Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Waiting for Wednesday, Issue 33

Holy Inner Harbor, Batman! I'm back (but not rested!) from the Baltimore Comic Con, and I didn't know it was possible to be both unemployed and completely bogged down with work at the same time.

Luckily, Nathaniel's been knocking his posts out of the ballpark this week, and I have some seriously big (clown) shoes to fill with my "I liked it, but I think it could be better if..." posts.

But, because it's Wednesday and all, I'm going to go half and half with today's entry--I'll continue the Wednesday tradition of a good, old fashioned Waiting for, but I'll also transition (effortlessly) into the first of my two (maybe three) "how I would fix a fandom, if given the chance" posts. And, after you see how I would "fix" each chosen fandom, you'll also see why no one would ever give me the chance.

And then a bit later in the week, or maybe even early next week depending on how things go, I'll do a little Convention Recapping, just so I'm sure to cover all bases. It was a fun trip--a productive trip--and it might lead to some Very Good Things. More on that later on, though.

Now, before I get into this week's List-o-Things-I-Want-To-Buy, first, a picture of the place where my GPS got me a little...lost...on my way to Baltimore. We needed to make a quick detour before heading to the hotel...and, you'll see, it was more of a major detour.

Photo of a field in the middle of nowhereYeah. Let's just say I experienced a little culture shock. As in, why's there so much corn, and seriously, why isn't there a Best Buy around every corner?

Still, we made it to the Con safe and sound, and despite nearly seven hours of traffic on the way home, we even managed to get back home. Which is always a plus when traveling.

Anyway, it's a big week of comics and I have a fandom to repair, so let's get going. I'll do a fairly in-depth bit about one book, then a Quick Hits rundown of a few others.

You know, so as not to lull you all to sleep.

First up, we have the comic that I am most looking forward to this month, by far. It's the big House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1, and it's going to be over-sized and creepy and spectacular. Clearly, there are other people out there besides me who have been picking this series up each month, because this $4.99 holiday (yes, Nathaniel, Halloween is a holiday) special would not have happened otherwise.

As I pare down the number of titles I read on a month-to-month basis, it is becoming quite clear what books are the absolute must-haves for me. And House of Mystery is one of them. The Goon is the other.

If I could read only two comics every month, having those two series on a regular basis would make me happy. I mean, just look at the cover to this week's issue:

Creepy House of Mystery coverIf that doesn't make any self-respecting horror fan want to run out and pick up a copy, then I have nothing to say to you. Really, this comic is worthy of the hype I've bestowed upon it over the last year or so, and it's definitely worthy of a spot on even the most discerning horror fan's bookshelf.

And the creative teams! Since it'll be compiled in the old school anthology style, the House is full up this month with some of the best talents in comics. Included in the issue are series regulars Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges, and they're joined by (among others), Amy Reeder Hadley (artist of Madame Xanadu), Matt Wagner (writer of Madame Xanadu), and Peter Milligan (writer of Hellblazer).

Here's the (lengthy) blurb from Vertigo:

It's Halloween at The House of Mystery, and that can only mean one thing: the bash of a lifetime! But when Fig discovers a strange mask in the attic, she begins having visions of everywhere the mask has been, and she quickly becomes the life and death of the party.

This special 48-page annual contains a framing story by the regular HOUSE OF MYSTERY creative team of writer Matthew Sturges and artists Luca Rossi and Jose Marzan Jr. Also included is a series of short stories from a few regular Vertigo titles including HELLBLAZER by Peter Milligan, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini and MADAME XANADU by Matt Wagner, Amy Reeder Hadley and Richard Friend as well as a special MERV PUMPKINHEAD tale (the first in over 8 years!) by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and Kevin Nowlan! In addition, you'll be treated to a yarn spotlighting the upcoming new monthly series I, ZOMBIE by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred!

Plus, a Q&A with the creative teams to uncover their scariest Halloween costumes, memories and other sordid tricks and treats as we salute the holiday that has made Vertigo world famous for all things dark and frightening!

I think this book is going to serve as a good jumping-on point for anyone who has thought about trying out the Vertigo line, but for whatever reasons, hasn't yet. There will be a nice sampling of Vertigo's major talents and characters, and I give this book my highest recommendation.

