This past Saturday I attended the Baltimore Comic Con (https://baltimorecomiccon.com/). This convention has always been one of my favorite to attend as it is a very comic and artist focused show, whereas others have moved to formats that more heavily favor a broader spectrum of pop culture and media. Along with almost every other convention, Baltimore was cancelled last year due to Covid. The last time I attended in 2019 it was actually as an exhibitor, and in the two years since I've only attended one other much smaller show which I shared about here.
It was fantastic to be back at the show and it was abundantly clear that the fandom is as strong as ever and there was a lot of pent up demand to return to these types of events. In past years as an attendee I've always been able to stroll right in, purchase a ticket in the lobby and hit the show floor in a matter of 5 minutes tops! This year was quite different. The convention center was following Covid protocols which required all visitors to be masked, have a temperature screening, and show proof of either vaccination or a recent negative Covid test. Those things really took very little time to accomplish... but I believe the organizers may have underestimated the demand or were perhaps facing short staffing issues like many other businesses, because the line to get into the convention was spectacular!
I arrived at the convention about 10:25 AM, the doors opened that day at 10:00. Having those memories of just strolling in, I was shocked to see the line that had formed.
I snagged the photo above from social media as I'm not much of a shutter bug and hadn't bothered to capture any shots myself (so thanks pope.of.chili.town)! I'm actually somewhere in the top left of that picture. Although I couldn't spot myself I recognize the Vision and Scarlet Witch cosplayers in the foreground and remember their position in line relative to me.
I took the liberty of illustrating the admission line on the map above, delineated in red. The Baltimore Convention Center is roughly three blocks long and has a road running under a skyway in the center portion of the building which is what you see in the photo. When I first arrived I got in line where the red circle is shown. The line had formed from the entrance, around the corner of the building and under the skywalk. As I waited it continued to grow, snaking across the street, back down to the front of the building and to the west end of the convention center before looping back on itself once again! From my starting point it took me an hour wait to get into the convention and as I entered the building people were just getting into the line right across from me. I don't believe they realized the full extent of the circuitous path it took ahead as they couldn't really see from that vantage point and were just going where directed. Unless they were able to substantially speed up the inflow I can only assume those folks had a wait closer to 3 hours to get into the convention! I wonder how many might have given up and just headed to some of the other attractions and restaurants of the Baltimore Inner Harbor area... there may have been a lot of people dressed as Captain America wandering around the famed Baltimore Aquarium that day!
I can say that my hour wait was well worth it to get in... three hours for a more casual fan... maybe not!
Upon first setting foot in the convention hall I was initially disappointed to see it was a seemingly much smaller space than in previous years and thought again that they may have underestimated attendance a great deal and were not prepared for the rush of fans outside. After a few moments of walking around I realized that the shape of the show floor was actually more of a zigzag, and the area that I had walked into was entirely devoted to the retailers and there was an equally large area caddy corner that was filled to the brim with what I was there to see... the artists! Relieved and excited I headed straight for my favorite part of any comic convention, "Artist Alley"
I spent my whole time at the convention in this artist section, about five hours total. I never even made it to the retail floorspace. By that time my shoulder and wallet were both screaming with pain at the load of loot in the messenger bag slung over my arm and I was ready to make the drive home and rest up!
I handed out some business cards, collected a bunch of cards from others, got some tips on creator's favorite conventions to attend and who they're printing their books through and generally talked shop and got a big boost of motivation by being around what I consider to be "my people!"
And of course I shopped... While I may not have snapped many pics at the con itself, at least I can share with you some looks at all the loot I hauled home to remember it by! I think it was clear to see that many of these creators and artists kept busy during the pandemic! There was so much new material and things I hadn't seen before... it was like two years of conventions crammed into one... because it was!
First up were a handful of single comic issues from a variety of independent creators.
I also picked up a handful of collected editions and graphic novels from small press creators as well. It's truly amazing the quality of printed product individuals are able to put out these days. The doors of the comic industry are really wide open to anyone who wants to put in the work and get out there.
I swung by David Pepose's booth and picked up Scouts Honor and The O.Z., the two most recent books he's written and I've been looking forward to reading. I first met David at a past Baltimore Con when his comic Spencer and Locke caught my eye and I absolutely loved it! I shared my thoughts on it here.
Mark Wheatley's booth is another "must stop" every time I'm at Baltimore. He's a fantastic illustrator and also edits some great art books showcasing some of the best of classic and modern illustration, and I snagged another couple for my ever growing library. I think this was the point at which the cash reserves I'd brought were depleted and despite telling myself I wouldn't, I began double checking with vendors that they were accepting credit card payments at their booths!
I absolutely love a good artist sketchbook and this year's offerings did not disappoint in the least! I snagged a great book of Dave Johnson's work, Uko Smith's latest offering, and a trio of sketchbooks by Reilly Brown.
To really drive home the sketchbook obsession these beautiful hardcover offerings from Gene Ha and Mike Hawthorne now have a home on my shelves as well! I love Mike Hawthorne's social media, he's a teacher at an art school not far from me and his content is always very instructive and inspirational. I'd seen his KickStarter campaigns for these volumes but hadn't signed up at the time so I was very happy to see copies available and it was a pleasure meeting and chatting with him a bit.
And the final sketchbook was by Tony Moy who was also a delight to interact with, and I ended up picking up one of his original watercolor pieces as well to serve as the main decorative memento of this convention! His amazing work can be seen at https://www.tonymoy.art/
I'm looking forward to attending the Baltimore Comic Con again next year, this time as an exhibitor once more. I've already started to book conventions for 2022 and will be sharing more information about those in the future! Hitting the convention this year as a fan was a lot of fun and as always happens when I walk away from these shows I was filled with inspiration and excitement to keep pursuing my own comics and creative work.
If you'd like me to share any more information or go into more details on any of the comics and artists you see above, please don't hesitate to ask! As I work my way through this pile of materials I'd be more than happy to revisit them in depth for anyone interested. I'll also be happy to source more links and resources for anyone who wants to explore further on their own... just ask in the comments!
Alright, time to get back to enjoying these books and making some of my own! Take care all!
-Bryan "the Imp" Imhoff
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