone gets behind me and asks if this where the line starts…line for what I thought
  • Now he’ll sign…
  • And another guy jumps the “line,” Tex is ecstatic this is the omelet guy and he gives the guy two pieces of signed art with more free hand ghost riders and pictures
  • He is telling anyone listening to get an omelet from this guy
  • Omelet guy leaves very happy, Tex resumes setting up booth at this point roughly a half-hour after I started friends have gathered
  • I say to them I could go for a beer, Tex excited tells us about a great wing and beer place complete with showing us the receipt…no shit
  • An announcement he has to leave
  • Another handshake and finally last person standing he signs my poster with a really awesome signature…then his pen explodes

Now this may sound like complaining, but it isn’t, this was an awesome thing to witness. He handdrew three ghost riders, engaged everyone and in the end made my time worth while. Haven’t tried the omelet or wings yet.

Wil Wheaton And A High Five

How can I put this?

We went to Motor City Comic Con because we as a family enjoy comic cons and game cons. Barb went to Motor City Comic Con to meet Wil Wheaton. Going to the con was an idea that quickly turned into a must do family vacation when she learned that Wil Wheaton would be attending and she could get an autograph, meet him…or a photo with him.

As con approached we learned more about the photo-op, such as the kids could be in the photo. With that in mind I asked if they would say, “Thank you for Tabletop” to him. Why? Because Tabletop is responsible for the children taking an active interest in the games that they play, being better gamers, having fun playing games, and a whole host of other good reasons why a simple thank you made sense. Plus, if nothing else if they got star struck they would be able to form one sentence.

The kids were as excited as Barb to meet Wil Wheaton. I was happy with seeing his head over the crowd. I like him, but I do not take good photos, thus I declined the photo. Meet him some other situation, not in an autograph line0to busy, crowded, and hectic for me, for sure.

At the prescribed time, we got Barb and the kids to the photo-op and went and shopped.

They found us, beaming with smiles and carrying their photo, much later. Keep in mind I was not there so this story is second hand, details may lack: after standing in line, reading the sign (see above pic) for what seemed like forever, they got in where…

  • both children thanked Wil Wheaton
  • who engaged with both of them, including asking to hear our girl’s Spellwarz voice
  • our boy, as I told, did what he always does and talks…a lot

the result…

That is our new family photo on the mantle…oh sorry on the shelf, I looked up mantle and we don’t have one, my bad. They, meaning all three of them, gushed about Wil Wheaton for the rest of the day, the next day, and…well they haven’t stopped. An awesome memory indeed.

Meanwhile, tired and ready to leave, I headed towards the exit. One of the parts of smaller cons I enjoy is meeting, talking to, and engaging with vendors, especially smaller vendors with unique items. Motor City Comic Con was not one of those cons. So many people packed into the venue, as I described previously, finding room to turn, breathe, or sit was problematic. I have to be honest, I was bummed that I had not had one of those moments like with Alderink.

And then…a very tall and enthusiastic man, Ben Goldsmith, got our attention, called us over to his section of the Source Point Press booth where he began to, with much enthusiasm tell us about his comic book Séance. I say his because at that moment his partner was missing; a very funny moment when he went to introduce us to the artist, Keyla K. Valero, “And…she is missing.” His passion impressed me as did the artwork, I bought a copy that he signed, we talked for a while about a lot of things such as the similarity weather wise between Michigan and Boston, before leaving. I had my moment.

That night in the hotel room, I read Séance. The premise is that people enter a house and encounter one of six aspects (see my crappy photo) and experience a revelation, comeuppance, or otherwise have their wrongs attended to. Not in a violent over the top way, but in a smart way. I was impressed where they could have gone all Hellraiser they went more thoughtful. And true to his word, I enjoyed the story and art.

So much so that I went back the last day of the con to tell them, pick up another copy signed by both of them…except they weren’t there. Sad monkey.

….

On our way out the door to go home, dead tired, hungry, and glad to have had the experience we walked path the booth. He was talking to another couple when I walked up, he greeted me by name, we high-fived, and then I told him and Keyla how much I loved the first book. The couple bought a copy right there. All of us talked for a bit before getting another copy, this time signed by both, feeling damn good, and promising to keep an eye out for them at cons.

That was my feel good moment.

 

 

Stories From The Con

“Hey, look the Toyota sigil,” our boy says while we are standing in the advance ticket line that stretches to the horizon.

Fifteen minutes later, we are standing at the front door.

“I smell popcorn,” he says as we enter the snake like cue to turn our printed out tickets into a red wristband allowing us to enter and exit the con as we like

Ten feet later we are surrounded by people, this would affectionably be known as crowded, oh how we would learn what a crowd really looked like the next day. In front of us a sticker booth with Spongebob stickers. Yes, I was the first to go “Ooohh” and completely destroy our plans to walk the con first. In my defense the stickers were cool.

As a family we had two shopping goals, a few new posters, and comic books. You would think finding comic books at a giant comic con would be easy. Not if you are me and not if you didn’t feel like dealing with people who are collectors, as opposed to me who hasn’t collected in over thirty years. I really wanted some New Wolverine and some New X-Men, took me until the third day to find New Wolverine that was affordable.

In no particular order here are some stories from the con…

On Saturday, the adult costume contest happened. Now, at this point all of us were tired, a really shitty night of sleep (a story for tomorrow), had us sitting in a corner praying for our feet to recover and trying to figure out how we were going to last until the Wil Wheaton experience in 3 hours. As we sat there, people in costume gathered. Lots of people. Then John Snow fell asleep just as Godzilla’s tail arrived. Soon enough Godzilla’s body arrived and we watched as the body attempted to eat a boy trying to put the body on. Seriously, nothing else was more fascinating than watching this boy and his dad (assumed) put this Godzilla costume on before the contest.

“You collect organs from the other players,” and that is how I found myself purchasing Organ Attack the Family-Friendly Game of Organ Harvesting. This person knew exactly what to say to me and the family. Even better, next to the stack of Organ Attack a stack of Fowl Language. Barb was excited by that as she gets the cartoon on one of her social media feeds. Hilarious, if you can find it and are a parent or going to be one, get it!

The baseball sized illustrations were from an artist around the corner. Hundreds of illustrations of anything and everything popular media wise. He was cools sitting in his chair inviting people to look. That was something that stood out to me, way to many artists and other people did nothing than display their stuff. Those who engaged, they were the ones we stopped at and had fun with.

Which brings me to fun encounters starting with the kids…

Karen and Darrin (link is to their webpage) had a booth with children’s choose your own adventure style books, Myth Solver and many variations of the standard superhero posters, a favorite I am Goof: Goofy and Groot merged. They got our kids attention and then got our attention. By the time we left their booth the kids had picked up six volumes of Myth Solver (our girl is almost done with book one and LOVES it).

Sometimes all it takes is a name, which how our boy found ourselves in front of Donovan Scherer’s booth. Now I can’t claim to know most of what happened, I was on the other side of the aisle ogling artwork. What I can say is that our boy walked away a few bucks lighter, wearing a smile, and with his own reading material.

Tomorrow the Wil Wheaton experience and a high five.