This past weekend I attended Mid-Ohio Con at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. I've gone for a dozen or so years, and this was one of the better ones I attended and the first time I went for both days of the show. I came with a wantlist of about 45 comics. Thought I managed to find only six, I picked them all up for $2-3 apiece, finding a few other esoteric nuggets along the way. There were definitely a lot of bargains to be had on both old and new material. But, as Grandpa once advised me, "Don't go broke saving money."
The absolute highlight for me was getting a sketch by Chris Sprouse. Sprouse is a Columbus resident and Mid-Ohio regular. I asked if he would try his hand at drawing Steve Canyon. Since I brought Caniff reference art, he was more than game.
I stood with amazement as he sketched out Canyon's head in pencil, detailing the form and structure of the face like something out of an anatomy textbook. Sprouse's amazing craftsmanship is what makes him a solid artist.
Here's the finished piece. I'm proud to say it's Sprouse's first and only drawing of Steve Canyon.
My buddy Ted asked him to do Big Barda. I was tasked on going in search of reference, returning with a Jack Kirby 'Mister Miracle' comic. Sprouse spent a long time on this sketch, challenged by trying to find what makes Barda "work". After capturing every intricacy, filling in every black, Sprouse said, "Sorry, I kind of got carried away." Um, no apologies necessary, Chris. Seriously.
Sorry about using the cellphone photo. I forgot to scan these when we got back to home base. To Barda's right is a Cap sketch that Sprouse did for my pal Bill Wiist.
Another highlight was seeing Sergio Aragones again. MAD Magazine recently celebrated 50 years of Sergios' work in their magazine with a hardcover retrospective.
I have a varied, yet incomplete, collection of the 18 paperbacks Sergio did for Warner Books. Here he is signing three different editions of the same book for me.
The next day, Sergio sat on a dais and made a large Groo drawing on posterboard for a charity auction. I stood for awhile and watched him work. It's fascinating to me how he seems to have the whole thing in his head, and he's just filling it in. Or how he will draw in smooth, seemingly effortless strokes, unafraid to be working in indelible Sharpie.
Sergio would draw a bit, sit back, assess the work in progress, and then move on. More often than not, he was adding little detail flourishes that no one else would miss but he knew must be there. Truly a master cartoonist at work.
Not much grabbed me in the way of programming, but the con moved so fast I don't how I would have spared the time. I did attend the Kurt Busiek panel moderated by the always dependable Beau Smith. Both were letter column hacks who turned pro, so they had an interesting connection. I'll admit I haven't read any Busiek since he left 'Conan' in 2007, but it was an interesting talk from a writer who loves comics. I took particular note on his theory of when comics declined in popularity. Most say it was in the 1980s, when newsstand distribution was dropped in favor of specialty comic shops. Busiek takes it all the way back to 1946, when Superman was outselling Time Magazine and both were 10 cents. Time raised their price to 15-cents to cover increased costs. Comic book publishers reduced the number of pages instead of raising prices. Newsstands and stores in turn gave less rack space to comics because they made less from them. The comic spinner rack, Busiek said, which we view with nostalgia, was actually a bad sign of comics being marginalized. He's interested in where technology, such as the iPad, is taking us. And while he's glad 40-year old men like reading about Superman, he sees the fact that kids aren't reading about Superman as a significant problem. Amen, brother.
Like most cons, there were plenty of costumed characters to go around, particularly on Saturday when they had a costume contest. I'm not sure who won, but the movie camera-ready Chewbacca up top gets my vote. However, it's the scantily clad and/or buxom costume wearers who get the most attention. I've no idea why.
All photos by Matt Tauber, except -
Photos with Matt in them by Ted Haycraft
Barda/Cap sketch photo and Busiek/Smith photo by Bill Wiist