Heroes Con 2012: If Your Hands Are Ink Free, You’re Not Doing It Right

A news site I occasionally write for called Heroes Con “The Best Comic Convention You’ve Never Attended." Tell that to the throngs of fans streaming out of the Charlotte Convention Center on Saturday morning to get into the show. This is my fourth year set up at Heroes Con and it was easily the busiest. And don’t assume that the attendees were all hardcore comics fans. Many of the people who came to my table spoke about how this was their first time attending a comic book convention. They were loving it.

I have a theory why. It’s very simple: Heroes Con is the best comic book convention in America. At the very least it’s my favorite. That’s what I told a woman working on a Kickstarter documentary about the convention when she stopped by. It’s family friendly; comics focused and has some of the most pleasant fans and creators of any show I’ve attended. There’s a relaxed vibe to Heroes that is almost familial. This was my first time attending the show solo and going in I was a little nervous about that. But my peers and neighbors always made me feel welcome, while the fans were friendly and upbeat.

As some of you who follow me through social media may know, I’ve been struggling with a bad case of bronchitis for the last three weeks. I’m not contagious (so don’t blame your con crud on me!) but I was definitely concerned I wasn’t going to be able to keep up the pace for the three days straight. On the contrary the show reinvigorated me with energy. Every morning I felt a little better (I also attribute this to the Westin’s amazing fried waffles).

I also began a Kickstarter campaign the day before the show for an original graphic novel I’m working on with Kelly Williams called THE CABINET. By the time I reached my hotel on Thursday night we’d already broken $1,000 in donations! Many people I met on the floor at Heroes had either already supported us or had heard the news and were going to help us afterward. It was very encouraging!

Both during the show and after hours I was able to spend time with my comics friends, get some products from creators I’m a fan of and also meet new people.

On Sunday I got a quick sketch from Jaime Hernandez and got to chat with him about inking techniques he recommends. I’ve been obsessing over his cross hatching and spot black style so his advice was extraordinarily helpful.

A few months back I mail ordered Nathan Fox’s art book and he included some neat HAUNT themed coasters with the package. I had a brief chance to get him to sketch on the back of one of these and we talked about FLUORESCENT BLACK and my time growing up in Singapore, where the story is set.

The only comic I bought at the convention was Tom Scioli’s AMERICAN BARBARIAN. I’ve only read the first 20 pages so far but it’s incredibly fun and imaginative. “Two Tank Omen Is Coming!” Tom was at the convention after party as well and we talked about Steve Ditko’s work and the new omnibus editions published of his DC work.

My roommates for the show were Dave Wachter (Guns of Shadow Valley, Night of 1000 Wolves, That Hellbound Train) and Chad Cicconi(Fracture and Action Lab Entertainment). We had a great time feasting on breakfast buffets and talking shop after each long day.

Ben Towle - Photo by Adhouse Books

I was seated next to Ben Towle at the convention. This allowed me to steal parts of his soul to make my comics better. Ben’s been a big influence on me online, providing technique advice and illustration encouragement. It was awesome to watch him work, especially when he had to quickly put together a Star Wars piece for Saturday’s art auction. The guy’s a consummate professional and seriously underrated in my opinion. Check out his work.

Other comics friends I touched base with: Rich Barrett, Daniel Govar, Matt Wilson, Robert Wilson IV, Henry Eudy, Tim Callahan, Herc and Rob Anderson. It was great to talk technique, industry ideas and production processes with these guys.

I met a lot of new people at this show. Dave’s booth neighbor was a guy named Logan Faerber. This guy has some serious chops and I can’t wait to see him lay down a completed comic. His style reminded me of a Thurop Van Orman’s work on THE MARVELOUS MISADVENTURES OF FLAPJACK, mixed with the detailed brush strokes of Paul Pope or Nathan Fox.

Jamal Igle sat down with us for a while on Saturday night and we talked about the ins and outs of Kickstarter. Jamal’s working on his own comic called MOLLY DANGER that he’s incredibly enthusiastic about. I’ve never heard another creator talk so passionately about their work. He seems very excited about producing something great for all-ages readers.

I already knew Charlie Harper from the Sidebar podcast forums, but wasn’t aware of Firetower Studios, which also includes Jason Strutz and Jeremy Whitely. Jeremy also writes the series PRINCELESS for Action Lab, which was selling like hot cakes all weekend. We had a couple of drinks with these guys and I was surprised to find out this morning that Jeremy was already a reader of my work on BORDER CROSSINGS.

Rafer Roberts does comics under the Plastic Farm Press banner. He very quickly became our go to guy when we arrived at the Westin’s bar every night. A great guy with a gregarious personality and good taste in comics.

Robert Wilson introduced me to David Marquez and Tara Ari when I first arrived on Thursday night. We ran into them repeatedly through the weekend and they were always great for conversation. They live in Austin and since I travel there every March for South By Southwest it was nice to compare notes with some locals about what there is best in life.

Finally, I got to meet and have dinner with Jason Folkes and his lady on Saturday. Jason’s part of the Alphabet Collective that includes Ben, Rich, Henry, Andrew Neal myself and others. He’s currently working on a series of A-Z X-men pieces. He’s been super supportive of my work this year and it was great to talk with him. He also lives in the coolest named place in America: “Kill Devil Hills.” I’m going to have to include that in the demonology comic I’m working on for 2013.

As I was driving back to Atlanta yesterday, listening to Stephen King’s short audio book “Lunch At the Gotham Café” I was thinking about how this was probably the most positive year I’ve had at Heroes Con ever. I’ve grown comfortable with myself as a creator and don’t run around trying to pitch my work or scrape together face time with publishers anymore. I was perfectly content to let the chips fall as they may because at Heroes Con they always land in a winning way.