Awesome Con 2024 – Now With 100% MORE Awesome!

So, for the better part of a decade, Awesome Con has been held in DC, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, sort of serving as the unofficial “DC Comic-Con”. I went a few times in the early years, as it was nice to finally have a convention I could get to by Metro. That said, I – and a lot of the friends I’ve spoken to about it – never really felt like the show knew what it wanted to be. After all, it emerged in the wake of Hollywood’s takeover of San Diego Comic-Con, so the con circuit was moving more towards a “celebration of pop culture” model. This meant fewer comic vendors, and more Build You Own Lightsaber booths, as well as celebrity guests, such as #4 on the call sheet for the latest Freeform drama. After about three years of that, I just stopped going altogether, as Baltimore Comic Con had more of what I was into. Then Covid sort of rocked the convention industry, and it took a bit for shows to get back in operation. Even with those gap years, it didn’t exactly make me long for Awesome Con, and I only made my return last year because my local comic shop gave me a free pass. And it was just like I remembered it: C-list celebrity photo ops, those dumb “buy this cup and get fancy soda/beer refills all con” booths, and only about 4 comic vendors. So, I had no real intention to go back this year, but then my local shop gave me a pass once again.

With three free days at my disposal, I decided to switch things up. You see, I haven’t really done signings in over a decade, after I had a less than positive experience meeting a certain creator in Baltimore. Since then, I really just used cons to find deals on junk and meet up with folks. This year, I decided, would be my grand return to meeting creators and getting autographs. I went through the guest list to find all of the comic pros who’d be attending, and then I started figuring out what I wanted each to sign. This wasn’t easy, as I made this decision at the last minute, and my collection is in disarray. So, for some of these, I actually went out and bought new copies of the books instead of trying to dig mine out. This also where facsimile editions and reprints proved to be useful, as I was planning to frame some of these, but you can’t tell the difference from afar, plus I don’t want to mar the actual comic.

To really lock things in, so I wouldn’t bail at the last minute, I pre-bought a photo op with David Yost and Walter Emmanuel Jones – better known as the original Blue and Black Rangers from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Now, I never set out to meet the entire team. I wanted to meet Jason David Frank (Green/White) and that was enough. After his sudden passing, however, I sort of felt like I should get to them all while they’re still here (or not serving a prison sentence!). And this was a chance to knock out two with one stone! So, I paid a not small amount of money to smile in front of a backdrop with these guys, meaning I had to at least go to the show on Friday. So, what follows is my weekend at Awesome Con 2024!

Day 1

So, the photo op. Due to some work emergencies, I didn’t get to head out to the show as early as I’d planned. I reserved a parking space on the way, and the garage was a 7-minute walk to the convention center. This meant I hit the con floor at 4:35, for a picture scheduled for 4:40! I was sweating like a whore in church, and trying to sop it up with my jacket. They herded us through like cattle, so I didn’t really get to say much to the guys, which sucked, because 13 year-old Will would have never believed this was happening! I’m not sharing the picture because I never realized they were so small, so I come off looking like the MMPR Monster of the Day between them. Nice guys, though.

Awesome Con had an official app, which listed all of the guests, as well as their location in the center. There was even a feature where you could Favorite the ones you wanted to meet, sort of giving you an itinerary. Since the show wasn’t too crowded on Friday, I decided to hit as many creators from my list that I could, so I wouldn’t have to worry about them later in the weekend. Funny story, though: The show is downstairs, so the app didn’t work. None of the features were available offline. None of the Favorites were stored offline. So, I just had to navigate by my homemade list, as well as try to get a slim signal to get to the website to find a creator’s location. My first stop was artist Mark Bagley, whom I knew as the original artist on Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man series, written by Brian Michael Bendis.

