Saturday, August 27, 2005

Wizard World Chicago 2005, pt. 3

First, a thought on gimmicks in comics:

When I first started collecting, from about 1990 on, die-cut covers, holographic prints, foil stamping, poly-bagging, and other “special” comic cover editions were all the rage. A number one issue and a limited-edition trading card meant collectors snatching up issues by the dozens. Comics that had no business being “collector’s item” issues were being printed, industrial-style, by the thousands.

After a while, fans like me got sick of it all – wasting $3-4 on comics that were pretty to look at but no fun to read. So the comic industry went through a sort of depression, and rightfully so.

Thankfully, most of that’s changed. For one thing, the switch from artists-as-superstars to respecting the entire creative team has been a welcome transformation. Where once all you needed was Jim Lee or Todd McFarlane on an issue to sell buttloads, now a dynamic writer/penciler team sells issues. Writers are now getting the same respect only artists knew 10 years ago. Sure, comics are a visual medium – but you can only read so many “Look out behind you!” phrases uttered by buff babes and brutes. You need substance.

Plus all the recent movies. Those help, too.

The Ghostbusters stop by for a visit.

Something I noticed by the third day of the Wizard World Chicago convention, however, was the special “variant” edition comics sneaking back on the scene. I saw dozens of “Wizard World Exclusives” on comics ranging from Fathom to Fantastic Four, and it irritated me. These types of so-called “exclusives” spoke only to the “collector” as opposed to the “reader.”

Are you in comics to make money, or appreciate the art and stories?

* * * *

On my third day in Chicago, packing and shuffling by Gugin, Nate, and Jenny woke me up early Sunday morning. It was load-the-Jeep time, and boy what a chore. How do you fit several thousand dollars worth of merchandise and reading material into the back of a Jeep Grand Cherokee?

The segue into metaphor is an easy one here. How does a comic fan ever fill their “back seat?”

It was almost impossible to think of the convention in any other terms than Marx’s. Material possessions, desire, product creating status – a Marxist experiment if there ever was one. I watched as fans spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on figurines and collectibles that would probably just sit on a shelf – or worse, in a box in the closet. But collectors never think of that – they live for The Moment, the point of sale, the event horizon of purchase. I understood it, because I felt it, too. But only $80 worth.

I decided to spend my day filling in gaps in my comic collection, a few left-overs from the previous days, and anything I could find cheap. I had new list – a Sunday list – and I was ready to go.

There were plenty of deals to be had. Dealers were marking down prices on everything, with four-for-$1 instead of three-for-$1 boxes springing up everywhere. I found tons of Savage Dragon, Witchblade, and Spider-Man titles for a quarter or 50 cents a piece. I even cleaned house on Danger Girl, completing the entire run for $1 or 50 cents an issue.

On our way home, I asked everyone to share the best deal they found at the convention. Mine was easy. I found a vendor that sold me issues one-through-four of the new House of M series – for $5. A couple of New Avengers issues for $2 were steals, too.

But there was heartbreak. Josh Middleton’s Psylocke print that I went nuts over yesterday? Gone. All of them. He sold out.

“Oh no,” I said to the girl that was watching his booth. “I just talked to him last night, before I left.”

“Well, he’ll be back at 12:30 if you want to try back then,” she said. “I just sold the last one a few minutes ago.

The Artists Alley - a place for the lesser-knowns to scetch for fans.

Just like my super-hero idols, I knew defeat. Crushing, soul-darkening defeat. Plus I had a killer headache that was literally blurring my vision. This thing wasn’t ending well.

* * * *

To keep myself going, I set up little mini-missions for myself to accomplish before the convention ended. Completing my Danger Girl collection, finding $1 issues of NYX, looking for the X-Men Unlimited #47 (the one with Middleton’s beautiful Psylocke rendering) – like pirates looking for buried treasure, I was looking for any hidden gem I could find.

I looked as crowds of people swarmed the quarter and 50 cent boxes, fingering through thousands of back issues to find what I had already found – a deal. At the Marvel booth, interns were throwing merchandise into a crowd of shouting fans. The noise perked my interest enough to go take a look. Mutants, I thought, looking for the Next Big Fix.

Fans grabbing for swag at the Marvel booth.

One pleasant surprise - I saw Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon, Amazing Spider-Man) and managed to get his autograph. One of my heroes, and man does he hold his pencil weird.

Erik Larsen and his unique drawing style.

