KC: CON STORIES 2 - Electric Boogaloo

by KC Carlson

My first comic convention ever was in Chicago at a hotel that I don't remember, but it was much closer to the downtown area than where the Convention ended up being held in later years. I don't recall much about the show other than it was a combined comics/Dr. Who convention, which was interesting for me as I had no idea what a Dr. Who was. At the time, I had an 8-foot-long florescent orange scarf that my mom had knitted for me ("Orange? Really?") that I wore everywhere, mostly because it irritated her. Unfortunately, I had no idea that the Dr. Who at the time had a trademark, incredibly long scarf (although not orange). I was accosted by snarky Dr. Who fans for the entire show, taunting "THAT'S not what the Doctor's scarf looks like!" I've hated Dr. Who ever since. (Still have the scarf, though!)

I also remember packing a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter for meals, as I was intending to spend as much money as possible on comics. I'm pretty sure that Pepsi from the vending machines was less than a dollar in those days!

I believe that this was the con at which I witnessed a bizarre argument between Jim Shooter and Mark Gruenwald at a Marvel panel over how "Magneto" was pronounced: Shooter said "Mag-Net-Oh" and Mark insisted that it was "Mag-Knee-Toe." This went on for about ten minutes. I sided with Mark on this one, as he had written a series of articles about continuity and science in comics as a fan, and he knew what he was talking about. (Besides, he was from Wisconsin!) The argument was finally settled when Roger Stern blurted out "You're both wrong! It's "Magnet-Toe!" Hilarity then ensued. Years later, I got to work with Roger on both Superman and Legionnaires, which was a blast, but his jokes had not improved. (Hi, Roger!)

I also think that this was the show that I first "met" Marv Wolfman and Len Wein. I was attending the show with several members of the Eau Claire Comic Club, which formed when a minicourse about comic history I was teaching at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire evolved into a group of friends who produced our own fanzine called Comic Chronicles. We were in the midst of taking a group picture when Marv and Len strolled by, asked what we were doing, and then asked if they could be in the picture. I thought this was rather odd, since none of us actually knew either of them, but the next thing I knew, there was a photo of the ECCC with Marv and Len. And I discovered that Comic Book Conventions were magical places.

By the next year, the Chicago ComicCon had separated from the Dr. Who folks and moved out to the O'Hare Hyatt Regency. Fans still wax nostalgic over the shows that occurred there over the next decade or so. During those years, I went from being a comics fan who rack-jobbed the comics racks in my home town to working for a real comics distributor (Capital City Distribution) and eventually to working at Westfield, primarily writing and editing their newsletter. My role at cons began to evolve as well, as I went from being just a fan/collector to actually "working" the show. This meant I had to stop being shy and step up to be able to talk to people, as it was now my job to do so.

Ironically, the first few people I met barely gave me a chance to speak. DC editor Bob Greenberger was a Westfield subscriber, so that was an easy "in" as a meet. And Bob was expecting me in Chicago. I'm fuzzy on the exact details, but I remember that Bob talked a mile a minute. And still does. I'm slightly better at keeping up now that it's over 20 years later. (Hi, Bob!)

Later that day... (DC in-joke) when Bob finally stopped talking, he introduced me to the legendary Julie Schwartz, THE editor of the Silver Age (at least at DC). "And what do you do?" he half-asked, half-growled in his very Julie way.

"I, um... I read all your books!" I replied.

"Good man, you'll go far in this business!" Later, Julie told me the story about how he messed up when he called the Earth Barry Allen lived on Earth-1, and the Jay Garrick one was Earth-2. "They should have been the other way around," he said. For the next few years, Julie told me the same story every time he saw me at a convention, and then when I worked at DC, he told it to me again every Wednesday when he came into his office to make his calls. It was a great story every time! My last office at DC (I think I was in seven different offices in three different buildings in my eight years at DC) was pretty much next door to Julie's office, which was right next to the legendary DC Library. I met a lot of people through Julie. Because Julie knew everybody.

