What's Good About Cons? My Wizard World St. Louis Retrospective

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I had the opportunity to go to my first ever Con. In particular, I went to the 2014 Wizard World Comic Con in St. Louis, Missouri. Hosted at the America’s Center convention center, this was to be my very first Con that I attended, and needless to say, I was completely stoked.

I went in with typical fanboy aspirations. Maybe I’d shake Lou Ferrigno’s massive hand. Perhaps I’d get to tell Burt Ward and Adam West how many hours of my life I’d lost in front of the TV at my grandparents watching old episodes of Batman. I’m not a huge fan of Dr. Who (I’ll tar and feather myself now, thanks), but I was definitely planning on meeting cult classic icon Bruce Campbell.

As I entered the cavernous space that is the America’s Center, I decided that first things needed to be first. I needed to see my good friend, the wonderfully talented Aaron Walther.

Now, in full disclosure, Aaron and I have known each other for over a decade. We used to work together; and some of my fondest memories were discussing the merits of various artists in between serving drunks cheap tacos after the bars let out. However, my views of Aaron’s writing are not skewed by our friendship. I’m enough of a cynic that I will tell someone if they are terrible at something regardless of how long I’ve known them. Aaron, in a word, is fantastic. He is the writer for the web-comic “Zero’s Heroes”, the editor for “The Celestial”, and “The Original Ladykillers”, is a co-writer (along with the amazingly talented Sergio Apodaca) of “Smitten”, and finally is co-writer of a series I was unfamiliar with called “Science Hero” with Josh Blasingame. More information can be found at http://www.newhavencomics.com/index.php , along with New Haven’s digital store.

After a brief meeting with Aaron, I decided that before I stood in line to meet the celebrities, I would check out the “Artist’s Alley” portion of the Con. And that, Dear Reader, is where I got lost.

Artist’s Alley is only three rows deep. Rows A, B, and C, with each artist given anywhere from 1 to 3 8 foot long tables to showcase their talents. Everywhere you turned there were writers, artists, craftsmen and craftswomen. Two tables down from Aaron’s space was Angel Unzueta, who graciously signed my Flash light-up statue. Around the corner was Ethan Van Sciver, who jotted his signature next to Angel’s. But the real show stealers, for me, were the guys I hadn’t heard of. These are the guys that will be making the Alex Ross’ of the world nervous, and the Stan Lee’s of the world should be eagerly signing them to book deals. Artist's Alley is where I spent almost six hours talking to people who made me forget my original plans. Here are my favorites:

Best Artist: Gavin Smith

Gavin is a quiet, unassuming guy who seems to let his talent do his bragging. I was at his table for about 30 seconds before I was mentally calculating how much money I could spend and not sleep on the couch. A graduate of the Kubert School, he began working on his series “Human City”. After only one issue he was signed by Blue Juice Comics to start their inaugural series “The Accelerators”, which looks amazing. Gavin also has a project with Jason Trost and Mark Poulton called “All Superheroes Must Die” which is on my short list of titles to follow. You can check out Gavin’s blog here. I picked up a phenomenal 11x17 black and white that’s currently hanging over my desk. Go show this guy some love.

Best local team: Jordan Taylor and Sam Richardson, Show Me Comics

Taylor and Richardson are the duo behind one of the least cookie-cutter books available. Hafu is a tale of secrecy and rejection suffered by the protagonist, Akiko Kuno. Coming in at 64 pages, for only ten bucks or so, this book looked to me to be an excellent value. Not only do I think Hafu is excellently illustrated, but I believe this story will be absolutely top notch as well. Keep an eye on these guys, because I’m 100% positive they will have a well-decorated career in the industry. ShowMe Comics can be found here.

Best Studio: Studio 19, Rik DesChain

To be perfectly honest, I met Rik when I was looking for someone else. And I was so glad that I mistakenly approached his table. It took about two seconds for me to realize he wasn’t who I was looking for, but it took me about 45 minutes to walk away.

The first thing I noticed was that the pictures hanging up were on wood. An unusual medium, for sure, but that normally wouldn’t have been enough to keep my attention. No, what kept me enraptured was the many different subjects that were displayed. Everything from Hellboy to Cos-Playing kittens was on display, and just when I thought I was done looking, something new and intriguing caught my eye. At this particular display, my credit card was in serious danger. In addition to his phenomenal talent, Rik is an overall great guy. We spoke for about 45 minutes, about everything from his background to bullying, and I was sincerely impressed by his genuineness throughout. I only met Rik from Studio 19, but if the artist either currently in or soon joining his stable are half as talented as Rik is, Studio 19 is in for many years of success. Go check out his exciting work Here.

Finally, a personal note. I’d always thought of a Comic-Con as a place for adults like myself to get to know artists and spend tons of money on their work. Some of the conversations I had showed me just how wrong I was. When speaking to both Gavin Smith and Rik Deschain, a child approached their respective table. Both times I was given a “Just a sec”, and the artist would spend some time talking to the kid. There was nothing showy about it. These guys weren’t trying to put on some kind of act because they knew I was a writer and would say good things about them. They were simply showing these kids some kindness and ensuring that the child received a good impression from the medium of comics. Although becoming more and more mainstream, comics need all the good ambassadors they can get, and these guys delivered in spades. Showing me, a jaded old cynic, that Comic-Cons are really for introducing kids to a whole new wonderful world where they can be anything they want. And that, my friends, is what is good about Comic-Cons.