Daddy Daughter Podcast Episode 9 – Heroes Con And Summer Vacation!

After an extended break for the summer, we’re back! Father’s day this year was awesome, and we can’t wait to tell you all about it. We spent the Father’s Day weekend in Charlotte at the annual Heroes Convention and we had a blast. We saw cosplayers, met Stan “The Man” Lee, collected sketches from our favorite comic creators, and generally had a great time. Abby and I discuss all things Heroes Con as well as diving into some Minecraft stuff, and some Summer Vacation stuff. Hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed making!

Hey, don’t forget, if you enjoy the podcast… you can subscribe via iTunes and Stitcher to get it automatically updated to your choice of podcasting software. If you’re so inclined, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter as well, we’re @DaddyPodcast on Twitter and you can follow along and even ask us questions there, we answer every one in the podcast!

Hope you had a great summer!

Heroes Con – Part 2 – It’s Friday!

Heroes Con officially kicked off Friday morning, but for me, it began a day earlier. We packed the cars (the wife and kids were continuing on to the beach for a couple of weeks after the weekend) to drive up Thursday. Wanting to maximizing the time we had at the convention I booked our rooms for Thursday through Sunday, a serendipitous bit of foresight that I’ll be sure and repeat next year, so we could get up early and hit the ground running on Friday after a good night’s sleep. After a shitty drive up – thanks in large part to an accident that turned I-85 into a parking lot for a good hour and a half – we made it to the hotel with enough time to grab our badges and enjoy the pre-opening night bash. Food trucks, a band, and another great opportunity to mingle with a lot of the attending creators, it’s something you definitely want to make plans to attend if you’re gonna go next year. A nice evening unwinding, decompressing, and walking around was a perfect way to kick off the weekend.

Bright and early Friday morning, with everyone well rested, refreshed and badges in hand, we made our way across the street to the convention center. Once again, the decision to arrive a day early and collect badges was another in a string of inadvertent “best decisions we made” over the course of the weekend. The lines were staggering. The only other time I’ve seen THAT many people lining up for geekdom was last year at Dragon Con, and it was the same situation, the ticket line. Since we had our passes, we were able to move past the “I need to get a ticket” line and make our way to the end of the “we already have our passes line”. This line stretched from the entrance around the inside of the convention center, up the stairs and began to make its way around the upper deck. Not a short line, but once the doors opened, it moved along rapidly.

First up was to begin cashing in on that email equity I had worked on the month or two prior. I made a beeline to Ed Piskor’s table and handed over my sketchbook. A fan of “Hip Hop Family Tree” since I began reading it on Boing Boing, Ed was top of my list. I desperately wanted an Afrika Bambaatta sketch by Ed and had worked the better part of the last year on getting the ever-elusive artist to agree to do a commission at the convention. I don’t even think he had completely unpacked all his stuff when I bounded up to his table and introduced myself, “HiI’mJeffSmallWe’veSpokenOverEmail I’mTheGuyWhoWantedTheBambattaSketch IThinkYou’reTheGreatestGuy AndI’mAHugeFanOfHipHopFamilyTree!”. He smiled and I settled down a bit. We chatted about the book, his plans, the upcoming third volume and his experiences since publishing the anthology series and I quickly realized why I loved the guy so much. He’s warm, genuine, authentic, and every bit the person he seems. I handed over my sketchbook and began wandering around, getting my bearings and figuring out where the rest of the people on my list were sitting.

I caught up with Wilfredo Torres, artist on one my favorite books out currently, “Jupiter’s Circle”. Connected with Evan “Doc” Shaner, who draws the most amazing Captain Marvel you’ve ever seen. I found Mike Maihack, Klaus Jansen, Tim Sale, Andrew Robinson, Arthur Adams, Geoff Darrow, Craig Rousseau, Babs Tarr, and Kristopher Anka. I stopped by Evan Dorkin’s table. He had apparently had a pretty rough trip into town and was a little flustered trying to unpack and spread out as the convention was opening up. He was a charming curmudgeon as people came up to the table to say hi and get their items signed. He was wearing a wrist brace, made several references to having a sore hand and begged off doing any signing or sketches first thing until he had a chance to settle in. I graciously obliged with as much empathy as I could muster. I felt bad for the guy and made a mental note to steer clear and come back around Saturday or Sunday when he had an opportunity to get collected warm up a little.