Now, this is probably a great time to tackle an issue I’m having with modern-day cons. Ya see, back when I started going to conventions, you got to really interface with the creators, who were just sitting at these folding tables (the kind they put people through in pro wrestling), and chat with them about how much you enjoyed certain stories, get autographs, etc. The creators were paid by the con, and they were just glad to meet their “adoring public”. I can understand, however, that some fans abused that access, and began to have these creators sign stacks of books, which would then be sold on eBay. So, the creators, wanting their piece of the pie, decided that they weren’t going to just give this access away for free. Yes, they were still being paid by the convention, but now they were also gonna make a lil pocket money by charging for signatures. I get it and, in the beginning, the prices were reasonable. That, however, is no longer the case. As I document my weekend, you’re going to see just how high some of those prices got.

Anyway, at a recent con, right after Covid, I met Larry Hama, and he was doing an interesting thing: if you wanted a blanket signature, it was going to cost you. However, if you wanted a personalized signature, such as “To Will!”, then it was free. The idea is that a personalization lessens the resale potential unless I have a customer base comprised solely of other guys named “Will” (which kind does sound like something I’d do!). I like this model, and I have absolutely no qualms with having my name on these books. Luckily, Bagley had adopted the same model.

I’d actually brought about six books for him to sign, but I didn’t want to seem greedy – especially since these were free signatures. We chatted about how I was an Ultimate Marvel Completist, and how much I loved his work on that book. He doesn’t get enough credit, as he was the consummate professional, meeting his deadlines and turning in quality work. I had bought that Ultimate Spider-Man #1 reprint a few years back, as it already had the Bendis signature. I never knew if it was authentic, so adding Bagley to it sort of “legitimized” it for me. Meanwhile, I don’t love the Fantastic Four, but I felt like this was a good cover of the whole family, in their “natural habitat”. And Ultimate Spider-Man #50 was a milestone issue, so I had to get it signed. To sort of repay him for his hospitality, I bought this Secret Wars print from him for $20, which he also signed:

Next up, I decided to go see artist Craig Rousseau. A lot of folks know him from his Young Hellboy work, but I was more interested in his Batman Beyond stuff. I had told myself I was also going to get a commission this con, and I decided he was the guy. Prior to the show, I’d checked out his website to see if he’d be doing commissions, and then I tweeted him to make sure. He was very communicative, and I told him that he’d be my first stop of the day – which he would have been, had I gotten there before my photo op, as I’d planned… The funny thing is I’m new to the world of Paid Commissions, as I usually get stuff from up and coming artists, who never charge. So, I knew I was dropping some money, but didn’t know how much. Anyway, I found his booth rather quickly, reminded him I was “The Guy from Twitter Yesterday”, and we started discussing what I wanted. I settled on Terry McGinnis Batman, with Old Man Bruce Wayne in the background. Ya never see enough Old Man Bruce stuff! It counted as 2 head sketches, so he took my info, I paid, and he said it would probably be done by the end of the show. Luckily, it was! I also ended up grabbing a Batman Beyond and a Batman ’66 print from him. Here’s how those turned out:

While I was on his website the day before, I noticed he’d also done a limited run of a book of art he’d done for concerts he’d seen. It just seemed like such a cool idea, and he’d brought copies with him, so I grabbed one of those, as well as some cool stickers:












My next stop was artist Yanick Paquette, and this is where the whole charging-for-signatures thing caught me off guard. Ya see, I understand that it happens, and I understand the why. All I ask is that you make it known you’re charging, via some kind of signage. When I walk up to Paquette’s table, he’s sketching, so I patiently wait for him to get to a stopping point, while looking around for any mention of pricing. I tell him how much I’ve enjoyed his work over the years, and I was wondering if he’d sign my books. He was like, “Oh, thanks. No problem!” Just as he’s signing my second book, this chick swoops out of nowhere, holding a Square, and she goes, “So, two signatures? That’ll be $11.” Don’t prostitutes have to negotiate the price upfront?! I didn’t mind paying, but I didn’t love how it was handled. Anyway, here’s how those books turned out:

