Saturday, June 28, 2008

Heroes Con Report 2008 Part 1

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.

Michael Turner

Most of you have heard by now but I just found out Michael Turner has passed away at the ridiculously young age of 37. What is it about the comic book business that so many die so young? This one feels like a punch to the gut, though I don't pretend to know what his family is going through. I can imagine, though.

I won't be a hypocrite and say I was a fan of his published work but a lot of people were and so there was something there to appreciate. I will say that I saw him doing an oversized drawing of Fathom for an auction (maybe at Heroes?) years ago and I was very impressed. He drew very quickly and the final drawing was just lovely. I recognized the style and thought, "That's Michael Turner?" He smiled the whole time he was drawing and seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself. By all accounts, he was a really nice guy.

My condolences to his family and friends.

Comic Book Resources has a nice piece on him here. As they mention, Michael Turner's requested charities are The Make-A-Wish Foundation and The American Cancer Society.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What a shocker!

I'm still not ready for the full report I promised but I thought it was time to lighten things up here a bit. While I was signing at the HERO INITIATIVE booth (which was not actually raising money for the Mike Wieringo Scholarship as Newsarama reported...easy mistake with everything going on) I was eavesdropping on a conversation between Mark Waid and Cully Hamner. They were discussing the virtues of a certain Spidey nemesis that Mark is fond of.

Mark said something like, "Man, I can't get enough of the Shocker!"

That sent me into a fit of badly-concealed, snorting laughter and my face turned red. Cully looked at me like I was nuts for a second, made the connection and started laughing with me. Mark just looked at us like we were a couple of idiots.


Yesterday, I had an hour or so waiting for Suzanne and knocked this out. Occasionally, the urge to draw something hits me so hard I just have to indulge myself. (Warren, I haven't forgotten ya, buddy. I just didn't have my reference handy.) This was a lot of fun to draw and got some laughs from my coworkers.

Anyway, I hope you like the Shocker. Who doesn't?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Today would have been Mike's forty-fifth birthday.

I'm going to avoid the temptation to post a long birthday tribute to my brother because I don't know if I could keep it upbeat and happy like a birthday should be. It's been over ten months now since Mike died and I think this has been the hardest day for me yet. I woke up earlier than usual for a workday and spent a weepy half hour or so with Charlie in my lap looking through pictures of his daddy in happier times. After a few minutes, Toonces curled up on the floor beside us to see what all the boo-hooing was about. Rather than bring everybody down, I guess I'll just post some of those pics and leave it at that.

I sure do miss ya, Mikey.

Monday, June 23, 2008

We're Back!

Suzanne, Christian and I made it back from Charlotte safely today. I'll post a full report with pictures later in the week but I'm too tired right now and I've got something planned for tomorrow not exactly related to the convention.

Mike was with us the entire weekend but his physical presence was sorely missed. Though Shelton continues to put on a terrific con and everybody had a great time, it was undeniable that something was missing.

It was great seeing Emilio (looking very svelte!) and Warren and Eric and all the folks who post on the blog who stopped by to say hi. Thanks to Eric and Warren for asking for my first and, most likely, last convention sketches.

Todd and Craig, Cully, Jeff, Mark, Richard, Randy and Rich and all Mike's other friends who signed at the Scholarship booth and offered their support to both the fund and Suzanne and me personally continue to demonstrate the best aspects of humanity and show why Mike loved them so much. And so do we. We couldn't have done this without them.

By the end of the weekend, we increased the Scholarship Fund by 10%. With some effort and a lot of help, we'll continue to chip away at our goal until we can award our yearly winners a full scholarship. I'm feeling confident. Thank you to all the artists, publishers, vendors and all of Mike's fans who stopped by and donated money, artwork and merchandise for the fund. You'll be seeing some of the items going up on eBay soon and I'll post a link here when they do. Everybody's generosity and good wishes were very welcome and appreciated. THANK YOU ALL.

A couple of very personal notes...

Darwyn Cooke came up to me at the Hero Initiative auction and shook my hand and said some very nice things about Mike. He was very gracious and genuine and though I didn't think it was possible, he increased my estimation of him even higher than it already was.

When I was signing the tribute book at the Hero Initiative booth, everybody made me feel extremely welcome and not at all like the impostor I knew myself to be. I was surrounded by Todd, Cully Hamner, Mark Waid and Jeff Parker and they were so nice and treated me like a friend. But, despite all that, as I got about ten signatures into it on Saturday and as the others were teasing me for taking too much time trying to be meticulous, a laughing, amused voice popped into my head:

"You look ridiculous."

Thanks, bro'. :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

We're Off!

We're on our way to Charlotte for the Heroes Convention so I have to keep this brief. I wanted to post the signing schedule at the Mike Wieringo Scholarship booth. I put this together kind of late so it may be subject to change.


11-12 Mark Waid

1:00-2:00 Cully Hamner

2:00-3:00 Rich Faber & Scott Sava

4:00-5:00 Randy Green & Richard Case


11:00-12:00 Jeff Parker

1:00-2:00 Erik Larsen

Those of you coming to Heroes, have a safe trip and I'll see you there. If you can't make it, I'll try to post a report next week with pictures.