Eventually, I ran out of money, and the throbbing in my neck and temples became too much to bear. Like kryptonite, the place was getting to me. I did a quick sweep of the crowds for Gugin, and – finding no one I knew – fled to the hotel at about 4:00. I sat outside Sarah’s Pantry, a little over-priced convenience shop, and paid $2.75 for a Diet Dr. Pepper. I sat and closed my eyes, willing the headache to go away.

When I opened my eyes, I saw several women in workout gear leaving one of the hotel’s conference rooms. Soon, more came. “Sweet She-Hulk,” I thought, “I’ve stumbled into a jazzercise seminar.” More and more came, wiping sweat from their faces, and a few came into the convenience shop for bottles of water and juice. I got here at the right time, it seemed.

There’s no better way to end a convention dedicated to idolizing the ubermensch (and frau) than watching fit chicks in spandex parade past my watering eyes. “You’re in the wrong place,” I told them in my head. “If you want to be worshipped, head across the street.”

Or maybe not. It might not come to a good end, 30-year-old Japanimation fans hyped up on Mt. Dew and Chun-Li look-alikes groping and molesting these lovely ladies. Then again, the geeks would probably get their asses kicked.

* * * *

Gugin and the rest eventually appeared, and we headed home – a four-hour trek across Illinois, Indiana, and southern Michigan along east-bound I-94.

Loading the Jeep took 20 minutes. It became a rolling juggernaut of collectibles and dorkiness. I thought how easy it would be to replace me with a G.I. Joe figurine in the front seat. All you’d have to do is open the door if I fell asleep.

We found our way to a Pilot convenience store, ate Pizza Hut, and screamed “Jesus!” in unison as Gugin nearly killed us on the on-ramp, screeching tires and all.

About halfway I asked Gugin and Nate why they did it – why spend all this money on stuff that will sit in boxes and bags until who-knows-when? Was it for the enjoyment, or for the possible returns on an investment?

Both. That was their answer.

They both truly enjoyed the comics medium, and everything connected to it. They shared the stories, they admired the artwork, the felt for the characters – just as I did.

But they also had plans for the items they were collecting. One day, they said, they might open a comic specialty shop.

“Just with all our long boxes alone, we’d have all the inventory,” Nate said.

eBay, every true collector’s friend, also held the key to making money. Gugin sold lots of his comics and collectibles online, but kept the ones he enjoyed.

“I still break out my lightsaber and turn that bad-boy on,” Gugin said. “It’s just so bad-ass.”

This was the key, I thought, of the whole weekend. Call us nerds, geeks, dorks – but never call us dispassionate. Just as old men tinkered on old cars in their garages, or moms went to yard sales looking for rose-painted dishware, we had a hobby. And we were serious about it.

I won’t make the call on which is better – comic “collector” or “reader,” though I do have an opinion. But maybe it’s better to be both, as Nate and Gugin were. Enjoy the comics, read the comics, and sell the ones you can make a profit on. It made sense.

I knew the $200 I spent on comics was worth it. Knew it, because I know I was going to spend a week reading all of them, thinking of the stories and lessons they taught, and filling in holes in a collection that I had worked on since I was 10 years old.

And that Psylocke print I so desperately wanted? I met up with Josh Middleton later that day, and asked what comic that art had appeared on. I found it, brought it back to Middleton, and got it signed. He was really generous about the whole deal.

Now I have something I can appreciate looking at and reading. And that’s what comic books are all about.

:::: the end ::::

Friday, August 26, 2005

Wizard World Chicago 2005, pt. 2

I didnt even need the alarm; the excitement of waking up to a day full of comics was like caffeine in the bloodstream. But I would still need my coffee. Shower, dress, and on to breakfast. This was how Saturday started.

Day two of Geekfest 2005: Wizard World Chicago.

Gugin and I went to The Great Expoteria, a café run by Hispanics that was attached to the convention center. Our styles couldn't have been more different: Gugin with his modest bowl of Chex, me with my eggs, French toast, bacon, hash browns, OJ, and coffee. I barely had room on my plastic tray. We sat and talked about the day ahead: where we were going, whose autograph to nab, which comics were on our to-get list and watched as the other comic nerds drifted by. We even saw former wrestler Virgil, probably fresh off a cocaine snort for breakfast, enter the arena.