The day flew by. We wandered around the floor, met creators, took photos with Cosplayers (So many Deadpools!) and bought some fun things from a couple of the vendors. I wasn’t ready to dig into comics just yet, that’ll wait for the last day. There were some great lunch spots close by, so it was easy to drop off sketchbooks, and wander across the street to grab some pizza with the kids, who were busy checking their Nintendo DSes every few minutes to meet another set of 10 convention-goers in Mii Plaza.

As the day wound down, I began to get excited for the evening. I was notified earlier that afternoon by an email from the staff that my VIP Stan Lee experience would begin at 6 over at the Hilton, which was a block over. We made our way back to the Marriott to drop off sketchbooks, decompress and relax for a little while. The wife and kids made dinner plans (The Friday evening experience was reserved for those who paid, family could participate in signatures and photos the next day, but the actual meet and greet was limited to a very small room) and I trekked over to the Hilton to meet Stan Lee. Not knowing how many people were signing up for the full VIP experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect walking in. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the meet and greet was limited to 25 people and we had the small room all to ourselves! There was a bar available for people who wanted cocktails (I grabbed a seltzer water, natch) and hors d’oeuvres spread out to snack on while we waited for Stan to arrive.

We chatted among ourselves, I met some great people, we traded stories, and a few minutes after I got there Stan’s assistant came in and prepped us for Stan’s arrival. We could ask anything we wanted (questions that could put Stan in an awkward position regarding upcoming movie spoilers were obviously the only thing off limits) and Stan would promise to get to everyone in the room. With that out of the way, Stan made his was in.

I was completely blown away. I’ve had various little celebrity moments in my life, met actors, writers, astronauts, and even recently met an ex-President, but this guy was Stan “The Man” Lee. This is the man who (along with Jack Kirby and a handful of other brilliant creators) created what’s arguably one of the richest, deepest, and most beloved universes of modern mythology in our collective recent history. There simply is no analog over at DC. There’s no consistent personality you can look at (Julius Schwartz MAYBE comes closest) and say “he drove that”. Say what you want about Stan. He drove that ship. He wrote those words. Editor-in-Chief. That was his title. There probably won’t be another person like him in my lifetime… and he was standing right there in front of me.

He took his seat and began speaking. It was that voice. It was the voice that I grew up with on records (The Merry Marvel Marching Society!), cartoons, TV, movies… it was him. He’s 93 years young, but you wouldn’t even know it to see him. He looks exactly like he looks in the movies and on anything you’ve seen him in. This was the same Stan Lee who answered Brody’s questions about the Thing’s thing and whether or not Mr. Fantastic could stretch EVERY bit of himself. He’s a little challenged in the vision and hearing department, but his assistant sat next to him and carefully repeated our questions to Stan could answer us fully.

I had goosebumps every time he spoke and patiently waited for my turn. I asked him when he realized he was writing comic books for a more sophisticated audience beyond the “funny books” that he started with in the 40’s. “Great question,” he answered and spent the next several minutes talking about what it was like in the early 60’s writing stories that were beginning to appeal to an older and older audience. I just sat there dumbstruck. This was Stan Lee and I was alone with him and a couple dozen people sitting around tables in a small room having a casual conversation about him, his creations, his peers, and his recollections about creating the Marvel Universe.

It was brilliant.

