Although we’re probably the very last person to get our HeroesCon thoughts online, it was such a good time, it would be wrong not to enumerate a few of the ways it rocked. Although everyone knows that Shelton Drum, Dustin Harbin and the rest of the Heroes crew know how to extend Southern hospitality to convention guests in a relaxed, unassuming way, the show — the largest HeroesCon yet by all signs — also served as a near-perfect capsule of the comics industry, thanks to a wide ranging, well-deployed guest list showcased in diverse, entertaining programming. While Indie Island is Harbin’s baby and remains a hotbed of amazing talent, the rest of the show showed off other elements of the cartooning world — there was a wall of strip cartoonists, for instance, and the “mainstream mainland” included an amazing lineup of artists from Brian Bolland to Jill Thompson to Adam Hughes and Tony Harris.
HeroesCon is known as a great show for original art, and nearly every mainstream artist we spoke to had been booked solid with commissions and sketches. Indeed, evenings found many of the artists holed up in their rooms finishing commissions instead of hanging out. In a time when the economy is still spotty, this alone ensured that pretty much everyone was hot to make a return appearance in 2011.
For the indie and webcomics crowd, HeroesCon is a little bit more of a question mark. Two years ago, indies staged a full scale invasion — an invasion which was largely warded off by the attendees, alas. However, this year featured a strong webcomic presence —Kate Beaton, R Stevens, Meredith Gran — as well as a strong indie showing — Sammy Harkham, Alec Longstreth, the Freewheel Tour, Joe Lambert. Although they weren’t vying with Adam Hughes for attention, there were indications that repeated exposure is paying off with more recognition for more challenging material. Sometimes you just have to invest some time in building an audience — or capturing a new territory — or at least that’s our optimistic takeaway.
Another element that made this “the artist show” was the lack of presence from Marvel and DC. Although there were perfunctory big company panels, they were lacking in news — as one of my journo buds told me of one of them, “It was over before it began.” Without a squad of editors on hand, everyone could just relax. “There’s no jockeying in the bar,” as one person put it. It was a pleasant scenario.
No wonder, then, that everyone had such a fine time. The Beat stayed on for the Sunday night Dead Dog party for the first time, and it won’t be the last , as it was a marvelously relaxed affair with lots of catch up chatter from the show. HeroesCon’s social events are always well arranged with shuttle service and snacks. On Friday, it was an art show at Gallery 22; Saturday, it was the legendary auction, where pieces went for as much as $8,000. While Hughes and Phil Noto had amazing entries, it was Eric Canete’s Elektra (above) that the artists of our acquaintance were raving over. Canete even wrote about it on his blog:
The whole event went off as it did in years past; entertaining, competitive and festive – all benefitting the show and its organizers. And at the end of the day, that’s what mattered to me most. I’ve included a shot of the piece (kindly sent to me by the auction winner) next to the chair so you guys can have a point of reference regarding its size. I hope now you can see where my “Holy sh*t! What the f*ck am I doing and who the hell said we could do this in color!? You’re a loser and you’re going to have harlequin babies, Canete!” state of mind came from. For a guy who does nothing but B&W images on 10×14″ paper, this was like asking a kid who plays ‘Operation’ to do a actual triple bypass.
An overwhelming number of people that we checked in with said it was either their first HeroesCon or their first in a long time, but pretty much everyone we talked to declared it wouldn’t be the last. Mike Mignola, who hadn’t been there in many years, said it was “The best show!” Surely part of the enthusiasm and the turnout is becuase (okay, you knew this was coming) San Diego has become Too Big And Scary. While people go to the Big Show for the business they need to conduct (and to make money — despite the hassles, a table at San Diego can be extremely lucrative), for pleasure, creators are starting to flock to smaller regional shows like Emerald City, WonderCon and HeroesCon. The shows are cheaper to do, much easier to get in and out of and, increasingly, a good place to make money.
But whatever the merits of HeroesCon as part of the con circuit, this year’s con showcased coimics art in an amazing manner. On Sunday night we found ourselves at a Dead Dog dinner with a stellar lineup of artists that incluided Jill Thompson, Ming Doyle, Jim Mahfood, Paul Maybury, Ben Templesmith, David Mack, Declan Shalvey and Eric Canete; myself, Ben McCool, Molly McIsaac and Jimmy Aquino held up the writing/photography/journo end of things, and 18-year old Karen Wang — whose portfolio was the talk of the show — represented the future superstar category. At one point Mike Golden came in to say hi, and I guess that made the circle complete. It was a little staggering to be in the company of so much talent, but that’s why you keep coming back to the comics, right? Most of the con reports I’ve read have been much the same thing — just hanging out and talking with an inspiring array of talented people.
Aside from the above we got to hobnob with Richard Thompson, Cully Hamner, Mike Mignola, Tommy Lee Edwards, Benard Chang, June Brigman, Steve Leiber, Erika Moen, Marc Bernardin, Chris Gage, Tony Harris, Joe Staton, Mark Morales, Jose Marzan, Rich Case, Steve Bird, Shannon Stewart, Nick Spencer, Tom Fowler, Kirby Krackle, and of course other people that we’re unjustly forgetting. It was ALL a blast.
We have a few mote newsy bits to type up from the weekend over the next day or so, but here are a few links in the meantime: the essential Dustin Harbin on the indie side:
We had a hugely expanded Indie Island this year, which was great for people like me who love “indie” comics, not to mention a large contingent of cartoonists whose work is best known on the web, like Meredith Gran, R Stevens, Kate Beaton, and a ton of others. I’m always nervous having bigger names from the “indie” world because Heroes is essentially a superhero show after all; it’s hard to know what kind of response they’ll get. But the consensus seemed to be pretty good–some people did pretty good, and I got a few reports of banner years. Some were a little more circumspect; I could tell they were sparing my feelings a little. I just want everybody who tables at HeroesCon to be FILTHY RICH by the end of the weekend, is that so wrong? But overall I was pretty pumped about how traffic was in Indie Island, I like how it’s growing and turning into its own thing, slowly but surely.
The Dollar Bin is posting almost all the panels; more will be up every day but here are a few:
Craft and Process in Comics
Vocational Comics: Comics As Career
and the one you MUST listen to, Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.