Monday, April 20, 2015

Big Wow Comicfest 2015

For the second year in a row, I went to the Big Wow Comicfest in San Jose. I had heard about the convention before, but I never bothered attending it. When I would go to a convention, I'd go to WonderCon, but that has since moved to Southern California, so Big Wow is the event for me if I want a convention fix. (I don't count the East Bay Comic-Con, which I also went to this year. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty cool, but it's pretty small. It's definitely worth the $5 admission price though.)

I wasn't entirely sure if I was going to go, but when I saw that Don Rosa was on the guest list, my mind was made up. For those who don't know, Rosa drew the adventures of Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck in the 1990s (for the most part), with the highlight of his career arguably being The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. He's a fairly big celebrity in Europe, where Disney comics are even more popular than the superhero stuff is here.

I have to admit that I've only recently started following his work, as I was too wrapped up in Marvel and DC back when he was doing his thing. I still read that stuff, but my taste in comics has broadened significantly in the past ten years, and I've come to appreciate all-ages books the same way I appreciate a good Pixar film. Apparently he even did a signing once at my local comic book store, but I don't even remember having heard about that. I was feeling like the chance to meet him had passed me by, so I felt really lucky to get my chance now - especially considering that the first two volumes of reprints from Fantagraphics have come out.

The next thing to decide was whether I would go by myself or not. I went by myself last year, but I thought it would be nice if my wife would come with me. She's not into comics, but she enjoys coming along with me so we can spend some time together. I figured that we'd have somebody, likely my in-laws, babysit my son, Logan. He's four years old, and while he did just fine when it was just me and him at the East Bay Comic-Con, I wasn't sure how practical it would be to take him to a much bigger convention where I would likely want to stay much longer (and actually wait in line to get a few signatures).

Since his grandparents weren't able to watch him all day, I figured that I'd take the chance and have him come with us; otherwise, I would have just wound up going by myself. Turns out that this was a good move, as they had a "Kids Section" with Legos, crafts and face-painting. My wife hung out with him a bit there as I went off to do a bit of shopping. He enjoyed himself, and he especially got into his face-painting. The woman who was doing it has done it for some time at Disneyland, and while she had some specific designs that she would do, she said that she'd take suggestions. Well, my little guy had a very specific idea of what he wanted. He didn't just want to be a zombie, but he wanted to have "one zombie eye and one regular eye". You can see the results for yourself, and I think it turned out pretty good.

In addition, they had some video game tournaments, and that's where he's really in his element. He's only four, but he really enjoys playing Wii U games. He even beats me from time to time at Super Smash Brothers. I don't remember the name of the game he was playing, but he kept beating an adult and another kid who was a few years older than him.

So, there was definitely enough stuff there for it to be worth to bring him, so long as you have a significant other who's willing to hang out with your young one a bit while you snoop around.

Don't get me wrong. The whole day wasn't me looking at comics and my wife babysitting. He came with us while we met Don Rosa, and he got to watch the artist do a really cool sketch in one of the collections. I asked Mr. Rosa to make it out to Logan, as we have read through several of those stories together.

I had heard before that Rosa can be a bit short with people who get in line for an autograph but aren't really fans. I'm not sure why somebody would do that in the first place. Perhaps they're looking to sell the stuff off to fans in Finland for an inflated price? I got to witness that firsthand, as the guy in front of me gave off the impression that he didn't know who Rosa even was. When asked what he wanted for his sketch, he asked for a picture of Daredevil. Umm...Daredevil? Rosa has only done Disney comics. To be specific, he's only done Duck comics. Anyway, he wasn't a jerk to the guy, but he didn't really converse all that much, and he drew a really hasty sketch.

When it was my turn, I asked for a picture of Donald Duck being indignant. For anybody who reads the comics, that's pretty much what he looks like half the time. That was all the convincing that Rosa needed that I was there because I was a fan. I had him sign one book over to me, one over to Logan, and one over to my wife. I also bought one of his art prints, which I had signed over to me, but I wish that I had him make it out to the Johnson Family. Oh well, maybe next time.

He really took the time to draw a great sketch, even adding some highlights to it to give it some depth. It's my understanding that his eyesight is really poor, so I'm guessing that he does these drawings mostly out of muscle memory. It probably also helps that he draws them pretty big. Considering that he's doing it for free, it's pretty darn cool, and it's obvious that he's a man who appreciates his fans. I personally don't blame him for being a bit short with people who are looking to take advantage of his generosity just to make a buck. The man has been ripped off by Disney so much in the past, with various publishers using his name to advertise reprint books with no compensation going to him, that I would probably be far more surly about it than he is.

I got a chance to talk to him a little bit, and I told him that I was glad that all of his work was getting such a high-quality reprint treatment. He told me he was too, as he wasn't able to read all of the other nice collections (because none of them were in English!)

That was definitely the highlight of the event for me, but a close runner-up was meeting Dave Gibbons, co-creator of Watchmen and The Secret Service (the comic which the movie Kingsman: The Secret Service was based on). He's actually going to be signing at my local store this Wednesday, so it wasn't going to be a big deal for me if I missed him. I swung by his table a few times only to find him gone. Right before it was time to leave, I decided to try one last time. On his table was a note saying that he'd be back in ten minutes, so we decided to stick around.

A line formed shortly after, and sure enough, he came back right on time. I actually met him once before at Comic-Con in San Diego. I didn't have anything for him to sign, but I got a chance to talk to him for a moment. This time, I had my copy of Watchmen, the first issue of The Secret Service, and a Darth Vader comic that he did years ago for Dark Horse Comics.

He informed his fans that they could get a sketch of Rorschach if they donated to The Hero Initiative, a charity that helps out retired comic book creators who need financial assistance. It's a great cause, as so many of these creators have contributed so much to a vital art form, and yet they haven't been fairly compensated and many of them are without any kind of health insurance. I've given to it before, and I tossed a ten into the donation bin.

Gibbons is a really friendly guy, and we got to chat for a few minutes as he signed my books. He even chatted it up with my son, who wanted to show off the Batman action figure he purchased. (One other thing that's cool about taking your kid to a comic book convention is that they tend to have a lot of cheap action figures. This was a Batman figure that used to go for $18 - an older sticker was on it - but it was in the discount bin for $4. I guess people figured it would be a collector's item, but the market is pretty saturated with action figures, much to the benefit of little boys like my son who have a few bucks to spend at a convention.)

I don't have a story to go with it, but I also got to chat with Paolo Rivera and got an issue of Daredevil signed by him. He's probably one of the few new artists whose name I can remember, so I definitely wanted to bring something for him to sign.

Big Wow! may be one of the smaller conventions when compared to WonderCon and Comic-Con, but it reminds me a bit more of what WonderCon used to be when it was just starting out, and that is that it's primarily about the comics rather than related media. I was also pleased that it was such a family-friendly event, and I'm hoping to go again next year. I know that Logan wants to go, as he's already asking about when the next one is.

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