Afterward, I swung by the booth of artist Matteo Scalera, whose work I’ve enjoyed on some recent Mark Millar books. I was sort of gun shy after the Paquette incident, and the first part played out the same way: He was sketching, I waited, saw nothing about price, complimented him, etc. After he signed, there was this awkward beat, where I hung around, half expecting that woman to pop up again, and him giving me the “Well, thanks…” look. I thanked him again, and hightailed it! Here’s his signature on King of Spies #4

Finally, there was the Big Fish of the day that led us to this point, and has driven the conversation regarding autograph pricing: Jeph Loeb. He’s something of a polarizing figure, but he’s done some Great stuff and some Not So Great stuff. Oddly enough, I tend to prefer his Not So Great stuff. So, when figuring out what to bring, I totally forgot about the marquee titles, like Superman/Batman, or his “Hush” storyline in Batman. No, I focused on his Marvel stuff instead. I wasn’t really impressed by the covers to a lot of his Ultimate Marvel work (Thanks a lot, Joe Mad…), so I opted for his critically acclaimed “color series” work with Tim Sale, from Captain America: White and Spider-Man: Blue. While waiting in his rather short line, I met a couple of nice guys and we started discussing the work we enjoyed of his. Of course they were smarter than I was, and were getting “Hush” and Superman for All Seasons signed! While we were waiting, Loeb’s Square attendant came over, and was like, “So, what are we doing today?” I said that I just wanted to get my books signed. I actually had about 6 in my bag, and how many got signed would depend on price. Well, those hopes were quickly dashed when he said, “OK, well, that will be $20 per signature.” While I was processing the amount he’d just said, he continued with, “And Jeph’s doing a special today where, for an additional $10, he’ll do a little head sketch.” Um, Jeph Loeb ain’t an artist! I kindly declined that, and decided on the 2 books you see here. So, after paying my $40 plus tax, it was my turn to meet the man. He was actually really friendly, and I told him how I loved his Ultimate stuff, as the line needed a shake-up. He lamented the fact that the fans didn’t seem to love it, and he was surprised they were trying it again now, but he didn’t see a lot of potential in the new books. He also told me how he’d planned a storyline where Magneto would move the Earth’s position on its axis, which would have catastrophic effects, and wouldn’t quickly be resolved. Unfortunately, either for him or us, he never got to tell that story. Great interaction, but not sure if it was $40 great. Anyway, here’s how those turned out:

After that punch to the wallet, I decided to spend the rest of my money on sales. I’m happy to say that this year there were at least 8 comic vendors, which was a 100% improvement! Might have even been 10. That said, there weren’t a lot of deals to be had. I mean, some booths were doing 50% off trades, but that’s nothing to write home about when my local stores, as well as and can pretty much match that. Nah, I was looking for $5 trades, and there weren’t any to be found. So, the trick to the 50% off thing is that a lot of this is dead stock – sometimes out of print. Plus, the older books had lower cover prices, so you just have to find a situation where the 50% off is applied to what’s already a low cover price. So, here’s what I walked away with the first day:

I was familiar with Batman: Blind Justice, as I have a few issues from that storyline, but the other 2 books were completely new to me. I liked the creative team on Wolverine/Gambit: Victims, while One Week In The Library looked interesting. I think I got the 3 for $15, or rather “almost a Jeph Loeb signature”. By this point, it was dark and I wanted to go home. Which I did!

Day 2

I had worn the wrong shoes on Friday, so all of that running around you just read about was done in boots. So, my feet hurt like a bitch once I got home. When I woke up Saturday morning, I was in pain, and it was pouring outside – not the type of weather conducive to a celebration of paper goods. So, I bailed. Spent the day at the mall with my family.

Day 3

By Sunday, I was still tired, and sort of felt like I’d done everything I set out to accomplish on Friday. Still, I hadn’t seen my friend Brandon in a bit, so I invited him to accompany me for the last day of the con. This day was much more crowded than Friday, understandably, but I still had some loose ends I wanted to tie up, as I hadn’t exactly hit all of the creators I’d wanted to see on Friday.

