Friday, November 3, 2006

Looking To The Stars - Dallas Comic Con 2006

We’re gonna take a brief break from the Hellblazer for a week, kids. It’s convention season in Texas and your dear Unca Starman just got back from a good one. In fact, I dare say – with Wizard World two weeks away – that this Con will be the best one I attended all year that was geared toward American comics.

The Dallas ComicCon harkens back to a simpler time – a time when a Comic Convention were mostly about comics. Now don’t get me wrong – I love the big conventions like Wizard World and AKON where you get a good cross-section of fandom as a whole – the gamers, the Japanese Comic fans, the American Comic fans and the various fanbases for this TV show or the other. But there is something to be said for a more focused convention. Something a little more low-key. Something more cozy. Something that is more about the professionals meeting the fans and less about the big companies hyping The Next Big Thing.

Amazing how The Dallas ComicCon still has this reputation despite being a fairly big deal. The urban legends of Dallas say that a few years ago it was the sole factor responsible for creating a ten-mile traffic jam that spread from Richardson (a suburb on the north end of Dallas) to Plano (the next suburb up Highway 75). The reason for this traffic jam? Thomas Jane (aka Frank Castle in the most recent – and at that time just released - Punisher movie), Sean Astin (ex-Goonnie and Sam from the Lord of the Rings movies) and Patricia Arquette (star of the supernatural thriller show Medium) were the guests of honor.

The Dallas ComicCon is usually, if nothing else, good for a wide variety of guests. Old pros sit alongside the young turks. Locals sit in the same artist alley as the guests who traveled from far away. Both annoying, cringe-inducing brats from the new Star Wars are present, trying to make a few quick bucks selling autographs as they wait for puberty to pass so they can begin making a comeback.

(That’s just a joke, incidentally. I have nothing but the deepest respect for Jake Lloyd and Daniel Logan)

Of course with all the guests who were there, there was one who stood out above all others for me. Mike Grell - the legendary artist on Legion of Superheroes during one of its’ most beloved periods. Creator of Travis Morgan: Warlord and John Sable: Freelance. And, for my money, the best damn writer that Green Arrow ever had.

One thing that somewhat surprised me: Mike Grell is a funny guy. I mean, his books have a great dark sense of humor and I love them for that. But given that he also writes some very intense and dark stories... well, I must admit I was expecting something different. More intense. Not a charming fatherly man who got the crowd laughing while using my now-autographed copy of Green Arrow #1 as a prop in a story.

It was a very funny story about how he scared a young speculator. Seems this young man – 12 or 13 came up with this book that he sloooooowly slid a sliver of the book out of the plastic bag to be autographed. Mike just took one look at this kid and said “You know, the minute I sign the book, it stops being Mint Condition because something has touched it directly. The urchin reportedly shuffled the comic back into the bag very slooowly once again and then ran off, never to be seen again.

It’s easy to admire a man like Mike Grell. Not just for his body of work as an artist. Not just because he remembered a letter I sent him asking about the subtext of one Green Arrow story he did. But because it takes a special kind of balls to make Kennedy Assassination jokes in Dallas. I had asked why he never got down to Texas in recent years and he just smiled and said he had to wait for the Statute of Limitations to expire. I must have looked slightly confused because he then added, “You know, I was only a sophomore in high school when it happened but people still ask how I pulled that shot off.”

There’s that dark humor I was expecting!

Ah well. Just like Kurt Cobain, go out with a bang!

And on that note, we’ll see you next week for Part Three of The Hellblazer Episode Guide.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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