A Married Woman…procured a pistol and shot [her lover] dead.
“Why did you do that, madam?” inquired a Policeman, sauntering by.
“Because,” she said, “he was a wicked man, and had purchased a ticket to Chicago.”
“My sister,” said an adjacent Man of God, solemnly, “you cannot stop the wicked from going to Chicago by killing them.”

—Ambrose Bierce


What the above quote has to do with anything, other than mentioning Chicago, is anyone’s guess. I’m the least wicked gentleman alive, and no one seemed to want to stop me from getting there, least of all by killing me. However, it seems an appropriate opening to the story of…

The Strange Adventures of Tim Drake in Wizard World

Day One: The Jonah/Alvaro Dinner

I, Tim Drake, the politest poster alive, arrived in Chicago on a hot, humid Thursday morning. The plane ride was rather uneventful, and I didn’t bring enough to read, but somehow I managed to wait, holding my excitement in check, until leaving for the Jonah/Alvaro Con Dinner at 8:45.

My dad and I were the first people there, but soon we were joined by unexpected guests Zan and Jayna. Although Jayna didn’t really fit the mental picture I had had of her (to the extent that anyone at the dinner did), she turned out to be an excellent conversationalist and a nice person, as did Zan, who I don’t really know all that well. [NOTE: More recently, Zan has proven to be anything but a nice person…] Next came the big, sarcastic, funny guy known as AKM, with his sweet and perky girlfriend Distraction Lass.

The five of us (six counting my dad) stood around talking comics, discussing the upcoming convention, and noting worriedly that none of the others seemed to have arrived yet. This continued for about ten minutes until someone noted that a person wearing a Legion of Super-Heroes T-shirt was standing around outside. I investigated and discovered none other than three more guests: Tenzel Kim, the elusive Bismollian from Scandinavian; his pal Yins(sp?), a non-poster who didn’t seem to speak much English; and perhaps the one person I had been most anxious about meeting, fly on the wall.

fly deserves a paragraph to himself. It was difficult even to imagine what this man, who has taken on an almost legendary status with his hilarious, witty and tragic posts, could possibly be like in real life. fly is kind of like Dr. Claw from “Inspector Gadget”: the Internet only shows you a little bit of him, so he’s left up to the imagination. In fact, now that I think of it, maybe I’d better not spoil what he actually looks like. That having been said, I have to say that fly is just as witty in real life as he is on the Internet, and speaks much the same way. He was worth meeting.

Okay… back to the dinner. We all sat down and conversed more while we waited for the remaining guests. IIRC, the next to arrive were two Alvaro natives whom I didn’t know at all: Cap and Starving Writer. Both were fairly average-looking guys in their early 20’s who didn’t speak much (Starving Writer, in fact, is deaf.)

Dox, who was supposed to be in charge of this whole shindig, was a somewhat later arrival; and let me tell you, he was nothing like I’d imagined him. Dox looks like the type of guy who listens to George Thorogood and the Destroyers while riding his Harley and drinking Budweiser—and for all I know, he does all those things. :) He was as outspoken and funny in real life as he is on the Internet. Dox was accompanied by his roommate Mike, a big bald guy who didn’t talk much but had a nasty sarcastic streak. :)

AKM made the unfortunate revelation that Johnny DC and Unfrozen Caveman Fanboy had cancelled at the last minute; as I would later learn, JDC had been forced to work over the weekend. As revenge, he revealed something extremely shocking and scandalous about JDC—which I am not at liberty to tell the world, no matter how hard you beg me. :) Anyway, Nik and Mark, with the two Scotts, seemed to have gotten lost along the way, so we ordered without them, something like 45 minutes after the dinner was supposed to begin. Being underage, I couldn’t order anything stronger than root beer, and could only look on in awe at the size of the margaritas AKM and Distraction Lass were served.

We talked about a number of things, ranging from CBR matters to AKM’s car trouble to nursing homes (actually, it was fly, Zan and Jayna who discussed that; I never got in on that part of the conversation.) At some point Dox brought out the T-shirts, which looked fabulous: a big group picture on the front, courtesy of Hairbutt the Hippo, and a list of names on the back. The food wasn’t too good (I had a combination plate of a taco, an enchilada, a tamale, and something else), but it was pretty palatable.