When I was working for Westfield, Sherill would occasionally send me down to ChicagoCon to represent the company. It was about a three-hour drive from Madison to Chicago and usually it wasn't any problem... except for the time I got the flu on the way down. It was the strangest thing. When I left Wisconsin that morning I was perfectly fine, but during that three-hour drive I became sick as a dog. I remember checking into my room about noon on Friday, turning the TV on, and then having to "coof up my bliffles" multiple times in the bathroom. I then somehow made it back to bed and immediately passed out. At one point, I thought I woke up because I heard wrestling on the TV. But it was all in Spanish, which made me think that I was hallucinating, and so I went back to sleep. The next thing I knew, someone was pounding on the door. As I got up to answer the door, I realized that my tongue felt like sandpaper and that I no longer wanted it in my mouth. I answered the door, still wearing the clothes I had slept in and with my sandpaper tongue hanging out of my mouth. It was a housekeeper wanting to change the sheets. I tried to tell her that I hadn't used the sheets yet (having collapsed on top of the bed), but I guess it came out as "Uh haaaavn't ud da theeeetth et!" and she left in a great big hurry. I closed the door and collapsed on the bed again.

What seemed like two minutes later, the door started pounding again. This time it was Donald, another Westfielder and a good friend. "Hey, what happened to -" he started to say before he had a good look at me. "Uh, are you sick?"

"Maaybeee..." I thaid.

"You look like you're dehydrated," he said, making me go sit on the bed, while he got me a glass of water. "Drink this."

It was good!

"When was the last time you ate?" he asked.

"Uh, this morning, before I got on the road. Can I have more water?"

"Sure. You mean yesterday, right?"

"No, it was just this morning."

"In Wisconsin?

"Yes. Before I drove down here."

"Then that was yesterday."

"No, it was just a few hours ago."

"On Friday. You drove down on Friday."

"Yes. Today."

"No. Today is Saturday. "

"It what?"

"It's Saturday. You apparently have been sleeping for about 24 hours."

"I what?"

"Saturday."

"I missed the show?"

"Not all of it. It's going on right now."

"Oh. Let's go" I tried to get up, but couldn't.

"Not you. You're sick. You stay here. I'll get you food."

"Oh. Okay." I went back to sleep.

He came back later with a bag full of soda crackers, all individually wrapped, and a can of 7-Up. International food for sick people.

"Here, eat this. Slowly." He started unwrapping the cracker packs. As soon as the crackers hit my mouth, they swelled up like little sponges.

"Ah! Need wadder," I said.

"Try this," Don said handing me the 7-Up.

It was good!

"Okay," he said. "Try and eat a few more of these and rest some more. Do not leave this room. If you need help, call the front desk." (This was before cell phones.) "I will be back later to check on you."

Donald started to leave, but stopped and stared at the TV.

"Why are you watching the Spanish channel?"

"I was?"

He changed the channel to something in English and then left.

I ate some more crackers and went back to sleep.

At one point, I thought I woke up and heard wrestling again. This time I thought it was in German. Weird German. I forced myself up to look at the screen. It was Weird German. It was Baron Von Raske, screaming at somebody.

I went back to sleep.

Donald came back later with dinner. It was McDonalds Chicken McNuggets. Mmmmmm... It was the best meal ever. I confirmed with him what day it was. It was still Saturday. Things were good.

He hung around for awhile, and we started watching a movie. I fell asleep. When I woke up, it was daylight and Donald was gone.

The phone rang. It was Sherill. I asked her what day it was. She laughed and said that she was sorry that I wasn't feeling well, but she wondered if I was well enough to get up and meet Beau Smith for breakfast.

Aha! I thought. It must be Sunday. I was supposed to meet Beau on Sunday. I got out of bed and stood up. I wasn't too dizzy. I told Sherill I could meet Beau for breakfast. She told me that Donald would come to my room at get me. I said that was probably a good idea.

I tried to take a shower, but I couldn't get the water temperature right, so I just got in long enough to rinse myself off. Then I got dressed. I was a little cold so I put on a sweatshirt. I was still cold so I put on a sweater over the sweatshirt. I was now wearing four shirts. I looked in the mirror. I looked like the Michelin Man. I didn't care.

Donald came and got me, and we walked to the hotel restaurant. I had never met Beau before - only talked to him on the phone. He was a Westfield subscriber of long-time standing and everybody loved talking to Beau. I was very curious to meet him.