Monday, June 16, 2008

The Mike Wieringo Scholarship

You read that title right.

We weren't going to announce this yet but a couple of things prompted me to jump the gun. First, if you're very observant, you've noticed on the Heroes Convention website that there's a listing in Artists' Alley for "The Mike Wieringo Scholarship Fund" booth. Second, though we'd originally planned to announce the fund at the convention itself with Shelton Drum's full and thoughtful cooperation, we felt people would be more likely to contribute if they knew about it in advance. Shelton agreed.

Here are the basics. Suzanne and I have started a scholarship in Mike's name at the Savannah College of Art and Design. It is renewable for up to three total years and is available to any student (U.S. or international) that demonstrates financial need and a serious intention to pursue comics as a career. Since SCAD students don't declare a major until their Sophomore year, the scholarship doesn't apply to Freshmen. The award will go exclusively to students majoring in Sequential Art.

All the details are available in a wonderfully written press release posted here on the Chapel Hill Comics web site. Co-owner Andrew Neal (along with his terrific wife Vanessa) has been a huge help in getting the press release done. It was written by their friend Zack Smith who writes for some of the industry's web sites. The logo was designed by my friend Matt Wojtysiak who is a designer at The Martin Agency, where I also work. Hopefully, the press release and logo will start showing up on the trade sites tomorrow.

Suzanne and I will be manning the table next to Todd and Craig in Artists' Alley at Heroes this weekend. Shelton kindly offered us a more prominent space near the front of the convention hall but we thought it would be more fun sitting with our friends. More importantly, this was Mike's traditional spot at Heroes. I think that's appropriate and, well, strangely comforting.

Over the last year, I've gotten innumerable requests for Mike's artwork and sketchbooks. I've put everybody off, saying we had "plans" for the items. Well, this is it. We'll be raising money for the scholarship through donations and by selling copies of some of Mike's books, the remaining sketchbooks, some Flash posters, prints and some of his original artwork. I don't take this last lightly. If I could, I would keep every single page with me for the rest of my life. But the truth is, I can't store it all safely. And the thought of selling it for personal profit makes me queasy. So this is the perfect solution. Every dollar we get from the sale of merchandise and artwork at the booth will go to the fund. And the way the fund is set up, five cents of every dollar collected goes to a student...every year...forever.

This scholarship means a lot to Suzanne and me. We made the decision to establish it the week Mike died. Mike was five years older than me but we went to college at the same time because the money just wasn't there when he graduated high school. So he spent five long, grueling years working in a grocery store to save up enough money to put himself through school. He hated every minute of it and his frustration was painful to watch. When I graduated high school, the money was there and I enrolled in community college to put off adulthood just a while longer. Mike enrolled because he desperately wanted to be an artist. Mike worked hard for every single thing he ever had and earned every bit of it. But that five years he spent toiling away as a produce manager instead of drawing comics haunts me. Our hope is that this scholarship will enable some other talented person to get on with making their dreams of drawing comics a reality. Maybe we can spare someone years of frustration and uncertainty. And when they think back on how they got their start, they'll know that Mike Wieringo helped them get it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Return of the Spaceknight

First, thanks everybody for all the encouragement going into Heroes. I’m determined to have a good time because the Heroes Con was more than just a comic book convention to Mike. It was his home away from home and I’ll be damned if I’m going to bring anybody down. Mike would hate that. So if you’re coming, bring your smiles.

Cully, thank you. I will sign your comic. I would, in fact, do anything for you. Eric, I’d be honored to do a sketch for you. Especially when we’re able to make our announcement leading up to the con. Hopefully Tuesday.

Now, the bad news. Lest everyone think Debbie Downer has gone home for the month, I guess I should mention that my Dad’s brother J.E. passed away this week. He was in his late 70s and it wasn’t exactly a surprise as he’d been in poor health for a while. But it’s yet another blow to my Dad in a short span of time. There was a great line in the latest INDIANA JONES movie. A character said, “We’ve reached the age where life stops giving you things and starts taking them away.” That seems very appropriate right now. J.E. (“Buster” to just about everybody) lived as close to “next door” as you can to where my parents live so, though I guess we (meaning me, not my Dad) weren’t that close emotionally, J.E. and his family were a big part of our lives. We saw him, or at least his house, every day. It’s very strange to think that he’s gone now.

And just so I don’t leave you with another completely somber post, here’s a picture of my old buddy Rom. If it weren’t for Nova, Rom would be at the top of my list of favored superheroes. In fact, I think this is the only established character I’ve posted two sketches of here. I’m pretty happy with this and so, though I could point out numerous flaws with it, I won’t. Drawing Rom has put a smile on my face today and I’m going to enjoy it. I hope you do too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mike's Tribute Book

Some of you may have noticed that there's a press release in circulation from the HERO INITIATIVE about the Mike Wieringo tribute book they're publishing.  If not, here are some links:

And here's the full press release:

In a very cool move, HERO is debuting the book at the Heroes Convention this year before it even hits the stands. Strangely, Jim McLauchlin of HERO asked me if, since I would be at Heroes anyway, I would sit in the booth for an hour each day and sign the book with nine of the pros who were Mike's friends and/or worked on the tribute book. 

