Wow! What an incredible weekend! FanExpo was so much fun this year. Great improvements were made with spacing and positioning of booths, that I never felt too overcrowded when I was there. This is the first time I went to FanExpo and could not think of how they could improve for next year. It was that good.
But on to comics! (And as a warning, all the pictures were taking by my phone)
For the short time I was there, I talked to TONS of artists and writers. To top it all off, I met the legendary Chris Claremont!
Upon going into the Expo at 4:00pm, I immediately wanted to meet Chris Claremont. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend on the Thursday, so I had to make my way to the second people on my list: Matt Fraction (Iron Man, Thor, Uncanny X-Men, Fear Itself) and Kelly Sue DeConnick (Osborn, Supergirl, Castle). As it turned out, meeting them was the entire highlight of the convention.
I only brought stuff up for Kelly Sue to sign on Thursday, while the Friday was for Fraction. Upon meeting Kelly Sue, I tossed down my Osborn series for her to sign and asked her a few questions. While answering, she paused and asked my name to sign.
I said, “Derek.”
“How do you spell that?”
“Is this, ‘Uncanny Derek?'”
I smiled and replied, “Maybe.”
Needless to say, it instantly became the highlight of the convention. Then she personalized Osborn #1 for me.
I asked her if I could get a picture of her with Fraction, as he just freed up from signing. But Kelly Sue asked if I wanted to be in the picture. How could I say no?
After telling Matt Fraction that I’d return for him tomorrow, I ran into Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso and VP of Creative Development, C.B. Cebulski. After chatting for a few moments, this happened:
Needless to say, I was at the convention for literally a half hour and was completely enthused about how everything was going so far. I could peruse through comics, toys, booths and the-like without any issues of cramming or bumping into anyone. I managed to nick a few more Uncanny X-Men’s off of my pull-list for dirt-cheap (and in great quality) too. I picked up Uncanny X-Men #95, #120, (both which Claremont signed later) #132, #135, and #266 – the (arguably) first appearance of Gambit.
I walked down Artist’s Alley – a place designated for artists and writers to hang out and chat with fans. The first person I ran into was Marko Djurdjevic. He was quite the outgoing person – very laid back and care-free, but with a hint of elitism. I soon figured out why. I had quite a few of comics for him to sign – and I asked him what’s next on his plate. He told me he just quit Marvel about two months ago and that he was going back to video game concept art. Albeit shocked, I congratulated him and asked why. He simply told me his contract was up and he did not want to have to deal with higher-ups anymore. Fair enough.
One of the comics he signed was my copy of New Mutants #27. I told him that it was my favourite cover I’ve seen in awhile, and he began to laugh. He absolutely hated it and thought it was the worst “piece of shit” he ever created, and that he “has it buried” in files so he can never see it again. Admittedly, I found that hilarious too, but I congratulated him and went on my way.
It wasn’t until the next morning did I find out what was REALLY going on with him. I was anything less-than shocked.
I went on to find a very modest artist, Jimmy Cheung, who revealed to me that he has been working on Avengers: The Children’s Crusade for the past TWO years. He also clarified that it takes about two and a half months for him to finish one book of The Children’s Crusade. No wonder why it looks so breath-taking. He also said that the last few issues will probably be delayed because there is still much work for him to finish with. But he was a great, genuine guy.
From there, I headed to the panel, “Breaking into Comics: The Marvel Way.” As an aspiring writer, I would love to know some tricks of the trade. The panel shed some light on how writers can break into the medium and definitely raised some good pointers on how important it is to not just love comics. There’s a lot more to the trade than it seems.
From left to right: Matt Fraction, Axel Alonso, C.B. Cebulski, Mark Brooks (Uncanny X-Force), and Arune Singh (Marvel Communications).
My last guest of the evening was Fred Van Lente (Taskmaster, Incredible Hercules, Chaos War, Alpha Flight). Like Cheung, Van Lente was a truly genuine person, and I was really looking forward to speaking with him. Wearing a dress shirt and suspenders, he was really excited and involved when chatting with me. He also gave a few writing pointers. I then asked him how him and writer Greg Pak got to co-writing everything. Turns out Pak had too much on his plate during Incredible Hercules as Pak was busy with World War Hulk at the time. Marvel tossed over Van Lente for help – and the rest became history. The duo worked well together. Van Lente said that Pak would initially start writing and left Van Lente to really finish the stories – and essentially, that is still how they write to this day.
Van Lente also mentioned that he received his humour in comics as a defense mechanism for being picked on all the time through grade and high school. Turns out we have a ton in common, too.