Next up, we have two Waiting for mainstays from Dark Horse, BPRD: 1947, issue 4, and Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, issue 7. I've screamed from the rooftops about these books for months, so just go and buy, yeah? There's also The Unwritten, issue 6, from Vertigo. This fourth wall-busting series by comics novelist (yes, Nathaniel, it's a real term) Mike Carey asks the questions, what if the stories we read as children were actually true? And what if you found out that, your whole life, you were actually the main character of one of those stories?

The UnwrittenThe Unwritten is a fascinating read, and it goes in directions you just can't expect from issue to issue. Like Neil Gaiman's masterpiece, Sandman, I believe that Unwritten is one of those books that will enjoy a massively popular trade paperback issue. It'll be a big bookstore seller, and I think there will one day be fancy hardcover collections with oversized art, and featuring introductions by very impressive people.

Okay, well, there are a few more books that are worth mentioning (like the solid Blackest Night: Batman series from DC, which sees the final of its three issues shipping this week and the sure-to-be-hilarious Deadpool, issue 900 from Marvel), but I need to get this behemoth of a post moving along.


Abrupt end to Waiting for. Followed by the mandatory, so, what are you Waiting for?

And now on to something else entirely, something with its very own mandatory intro text.


-- -- -- --

This week we're taking a critical look at some of our favorite flawed fandoms. We're proposing one change to each installment or aspect of the fandom in question that we feel would provide the most improvement.

My first foray into a flawed fandom will likely not go over well with many folk. But that's okay, because just in the past few days Nathaniel's said he would fix Star Wars, and that the prequels were better. So, please, direct all fanimosity towards him.

The fandom I want to talk about fixing today Comics fandom, to be exact.

Since I'm returning from Baltimore Con, I want to talk about conventions in general, and comics conventions in particular. Now, before we get into it, a preface. I believe comic conventions are (and should be) fun and different and weird and wonderful. I really do. I like the idea of comic conventions. I really do. I like the road trip to comic conventions. I like meeting creators and I like buying whatever stupid thing it is I want to buy at a comic convention.

I even enjoy the fact that some people like to dress up when they go to comic conventions. Really, I do. I think cons are a Judgement-Free Zone, and that is probably the thing I love most about them. At a comics con (or a gaming con, or an anime con), you are among friends. You are among others who get it, whatever your personal it is.

And there's nothing better than that.

And I hear your wheels spinning and I hear you saying, "but..."

And, yes, there is a but. A rather large one, squeezed into lycra and parading around as Ms. Marvel or Robin or *shudder* Aquaman. Sorry. Couldn't help myself. The "but" in question is not, "but c'mon, let's stop with the costumes." The "but" in question is, "but, people, really, as comics fans, we need to present ourselves as human beings every once in a while."

What do I mean by this inflammatory and insulting statement?

I mean, shower. Just because you're at a convention and many societal "norms" need not apply...showering still very much needs to apply. I mean, if you see a mother walking with three kids in front of her down an aisle, don't cut in between them and split up a family. I mean, say thank you when a writer or artist signs a book for you.

And that goes both ways. Writers, artists, guy who played Zombie Number 17 in Shaun of the Dead--say hello and make eye contact and smile and say thanks for reading or watching.

Because, as I said, we are among friends at a con.

And to those creators who don't like mingling with the fans (you know, the people that allow them to have careers?), remember this: you are Comics Famous. That's an entirely different thing than being Real Famous. In a comics shop or at a convention, you might be treated like Steve Rogers on Veteran's Day, but in the corner market or the Burger King, you're just the next guy in line.

So don't be a jerk.

People paid good money in the worst economy since [insert funny Depression-era reference here] to come and say hi and get a book signed, so say hi back and sign the book with a smile and a thanks for reading.

There. I'm done with that.

Now back to the fans. When a creator (who has left his or her family on an all-too-precious weekend to instead sit behind a table all day and sign things) comes to a show, he or she should be treated exactly how you would want others to treat you. Say thank you if they sign a book or do a sketch, and never expect an artist to sketch for free "because it's his/her job."