I say "strangely" because I'm obviously not a comics pro (I have a grand total of two pages, including one pinup, in print.) and aside from writing what was originally the introduction (It, along with all the other written tributes, had to be moved to the back for various reasons.), I made no substantial contribution to the book. Not to mention the fact that all but 3 or 4 people buying the book will have no idea who the heck I am. It will feel less like I'm signing a book and more like I'm defacing it. 

Still, I'm honored to have been asked and so I'm going to be doing it. I'll do anything for the HERO INITIATIVE.  I suspect Jim was just being nice by letting me be a part of it. It just feels so weird. When I was a kid, I dreamed about sitting behind a table at conventions, signing comics. I just never expected it to be for this reason and it makes me a little...ill. The monkey's paw again.

This convention is going to be very bizarre.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I Blinked...

...and my vacation was over.

That was quite possibly the most satisfying week at the beach we've ever had despite the bumpy start. Toonces has long since gotten used to the trip and after a few minutes stopped meowing and settled in for the long ride. Charlie, however, spent the first 90 minutes both ways howling his little head off. Finally, he would drop off to sleep and only occasionally raise his head to shout "MOOOWWWWRRRR!" On the first day, we weren't fifteen minutes from the house when he pooped hugely in his carrier and Suzanne and I almost passed out from the smell. We had to pull over to clean up the mess and strap him back in, laughing the whole time.

This is a yearly (sometimes twice-yearly) event for Suzanne and me and, usually, by Friday I'm ready to come home. I end up missing my bed, my computer and my routine. But this year, we needed the time away from all that and I just didn't want to come back. Suzanne's parents had us over for dinner most nights and made sure we were kept fat and sassy. (I gained--and this is official---7.5 pounds while we were down there.) We had cocktails every night at 5:00. And, while I'm not a big non-football sports guy, we watched both the Indy 500 (go Danica!) and the National Spelling Bee. ("You want me to spell "numbnut"?) We spent a very cool day in Wilmington (home of the old DEG Studios) and took our usual trip to Beaufort. I read three books but bought four (typical). Two of the books I read were by David Wellington who is becoming one of my favorite writers. His vampire novels make the bloodsuckers in 30 DAYS OF NIGHT look like angry mosquitos. We bought a DVD player for the cottage and I took the opportunity to catch up on a backlog of movies, including the captivating MICHAEL CLAYTON. My buddy Leaf loaned me some horror flicks and I enjoyed those too.  

On Tuesday, we went with Suzanne's parents to see the latest INDIANA JONES movie. When we were killing time before the movie, we discovered that the little bookstore in Atlantic Beach with the simple "Book Mart" sign above the door that we'd ignored for the last 15 years was actually an incredible book store/comic shop with a huge horror section that took up an entire wall. They had a tremendous selection of trades and magazines and had horror comics I'd never heard of. It was here I picked up Wellington's second vampire novel and had it (and the first one) read within the next two days. I can't believe the place had been there the whole time and we hadn't even peeked in the door. 

Eventually, I settled in to do some drawing. I had every intention of filling page after page with sketches. However...and I realize it is a poor craftsman that blames his tools for his own shortcomings...the air down there was so humid that after 24 hours, the paper I'd brought was so saturated it was like drawing on a used teabag. The harder lead I usually use wouldn't even leave a mark on the paper and I had to switch to the softer lead. After several false starts, sitting at the kitchen table, I managed to execute what I thought was a pretty good drawing of Karl the Mothman from PERHAPANAUTS (above.) Then I foolishly broke out the colored pencils I'd brought with me and tried to color it. The waxy pencils really didn't take to the squishy paper and you can see the result. I gave up before I'd ruined it too badly. I'm just glad I started on the pants. Anyway, that's all I've got. I'd hoped for more but it's looking like I've got some late nights coming up at work so I should be able to post regular sketches for a while after all.

Vacation was over almost as soon as it began and we were back before we realized we'd even left. Charlie and Toonces had a GREAT time and both seem to be sad they're back in the house. They loved the screened-in porch overlooking the water and would sit out there and let the breeze ruffle their fur. When we got back, we found ourselves buried in paperwork again and I'm already looking forward to the next vacation. 

We're looking forward to the Heroes Convention at the end of the month but it's not the happy event for us that it usually is. We love Todd, Craig, Rich, Nick Cardy, Jeff and everyone else in Mike's circle of friends but without him, it's just never going to be the same for us. We weren't even going to go this year but Shelton is planning some things in Mike's memory and Suzanne and I are hoping to have something special to announce at the convention. A few of you already know what that is but no blabbing just yet. Once everything is in place, I'll go into detail.

There are a couple of other things I wanted to mention but this is running long and it's after midnight so I'll just say goodnight and I hope everyone had as a good a week as we did.