We got to the restaurant and Sherill introduced me to Beau. He said "How yuh doin', KC!" in that Beau-accent of his. I probably said something stupid like, "You look like you talk!" He laughed and held out his hand for a shake. I told him I was too dizzy to shake. Donald then explained that I probably had the flu and it probably wasn't a good idea to shake my hand today. Beau laughed. He liked to laugh, and I was about to give him plenty of reason to do so.

They put me at the end of the table so I wouldn't infect anyone too much. The waitress came to take our orders. I really wanted french toast, but I ordered crackers and 7-Up instead. She said that she didn't think that was on the menu. Somebody else said that she should just bring me a basket with crackers in it. She didn't think that they had crackers for breakfast - only with soup for lunch. I said forget the crackers, just bring me some bread, please. She said that they only had bread baskets for dinner, and they weren't serving dinner yet. So I asked if they had toast. Yes, they did, she said. Would I like some? Yes, please, but please hold the heat! She looked confused. When I said "hold the heat," I meant please don't toast the bread. But then it wouldn't be toast, she said. Suddenly, I felt like Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces. But I was too sick to fight. I'll just have toast, I said. I slumped down in my chair. I really wanted to go back to bed.

After Beau ordered, I think that he tried to talk to me, but I by then I was so out-of-it that I was just staring out into space. So everyone just talked amongst themselves for awhile, while I was trying very hard not to throw up on Beau. Eventually, everyone got real quiet, and I could feel that they were all kinda staring at me, waiting for me to say something. Or probably not. I was sick and had no real idea what was going on. Then suddenly I heard my own voice saying something. Which was odd since I didn't think I was talking, but I apparently was. So I tried to listen to what I was saying, but it sounded like Spanish to me. Which was odd because I didn't speak any Spanish. And then I heard myself saying something like "Baron Von Raske" and then the next thing I knew, I was at home, in Wisconsin, in my own bed. And when I woke up, I felt fine. Later I learned that Donald had driven me home. He was a good guy.

And that's the story of how I met Beau Smith. Conversations between us haven't gotten much better since then... (Hi, Beau!)

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The O'Hare Hyatt Regency was an odd place to stay if you didn't have a car, because (back then) the only places to walk to, other than a McDonald's, were other hotels. And one night, we were so bored that that was what we did. We just walked from hotel to hotel. It started out as me and a couple of friends walking around, and then, one by one, people joined us, until about an hour later we had about 25 people following us around, including, oddly, Jerry Ordway and Paul Levitz. Eventually, we just stopped walking and just stood in the Hyatt Regency parking lot and talked. For hours. Nobody left. It was one of the weirdest nights I ever spent at a convention. Had to have been a full moon...

Several years later, after I started editing Legion for DC, the same sort of thing happened, spontaneously, I think, although many of the details of its origin are lost from my memory. I do recall it was in a different Chicago hotel, and there was no walking involved. What it was, was about 70 Legion fans and creators more or less taking over the lobby of the Sofitel. It was the most amazing, well-behaved mob of people I have ever been a part of. For the most part, we all sat on the floor in a very large corner of the lobby and just talked Legion. Besides myself, there was the Legionnaires artistic team of Jeff Moy and Cory Carani, Legion inker Ron Boyd, and the plotter/colorist of both books, Tom McCraw, and we all answered a lot of questions that night. Occasionally, other creators would walk by and wonder bemusedly what was going on, but occasionally someone with some "Legion cred" would walk by - like artist Colleen Doran - and be sucked into the mob, whether they wanted to or not!

Along about midnight, former Legion writer Paul Levitz and DC marketing guy Bob Wayne ambled by, and it took almost exactly seven seconds for Paul to be "summoned" into the group. (And gave me a great opportunity for a much-needed bathroom break). When I came back, I stopped to chat with Bob for a minute. He asked me how long this had been going on, and when I told him "about three or four hours," I got one of the very best of Bob's classic mock-pained expressions. He then decided that it was time for one of his unofficial jobs at DC - "rescuing" Paul from something, so that Paul didn't have to be rude. It was with great glee I watched Paul not only wave Bob off, but someone in the group offered Paul a chair and he took it. Paul had decided to stay awhile. Bob returned to me, defeated. "Tell Paul I went up to bed," he sighed. Paul hung with the Legion crew for about an hour before ambling off to bed himself. I have no idea how long the Legion Love-fest lasted - I think I bailed around 2 am. And it was still going strong. Later in the convention, Paul made a point of telling me what a fantastic time he had that night and what an amazing thing Legion fandom was.