Gugin left me to get a head start, while I sat and enjoyed my meal. Goths, Star Wars freaks, comic nerds, Animé perverts, toy collectors, gaming dweebs, genuine artists. They all filed past my linoleum-topped table. Over the PA, Bono crooned about still not finding what he was looking for. Something about a burning desire, but I think the irony was lost on these fans. Bono was singing about greater topics - love and life - while for the conventioneers, it was all about searching for The Missing Piece. The Hidden Gem.

At 9:15 a.m., I finished breakfast and hit the Wizard World floor.

* * * *

For the modern comic fan, the Antiques Road Show-style booths had no place at Wizard World. The Golden and Silver Age comics (typically, anything before 1980) held no appeal to the kids. The booths honoring those historical reads looked almost forlorn, waiting for the silver-haired who still Gave A Shit. I felt bad. Here was the basis for most stories written today, and anyone my age and younger walked right past.

Instead, todays fans were looking for nothing older than 1995 at best. They were all pilgrims, looking for Jesus's lost toenail. In today's hyperbolic market, however, the toe changed from month to month. Yesterday's hot comic was in today's three-for-a-buck bin. This was Capitalism's 20-year-old virgin cousin, Comicism. And Wizard Entertainment was partly to blame, with its Top 10 lists and readily-available pricing guides. All this energy flowed according to the whims of a superficial market, and no one ever called them to task for making us waste our money on such pulp as Youngblood or anything Image produced in those early 90s comic boom days.

Its a helluva atmosphere to start puberty with, as I had, and I could feel its effects even now. All ready I had paid $7 for an Adam Hughes-penciled JSA: Classified #1 variant cover edition to get autographed by AH! himself later in the day. I was even looking at an Aspen Comics #1 going anywhere from $60 at one booth to $99 at another. "Do they take anything other than cash?" I asked myself.

I did notice the crowd change from yesterday's peak geek population to todays couples variety. Today was for those who didn't take the day off for Thursday and Friday. Less freaks, more boyfriends dragging their reluctant girlfriends to the party. The horror those poor women must have felt, I can't imagine, but they were dueling for their boyfriend's attention with Marvel's Hulk girls who promoted the Green Giant's new video game.

These ladies were in the right placed to be promoting something.

While waiting in line for Adam Hughes, plenty more costume junkies passed by. I saw Superman chatting with a Johnny-Depp-ish Willy Wonka. I also saw something that warmed my increasingly cynical heart: A father, with his two sons, searching through their collective collection for anything by Adam Hughes to get signed. It was a sight. Here was a father passing down the stories, art, characters (boobs), and a mythology as rich as Homer ever inspired down to his two young boys. Instead of animals, they were sacrificing Cash and Time, but the time was spent together.

A meeting of the minds. Could this be the new super team?

Adam Hughes draws really great women. That's the only reason I wanted his autograph. And I think thats why comics come into young boys' lives right when the teenage years begin. Who has better looking women than comics? Stan Lee KOs Hugh Hefner a hundred times over every month.

Things that make you go AH! Thanks, Mr. Hughes.

* * * *

After my AH! Autograph, I headed to the Will Eisner room for Brian Michael Bendis's (Ultimate Spider-Man, House of M, virtually everything else Marvel produces) seminar, "Writing the Essentials with Bendis." I showed up to a packed auditorium, with surprise guest-writers Paul Jenkins, Greg Rucka, and some other chap I don't recall. It was great. They talked about the elimination of thought balloons (economy of space), how artists and writers see the world differently (writers hang out in malls to hear how people talk, while artists figure out the shadows and polygons of the building), and how seriously these guys take the history of the characters they're dealing with.

"Spider-Man isn't broken," Bendis said. "You're just in charge of telling new stories."

And each hero, Bendis said, features a type of philosophy. "With great power comes great responsibility" is something you can live by, he said. When you pin a character down to real experiences and a guiding principle, within the established framework of Those Who Came Before, people start making connections with the hero.

Something else: What drew you to a certain character to begin with? Write about that, the panel said.

This was brilliant stuff.

These guys are just sitting around, dreaming about nasty villains for Captain America to pummel every month (well, maybe a bit). They had really thought about their characters. And being writers, they had stories to tell.

"You're a writer because theres something you have to do," Bendis said. "There's something inside that you have to get out."

I was so impressed with what I heard, I grabbed Gugin and jumped in line to get Bendis's autograph. In the meantime, I won an Avengers (vol. 1) #4 reprint in a raffle, and an issue of Wizard by answering which fast food joint was painter Alex Ross's favorite. I complimented Bendis on his panel when I met him. He autographed three comics for me, which I appreciated, and I went out an bought the entire New Avengers line he masterfully wrote as thanks.

