The fine folks over at Wizard have re-branded several of their conventions, and the formerly-known Wizard World Chicago is now the Chicago Comic Con. My very first convention appearance EVER was at Wizard World’s 10th Anniversary Chicago Convention in the summer of 2006. The 2009 Chicago Comic Con marked my 4th Chicago art appearance, and my 10th show with Wizard over all.
This time around, I was asked to make a comic book chalk art mural of the Ultimate Avengers from Marvel Comics as the guest of honor was the famous Mark Millar, the writer who began that line back in 2001, and has since returned to continue the story. The art, by Carlos Pacheco, was originally the cover for Wizard Issue 213 and was the program cover for the Chicago Comic Con itself.
Getting up beyond early, I caught my flight from Binghamton and travelled pretty much error free to Chicago arriving in the early afternoon. Since we hadn’t decided on my exact location at the convention, I had to arrive without having drawn the sketch beforehand (a process that normally takes 5 to 7 hours) since I wouldn’t know how big to scale the piece until a spot was decided upon. We agreed that the lobby was the best location, and that the flow of traffic would be non-stop… and man were we right. Due to some confusion with the Union guys that set up shows at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, I was stuck sitting in the middle of the lobby for about an hour and a half waiting for stanchions that would barricade off my spot and hopefully keep people from walking across the art as I worked. At this point, with blank paper and a show that started in under a half an hour, I can say that I was more than a little stressed and overwhelmed. But after my spot was sorted out I out all that aside and got to drawing.
My saving grace is that, unlike most conventions, the Chicago Comic Con is a four night show with a preview night on Thursday, and in the 4 hours that extra night provided I was able to sketch out the entire drawing at top speed as early convention attendees watched. I went to sleep Thursday night at a little more ease. Sure, I had 20-some hours of work still ahead of me, but I was convinced I could complete the art now that I was back on schedule. The following three days were a blur of coloring and rendering as I slowly brought the 9 feet wide by 12 feet tall mural to vibrant life. My back hurt, my fingers hurt, but I got into that artistic zone I always find myself in at shows and the rest flowed smoothly on to the paper.
The night programming was some of the best I have ever experienced at a convention to date. Mark Millar’s night time panel co-hosted by Wizard’s Mike Cotton was laugh out loud hilarious. It helped that both were freely drinking before and during the full panel and were well on their way to being plastered. Mr. Millar is a genuinely nice and entertaining guy with a fantastic sense of humor and talent by the bucket-load, I am only sorry that being the Guest of Honor made him too busy to see the finished mural.
The parties I attended were packed with great people that the fan in me couldn’t help but get excited about. Doug Jones, known as Abe Sapien (and a number of other characters) from the Hellboy movies is probably the nicest guy I have ever met… ever… PERIOD! Camden Toy is well known as one of the very creepy Gentlemen from the HUSH episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When not in make-up he is funny, friendly and an overall great guy to hang out with. Jerome Blake was best know by me as Rune Haako, the more sensible of the two Neimoidian Trade Federation Aliens in the Star Wars prequels who died at Darth Vader’s hand on Mustafar. He is also an amazingly smart and talented actor who was beyond generous with his stories and advice as I bent his ear for far too long on several nights. Add to that people like Todd Bridges from Different Strokes, the original Boba Fett Jeremy Bulloch, Rowdy Roddy Piper (who says the oddest request he gets at conventions is for him to put people in a sleeper hold and knock them out) and Mr. Smooth Billy Dee Williams… and I am set with name dropping for the next year or so.
I am not sure how future conventions can top this one, but I am more than willing to try. Below are a bunch of photos from the show, some are costumes and such, the rest are progress and finished photos of the Ultimate Avengers Chalk Mural. Enjoy, and feel free to comment away!