So what could we do to top that? Well, first of all, there was an incredible LSH costume parade at the convention the following year, with most of the costumes created by the amazing Leman Yuen [pictures are here: http://www.computonet.com/saturngirl/lsh/costume.html ] And then a lot of the same group as the previous year all went out to a fine Chicago-style pizza dinner at Giordano's ("Yes, we'd like a table for 70, please!"), with the special guests being Paul Levitz and his daughter Nicole. And a lovely Legion time was had by all. The biggest surprise of all: some mysterious someone picked up the check for the whole deal! It was once reported in some online rumor column that it was expensed on a DC account, but that couldn't have possibly happened because that sort of thing was very much against Time Warner corporate policy. I've got a pretty good idea who it was... but I'll never tell! But it does give me the opportunity, on behalf of everyone who was there, to publicly say "Thank You!" (and a special Legion salute to Sidne Gail Ward and her crew for all the behind-the-scenes organization).

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Going to San Diego was always a big deal, mostly because it was (and still is) the biggest convention in the country. These days, I think its gotten too big and the focus has shifted more towards movies and television (which was a natural progression seeing as how Hollywood is just up the road). But I have fond memories of the show, starting way back in the days when it was still being held at the old Convention and Performing Arts Center. During one of those early years, I didn't have a room for one of the nights (don't remember why), so I ended up napping in one of the 24-hour-a-day anime screening rooms at the wonderfully shabby El Cortez Hotel (or was it the Hotel San Diego?).

By the time I was going to Comic-Con as a professional, it had by then moved into the gargantuan San Diego Convention Center. I quickly found out just how gargantuan it was after doing the show as DC Comics' Editor for the then mega-hot Zero Hour mini-series. It became the "Convention That I Don't Remember" pretty darn quickly after the first day. What I do remember: Sitting between ZH coconspirators Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway for what seemed like the entire show, signing virtually everything that that was shoved in front of me. I remember being very conscious of being careful not to sign anything that I hadn't worked on - at least at first - but was soon told by several DC folks that I was "slowing down the line" by explaining why I couldn't sign any Superman books (I was still a year away from editing those titles), and to just start signing EVERYTHING. I think it was Dan who leaned over to tell me "It doesn't matter. Most of these people just want autographs. They probably don't even know who you are." And then the people whose book I was holding chimed in, "Yeah. We don't know who you are. We just saw there was a big line of people getting books signed and figured you were somebody important."

That's when my brain clicked off and I went on auto-pilot for the rest of the weekend. There's a point in "The Monkees On Tour" episode of the old Monkees TV show where Micky Dolenz, quickly being surrounded by young fans wanting his autograph, goes into a robot-like trance state while signing everything placed in his hand. At one point, he even signs his own hand, because the fan didn't get her autograph book into it fast enough. I could relate.

I am hoping that someone on the DC crew made sure that I got some sleep or some food from time to time, because I sure don't remember doing either.

Along about Saturday (or was it Sunday?), I remember thinking that we must have been close to signing EVERYONE in San Diego's stuff, when suddenly we were lead away from the booth to do a Zero Hour panel. And I do remember walking into the panel room, realizing that it was as big as an aircraft hanger, and then blanking out again. Next thing I remember was being back at the booth and signing again. But now we were signing something different - an "ashcan" version of Zero Hour #0, the finale of the series, and a "must-get" collectible for DC fans, as that issue wouldn't be in the shops for another week. So, we got to see (and sign for) everybody - AGAIN! Yay!

 height=One of the things that I loved most about Comic-Con were the Dead Dog parties thrown on Sunday evening by the ever-gracious folks at Graphitti Designs (amongst others), and that year I had to have been one of the deadest dogs ever. Several weeks later I received the photo that accompanies this article. It is one of the best "deer in the headlights" photos I've ever seen. I have absolutely no memory of the photo being taken. I think that the photographer is the ever-lovely Beau Smith (but I don't really remember for sure).

