So, as some of you readers may have noticed, I’ve moved to the South last year.
I left my beloved NYC with ambivalent feelings. On one hand I love New Yorkers, those cosmopolitan people who mind their business, but who band like a cohesive unit whenever a crisis strikes, and who in many ways are always the vanguard of technology, trends, fashion and culture.
On the other hand, New York is being sold to the wealthy, and everyone else who is not wealthy, can go and boink themselves.
Another factor is that NYC is a city with 19th century infrastructure and design, trying to adjust to the 21st century. For example: parking sucks and is prohibitively expensive; the NYC subway and rest of mass transportation is deplorable in terms of cost and delays; the cost of living is through the roof, both in terms of housing cost, and in terms of daily expenses; people who don’t live in the city and come in, think they have to behave like assholes to blend in (tremendous fallacy); etc…
I got to a point in my life where the beauty of NYC and the pluses did not compensate for the long list of minuses. So a year later the family is now trying to settle in Texas.
We’ll see how that works out. We are still in trial period.
One of the first things I’ve been able to do is go to the Dallas Comic Con Expo.
Let’s start by saying that the event was a blast.
Although Texas prides itself in doing everything bigger, but this time it has to be pointed out that the state didn’t live up to that motto.
Held at the Irving Convention center, the venue was large enough for the artists and celebreties in attendance, but not large enough for the quantity of fans that poured over to show their love for the media. As someone pointed out to me, this is the only event accessible to someone from Matamoros (South) to Dalhart (almost 1,400 miles) in the Spring. I will insert here that fortunately for Texas, there still is the Austin Comic Con on November, and it promises a better line-up of comic-book artists and media stars.
There are also Huston Comic con and San Antonio Comic con, but more on that later.
The well-versed traveler will remember Dallas as being the city of the 40K/Year millionaires, and the city of the small-town people who want to behave like they are big-city folk, and I was expecting my fair share of that in the convention. Fortunately, most of the attendees I interacted with were all wonderful open-minded people, doing their best to be affable and have a great time. One thing you have to give Texans credit for is that they try to remain polite and gracious, and it shows in many endeavors they take.
One of the most severe problems encountered at this particular event had to do with the the organizers planing like “small-town” folks, and being disorganized to a fault. The parking situation was terribly disorganized, and often we saw cars leaving a lot, but the attendants were not directing incoming traffic to fill the spots, instead keep sending traffic further down to more distant lots. That, under a 95 degree sun, makes for an unpleasant stroll towards the convention center. And people in Dallas are not accustomed to having to walk. Most of the city has pretty decent parking conditions, and it is fair to say that the residents are accustomed to park fairly near their destinations. Also, in the defense of the people attending, you don’t want to be walking under the scorching sun while in a plastic/foam/leather costume, sweating like a hog in a steam room.
Another improvement could have been the allocation of rooms. On the big day, Saturday, we found the autograph signing room to be huge but mostly empty, while the room where the costume contest was being held was cramped beyond belief. I even saw the fire marshal entering and advising the organizers to start removing attendees, due to fire hazard/safety conditions.
I think the organizers didn’t expect the amazing attendance they had, and were unprepared to deal with the contingency (something very common in the business world in Texas, if I may say so. If you don’t believe me, just look at the construction in the road 114, one of the access roads leading to the Irving Convention Center, and how incredibly poorly signaled the changes are on the road. Locals tell me that construction was supposed to be done 1 year ago, and they still have 1 year to go! But the signals indicating lane changes, alternate routes, etc… DEPLORABLE! Keep in mind that has nothing to do with the organization of the Dallas Comic con)
Kudos and congratulations have to be given to the fans themselves and the guests.
John Romita Jr. and Jim Steranko where the headliners of the event on the comic side.
The ironic thing is that despite trying to catch them for a few years (more than 5) at the NY Comic con, I ended up meeting them at this comic con in the heart of Texas.
JRJR was there with his adorable and wonderful wife Kathy. She made the amazing request that anyone with small children or handicapped conditions were moved towards the front of the line. I feel the pain for the ones without kids or disable relatives, but in this case I applauded and congratulated her profusely.