My first creator stop of the day was artist Ron Garney, as I’ve always been a fan of his Marvel work. Like with Loeb, I probably had about 6-8 different books of his in my bag, but I settled on these two when I learned of the $15 per signature fee. Whereas I’d had a nice interaction with Loeb, and felt like I was seen, this felt more like a “Leave the money on the nightstand” kind of affair. I mean, it was the final day of a 3-day con, so I’m sure he was over it by then. I just wish it hadn’t come across so…clearly.

I ended up going back to Mark Bagley, as I just loved that Ultimate Spider-Man series so much. And I had these 3 covers I really wanted signed. He didn’t remember me from Friday, but also didn’t really pressure me to buy anything. He also didn’t really have any other prints that I wanted it, so it was just a nice little “fling”. Nothing serious lol.

Next up, I swung by the booth of Archie artist Dan Parent, and got him to sign an old Free Comic Book Day book I’d brought. That signature was free, and I ended up buying an Archie Meets Batman ’66 print from him. Then, I met artist Arthur Adams, whom I’d missed on Friday. He was charging, but I ended up buying a print from him, too, so the prices are muddy for me. Maybe $15 for the signature and $35 for the print? Like Garney, though, he wasn’t really “feelin’ it”, and I had more interaction with the money changer than the man himself.

Because so many of us return to those who’ve wronged us, I found myself back at Jeph Loeb’s booth. I mean, I had to get something Batman signed by him, so I scoured my collection for some “Hush” reprints. Then, I remembered – like with Bendis – I had bought a Jim Lee autograph on a Batman #612 many moons ago that I wasn’t certain was authentic. So, I got Loeb to sign it, to “legitimize” it in my eyes, as well. I also found a promo copy of  Superman/Batman #1 that I’d gotten from Third Eye Comics around the time Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out. I tend to hate store stamps, but I love the folks at Third Eye, so I have no problem having their stamp on my book. So, I was in the hole for another $40. Also, gone was Jocular Jeph from mere days before. There was no conversation. No chatting. I was herded through just as I had been with Billy and Zack on Friday. So, the lesson here, kids, is to avoid meeting creators on the last day of a con!

Most cons have free swag, but I guess I missed all of that on Friday. So, all I managed to get were these 2 connecting covers for the Rick and Morty comic, over at the Awesome Con booth. After the signings, Brandon and I ran into my buddy, Bill, whom I’d met during my brief Funko Pop! addiction. He has since moved on to the world of original comic art, and has some amazing pieces that he showed us. He was on his way out for the weekend, however, so once we parted ways, we went in search of deals!

So, this first pic shows me breaking one of my cardinal rules: I only buy First Printings. That said, I always felt like I missed the boat by not getting the variants for the original Ultimate Marvel launch. Also, reprints used to have the same cover, with subtle changes, like the logo is a different color or something. However, new variants are all new art. The Third Printing of Ultimate Spider-Man #1 had been released that week, but I had missed out on the Second Printing. So, I decided to set out to find a deal on a Second Printing so I could get the Third. Have to go in order! I did not, however, find a “deal”. I pretty much paid cover for these, though I got the guy to knock a dollar off by saying “Come on – let me walk away feeling like I did something here.” Not my best moment! I grabbed the Sensational She-Hulk #31 for one reason, and one reason only – it’s a cover “appearance” by editor Renee Witterstaetter, who was scheduled to appear at the con, sharing a booth with Michael Golden. On Friday, Golden said that she hadn’t shown up and they were all waiting for her. On Sunday, the guy at the booth said, “Yeah, she never showed. We didn’t really get word til yesterday.” I was like “Oh, I hope she’s OK”, to which he replied, “Oh, yeah! She’s fine!” So, I guess she just blew it off because she didn’t wanna come? Whatever. I didn’t get my signature, but I also hadn’t paid the listed $10 for the book. I think I paid $6 or 7 from a booth at the show. I’d also been trying to track down a copy of Superman #9, as it has a Lex Luthor story I’d learned about from a podcast that I really wanted to read. Early John Byrne Superman is hard to find lately! Again, only paid about $7.