We spent the next hour and a half or so chatting and at the end we all took a group photo, Shelton handed us a limited edition print signed by Stan, we shook his hand, thanked him and made our way out back to the world. I was walking on air. I was only a day into my trip and it had already exceeded every expectation I had… and I still had two more days!

Heroes Con Charlotte – Part 1 – Introduction

Heroes Convention Charlotte

Best comic book convention ever!

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and actively worked on writing. I used to really enjoy the rigor of keeping on a pretty consistent schedule of blogging and writing. It felt cathartic and it was just something that I really enjoyed. So I took the opportunity of the last couple of weeks to “get back on the horse” so to speak and start to try and write with a little more consistency and regularity.

A couple of weekends ago (Father’s Day to be more accurate) I got the chance to finally spend the weekend at Heroes Con in Charlotte. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Heroes Con is the annual comic book convention put on by Shelton Drum and the team at “Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find”, a really terrific comic book shop that’s been around since I was a kid, up in Charlotte. Shelton’s been putting this convention on for the last 33 years or so, and it’s grown into what I believe is one of the best (if not THE best) comic book convention in America. It’s certainly the ONLY comic book convention that’s singularly focused on comic books and a quick anecdotal survey of the creators who attend reinforces that it’s the most well-thought of, most enjoyed convention of the convention season. I’m sure when a lot of people think of “comic book convention” they think of Comic-Con in San Diego, but I’m here to tell you, there are few conventions annually that stack up against Heroes Con. It’s three days of pure comics, comic art, writing, sessions, cosplay and fun.

Growing up and during college I was a regular Heroes Con attendee, but recent years have been difficult to find a way to go and for probably the last several years I’ve marked it on my calendar as a, “this-year-I-promise-I’m-gonna-go” event, but sure enough, something always came up and I was always vowing to attend, “next year for sure”. Well last year I put my foot down and told myself that come hell or high water I was attending this year and began making plans back in late summer. My somewhat underwhelming experience at Dragon Con and Wizard World (two okay, but lackluster conventions if you’re a comic book fan) last year only steeled my resolve to make sure not another year passed without my ass being squarely in the thick of Heroes Con in 2015. To that end, I began setting aside a nest egg starting back in September and contributing weekly to my “Heroes Con Fund” to ensure that a lack of convention funds was not going to be an issue. I booked my hotel room last fall, bought my wife and I three day passes (kids under 10 are free!) as soon as they were available to buy, and put in for the only personal time off I had on the books for this year. I was set.

As the convention drew closer, I became almost apoplectic with excitement as the guest list was updated. At first the updates were coming in regularly every 30 days or so, but as it got closer and closer to the date, the updates increased and the names being added were bigger and bigger. Bernie Wrightson, Arthur Adams, Klaus Janson, Ed Piskor, Evan Dorkin, Kris Anka, Wilfredo Torres, Evan “Doc” Shaner… it just became a who’s who of artists, writers, colorist. I began to worry if I was going to literally have enough time over the course of three days to get an audience with the growing list of creators. I began to prioritize, plot, email (never underestimate the value of emailing a creator or artist to get on their radar and try to nail down arrangements before the convention) and scheme. I even bought a second sketchbook in a stroke of genius that I can’t take credit for. One evening I was lamenting to my wife that I didn’t think I’d be able to coordinate all the convention sketches I wanted and she casually mentioned, “why don’t you buy a second sketchbook and that way you can halve your effort, doubling your chances?” I sat there for a moment, dumbstruck at the brilliance of her idea and immediately jumped on Amazon to order a second book identical to the one I carry around.

Then, as if it wasn’t possible for me to anticipate something any more, two weeks before the convention the update to end all updates went out. Appearing Saturday only was the founding father of Marvel Comics himself, Stan “The Man” Lee. Special packages were made available at various price points with the highest end, a “VIP Meet ‘n Greet” with Stan being limited to an audience of 25. I was blown away. Sure, it was steep, way pricey… but I had been saving up since last year. I had the cheddar. I gave it a thought, slept on it, asked a couple of friends what they thought (“what, are you crazy? Of course you should do it, there’s no question!) and decided to plunk down the cash and go for the full Stan Lee Experience.