San Diego was also where the "Day of 5 Lunches" happened. One of the jobs of an editor (at least back then) was to look at proposals for new projects. Many creators liked to spring new ideas on us when we were at the conventions. Mostly because: 1) it was easier to get feedback face-to-face, rather than propose through the mail, and 2) I don't think there's a freelancer alive who's not looking for a free lunch.

So I'm getting ready to walk over to the Convention Center when I run into Freelancer A in the lobby. Hey, how's it going, yadda, yadda, yadda, I've got a great idea for a mini-series. Do you have a minute? Sure, let's have lunch. So we have a quick lunch at the hotel, I listen to the pitch, I say no, but Kevin Dooley might be interested in this, because it features characters he's responsible for. We walk to the Convention Center.

As we walk in the door, we run into Freelancer B. A and B chat a bit and A tells B he just pitched something to me. B lights up! Are you looking at proposals? Sure, I say, mostly because I've never worked with B and am interested in doing so. Let's go to lunch. We walk back to the hotel, mostly because it's closer. I just have a salad. We chat. He pitches. Again, not something I can do, but Scott Peterson should have a look at it because it's good. B doesn't know Peterson. Will I introduce him? Sure, let's go back to the Convention Center.

It's now after 1 PM. We walk into the lobby of the Convention Center and there's Peterson talking to somebody. I interrupt and introduce B to him. Then I head for the con. But before I get there, I get stopped by Freelancer C - one of the artists I'm currently working with. He's got an idea for something. Have you had lunch? No, I lied. Back to the hotel. The wait staff looks at me, puzzled. I just order an appetizer, most of which I give to the freelancer. He pitches his idea. It's a mess. I tell him so, diplomatically, and give him pointers on how to fix it. Also, I tell him that if he really wants to do this other thing I will be really sad because I don't want to lose him on the book he's already drawing. So we have a long talk about his future on my book. It's a good productive chat. He will pitch me again when he is ready to quit my book. We walk back to the hotel.

It's now after 2:30 and I haven't set foot in the con. And I don't get to again because Freelancer D stops me 10 feet away from the entrance. Can we talk about a project? Not really, I say, explaining I haven't been to the con yet. He says he's only here for the day. I sigh and ask him to give me the bullet. It sounds interesting. Damnit. Luckily, I see one of the DC assistant editors nearby. Hey! Have you had lunch yet? Nope. You ever sat in on a pitch? Nope. Okay, let's go. The three of us head to the hotel. The hostess seats us at the table I just left and smiles. D and the Assistant order lunch. I just have a soda. We chat. The pitch is very interesting but very involved and complicated. I probably can't do it justice because of my current workload. I see the kid fidget. I tell D that we need a minute, and he goes to wash his hands. I ask the kid if he wants it? Yeah! I tell him he'll probably have to give it to his boss "officially," but at least he'll get to work on it. Oh, and by the way, you're buying lunch! My expense account for the day was beginning to strain. Kid pays the bill. D comes back. I tell him the kid's boss will want to talk to you. The kid chimes in enthusiastically. Everybody's happy. We get up to leave.

As we walk out, we run into Freelancer E, an old friend of mine that I haven't talked to in years. He asks, Hey, you got time to talk? I say yes, anything for you, and we sit back down at the same table, as D and the kid go back to the con. It's now almost 4 PM, and I'm actually getting hungry. I order a sandwich. The waitress says it's about time! E and I chat and eat. Finally I say, So what did you want to pitch? Nothing, he says. Nothing? He says, Nah, I've got plenty of work! I just wanted to talk! I laugh and say, Then you're buying! And I tell him about my day. We have a great time.

I finally get into the convention after 6 PM. The convention closes in one hour. Eventually, two of the above projects got made. I did not edit either one.

Also at San Diego: At the 1994 show, DC had its multimedia booth with a big screen, playing various DC- and Warner Bros.-related content. It was also the year of Batman Forever, so videos for Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" and U2's "Hold Me. Thrill Me. Kiss Me. Kill Me." were in constant rotation. It was a great promotion, but horrible for the folks that had to work the booth for the four-day show, mostly because there wasn't a huge amount of content, and what there was played on an endless loop. They were both great songs, but I sure have no desire to ever hear them again after hearing them over and over and over and... Although there was one bright spot - we all got to learn how to speak French with Freakazoid! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGqxb3vLL1A)

Whenever any of DC folks who were at that show run into one another, we always repeat, "Qui a coupe' le fromage." It's like a secret handshake. (Although not so secret anymore. Oops.)