I returned to that 50% off trades vendor from Friday, and just tried to find anything that looked interesting/made the discount worthwhile. I’m slowly collecting The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, which might turn out to be dumb, as I’ll probably just buy a cheap omnibus at some point. I remember critical acclaim for Four Women when it came out, and it’s probably the only non-The Maxx Sam Kieth work I’m familiar with. I sort of danced around Superman during the “Ruin Revealed” era, so I was curious. I’d never heard of Clover Honey or Buzz Kill, but they both looked cool. Plus, the latter is apparently early Donny Cates work.

I found a different booth that was ALL 50% off trades. Now, we’ve all heard the strategy: Approach vendors near the end of the show for deals, as they don’t want to lug all of that stuff home. It’s the Unspoken Rule! It’s like tapping your foot at a urinal! Apparently, these dudes didn’t get the memo. It’s always funny when retailers try their lines on me because I worked for the distributor! I know how pricing works! So I had my meager stack here, and I pull the “Any Last Day of the Con discounts?” The old guy goes, “No, I’m giving up a lot just doing 50% off.” No, you’re not. It’s dead stock, and you bought these at a discount when publishers were liquidating stock in Diamond’s warehouses. Anyway, these were books I didn’t feel like waiting to show up from Amazon, so I just bit. I’d never read the Priest run of Black Panther, and he’s coming to the area for Big Lick Comic Con in Virginia next month. So, I grabbed the first 2 volumes there, as well as another volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. I’m always game for a “Greatest Stories Ever Told” collection for almost any character, so I grabbed the Superman book. Meanwhile, I’ve been talking mad shit about The Savage Dragon on social lately, but I’ve never read it. It has quite the vocal minority of a fan base, so I’m putting my money where my mouth is to see what the fuss is about with this first volume of the series.

Having felt I’d spent enough money, Brandon and I were getting ready to leave, but decided to take one more lap. That’s when I noticed the Third Eye Comics booth was selling EVERYTHING in their booth at 50% off. Now, THAT’S how you do a Last Day of the Con Sale! Comics, trade paperbacks, variants, etc. All half off. So, I took a stroll around the tables to see if anything left interested me. I grabbed Void Rivals, as it kicked off Robert Kirkman’s Energon Universe, where includes Transformers and G.I. Joe. I had read the issues that make up this volume, but it’s a great series, and it didn’t hurt to have it in collected form. Department of Truth is a series I’ve been collecting, but not reading. As a collector, it pains me that I somehow missed out on the debut of Something’s Killing The Children, as that’s one of the most expensive recent-ish key issues. So, now I pretty much buy the first issue of anything James Tynion IV writes, mainly because I’m scared it’ll be the next SIKTC and I don’t wanna miss out! I was buying this monthly, but then switched to trades. That said, I’ve never read a page of it. Might not even like it. FOMO is a cruel mistress! Blue Book was similar, in that it’s another Tynion book, where I bought the first 3 or so issues, but decided to wait for the trade when I discovered it was just a miniseries (Publishers are real coy in their marketing lately on whether a series is a mini or an ongoing!). finally, Bitter Root here was the last volume in a series written by David Walker. I did a podcast interview with him many years ago, and I’ve been following his work. I had the first 2 volumes, so this completed the set.

So, in all, it was a great 2 days of a 3-day convention. I think 3 days would have been too much. Two days was just the right amount of con. I spent way too much money, but I got to meet some creators I hadn’t met before, and I got some nice stuff to frame. My favorite quote of the day came from a guy I walked past at the end of Sunday: “I don’t even wanna fucking look at my bank statement after today.” I feel you, brother. From your mouth, to God’s ears. But I’m not sad about it! I mean, cons like these only come around once every…few months. I really need to get my spending in order! At the end of the day, I believe a fun time was had by all, I can’t thank my local shop (Barbarian Comics) enough for the pass, and I had a great time. And what’s a convention recap without cosplay pics? So, I leave you with these: