Some 4,000 comic fans made their way to the Convention Center for last year's Baltimore Comic-Con, and even more are expected for this weekend's fourth annual gathering of the local faithful.
But neither those numbers nor the fans' commitment to their medium surprises Marc Nathan, the Reisterstown comic-store owner who organizes the conventions. Comic collectors, he notes, have the advantage of being large enough in number to warrant such gatherings, but small enough in number that they'll doubtless run into someone they know - a fellow collector, an aspiring comic artist or maybe even one of the genre's biggest names.
"It's the only form of entertainment where you can get this close and meet the people who actually do the entertaining," says Nathan, whose shop, Cards, Comics and Collectibles, celebrates its 20th birthday in May. "You can walk up and talk to George Perez or Jim Lee; you can't do that to Tom Cruise. This is the only art form I know where people are this accessible to their fans."
Not coincidentally, both Lee (whose words and pictures have appeared in everything from The Fantastic Four to Batman) and Perez (artist on Wonder Woman, Teen Titans and the Avengers, among myriad other titles) will be at this weekend's convention, set for Saturday and Sunday at the Baltimore Convention Center. Nathan is proud of the 70-plus guests he's getting to come to the show, a roster that also includes Mark Waid (JLA), Mike Kaluta, Adam Hughes, Erik Larsen and Marylander Frank Cho (Liberty Meadows).
"We really hit a home run with this year's guest list," says Nathan.
In addition to the artists, writers and other professionals, there'll be plenty of comic-book dealers at the show, 130 at last count, enough to sate even the most discriminating collector. Even with Internet sales rising exponentially, Nathan notes, there's nothing like negotiating with a dealer face-to-face, seeing all the latest graphic novels displayed together in one place or riffling through a box of comic books and finally finding that one issue you've been searching for.
"Walking around and being able to be around people who like the same things that you do - that's something you don't get from Internet sales. At a convention, you're around people who understand what you're talking about."
Convention hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $15 per day, $25 for both days; kids 10 and under get in free. Information: 410-526-7410.
For more family events, see Page 45.