Saturday, September 7, 2019

Best! Weekend! Ever! (or, "Tales of TerrifiCon 2019, Part One") ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post

Up until about a week before TerrifiCon 2019, I was admittedly getting carried away. Between comic professionals whom I wanted to get signatures from, and media personalities whom I also wanted to get signatures from, I had a list of roughly three dozen people whose autographs I hoped to obtain. If you want to see my original list, minus a few last-minute add-ons by TerrifiCon, click here.

Luckily, almost a month before the convention, my sanity returned. I realized that there were several comic creators whose signatures I planned to get who didn't really matter to me. It was getting to be more like "Hey, Joe Artist is going to be at TerrifiCon! I must have something in my flea market stock I can have him sign!"

Well, two things finally occurred to me: 1. I'd be "collecting" things that didn't have all that much personal meaning for me. 2. Since most artists and writers charge a fee for signatures... I'd be wasting money. Ooh. Can't have that.

There were three cancellations, unfortunately, those being writer/artist Keith Giffen (who'd cancelled last year as well), writer Marv Wolfman (whom I'd met at TerrifiCon 2017), and one of the biggest "name" artists on my list, writer/artist George Perez.

Something else that saved me a s***load of money was when I found out how much the movie and TV celebrities were getting for their autographs. I won't name names here, but the lowest was $30, and the highest was more than $100.

And so... I crossed every last one of them off my must-get list. (The biggest disappointment was having to purge Val Kilmer. I've always been a fan of his, but I loved him as Doc Holliday in Tombstone.)

Okay, before I actually stop rambling and start telling about my two-day weekend (Friday and Saturday, August 9th and 10th), allow me to point out that I've arranged all my little anecdotes to accommodate my outline, so my stories will not be in chronological order.

Let us begin.

The first comic pro I visited was the lovely and charming Barbara Friedlander. As I told here, TerrifiCon 2018 was Barbara's very first convention. I was the one who told her she had a table where she could sit and greet fans. (How she'd missed that fact I'll never know, as TerrifiCon's head honcho Mitch Hallock seems to have almost everything down to a science.) I also had a nice chat with her last year, explaining how and why comic professionals usually charge for their signatures.

This year's TerrifiCon was Barbara's third convention ever, if I understood her correctly. She and I discussed the merits of TerrifiCon, and she implied that she may make this the only convention she'll regularly attend. Our conversation lasted fifteen minutes, maybe more. I loved the information I learned from her, and she seemed a bit surprised at the comic lore that I knew. Evidently, she has yet to learn that at a comic convention, people like myself are hardly an anomaly.

As far as obtaining Barbara's signature once again, she was recently the subject of a lengthy article in the 157th issue of Alter Ego, the comic fanzine edited by Roy Thomas. Since the cover didn't feature Barbara, I had her autograph the first page of the article itself.

I got to see Barbara later at not one, but two different panels. The first was Friday's "Romance Comics with Barbara Friedlander," a title which kinda speaks for itself. The second was Saturday's "Growing Up Is Hard to Do," a panel where several industry pros talked mainly about changes that have taken place in the Archie Comics during the past few years.

One of the great things about comic conventions is that one frequently gets to talk with the pros long enough to make some sort of impression on them so that they remember you from one meeting to the next. Before the first panel, Barbara waved to me and later even gestured toward me when one thing or another was mentioned that she and I had discussed at her table.

Starting in 1959 or so, I've been a comic book reader, collector, dealer, historian, and even the writer of a handful of comics. But the above-mentioned sort of interaction still gives me what comic and sci-fi fandom calls the "goshwow" factor.

There were plenty of goshwows at this year's TerrifiCon!

One of the comic artists I obtained a signature from was Jae Lee. Lee came to prominence in the early 1990s, at a time when far too many of the "fan favorite" artists seemed to have similar styles of drawing. His style was radically different, something I commented on and complimented him for. (Hey, if I didn't like his style, I wouldn't have stood there waiting for him to sign my book, would I?)

One thing I like to do whenever possible is bring something for a creator to sign that someone else probably didn't bring. If Joe Pro has a line where half the fans are having him sign the first issue of Captain Prunesqualor, I want to be the one to make him say, "Hey! This is the nude sketch I drew of my high school girlfriend on the back of a McDonald's bag in 1974. Where the hell did you get this?"

Sometimes what I bring gets a reaction like that. Sometimes not. When I met Jim Starlin last year, one of the books I had him sign was a copy of Star*Reach #1, something I thought would be obscure enough to provoke a reaction. Nope. What he did notice and comment on was that my copy of The Death of Captain Marvel was a first printing. Then he and I discussed how he sneaked Superman onto the back cover of a Marvel graphic novel.

