Who watches the Watchmen? A few hundred people at least, all of whom were in line ahead of me at last month’s Baltimore Comic-Con (Sept. 5-7) for Dave Gibbons’s autograph.
Gibbons is, of course, the artist behind Watchmen, the 12-issue miniseries published by DC in the mid-80s. The accolades heaped on Watchmen are as legendary as the series itself. It was the only graphic novel to appear on Time‘s 2005 “100 Greatest Novels” list, and it appeared again in 2009 on the magazine’s “Top 10 Graphic Novels” list. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly ranked Watchmen thirteenth on its list of the best 50 novels printed in the last 25 years, calling it “the greatest superhero story ever told and proof that comics are capable of smart, emotionally resonant narratives.”
I have loved Watchmen since it came out, and when I saw that Gibbons, who lives in the UK, would be in Baltimore, I booked my flight immediately. By “flight,” I mean I got up at 5:00am and drove the six hours from Raleigh, NC, passing through Washington just miles from the White House and getting stuck in horrendous construction-related traffic that even President Obama is, apparently, powerless to prevent. Other great artists and writers were there, including Steve Leialoha, Walter and Louise Simonson, Greg Capullo, David Finch, and Al Milgrom, who does few conventions these days. Denny O’Neil left early due to a family emergency, and the wait for George Perez was four hours (!), according to one woman who endured it.
But Gibbons was, for me, the star of the show. I waited about an hour in his line, and when I got to the table, I found him to be gracious, funny, and down-to-earth. He was impressed by my Graphitti edition Watchmen hardcover (the first graphic novel version of the series) and my Marvel Comics Doctor Who #1 (for the wife, a consecrated Whovian). But he oohed and ahhed—actually, we all did—over something another guy had: the 1994 computer game Beneath a Steel Sky, still in the box. Gibbons did the background art for this game, and he said he had never signed a copy before. Get it on eBay, young man!
The Baltimore Comic-Con has long been a two-day affair. This was its first year spanning a third day, and everyone I talked to thought it a success. Vendors especially were pumped-up because their rate stayed roughly the same despite the extra day. They also praised the convention staff for being responsive and professional. Sales were good, too: one dealer sold an Action Comics #252 (first appearance of Supergirl) for $900.
Dr. Chilton, the captor/tormentor of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, says that Baltimore “can be quite a fun town, if you have the right guide.” The only guide I needed was the folks at this year’s Comic-Con. As you are planning your convention schedule for next year, mark down September 25-27 in Baltimore. It won’t be a baaa-d decision.
They don’t look like minions, but I’ll take their word for it.
Deadpool doing what Deadpool does.
Hello, Walter Simonson!
Hello, Louise Simonson!
Don’t blink. Or wink. Or think about blinking or winking. Especially when drinking.
The line to see Dave Gibbons.
And, finally, Dave Gibbons, holding my newly-signed Watchmen hardcover (which, if it were shirt, I would never wash again).