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These days, another gigantoid show takes place in New York City. There are actually lots of shows throughout the year in NYC, but generally only one mega show - the New York ComicCon. I finally went to the one held this year. (Mostly because they had the good sense to move it from February to April. Who wants to be in NYC in February if you don't have to be?) I had a blast this year - mostly because I got to see lots of friends I haven't seen in years - and am looking forward to going again someday. But not next year - they moved it back to February!

This year's NYC Con was only the third show for this promoter. But back in the day (and do I feel old saying that), there was another series of big shows, also in the Javits Convention Center, but organized by a different company. When I was at DC, I had to work a number of these shows, and it was not always fun. I remember it always being quite dark, as if the show was in some dank sub-basement of the building. I always hated doing portfolio reviews in NYC because many people either took offense to criticism or looked like they might pull a weapon. I remember one guy's opening line was shouting "Hey! Gimme a job!" to which my response was "Hey! No!" Not the smartest thing I had ever done.

It was at one NYC show where I came to hate Rob Liefield. I just happened to be walking by the Image Comics booth at the time that Rob famously jumped up on a table and started throwing "valuable" incentive books out to the crowd like a fisherman throwing chum to his latest catch. Having no interest in Image at the time, I had no idea what was going on, so I wasn't really prepared when the crowd lunged for the comics, and I was knocked to the ground and stepped on. Ah... good times.

There was a very attractive Catwoman hanging around the DC booth at one NYC show, and one of the younger staffers was quite interested in her. "Go for it!" I encouraged him. As he walked over to chat her up, I noticed some of the other DC crew trying to stifle snickers. "What's up?" I asked. "You know that Catwoman's really a guy, right?" "Are you kidding me?" I asked, trying not to stare at "her." Turned out "she" was a regular at the show, and many of the DC folks who worked the show knew about "her." Oops. Never really met that many crossdressers back in Wisconsin. Really nice costume, though!

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Oh, and then there was the time that I "died" at a show. It wasn't at a comic convention per se, but the one (and only) Heroes World trade show. I was working for Krause at the time, editing Comics Retailer, and I was there with my publisher to push the brand-spanking new publication. Trade shows are closed to the general public; instead, comic store retailers come to listen to seminars and presentations from the various publishers and professionals in the comics field.

The Heroes World show went fine, except for my roommate, who was also my publisher, who was also my boss. He was the worst snorer that I have ever encountered. It was like being in a cartoon - I would lay on the bed trying to fall asleep, and I thought I coud see the walls and celling expanding and contracting from the force. I tried for over two hours to fall asleep, with no luck. And he never stopped snoring. He must have been exhausted every morning of his life!

Anyway, I got up, got dressed, and went to the front desk. Asked for earplugs. They didn't have any. Asked for sleeping pills. They didn't have any. Asked for a different room. They didn't have any. I walked over to the lounge area trying to figure out what to do. The rest of the hotel was quiet. No one was in the bar. No one was anywhere. I knew a lot of other people at the show, but none well enough to wake them up and ask if they had an extra bed. I ended up falling asleep in the chair in the lounge. That only lasted for an hour or so, as the cleaning crew woke me up and told me I couldn't sleep there. Went back to my room - maybe he'd stopped snoring. No such luck. I grabbed a pillow and laid down in the hall. No good. I could still hear him. I got up and staggered around the hotel trying to find someplace to sleep. Eventually I ended up outside.

We didn't have a vehicle at the show, so that was out. I checked the vans of some people that I knew. All locked up. By then I was exhausted and wandered over to a nearby pond. Maybe there'd be a bench. No such luck. I sat down on the ground next to a tree by the pond. Luckily it was warm and the weather was nice. The last thing I remember was the sun was starting to come up. I apparently laid down and fell asleep.

The next thing I remember was something gently tapping my shoulder. I opened my eyes and saw Denis Kitchen (Kitchen Sink Press) and Bob Schreck (then editor at Dark Horse). They were standing over me, and they both looked like they were 20 feet tall. One of them was gently kicking my shoulder with his foot.