Superboy, Bouncing Boy, and Scotts Redding and McCullar arrived about an hour late, apparently having gotten lost along the way. Nik was older than he “looks” on the Internet, and seemed like a rather polite and mild-mannered gentleman, although I didn’t get to talk to him much. Mark, on the other hand, looked just like I had imagined him, and was a dead ringer for his fictional namesake. Like the fictional Chuck Taine, BB is, shall we say, blessed with a very ample body. Although I didn’t get to talk to him much either, he also seemed like a really nice and funny guy. Scott Redding is (damn, I’m switching tense like it was going out of style) a very well-groomed, clean-cut young gentleman, and probably the one person there who you’d least expect to be a comic geek. :). I hardly talked to Scott McCullar at all, since he was sitting at the other end of the table.

I passed a couple very enjoyable hours, eating and socializing, until I had to leave at 10 or so. I left the dinner feeling nearly euphoric; it had been such a thrill to finally put faces to all these names and meet all these good friends of mine who I had never actually seen. I had trouble getting to sleep that night, but somehow I did, and woke up (relatively) refreshed and ready to begin…

Day Two: The Convention, Part One

After a light breakfast, my dad and I headed across the street to the Rosemont Convention Center and got into line to buy tickets, not having done so previously. As I waited, my dad was given a free 3-day pass by some passing saint, and passed it on to me—how that happened I’m not exactly sure, but it was certainly welcome. I wandered off into the lobby, picked up a few free Silly Daddy comics, and suddenly ran into the Big Cheese himself, Wizard publisher Gareb Shamus.

I went up to this real-life villain of the industry and accused him, half-seriously, of destroying the comics industry and running the small press out of business. Not in the least daunted, Gareb asked me why I was paying him to attend his convention if I felt this way. I was unfortunately unable to think of a witty rejoinder to that, but about thirty seconds later I realized that I had gotten my ticket free, so I really wasn’t paying him anything at all! Sigh…too bad I forgot about that until it was too late. So there you have it: how Tim Drake publicly and unsuccessfully insulted Gareb Shamus. (Pay attention, though: I did it again the next day. :)

After standing in line for at least half an hour, I finally got inside to the convention center, where I was well and truly impressed. This place was huge. At least, it was huge in comparison to all the other conventions I’d been to. I had previously realized that I would need to spend some time walking around and taking it all in before I actually did anything, but I don’t know if I was actually able to resist. This place was like Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island, except without the nasty side-effect of turning into a pig. (Although with fly around, I couldn’t be so sure…) If my memory serves (it’s been about a week and a half by now), my first stop was the DC booth, where I looked around for Yanick Paquette and didn’t find him. I did see Humberto Ramos, though, and told him briefly that I admired his work. Next I stopped by the Abstract Studios booth, where I saw Terry Moore and told him pretty much the same thing. Unfortunately I didn’t have any SIP stuff with me, but one of the other gentlemen working there was kind enough to give me some kind of card for Terry to sign. Politeness does have its rewards. :)

From there… damn, I wish I had taken a notepad or something so I could reconstruct what I did. I bought tons of comics, soon finding myself with only about $20 left out of the $60 I had brought to start with. (I don’t currently have the time to list what I bought, but I’ll try to do so later.) I brushed shoulders with the industry’s best and brightest: Paul Levitz, Jay Faerber, my fellow comicon.com poster Steve Lieber, Jim Starlin (who gave me a nice little Thanos sketch), James Robinson, the fearless Hart D. Fisher, and Kurt Busiek, who I ran into in front of the CBG booth. I chatted with Busiek for a few minutes and found that, not surprisingly, he had forgotten all about the very short e-mail correspondence he and I had had some months ago. :) At some point, I had the misfortune to lose my ticket. Thankfully, my dad was kind enough to give me his own ticket, since he didn’t plan to stay any longer that day, and to buy one for tomorrow on his way out.