Which segues into the following two stories.

This year, one of the convention guests was Bob Rozakis, best known as a writer for DC Comics who also worked in their production department. Rozakis was also known as DC's "Answer Man," in a long-running feature in DC's titles.

Bob Rozakis and artist Stephen DeStephano created a character called 'Mazing Man in the mid-1980s. "Maze," as he was known, was a slightly addled little fellow who thought of himself as a superhero, and always wore a costume. His superheroics were mostly confined to things like unclogging drains, rescuing treed cats, and babysitting. (The 'Mazing Man character was described in much greater details in my post "The Skivvied Superheroes, Part One.")

The 'Mazing Man series wasn't a big success in terms of sales, but it was critically acclaimed. Personally, I loved it.

I thought I'd pleasantly surprise Bob Rozakis by bringing a 'Mazing Man promotional poster that DC released before the series itself premiered. These posters were sent to retail comic shops, so I assumed they'd be in relatively short supply.

Well! When I made my way to Bob Rozakis' table, I saw that he was selling complete collections of 'Mazing Man, and Hero Hotline (another series he did with DeStefano). The 'Mazing Man collections had all twelve issues, three later one-shots, a 'Mazing Man appearance from DC's Secret Origins title...

...and that damned poster.

Bob Rozakis had a ton of 'em.

I had him sign it anyway.

Seated next to Bob Rozakis was Paul Kupperberg, whom I'd met last year. Between Friday and Saturday, I ended up talking to both of them quite a bit... mostly asking about the ever-changing start time for a panel called "A Look Back at DC History with Bob Rozakis." It was kinda fun how they'd both smile and wave to me whenever I walked by their tables... which was often.

There was someone else whom I was hoping to "ambush" with my choice of an item or items which I wanted signed. Greg Hildebrandt (with and without his late brother Tim) has long been associated with fantasy illustrations, movie posters, calendars, and much more than I should list in a post that's already dragged on for this long.

In the mid-1990s, however, Greg and Tim Hildebrandt spent a year illustrating a comic strip, a revival of the classic Terry and the Pirates, arguably the greatest adventure comic strip ever. The original strip was created by Milt Caniff in 1934 and was later helmed by George Wunder. It lasted until 1973.

Terry and the Pirates was rebooted for the 1990s by writer Michael Uslan, with the Brothers Hildebrandt slated to do the art chores. None of the Massachusetts papers carried the feature, but being a big fan of the Milt Caniff original, I coerced a Webster, Massachusetts, newsdealer to secure me a daily copy of New York's Daily News so I could follow the strip!

When I approached Greg's table, he was busy speaking with someone else. I approached his wife and manager, Jean Scrocco. I asked her about Mr. Hildebrandt's fee for signatures, and then showed her the three Terry and the Pirates Sunday pages that I'd brought.

You should have seen her eyes bug out.

She excitedly called Greg over and told me that I was the very first to bring him Terry and the Pirates Sunday strips to sign.

Greg told me the same thing during a conversation that lasted approximately twenty minutes. He and I talked about our mutual love for the original Milt Caniff comic strip, and how intimidated he and Tim had been to participate in the '90s update, and... well... all sorts of other things pertaining to their take on the strip.

It was Greg's idea to get a photo of himself, me, and the very first Terry Sunday that I'd had him autograph. I hate being photographed, but in this instance, how could I possibly refuse?

Two handsome, white-haired, bearded gents. I'm the shorter one.

This whole meeting with Greg Hildebrandt occurred before I'd spent two full hours at TerrifiCon 2019 on Friday, August 9th. And my weekend got even better, as it turned out.

You'll see.

Now. As it happens, even this relatively trimmed version of my TerrifiCon story will take five chapters, so I'm going to post them as they're written rather than space them out for a month. Therefore, you can pretty much ignore the literal interpretation of "Comical Wednesday" while this story unfolds. It'll be more like "Comical Whenever the Hell I Feel Like It!"

And if you read this, please comment? Especially if you came here from Facebook. Thank you.

And thanks for your time.


  1. It sounds like you had a fantastic time. I find it amazing how much you know about comics. I never realized how much work went into one until I started reading your posts.

    It must be thrilling for you to meet an artist and discuss his or her work. To have your photo taken is an honor indeed. Very nice!

    Thanks for sharing as I wondered how it all played out.

    Take care!

    1. Yes, it really can be lots of fun discussing work you've enjoyed with a person who helped to create it. And as far as the photos, I'm pretty camera-shy, but I made an exception for Greg Hildebrandt because he wanted a photo due to the little surprises I brought for him to sign. That felt great, so how could I say no?

      I allowed a few more photos that weekend, too. You'll see!


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