His/her job is to draw for whatever company he or she is working for. And you are not a company.

Creators aren't at these shows to be your own personal entertainment, and they are not there to listen to your idea about a 75-issue maxi-series wherein you plan to kill off Superman, Batman, and Howard the Duck, and re-launch a new line of heroes featuring every character you've ever thought of creating since the time you were two years old.

Sorry. That's not part of the contract at these things.

And for anyone out there going, but I paid my hard earned cash to be here, so Guy Who Writes Snippy the Cat better sit and listen to my story about Batman's Bad Hemorrhoid, I'll say this.

Do us all a favor, and stay home.

I can't tell you how many times I stood in line next to another person who was incredibly nice and friendly and funny and outgoing. I can tell you how many times I stood next to a person who was smelly, or rude, or just plain mean. And if a "civilian" or a mother or a grandmother (there were several at Baltimore) goes to one of these things because a family member wanted to go--I guarantee he or she will not remember the polite people.

She'll only remember the guy who clearly didn't shower since getting to the hotel. Or the guy who couldn't stop sweating onto the artist's sketchbook as he drew a commission. Or the girl who said the F-word at the top of her lungs when she saw how long the line to Brian Bendis had gotten.

I don't mean for this post to be full of spite (though you can't tell by reading it!), but I think it's important that we all agree on certain things at conventions. We should all be polite, we should all try to help the little kid who was separated from his parents, and we should all respect each other's space. Especially in such close quarters.

I want to be very clear when I say this--the MAJORITY (seriously, 99%) of the people at the Baltimore Con followed these rules. But, as I said, all it takes is a handful of idiots to screw things up for the rest of us.

Because I fear this is an overly negative Fandom Fix on my part, I want to end with two things. And they both have to do with zombies. So you know they're meaningful.

Firstly, on Saturday at the con, I was bumped into, rather hard, by a big dude wearing a full-on zombie outfit. You know, spattered blood all over the place, white make-up, and even creepy, foggy contact lenses. When I turned around, he put one hand on my shoulder and said, sincerely, "Oh, man. I am so sorry."

A small thing. Something that happens everyday, right?

"I was posing for this lady who was taking a picture of me and I completely had no idea someone was behind me."

"No harm, no foul," I replied, and meant it. "Nice costume, though."


And the scary, bloodied zombie shuffled off. And that was that.

The second zombie-related incident occurred on Sunday, when I was completely Baltimore Con-ed out. I was sitting in the lobby of the adjoining hotel, munching on a protein bar and guzzling as much water as I possibly could, when I saw the Swarm approach.

Anyone who's been to Baltimore knows that the Inner Harbor area and all of its hotels and attractions (including the convention center) are linked by a series of Sky Walks so pedestrians don't have to cross major roadways.

These Sky Walks are incredibly convenient and I came to love them immediately.

Anyway, as I was sitting in the hotel lobby waiting for my buddy to emerge from the show so we could head back home, I glanced outside through the big glass windows ahead of me.

And I saw a group of people walking, very slowly, across a Sky Walk from the convention center. They were spread out, walking single file, and they appeared to be having some issues. They were stumbling and lurching and bumping into things as they headed towards the hotel.

And then the first walker in line got close enough that I could make out what it was I was looking at. In all, there were about a dozen high school aged kids, dressed to the nines in zombie clothing and make-up. And they were playing their parts well, and they were having a blast doing it.

When people from the hotel would walk by, a member of the zombie troupe would stop, pose for a picture, then continue with his or her lumbering. A man sitting across from me, his back to the window, was working on his laptop, oblivious to the world around him. He was madly typing away, and clearly his focus was on the computer screen.

Finally, he felt the need to come up for air, and he shrugged his shoulders, sighed, and leaned back in his chair. Then he turned towards the window, and nearly jumped out of his shoes. He looked back at me, and I smiled, and then he smiled, and then he laughed.

More people inside the hotel finally noticed what was going on along the Sky Walk, and they all smiled and laughed, too. Because it was pretty cool, and different, and funny. It only lasted a few minutes, but I was glad I could see it.

With that, I'll end this thing by saying the following.

Fandom--fix thyself.

Because we know we rock, and everyone else should, too.

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