I also encountered a certain artist I dare not invoke by name, save to say that his name begins with “R” and ends with “ob Liefeld.” Passing by his table, I told Him Who May Not Be Named that I thought he was the worst artist in the industry, as well as (quoting a post I once saw on the survey board) the Anti-Kirby. Of course, since he probably gets this all the time, the Nameless One took it all in stride and blew me off. Perhaps that wasn’t the wisest move. Ah well.

At a little before 1:00, right before the trivia panel was supposed to start, I found myself at the CBLDF booth, where George Pérez, one of my favorite artists in the whole wide world, was signing. I wasn’t successful in getting him to do a sketch for me; but in the line for Mr. Pérez was none other than Dox (and Mike). It turned out that they were also going to a panel at 1:00, so they decided to accompany me. I won’t tell you what we did on the way there, except to say that Dox showed himself to be less than a paragon of virtue, as well as a notorious corruptor of youth. :)

So it was off to the Silver Age Trivia Panel. Wizard’s Craig Shutt was the moderator. The fan team consisted of Mike Chary and Sidne Gail Ward (two famous Internet fans who I’d have liked to have spoken to), plus two gentlemen I’d never heard of, Doug Jones and Todd Allen. On the professional side was Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, Chuck Dixon and Erik Larsen, filling in for the absent Tony Isabella, who was then recuperating from his injury. And let me tell you, the trivia contest was a blast. I couldn’t have answered more than a quarter of the questions (because, Dox assured me, I hadn’t been reading comics for long enough)—it was Silver Age trivia of the most obscure kind. Two sample questions were “What was the title of the first Justice League story in Brave and the Bold #28?” and “Who was the first villain the Avengers fought after their first change in membership?” They were mostly things about which I had no idea, despite feeling like I really ought to know them. But even so, it was very entertaining.

Afterward I had a chance to talk with Chuck Dixon; I had some complaints about the recent issue of Robin, which Chuck answered very reasonably. As I headed out I happened upon Jeff Moy and Cory Carani, late of the Legion. I spoke briefly to both of them, but thankfully didn’t quite get up the courage to ask about the origin of Jeff’s tongue fetish. :) And, as if that weren’t enough, on my way back to the dealers’ room I ran into the excellent and underrated Jerry Ordway.

From there, I returned to the dealer’s room and bought comics until I ran out of money. I finally encountered my fellow Weilander Yanick Paquette, although I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to him. And just as I was about to leave, I came back to the CBLDF table and found Pérez still signing. I proceeded to badger him until he gave up and agreed to do a sketch for me (well, I may be exaggerating a bit—I hope!) So I finally fulfilled my dream of getting an original George Pérez Starfire sketch, which I’m probably going to have framed. [NOTE: I never did.]

I returned to the hotel, spent some time reading the stuff I’d bought, went to dinner (with my dad and a relative who lived in the area) at an excellent seafood place, and finally retired, in anticipation of The Convention—Day Two. And now I seem to have come to a logical stopping place. Watch for the conclusion of this con report, coming in a few weeks!

NOTES

I don’t believe I ever finished this convention report; if I did, the rest of it is probably lost. Most of the interesting stuff happened on the first two days, but I do remember a couple incidents that I didn’t include in this report:

* I met Jon B. Cooke, the publisher of Comic Book Artist, and he was surprised that someone my age was reading his magazine. (I was about 16 at the time.)

*I ran into Dox and Jayna (and maybe Nik) again, and Dox took an embarrassing picture of me ogling a model. :)

AKM’s shocking and scandalous revelation about Johnny DC was that he was actually the new poster Jack Tango. At the time, this wasn’t public knowledge. (Incidentally, AKM stands for Ass-Kicker Man.)

I try not to yell at comics professionals anymore, no matter how evil they are. It obviously didn’t get me anywhere with Gareb or Rob. If I see Bill Jemas at this year’s SDCC, I might politely complain about his firing of Mark Waid, but that’s it . :)

I haven’t been back to Wizard World Chicago since 1999, for three reasons. First, the San Diego Comicon is flat out better. Second, there are more CBR people there. And third, I don’t want to give Gareb any more of my money. Still, this trip to Wizard World was an important experience for me: my first time at a major convention, and my first meeting with friends who, up to that point, I had known only as words on a computer screen.