Stan Lee Max Pass 2015

Excelsior! Meeting Stan “The Man” Lee!

So there I was. I had a VIP Meet ‘n Greet on Friday evening and Saturday with Stan Lee, I had more than enough money squirreled away to guarantee a brilliant time, and had commitments for sketches from several of the most sought-after guests on my “must meet” list and a family that was looking forward to driving up to Charlotte and spending Father’s Day weekend in Marriott.

I couldn’t wait. It was going to be epic.

NEXT: Part 2 – Friday, the first day of the convention and I meet Stan Lee!

Heroes Con Saturday Evening Art Auction

Of course, I have a LOT MORE to write about Heroes Con last weekend, including shots of some of the sketches I got, some of the sketches my daughter got, and some of the comics I scored. But first I wanted to post these cool shots of the Annual Heroes Con Art Auction that I was able to shoot walking around Saturday night. The room was crowded and by the time I was able to make my way up to the front walls, art was already flying off the walls, so this is just a sampling of what was left.

Great stuff by Skottie Young, Wilfredo Torres, Joseph Michael Linsner, Bernie Wrightson, Joe Eisma, Sandy Jarrell, David Petersen, Francis Manapul, Joe Pekar, and a host of artists!.

Enjoy!

Daddy Daughter Podcast Episode 7 – Easter, Spring Break, HeroesCon, and Cosplay

After what seems like months… wait… it IS months! Oh my! We’re back in the “studio” (the studio that’s cleverly disguised as a kitchen I might add) to catch up and talk about Spring Break, Easter (and of course the Easter Bunny), the upcoming Heroes Convention in Charlotte, and assorted other goodies! It’s another terrific episode. Take a listen!

Hey, don’t forget, if you enjoy the podcast… subscribe to it! You can subscribe viaiTunes and Stitcher to get it automatically updated to your choice of podcasting software. If you’re so inclined, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter as well, we’re @DaddyPodcast on Twitter and you can follow along and even ask us questions there, we answer every one in the podcast!

Enjoy, and talk to you soon!

Daddy Daughter Podcast Episode 4 – Dragon*Con!

We’re back!

After a hiatus due to switching jobs (I started at a new Agency this week!) and a little bout of sickness (Abby was under the weather last week) we’re finally back in the studio… er, kitchen and finally sitting down to talk about how much fun we had at Dragon*Con. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the podcast! Remember, you can find us on iTunes and Stitcher, so please subscribe if you’re not already a subscriber!

Dragon*Con 2014 – Part 3: Final Thoughts

I have to just state right up front. I had a blast at DragonCon. More so than any convention in recent memory and FAR more fun than I had at Wizard World this summer (a decision that I’ll always regret making over HeroesCon and a mistake I won’t make again). I had such a great time this year, that without hesitation I purchased my next year tickets the moment they were announced and booked two nights in the W (a decision I’ll explain further down) for Friday and Saturday night of NEXT year’s DragonCon.

First off, this was my first Dragon*Con. I had avoided going to the past couple of years because frankly I wasn’t convinced that Dragon*Con was my bag. If you take even a cursory look at the program it’s obviously not a comic book convention, my normal summer haunts. It’s billed as a “Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention” and there are a fair number of comic book related sessions, but it’s by no means a “Comic-Con” so you go in with the understanding that you’re a fraction of the audience, and so my expectations were that I would probably enjoy a proportional amount of the activity.

Boy was I wrong.

