The Baltimore Comic-Con bills itself as “America’s Greatest Comic Book Convention,” and we’re not going to argue the point. With more than 150 vendors, more than 175 industry guests and scores of cosplayers (outfitted as everyone from Ant-Man to Zatanna) descending on the convention center, it’s hard to imagine anywhere else the true comics fan — or even someone just into comics a little bit — would want to be this weekend.
Veteran conventioneers already have their weekend planned out, but for those new to this comic-book bacchanal, here are 10 suggestions for maximizing your Baltimore Comic-Con experience. Keep at least a few of these in mind, and we can pretty much guarantee you a good time.
As comics legend Stan Lee would doubtless put it, “Excelsior!”
Dress in costume It’s not required, but wandering the convention center in your best Batman, Spider-Man or Supergirl costume proves that you’re A) into the spirit of things; B) creative; and C) proud to be a member of comics fandom. You can buy an already-made costume if you like, but real fans make their own, and results are often stunning — have your camera or phone ready. And don’t forget the finer details: A few years back, a guy was walking around wearing a killer Thor costume, complete with a hammer that must have weighed about 20 pounds. For the full effect, be sure to enter — or, at the very least, watch — the costume contests, set for 3 p.m. Saturday (adults) and 2:30 p.m. Sunday (kids 17 and under).
Enter the Dealers’ Room with a goal in mind With more than 150 vendors setting up, wandering the convention’s sales floor can be intimidating. Best to have a specific goal in mind — maybe completing that run of ’90s X-Men comics you’ve been working on, or finding a high-grade copy of Detective Comics #300, or picking up that Iron Man figurine you’ve been saving for (those things can be pricey, but shop around — bargains can be had). And when you buy it, that feeling of “mission accomplished” can’t be beat.
Find the artist who draws your favorite character This is seriously cool: If you’re a fan of Wonder Woman, artist Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez will be at the convention; if you’re into My Little Pony, Andy Price will be there; if you’re into Archie and the gang, Dan Parent will be there. Scores of comic-book artists will be at the con, in fact, and most will gladly sign anything you put in front of them; many, for a fee, will even do a sketch that’ll look great, framed and hanging on your wall.
Check out a presentation or panel discussion With subjects ranging from “Elfquest – 40 Years of Pointed Ears" (2:30 p.m. Friday) to “Comics with a Point of View: Yours and MINE!" (2:45 p.m. Sunday), there’s bound to be some subject you’d like to learn more about. Hear what the experts have to say, share your own views with fans of similar tastes, maybe catch up with some old friends — or make some new ones.
Attend the Ringo Awards “An annual celebration of the creativity, skill and fun of comics," the awards, named in honor of comic-book artist Michael Lance “Mike” Wieringo, will be handed out in ceremonies Saturday that include a 7 p.m. reception, 8 p.m. dinner and 9 p.m. awards presentation. Tickets are $125.
Rub elbows with a TV or movie star This year’s guest list includes not only a scazillion comic artists and writers, but a handful of movie and TV stars as well, including Mike Colter (“Luke Cage”), Zachary Levi (“Shazam!”), Katrina Law (“Arrow”), Erin Gray (“Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”), Sherilyn Fenn (“Twin Peaks”) and more. Autographs and photo opps will cost you, but why not indulge?
Step outside and watch the public’s reaction This is always fun: take a walk along Pratt Street or around nearby Oriole Park at Camden Yards or Harborplace, look at all the costumed comic-book fans walking around and watch as an unsuspecting public encounters Superman, Deadpool, Vampirella et al. wandering the streets of Baltimore. (There are Orioles games Friday and Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, which should make the streets even more crowded — and more fun to watch.)
Eat outside the convention center No disrespect to the food offered up on the convention floor (even though it ain’t great and seems expensive), but we recommend venturing outside for lunch or dinner. Check out the fine eateries at Harborplace or along Pratt Street, maybe even take the gang to Dempsey’s at Oriole Park (try the O’s flatbread or the Dempsey’s Tacos — delish).
Be sure to get a program, and treat it gently The Baltimore Comic-Con programs have become collectors’ items themselves, with covers featuring Captain America, Liberty Meadows, Superman, the Teen Titans, Hellboy and others. Use it as a handy guide for getting around the convention. but don’t be too rough with it — you’ll want to keep it in as pristine shape as possible, to add to your collection.
Pick up some Baltimore Comic-Con exclusives Several comic-book publishers will be offering books produced especially for this con, often featuring covers with a Baltimore theme. This year’s titles include “Strangers In Paradise,” “Skybourne,” “Faith” (with a cover of her flying over the National Aquarium) and others. Such spectacle!