Me chatting with Brian Michael Bendis, probably giving thanks to his great writing seminar.

* * * *

By the time the day ended, I had exhausted my cash flow. But I told artist Josh Middleton that I would return to grab a Pyslocke print (for his X-Men Unlimited cover) he had made. It was gorgeous - I couldn't take my eyes off it - and had intended on framing it. I would return tomorrow morning with the required $15.

In the meantime, Gugin and I headed downtown again for dinner. By the time we ate, however, it was almost 10 p.m. Gugin had to take some pictures around town, in the dark. So I complied. He had, after all, never visited The Mile in Chicago.

We had dinner at a cool restaurant, the Rock Bottom Brewery, where we drank eight types of beer and ate like kings. A $40 dinner, and worth every penny. Its my philosophy that, on vacation, you're allowed to spend as much as you want on yourself for dinner. I'm happy to report I followed my own creed.

We had good conversation, and watched the kids stroll by in their hootchie outfits. "Do Chicagoans come downtown?" I wondered.

I took Gugin down Lakeshore, near the Navy Pier, and along Michigan Ave. near Millennium Park. The signs said the park was closed, but in true ATO style, we ignored them. That is, until the park Nazis screamed "Parks closed!" at us from the shadows. We came back to the Rock 'n' Roll McDonalds from the night before, so Gugin could get more pictures, and I met a guy from Missouri who was easily recognizable as a conventioneer. "Wizard World Chicago," his black t-shirt said. His wife was shopping all day while he handled the expo. Smart woman, I thought.

"Jesus God," I thought, "there's a hell of a lot of young kids eating fast food at 1 a.m. on a Saturday night in downtown Chicago."

What a dork. I had Gugin take this one on our way home.

Sleep came easier that night. I was dead tired. Superman's-dead tired. Tomorrow was the final day. Sunday. And I still had a list of comics to grab before we left Illinois.

I did decide to forgo the Aspen #1 variant issue. I thought $60 could be better spent on the discounts the vendors would no doubt feature in the final expo hours. I would be ready for them. First, sleep. Then, load the truck. Afterward, breakfast.

Then, Wizard World, day three.

::: to be continued :::

Monday, August 15, 2005

Wizard World Chicago 2005, pt. 1

Pack together 56,000 of the dorkiest, neediest, splurge-craziest comic fans together in one convention center; add in several hundred pop-culture vendors, writers and artists, publishers and accessory companies; then throw in the jewel of Illinois Cook County Chicago and you have the recipe for the Wizard World 2005 comic con.

This was the main vortex of geekdom, The Place to fill your soul with figurines, collectible cards, anime and retro merchandise, posters, and comic books and it all happened on a hot August weekend in Rosemont, 15 miles west of the Windy Citys downtown.

I went there with a fraternity brother, Dennis Gugin, and his friends for Frederick, Mich. (a northern outpost, near Grayling and parts undiscovered) Nate and Jenny. They were the pros they had been every year since the turn of the current century and I was the rookie. My brain, they warned me, wasnt hardened enough to take it all in and not go catatonic. I was up to the challenge. After all, I had collected comics on-and-off for 14 years now. I knew These People.

Because of my intermittent interest in comics (though my love of all things Spider-Man was unflagging), I came to Wizard World wondering: what was going on in the world of comicdom? What were the trends? What was the "hot" book? Because in the hyped-up, commercial, instant-gratification world of comic books, things were always on the move, ever changing. There was no concrete in comics, only shifting mud that never truly hardened. How does the mortal mind comprehend a system that, from month to month, upends the Name of the Game and spoon-feeds the Next Big Thing down the throats of fan boys? Why do fans subject themselves to such abuses?

The answers, I thought, could be found here. At Geekfest 2005. Wizard World would become my world, for three straight days.

* * * *

The only way to properly travel to Chicago from Jackson is by rail. While Bush Jr. attempts to cut funding to this national treasure, I let my metaphorical middle finger fly by purchasing a one-way Amtrak ticket, the west-bound Wolverine line (Professor Xavier would be proud), and left the depot at 8:59 a.m., with stops in Albion, Battle Creek, and Kalamazoo on the way. Me and 72 other passengers in the middle car, enjoying the midwestern countryside together. The plan was to get off at Union Station, take the Blue Line El train west to Rosemont (past the LaSalle, Jackson, Monroe, Washington, Clark/Lake, Grand, Chicago, and Division stops along "the loop," then Belmont, the familiar Addison, and Harlem), and hoof it to the Hyatt where Gugin would wait in the lobby. All by 1 p.m. I was only a little late, and happened to catch Gugin as he was about to abandon his wait-for-Dave post. I checked into the room, received my official Wizard World badge, and headed into the Rosemont Convention Center.