The sessions, the crowds, the Cosplayers, the Parade, the location, the activities, the people… it’s simply the best experience I’ve had at a convention in probably a decade. Comic-Con in Dallas, Wizard World… the only convention I think that even comes remotely close is HeroesCon in Charlotte, but that’s exclusively a Comic Book Convention so I think it’s an apples to oranges comparison. The truth is, I’m not sure there really IS anything that compares to Dragon*Con. It really is pure fandom. Much more pure and sincere in its execution than ComicCon in San Diego which is just a clusterfuck of Hollywood douchery and overcrowding. I have zero desire to attend ComicCon, but don’t take my word for it. Take a few minutes and see what Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics, one of the founders and original attendees who’s been to every one, had to say about this year’s convention. He wrote about it here, here, and here. It just sounds like a horrible experience.

But I had a blast. I mean, it was hands down one of the highlights of 2014 and was such a marvelous time that on Tuesday, when tickets went on sale, I snapped up 3 tickets for next year without so much as a moment of hesitation. I tried to get us into the host hotels for next year as well, but those hotel rooms sold out within minutes. I’ve never seen anything like it. Fortunately I was able to use my Starwood Preferred membership and snag a room at the W just before it sold out and it’s not even a host hotel!

If you like/appreciate/are a fan of Comics, Fantasy, Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Science Fiction, Comic Book movies, Tolkien, Ghostbusters, Horror, Zombies, and/or video games, and either live in the SouthEast, or have an interest in visiting Atlanta, then you owe it to yourself to attend. I promise, you won’t regret it.

See you next year!

Dragon*Con 2014 – Part 2: Collecting Sketches

For some time now, I’ve been using my time at Conventions to collect sketches from my favorite creative professionals. This has proven to be an immensely rewarding experience and I’m proud of the book I’ve been able to put together in just a year. This year’s DragonCon featured Tim Sale, George Perez, Dave Bullock, Dave Johnson, Mark Bagley, and numerous other comic artists, animators, and illustrators. I mean, we’re talking Bob Camp, legendary co-founder of Spumco Animation Studio and co-creator of Ren & Stimpy! How often do you think you get the chance to have an opportunity to engage these guys? So I spend a lot of my time at conventions collecting sketches. In fact, I basically plan my whole convention around collecting as many sketches as I can. They’re one-of-a-kind mementos of my appreciation and fandom, and taken collectively represent my love of sequential art. I use a bound, 8 1/2″ X 11″ Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook. A terrific book with excellent paper. It takes ink very well and provides a great surface for sketches.

This year, I was lucky enough to start right off with a bang when I walked into Artists Alley and walked right past George Perez, who had a relatively small line. I jumped right into line and and asked George to sketch one of my all time favorite Perez superheroes, Firestorm the Nuclear Man. He was gracious and spent time chatting while sketching. I particularly love the use of the silver/gray sharpie for Dr. Stein. Classic stuff.

The most sought-after artists, of course, was Tim Sale. Without a doubt, one of my favorite comic artists, and high on the list of “most desirable” sketch. Tim has a method for getting sketches that requires a little effort. He has what are called “Fast Passes” that he holds starting first thing in the morning. You get there early enough, before the spots are filled up, and you can get 20 minutes of Tim’s time. His prices vary for what you want, but it’s worth the effort, as you can see below with his amazing “Daredevil Yellow” that I had commissioned. He also opens up the first and last hour of the day for quickies, and as you can see below, I was able to get him to draw me a quick Joker sketch as well. Two of my most prized sketches so far.

Below are the latest entries in my collection. Click on the first photo and use the arrow keys to navigate. Click again on the image to close.

Dragon*Con 2014 – Part 1: The Costumes

Well, of course the my FIRST post about Dragon*Con (don’t worry, there will be a couple more, I promise!) has to be about the Costumes. It’s well known that of ALL the conventions during the summer, that Dragon*Con in particular is perhaps the most well known among Cosplayers. It’s one of the main attractions of the convention, and the layout of Dragon*Con with it being spread between several inter-connected hotels and hotel lobbbies is the perfect environment to see and be seen. The below gallery of 66 images was taken by myself over the course of just two and a half days of convention. I arrived early Friday afternoon and left Sunday evening. In between, I stopped whoever looked particularly good and space (and traffic!) permitted. Always ask politely to take a picture and ALWAYS move the subject out of the main flow of traffic. If you can do these two things, you’ll score a nice treasure trove of photos of some really talented CosPlayers.