The busier of the two days, Friday was my day to see Claremont, as well as wrap things up with Fraction and hopefully run into a few other wonderful people.
Arriving around 2:00pm, I met Matt Fraction again. I asked him a few questions about writing comics – how he is able to separate all of the voices from one another (ie. How Pixie uses magic but doesn’t come off as Asgardian). But he also said that some voices he couldn’t get, so he didn’t use them – which is his reason to why Storm hardly ever spoke during his run on Uncanny X-Men.
I then asked him some general writing questions and re-mentioned I was an aspiring writer. There, Fraction looked me in the eyes and gave me incredible advice for literally, the next five minutes. He was very involved in telling me the “do’s and don’ts” as well as touching base with his own past experiences – struggling to get started and now working with a wife, mortgage and two children. But the way he spoke to me, it was if he was teaching me how to write. He was very emotive about how his writing process works and what I could do to succeed. It absolutely floored me. I stood there, absorbing every word he said as it was so profound to my ears. And no, I will not repeat it. 🙂 When he was done, I had nothing else but great thanks and appreciation his way.
After I shook his hand, I walked away from the table and pulled out my notebook to write down everything he just said to me. Yes, it was that important to me.
Since it was now Friday, new creators were down Artists Alley to meet. Artist Alex Maleev (Moon Knight, Scarlet, Daredevil) was consistently doing commission work at his table – and always surrounded by an audience. I walked by his table about four times, and each time he was doing something different. Here is Maleev working on an Elektra:
Passing Maleev, I met Stuart Immonen (Fear Itself, New Avengers, Superman). As if Cheung and Van Lente weren’t enough, Immonen was intense and graciously happy to be doing what he is doing. I cannot remember what I asked him unfortunately, however, the panel I saw him at shortly after was pretty darn fun.
When 3:00pm rolled around, I got in line for Chris Claremont which was already about thirty people long. His signing was at 3:30pm. Next to him were artists Kalman Andrasofszky (X-23, NYX) and Dale Keown (Incredible Hulk). I spoke with Dale very briefly and thanked him for being an inspiration to my drawing. I told him how I re-created a cover of his and how it got me back into drawing again and he was beyond-happy to hear that. Then came Chris Claremont.
From left to right: Claremont, Keown, and Andrasofszky.
Meeting Chris was pretty exciting. I heard stories that he was a bit rude at times, but I was giving him the benefit of the doubt today. He signed my copies of Uncanny X-Men #95, #107, #109, #120, #137, #141 and #142. I asked him how he came up with the ending of the Dark Phoenix Saga and what made him decide that Jean Grey should die (as killing off a main character was unheard of back then). He gave me quite the long answer which left me satisfied. After he was done, I asked if I could get a picture with him. He said, “Sure” and I stood beside him. As I did, he grabbed the next person in lines stack of books (the ENTIRE run of X-Men Forever) and started signing them. I posed and saw in my peripherals that he hadn’t looked up. Maybe he hadn’t heard me? I asked again if I could get a photo with him. He said, “Sure,” and so I stood beside him waiting. Alas, he didn’t look up. My result:
I suppose I should have expected that.
During my line up for Claremont, a panel with Matt Fraction, Kelly DeConnick, and Stuart and Kathryn Immonen had started called “Couples in Comics.” I arrived about twenty minutes late, so I unfortunately missed who the other folk were (I can’t know EVERYONE in the comic business). The room was partly filled – which is a shame because the panel was great. Not only did everyone speak about how they work in the business together, but Fraction and Stuart both spoke about how it was to be partners. There, Stuart said how he usually doesn’t read the dialogue to what is said in the scripts – but rather, draws the actions instead. Kelly Sue was blown away by the statement, while Fraction seemed a bit shocked over it. However, Kathryn stepped in and said that Stuart was being a bit overzealous in that statement, leaving the room with a ton of laughs. It was a really fun and exciting panel to be at. I wish I had just seen the whole thing though.
From left to right: Fraction, DeConnick, Stuart and Kathryn Immonen.
After the panel, I decided to see the final artist I would meet for the day: Leonard Kirk (New Mutants, Sigil). He was busy working on commissions too, and unfortunately had very little time to talk. I wished to get a commission out of him, but he was backed up and I was on my last day there. Boo-urns. However, it is still great to see a local resident here work for Marvel. It’s still pretty neat.
FanExpo was one excellent adventure this year. For only going for two days, I accomplished quite a bit. I did miss out on Mark Brooks and Dale Eaglesham – who were on my “to see” list, and I missed out on a few panels. However, the information and encouragement I left with made all the difference.
Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!