The Hyatt - reminds me of the Renaissance Center in Detroit.

Gugin was right. My brain wasnt ready for this trip.

On the way in, on the Blue Line, I had noticed several comic geeks hitching the same ride as me. Theyre easy to spot. Button-up black shirt with bright flames on the side. Dyed hair. Pale skin. Pony tails. Superhero t-shirt. Indistinct physical features. Aversion to any communication with strangers. Few blondes. These are the signs.

And they were all playing pilgrim to the great Wizard, the comic fans monthly bible. Wizard the magazine started in the early 1990s, during the great Comic Boom (and eventual bust). The magazine specializes in the latest news, gossip, creator interviews, character analysis, and for the practical a comic price guide. Wonder how much your Green Lantern (vol. 1) 45 is worth? Check out the latest Wizard.

Since then, Wizard Entertainment developed into a magazine publisher whose publications handled the whole nerd world, from collectible card games to Japanese anime. Now they were in the convention biz. And they put on one helluva show.

My eyes grew wide with shock at the sheer spectacle. Marvel, DC, Image, Mattel all the heavy hitters greeted visitors first thing. It looked like something out of a demented Wizard of Oz scene. "Were-not-in-Kansas-anymore" Dorothy, dumbstruck by Technicolor, stepping out of her shabby prairie cabin. This was Clark Kents Munchkin Land.

The entrance to the convention. Cue awe-inspiring music.

In the middle of the convention stood the dealer booths, where comic book and pop culture shops from all over the country gathered to sell to Us, the Geeks. There were hundreds of them. And in back of them rested the Artist Gallery, a selection of relatively little-known pencilers and writers peddling their art.

Here's a typical booth - quality displayed, discount in boxes. The hunt begins...

Gugin had arrived the night before and checked out all the booths to sift the good from the unworthy. I hadnt prepared that thoroughly, and at times I didnt need to. Right when we walked in, at the DC Comics area, pencil-god Jim Lee (X-Men, WildCATS, and recently Batman and Superman) was signing autographs in between slices of thick Chicago pizza. You had to have a special, orange bracelet to enter the line, but Gugin and I hopped in when no one was looking. I whipped out the spare Uncanny X-Men and Batman comics, penciled by Lee, I brought with me, and seconds later had the signature recognized around the comic world. "This was too easy," I thought.

Jim Lee, signing my "Uncanny X-Men" and munching on pizza.

A few minutes later we popped into the signing line for Witchblade and Fathom artist Michael Turner, who enjoys the same babe-drawing reputation Jim Lee enjoyed many years ago. I noticed that the Aspen Comics booth, Turners own imprint, was selling variant covers of its comics. You bought the comic, had it signed by Turner, and supposedly walked away happy. "Comic companies used to just give their comics out years ago," Gugin said. Now they were charging a premium for varient cover, "Wizard World Exlusive" editions. Aspen Comics was making money off the fans in line on impulse, much like 7-11 stocks switchblade keychains near the checkout. No thinking. Just buying.

So much talent, so little man. Mike Turner signing my "Fathom" comic.

I noticed a trend right off: comic fans and dealers bringing stacks of comics â€" 30 to 50 books deep, some multiple copies of the same issue â€" to get signed by the creators. In the Jim Lee line, I looked down at my two comics. I knew what these bastards were doing. They were making the creator work for them. They would get the comics signed, then take them back to their booth (or worse, post them on eBay) and demand a premium price. I knew I wasn’t the be-all-end-all comic fan, but I knew shysterism when I saw it.

It's this trend that bought me my first friend on the convention. Later, as we were boarding the elevator in the hotel, one nerd with a dolly full of comic boxes wheeled his winnings in.

"I just had Frank Miller sign 22 of my comics!" he bragged.

"Oh, you're one of those..." I said.

"Well, some were for my friends in Texas," he said.

"Yeah. I tell people that, too...son of a bitch..."