Enjoy the slideshow! Click the first image, then just use your arrow or click left or right to view the photos:

So what is it about Neal Adams, anyway?

I was a Batman fan before I could read. Growing up in the early 70s, my exposure to Batman was courtesy of the famous Batman television show. Sock! Pow! Bam! “Holy Campy TV Show, Batman!” I was under the age of ten, I wasn’t reading yet, and my early experience with comics was learning to read (“so the fluffy clouds mean they’re thinking… and the plain round balloons mean they’re talking!”) via Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes. Pretty harmless stuff.

Then something happened.

It happened around 1977. I was ten years old and I saw something that made me stop in my tracks. It was the oversized collection of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ Ra’s Al Ghul stories. Originally published in 1971, the series completely redefined a Batman who was suffering from camp and overexposure, returning him to his “Dark Knight” roots and electrifying the comics industry with a combination of O’Neil’s dark, compelling stories and Adams’ dynamic, almost hyper-realism. All this had occurred about six years earlier, but it was all new to me. I was about six years or so behind that curve, but my childhood love of comics was started by the very same series of events. Up to that point, I thought Batman was funny. He fought silly villains named, “The Mad Hatter”, “Egghead”, “King Tut” and “The Riddler”. He had a hyperactive sidekick who only seemed capable of annoying you to death with his endless stream of “Holy Catchphrases”. He certainly wasn’t someone to take seriously… like Superman… or Flash.

But here he was, on the cover of that book looking like he could easily kick the ass of every character in the DC Universe, and he was suffering… and waitaminute… is that Robin? Dead? And who’s that evil sonofabitch behind him with the claws, looking like he’s actually happy that Robin’s dead? Now, I’m only ten years old, but I couldn’t help but notice there’s a very exotic woman there looking pretty damn sexy off to the side. What’s she got to do with all this? It’s a dollar, it’s a giant comic book. Well, I just HAVE to have this.

So I got my hands on it and sat down and proceeded to learn about Talia, Ra’s, the Lazarus Pit. I was mesmerized. This wasn’t the Batman I knew. This was… I dunno, a real Batman. This wasn’t a guy with impossible powers travelling at Super Speed, or an alien from Krypton. This was the world’s greatest detective, and he was detecting. He knew martial arts and was a master of disguise. He was a scientist and an escape artist, and he was armed with the most awesome set of gadgets money could buy.

Once this switch was turned on, it would never again be turned off, and I would never again look at “comics” or “superheroes” the same way again. This was the bar. Neal and Denny had raised it to precisely this point.

It also exposed me to “creators” for the first time ever. I mean, I had to learn, “who were these guys?” and “Why was this comic so radically different from everything else I had read before?” and the answer of course was storytelling and art. So naturally, I had to find out, “who wrote this?” and “who drew those amazing images of Batman and Robin?” I began looking for more of Neal Adams’ work, and more stories written by Denny O’Neil. The next, most obvious discovery was the work the pair did outside of “The Demon” series of stories involving Ra’s. The work on Batman and Detective with Two-Face, the Joker, and the reinvention of the gothic Dark Knight Detective. That led to his work on Brave and Bold, and eventually I came across the ground-breaking work the two did on Green Lantern/Green Arrow. Admittedly, those books were a little too advanced for a ten year old, but I still “got it”. These weren’t your typical superhero books. This wasn’t Spider-Man cracking jokes and shooting webs at a Lizard Man, or a guy who could stretch his arms around Dr. Doom. This was… well… “real”.

So that’s really it in a somewhat long-winded nutshell. I love superheroes, I love Batman, and I’ll never forget the first time I realized that Batman was real.