Baltimore gets to be the center of the comic book universe this weekend, thanks to the 20th annual Baltimore Comic-Con. For three days, comics fans and the men and women who create them, sell them and collect them will gather at the convention center to celebrate the many joys of panel-by-panel storytelling. It’s a costumed, super-powered, endlessly imaginative bacchanal, open to only the coolest among us. (And you know that means you!)
Need convincing? Here are a half-dozen reasons why the comic-con should be your go-to destination this weekend. And if you’re still not sure by the time you finish reading this, remember: not going to the Baltimore Comic-Con makes Hulk very, very angry. And you won’t like Hulk when he’s angry.
1) We live in a Superhero world
Face it, comic-book superheroes are our civilization’s modern mythology, and we can’t seem to get enough of them. Every time characters from the Marvel Universe appear onscreen, it seems, movie studios can count on raking in a cool $1 billion or so: of the top-10 worldwide box-office hits of all time, four are “Avengers” movies, topped by the $2.8 billion “Avengers: Endgame” brought in (“Black Panther” just missed hitting the top-10, holding down spot No. 11 with $1.35 billion). And they aren’t all Marvel movies, either: “Aquaman” is No. 22, at $1.15 billion. Have any doubts about the pervasive cultural presence of superheroes these days? Try counting the number of Spider-Men, Wonder Women, Batmen and Hulks that show up on Halloween night.
Yep, superheroes are everywhere. And nearly all of them trace their real-life origins to a medium that got its start right here in the good old U.S. of A., back in the 1930s, when Superman made his debut (1938, to be exact).
2) Meet (many of) your heroes
More than 150 are on the guest list for this year’s convention, from superstar artist Neal Adams (who was drawing Superman, Batman and The X-Men back in the 1960s) and his son, Joel, to Mike Zeck, who’s drawn Captain America, The Punisher and Spider-Man for Marvel. There’s also writer and editor Louise Simonson, artist (and DC comics executive) Jim Lee, Italian artist Francesco Francavilla (“The Black Beetle”), writer Any Chu (“Red Sonja”), sci-fi author and illustrator Carla Speed McNeil, cover artist Greg Horn — heck, it would almost be easier to list who won’t be here. Many will be simply sitting at tables, anxious to interact with fans, maybe sign a book or two. Most of the artists will have examples of their work for sale, maybe even offering to draw on commission. Few industries are as fan-friendly as the comics; take advantage of the opportunity.
3) Selfies galore
The Baltimore Comic-Con tries to keep its focus squarely on comic books, but that doesn’t preclude it from bringing in guests from other media as well. Past years have included Lynda Carter (TV’s original Wonder Woman), Mike Colter (TV’s “Luke Cage”) and Wil Wheaton (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”). There may be no media guests of that caliber this year, but the lineup ain’t bad: voice actors Tara Strong and Greg Cipes, actors Aaron Douglas (“Battlestar Galactica”) and Joel Stoffer (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), and Maryland’s own Johnathan Schaech (Jonah Hex on “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”). Autographs and photo opps will be available, at prices ranging from $30-$40.
4) Costumes aren’t just for Halloween
This may be the coolest thing to do at any fan convention: Get dressed up like your favorite superhero or other comic-book character. Just think of the fun as you walk around the Inner Harbor sporting Batman’s cape, Wonder Woman’s tiara or Thor’s hammer. True, some people will stare as though you’re some kind of weirdo, but what do they know? Even if you’re not enough of an extrovert to wear a costume yourself, take the time to admire those who do. Some folks work for months to get their look just right, and it shows, from the intricate webwork on Spider-Man’s mask to the Kryptonian symbols adorning Superman and Supergirl. Most don’t mind having their pictures taken, either, although it’s always polite to ask first. Excelsior, heroes!
5) Panels are super fun
Aspiring comic-books writers and artists can take advantage of all the talent assembled here to seek a little guidance in the career department; many artists (though not all) will be glad to offer a free critique of your work. For more formalized advice, check out such panels as “Breaking Into Comics” (2 p.m. Friday), “Crowdfunding Your Comic” (4:30 p.m. Friday), “Writing Perfect Panel Descriptions for Comics” (11 a.m. Saturday), “Publishing Your First Comic” (1:30 p.m. Sunday) and “Insider Secrets on How to Build a Successful Career as a Creator” (2:45 p.m. Sunday). Listen hard, and maybe you can be a guest at a future comic-con.
6) Collect some comics
Does any hobby combine art, literature and pop culture better than comic book collecting? With roots going back more than eight decades (heck, they go back further than that, if you consider that newspaper comics were a 19th-century creation), comic books are Americana stretching over generations; your granddad probably read “Superman,” while your mom kept up with the adventures of the Black Widow and your brother probably got you hooked on Deadpool. The typical stories and artwork have changed over the years, and characters are constantly coming and going and coming back again; comic books come in a near-endless variety. And chasing down those back issues — Detective Comics and Actions Comics, DC titles that have chronicled Batman and Superman, respectively, since the 1930s, have been around for more than 1,000 issues — can take years; you’ll never have more fun in any quest. Sure, some key issues could set you back a few years’ pay (going for $100,000 and more), but most books can be had a lot cheaper than that, often $1 or less. So come on down to the comic-con, and finally find that issue of “The Fantastic Four” you need to complete the run.
If you go
The Baltimore Comic-Con runs Oct. 18-20 at the Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St. Hours are 1 p.m.-7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25-$35 per day, $65-$165 for three-day passes. baltimorecomiccon.com.