Christian, Todd, Jeff Parker and others have done much better reports of the goings on at Heroes than I could. So I'm just going to give you my perspective rather than a blow-by-blow of events. It was very strange for me being on the other side of the table and, as a result, the entire weekend was kind of a blur. But I'll do my best. Fortunately, the pictures we took with our new Canon digital camera (hooray for Suzanne's five-year-old Best Buy gift cards!) have helped keep things in focus. (Buh-dum-bump! Photography humor!)
Though we took these pix on the last day on our way out of Charlotte, I thought I should point out the real star of the convention this year. For us anyway. Fuel Pizza. The entire trip down, Christian kept asking, "Are we there yet?...Are we there yet?" He was jonesing for Fuel Pizza bad and if we didn't get him some soon, he was going to explode. Last year, we ate there four or five times and it was like we were taking him home to see an old lover. When we got to Charlotte, our first stop wasn't the hotel, the convention center or even the bathroom. It was Fuel. We ate a quick lunch and then tried to work out the logistics of getting the massive amount of stuff we had to sell at the 'Ringo Scholarship Booth from the Westin parking deck to the convention hall. Suzanne left us to go check on a delivery she was expecting and Christian and I decided we'd have to make two trips. Fortunately, when we reached street level, Suzanne met us (minus the delivery, which hadn't arrived) and grabbed the dolly. I went back for the rest. I had underestimated the weight of the two remaining boxes and by the time I caught up with them at the table, I was a sweaty, smelly mess. (See the pictures of me in my Hulk tee-shirt.)
Todd and Craig were already there, greeting fans and though it had been 10 months since I'd seen them in person, it was like we'd never been parted. After hugs, Suze and I finally got to meet the famous, lovely Sharon and Trish. I didn't get to spend much quality time with them but I definitely got to see why they've stolen Todd and Craig's hearts. They're both beautiful and seem to have taken quite easily to the convention life. Suzanne warmed to them immediately and since she's my litmus test for whether people are worth knowing or not, they scored high marks right off the bat.
We set up as quickly as possible (we were late) and people immediately started looking at our wares. It wasn't long before blog-regulars Emilio and Warren showed up and it was great meeting them in person. Warren and his son Eric even commissioned sketches from me. (When I said they were my "last", I meant that I probably wouldn't be asked again, not that I wouldn't be willing.) I spent the entire weekend trying to get Eric's Question sketch done and after many false starts, finally got one done to my satisfaction, finishing at about 5:59 on Sunday evening. I still have Warren's Heroid sketch to do and plan to start this weekend. Every time I started to feel down on myself and feel like I was an impostor, Warren, Eric or Emilio would show up and bolster my spirits. Thanks, guys. I've been going to Heroes for almost as long as Mike was and I never felt quite as welcome as I did this year.
At one point, Leanne Hannah showed up and we sold her one or two of Mike's original pages and it wasn't until Saturday that I realized she was that Leanne when we were at the same table, signing Mike's tribute book for the HERO Initiative. I could have kicked myself.
Suze gave me a break and watched the table while I ran around the convention hall looking for deals on trade paperbacks. I stopped collecting back issues a long time ago (anyone want to buy a reeeeally big comic collection?) and went trade-exclusive at the cons about two years ago. I'll post a "loot" shot later. This year, there seemed to be an alarming number of good deals. Normally, I would be excited about that as I'm cheap as hell and love a good bargain. But it seemed like dealers were selling off a lot of good stuff pretty soon after publication. (On Sunday, I picked up a hardcover of the Gaiman/Romita, Jr. ETERNALS for seven bucks...still in the cellophane!) I hope this isn't an indication of bad times to come.
Friday came to a close almost as soon as it began...for us at least. We'd raised quite a bit of money (more than we'd expected) for the scholarship fund and were pretty happy. I took the remaining original artwork back to the hotel while Suze stayed behind to pack up the rest. After a quick shower and change of clothes, Christian and I went over to the Hilton to meet Nick Cardy. He wasn't quite clear on where we were all meeting for Mike's tribute and the HERO auction. (To Christian's delight, it was at Fuel Pizza.) Mike and I were both huge fans of Mr. Cardy's growing up. I was always disappointed as a child that the interiors of DC's comics never lived up the incredible covers Mr. Cardy drew for them. He was one of the first artists whose style I learned to recognize on sight. Mike was genuinely thrilled to finally meet him and eventually be counted as one of Mr. Cardy's friends. I got to know him a little while manning the booth next to his spot in Artists Alley and so I felt a little responsible for making sure he got to the auction that night. He's such a genuinely nice person and I never got to know either of my grandfathers so I could see why Mike took to him so much. He and Christian hit it off instantly and Christian jumped in and made sure he was fed and had something to drink all night.
I wasn't clear on what was expected of me at the auction and tribute so I was a little shell-shocked. I knew I'd need to get up and speak at some point but hadn't thought much about it. While we were still figuring all this out, Darwyn Cooke, my idol in the comics industry, walked up to me and introduced himself. He shook my hand and said how terrible he felt about Mike and how much he liked his work. That would have pleased Mike immeasurably as he was a huge admirer of Mr. Cooke's. I think my eyes must have been popping out of my head because I'd been wracking my brain all month trying to figure out how I'd get an introduction to Mr. Cooke and here he was. I seem to remember him mentioning that he appreciated something I'd said about him on my blog but...that couldn't be right...could it? Whatever the case, it was damn nice of him to say hi and I'll always remember it.
Sometime after that, I had to get up on the chairs and "announce" the scholarship fund. I'm no public speaker and I muttered a few inaudible, nonsensical things and stepped down to some polite applause. I went to get everyone another round of drinks and when I came back out, we were accosted by security guards. It seems that the security company for the property owners had seen us (via camera) auctioning off the artwork for the HERO Initiative and decided to put the smack-down on us. To be honest, I was a combination of nervous and pissed. This was Mike's hometown con and we were being hassled by THE MAN. Fortunately, the first guard to arrive was a really cool guy, fairly young and a comic fan. When it was explained to him what we were doing and that no money was being exchanged on-site, he convinced the other guards to cut us some slack. It's one of those things that pisses you off when it happens but makes you laugh when you talk about it later. It all worked out and HERO raised some solid cash. And I got to meet Mr. Cooke. Not a bad evening, all in all.
After a bit of post-auction chatting and milling about, a bunch of us decided to go to a restaurant for dinner and Todd said he would put Mr. Cardy in a cab to the restaurant. Turns out Mr. Cardy decided not to go and Christian volunteered to walk him back to his hotel. (See his blog for some funny latrine stories.) I didn't find this out until halfway to the restaurant and had a minor panic attack. My first night as Mike's proxy and I'd left Mr. Cardy in the lurch. But Christian did an admirable job and I had nothing to worry about. Our first choice of restaurant was a bust and we eventually found ourselves waiting in line outside another restaurant (I don't remember the name.) with the usual suspects along with Andrew from Chapel Hill Comics, Chris Kempel, Karl Kesel and his wonderful wife Myrna. While we waited, the fullness of the day caught up with me and we decided to walk back to the hotel. I had sketches to start and was dying to try a new mixed drink I'd heard of. We stopped off at Fuel again so I could grab a couple of slices for dinner and caught up with Christian.
We spent the rest of the evening drawing over rum-and-gingerbeers (I said goddamn!) and I conked out with a trade edition of John Byrne's Captain America run on my chest.