Also, standing in line you get to listen to more conversations of the artist with his wife, and realize what a wonderful chemistry they have, so you should thank her twice for making you stand in line longer, and letting you in a small window of their interaction and their human kindness.
Romita was a pleasure to talk to, even though it may have been the customary 5/7 minutes you can spare in a table as busy as that one. But I repeat, he (and his lovely wife) made it completely worth it.
And right next to him was the Master of Elegance and Graphic Storytelling himself, Jim Steranko.
Amazingly his table was not as full as it could be expected, but that only gave me more time to enjoy his company.
I had him sign a couple of Nick Fury’s that I’ve had with me since the 70’s, and I finally got to express to him my admiration, telling him how I’ve always ranked him up there with Will Eisner himself in the realm of graphical storytelling.
He regaled me with some stories about living in PA and how he is contemplating moving down south, but he is indecisive between which state to choose.
I mentioned how I kept missing him at different conventions in NYC and how ironic is that I finally got to meet him at Dallas. I never mentioned anything of my brief incursion in the field as an artists, nor my work in Europe. (I never do. I’ve learned to just show up as a fan, and convey my admiration for the artist. Been doing so for the last few years.)
I know this makes me look like fanboy, but I left Jim’s table feeling I had met a beautiful being, and feeling as an improved human myself for having met him in person.
NOTE TO FANS: Always ALWAYS ALWAYS put your money where your heart is. Even if it is just $1.00. Try to buy something at the table of the artists who is signing your stuff. Otherwise you are just acting like a leech. Seriously. Like those guys who arrive at a table with a stroller and boxes of comics, and pull 20 or so issues and ask to get them signed, but DO NOT PURCHASE a single item at the table.
At JRJR he had a large charity box, where I dropped $20.00, since he didn’t have anything for sale, and at Steranko table, I bought a print, and payed a few extra $5 to have some extra items signed. IT IS NOT about saving money. It is about supporting the artist with your dollars. I made a mental computation regarding how much I could spend, and I spent it on the artists.
I am not saying walk in the room with $1,000 in cash and make it rain on the artists. Heck! I couldn’t be more strapped for cash myself right now, so I know the economy is tough, and we are in a recession! But all you have to do is be selective with your money.
Instead of buying a Tshirt or some other frivolous item like that at the kiosk of some merchant, you should make sure you have covered the artists you appreciate first. The merchant should understand that if you don’t support your artist, he/she would have nothing to sell either!
If you are counting your pennies (a very commendable virtue) know that most artists will have small ticket items at their table, (like $5.00 prints/cards or something like that) but everylittle bit helps.
I can count myself blessed to have in my small collection one of the last books the master Gene Colan signed in one of his last public appearances, before his sad sad passing. He did sign some Tomb Of Draculas for me, but that book I bought at his table will always have a great emotional value for me!
Anyway, that needed to be said.
After that I returned the next day with my young nephews to get them to enjoy the fanfare and the costumes. Being barely under 10 they still don’t have a grasp on the concept of autographs and creators nor artists, and they still think that comics magically happen, so getting so see some artists doing their craft right there at the table was an eye opening experience for them.
Well, suffice to say that the organizers got a commendation for effort, but an “F’ for actual implementation.
I hope they listen to the complaints for the irate fans in a constructive way, and learn for future conventions how to not make the same mistakes.
Other issues that needed addressing, for example: The signing room for the TV celebrities was MUCH larger than the room where the costume contest was being held. And the convention was all about showing off your costumes.
On Saturday, tickets were sold out, but they still allowed people without tickets to parch, and pay the $5.00 fee, only to find out they couldn’t get in. I hope they refunded those visitors.
I want to stress that the organizers made a fairly good attempt at making things smooth. They were present at the premises, and were trying to correct the mistakes. They were just rookie mistakes, and all people who attended the convention and found a serious problem with the organizations should communicate what they saw/experienced in a very courteous manner to the organizers, and ask them politely to try to correct it next time.
In Texas and in the rest of the world things go smoother if you are courteous and polite. Something we all should learn from the Lone Star State.
In my next post, I will comment on some items I purchased and some new artists I met.