I jumped up screaming. "AHHHHHGH!"

They jumped backwards, screaming. "AHHHHHGH!"

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"What are YOU doing?" asked Schreck. "We thought you were dead!"

I told them the story, and then I went back to my room. It was 8 AM. Maybe I could get another hour or two of sleep. No such luck. He was still snoring. I left the pillow. Wanted to put it over his head, but resisted. Then I staggered to the cafe for breakfast.

"Still snoring?" Denis and Bob asked.

"Yep."

I don't remember the rest of the show.

I quit at Krause a few weeks later. In less than 24 hours, I had five job offers.

I took the one at DC editing Legion of Super-Heroes. Since I worked there before, I knew that DC didn't force you to have roommates when you traveled.

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I think I've been to most all of the big shows (national or regional) or at least the ones on the East Coast. I finally got to Orlando to do MegaCon this year (and was disappointed that there weren't more comics, but it's turning into a great show if you like manga/anime). I haven't been to the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, but I hear great things about it from fellow professionals. And I'd like to go to either of the big shows in Toronto, but I keep hearing that they are feuding and I don't want to pick sides.

I've had a lot of good times at the shows that I've been to and have watched many of the shows change over the years, some for good and others for worse. I don't think I'd do San Diego again, not because I think that's it's gotten bad, but it's just too huge these days. If I was in my 20s, I'd probably think that SD was THE place to go, but nowadays I'm looking for a show that's just a little bit mellower.

There are currently two shows that stand out, in my mind, as consistently well-run and fun shows to go to - HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC (almost always in June), and the Baltimore Comic-Con (always in September).

HeroesCon celebrated its 25th Anniversary last year, and con organizer Shelton Drumm and his crew are gearing up for the next 25! After being beaten around for the last couple of years by nefarious competitors trying to poach his dates, the comics community rose up as one to swarm to Shelton's defense - and many big names found out just what a cool little show it can be! And they just keep coming back! The biggest thing that Heroes has going for it is that this is a show where you actually get time for a little one-on-one with your favorite creators. Sure, you might have to wait in line for guys like Jim Lee or John Cassaday or Warren Ellis, but not like you would at one of the bigger shows. Indy Island offers the largest collection of indy comic creators and newcomers short of SPX or APE. And the annual Art Auction at HeroesCon is a one-of-a-kind experience even if you're not buying. The pros at Heroes love Shelton so much that they do their absolute best work at the show and immediately put it up for auction. If you're still looking for that ONE comic that's been eluding you, Heroes Con has literally millions of comics to browse and buy! I've only missed one show out of the last 10, and it's still my favorite show to chill out with old friends. This year's show is coming up quick: June 20-22! Check out their website at http://www.heroesonline.com/heroescon.html !

I'm biased when it comes to the Baltimore Comic-Con, because for the past five years I've been helping out behind the scenes. Con organizer Marc Nathan is on a mission to produce the very best comic book-oriented show in the country, and every year the show grows exponentially towards that goal. In less than 10 years, the Baltimore show is right up there playing with the big boys. Every year the guest list gets bigger and bolder! Every year the range of back issues is stronger and stronger! Plus, the show has got a couple of secret weapons going for it, including booths for many of the big-name publishers, including DC and Image (who always bring a crew of folks to chat with), an ever-growing list of incredible Show Exclusives, and the prestige of the annual Harvey Awards, hosted by the one and only Kyle Baker and featuring dozens of special guest presenters - and winners! And you generally get the same one-on-one time with your favorite creators - most of which have become part of the Baltimore "family" - that you do at Charlotte. (It's a haven for autograph and sketch collectors.) Plus, if you're traveling with a family who's not exactly crazy about comics the way you are, they have the opportunity to visit the beautiful Inner Harbor area of Baltimore, with its great shopping and amazing Aquarium. Or they can take in a Baltimore Orioles baseball game. (The stadium is right next door to the Convention center!) This year the show is September 27 & 28. Check out the guest list at http://www.comicon.com/baltimore/index.htm!

And that's it (a lot!) about Comic Conventions! Hope to see you at one!

KC CARLSON types like Rowlf the Dog plays piano. (He needs a second pair of hands.)

Got a question, comment, or column idea? You can contact KC at AuntieKC@WestfieldComics.com.

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