I stepped off the elevator, Gugin following. "Looks like you earned a new buddy already," Gugin said. Indeed I had. If this was the nature of the beast, I needed a cape and heat vision. Friends I can live with. Crass commercialists like that cowboy asshole made me, as a fan, angry. We talked with several other fans in the various autograph lines, and they shared our view.

After I got my first autographs, the rest of Friday was spent walking around, taking it all in. Stormtroopers? They were there. As were Superman, Nightwing, and Charlie fresh out of his chocolate factory. I even met a steroid-junkie Batman. He has his Robin, unfortunately. There were even a few porn stars, one beauty selling her Cinemax-rated photos to horny virgins. She stood to make a fortune, which would no doubt help her pay for her masters degree. Several of the fans walking around didn't even try hard enough. Many just looked like freaks, like the painted half-naked lunatic at a January Green Bay football game, wanting any extra attention. They wouldn't find it here. They were competing with super heroes.

Nightwing (formerly Robin) and a version of Batgirl/woman/whatever.

The convention closed at 6:00 p.m., with the Wizard Fan Awards taking place right after. We hung around to watch Marvel sweep the damn thing, taking best heroine (Kitty Pryde), hero (Wolverine), moment of the year (Colussus returning), writer/artist (the Astonishing X-Men crew), on-going series (Astonishing X-Men - and well-deserved), and best publisher. Kevin Smith ("Mallrats," "Clerks," "Dogma") made a surprise appearance with his potty mouth.

"I used to think closing a good comic was satisfying," Smith said. "Now, nothing feels better than coming on some chick's back...except coming in her ass."

Wonderful. Great stuff.

* * * *

You can't visit Chicago - even when you're there just for Geekfest 2005 - and not go downtown to explore.

It took some prompting ("Trust me guys, I've been here before. I comfortable using the El.") and even some whining ("I'm starving - it's 8 p.m. and I haven't eaten since breakfast!"), but we boarded the Blue Line and headed downtown.

Me and Gugin riding the blue line. Rock and or roll.

Some homeless African American pointed us in the direction of the Hard Rock Cafe. It was against my better instincts, eating at an eatery recognized in every big city around the world, but I was starving. And Nate was getting grumpy. We were all Hungry. Inside, I ordered a grilled tuna steak mahi mahi sandwich, and called our fraternity alumnus Kevin Stone. We went across the street to the "Rock 'n' Roll" McDonalds, so Jenny could say she had been there, and then headed home.

Gugin waiting for the El home. He's our own superhero.

Leave it to me to meet interesting people: Guy with a keyboard, guitar case, and some other instrument standing in the subway door.

"Do you play all those instruments?" I ask.

"On a good night."

"Neat-o." I smile.

"Do you play?" he asks in return.

"Yeah, guitar and a little piano." The end. The conversation closes.

The only other noteworthy Chicagoan was the fine lady walking in front of us down Clark Street. She was black, with high, tight stonewashed jeans. And a butt that looked like a cresting humpback whale. Moby Butt.

"Like a stonewashed gift from God," Nate commented afterward.

Gugin and I took the lead behind the lady. Gugin looked down and gave out an audible "Pow!" I had to clasp my mouth close so I didn't bust up laughing right there. The nice lady's gentleman friend looked back, finding none of this funny. Maybe he had never walked behind her to see what we saw.

* * * *

When we got back to the hotel, I read a few comics. But mostly I spent the time, until about 2 a.m., planning for the next day. There were artists and writers to see, seminars to attend, and Comics to Buy. Yessir, I had my bearings down - after the initial fan-boy shock wore off - and had a list of must-haves ready to go.

* * * *

I did pick up some good deals, and found that a lot of vendors featured $1 and fifty-cent boxes full of nearly new comics. "Do you have a list of comics you're looking for?" Gugin asked me earlier. "No, my list is up here," I said, pointing to my brain. It was a lie. I had no idea what I was looking for. I was in search of The Deal, like most of the other pasties here. What could I get that fit my collection for relatively cheap? I couldn't blow my cash wad the first day; that much I knew. There were far too many comics and far too many peddlers to snatch up the first back issue that came along. Discipline. Measured progress. Predatory haggling. These were foreign to the comic collector's brain, but strategically necessary on a mind-fuck like this.

The expo was safe, thanks to these Stormtroopers. At ease, fellas.

But I needed sleep. Because there's nothing worse than a head full of half-naked super heroines than a head devoid of sleep. I'd need my strength.

Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.

:: to be continued ::