Convention Diary: FanExpo ’13 Toronto. It Rocks!

28 Aug

gnotableIf you don’t know about FanExpo you should – it’s one of the biggest shows in North America, about the size of New York Comic Con but with less stress! I had a very pleasant experience earlier in the year at Toronto Comicon and was fortunate to be included as a pro guest this year.

Thursday

3:30 pm Flew in on the uber hip and efficient Porter Airlines which lands at the tiny Billy Bishop Airport instead of Pearson, the main Toronto airport. It proved to be a good move — I sailed through immigration/customs and then got in line for the very short but scenic ferry ride from the airport island to the mainland. Fortunately, the free shuttle bus was waiting there as soon as the ferry landed and dropped all the passengers off about a block from the convention center and my hotel. What was that – half an hour tops from deplaning to hotel check-in? Feeling quite smug.

4 pm There’s a line to check-in at the Intercontinental. It’s obvious they’re Fan Expo attendees – half are in costume. Front desk staff are nonplussed. Dropped my suitcase off. Made the mistake of trying to cut through the Sports Expo in the North Building to get to the South Building which ended up being a longer route than going outside. Almost run over by a guy pushing a full size but non working Dalek off the floor (malfunction! malfunction!).

Guest badge pickup in the South Building was a breeze and soon I’m descending several floorsinto the bowels of the convention center towards the main exhibit hall and Artist Alley.
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4:30 pm I setup my area between Mark Brooks and Craig Yeung who are already busy on commissions. I find out that the floor actually opened at 2 pm for VIPs – doh! Make two sales almost immediately.

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7 ish Getting peckish. Fortunately some adorable kids come by with water and snacks courtesy of the convention. Nice! (Other convention organizers, take note- water & a couple bags of chips makes for happy artist alley guests.)

8:30 pm The floor closes at 9 but we’re all too tired and hungry. a lot of us close up shop so we can grab dinner.

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10:30 pm Full of curry, noodles and rice, we head back to the bar at the Renaissance hotel. Just about everyone on the comics guest list is there. Agnes Garbowska was talking with two friendly guys. Wait- it’s Jason Priestley and Luke Perry and they’re actually quite nice! Luke Perry grew up with comics- said he and stacks and stacks of them but hasn’t kept up. We talked about their kids and how they loved Adventure Time.Clay Mann, Adrian Alphona and Craig Yeung proceed to hilariously photobomb us.

Friday

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9 am Breakfast with some of the women I’m going to be on a panel with later, Marvel assistant editor Ellie Pyle, and writer/artist Erica Schultz. $6 for coffee – wha? Ellie’s excited to wear some new shoes a Marvel fan sent her.

10 am floor opens. Huge lines to get in so I’m thankful I have a guest badge…

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Cosplay, cosplay everywhere. It may be my first Fan Expo, but it’s Mark Brooks’ father’s first convention and he’s helping out at the table. We have fun taking pictures of all the inventive costumes. It’s a young and diverse crowd. The costumes are creative and fun.

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Sales slow down from yesterday. We’re guessing hard core comics and comic art fans drove all the initial business the day before. I take a couple spins around the huge show floor. The Lego booth had some great Hobbit figures – a much calmer scene than at San Diego Comic Con where adults were knocking over kids to get exclusives.

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6 pm Since I’m on the Women in Comics panel I head upstairs to the panel room level – OMG there’s a line outside room 715 and it’s pretty sizeable. Whoa.

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6:15 pm I meet the impressive women on the panel – Louise Simonson, Kathryn Immonen, Sara Richard, Becky Cloonan, Ellie, and Erica and we proceed to have an hour of fun talking with the audience about the importance of encouraging women in comics. A joke by Sara about Starfire’s lack of clothes and #SweatersforStarfire is born.

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8:30 pm Artists Tony Daniel, Yanick Paquette, Clay Mann, Agnes, Peter and Craig and me as the sole writer head over for dinner at pricey but delicious steakhouse Jacobs & Co. Dinner goes for almost four hours as we talk about Wonder Woman and the artists started comparing their interpretations (Craig Yeung’s version on his phone).

It’s after midnight and we decide to walk back, but stop to check out a huge crowd gathered on the sidewalk outside a nightclub. Several of our party suddenly disappear into the crowd and return triumphant with pictures – it’s David Hasselhof!

A few of us decide to swing by the swanky members only Soho House for the RAID Studio party. It was so late some of the crowd had already cleared but hosts Marcus To and Francis Manapul were still there along with many of the show’s comic guests. I’m not normally a big beer drinker but after trying Canadian beers Alexander Keith IPA, Muskoka Brewery Dark Ale I’m warming up to the idea.

Saturday

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10 am I can see the line from my hotel window which wraps around the park outside the convention center. I’m in surprisingly decent shape after the previous night, nothing a cup of coffee won’t fix. It’s already feeling like Sunday.

2 pm I make a coffee run to the Second Cup, Canada’s version of Starbucks but better. A few enterprising food trucks are parked outside offering hot dogs and fries for $4.50, a much better deal than the $7 pizza inside.

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Several con goers, men and women, stop by to say nice things about last night’s panel. One woman in particular said it motivated her to pursue her dream of writing in comics. Yay! The lights are starting to give some of the artists headaches (#protip for next time- pack some Aleve or Advil) Meanwhile, Mark Brooks is signing like crazy and doing brisk business in selling posters.

8 pm I meet up at the Renaissance hotel and take a short cab ride with the father and son Brooks to Spadina Garden, a Szechuan place recommended by Marcus To. The beef is a hit- we order two. We decide to work off dinner by walking back to the Renaissance hotel and run into Tom Brevoort enjoying the balmy weather outside on the patio outside the hotel. Somehow we get into a discussion about the Iron Man movies and collecting and customizing action figures.

Since there are no drinks allowed outside we finally go inside. I end up talking with Mike Mignola and his wife Christine. Mike is sharing tales about his early days in New York as a young man breaking into the business. I ended up having a fairly deep discussion with a very nice guy who turns out to be Steve McNiven about creative process. A great way to wrap up the evening!

Sunday

11 am Last day of Fan Expo and people are even slower to set up this morning with a few artists are noticeably absent. Craig is uncharacteristically late. It turns out to be a flat tire.

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The only book I buy at the show is the handsome looking Canadian comics anthology True Patriot that got its start through Indiegogo. Some engaging stories by Canadian talent J. Torres, Adrian Alphona, Agnes, Andy Belanger, Jack Briglio, Faith Erin Hicks and more. I especially liked Hicks superheroine story. Go buy it!

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5 pm the traditional cheer goes up as the floor closes. A bunch of us head over to the nearby Loose Moose pub, which claims the largest draught beer selection downtown, and convenient located across the street from the Porter Airlines shuttle stop. Gives me ample time to try some watermelon wheat beer with sweet potato fries and bacon donuts.

So in a nutshell, here is what I took away from my first Fan Expo:

Canadian fans are nicer
Cosplaying with friends and family is fun!
Toronto is a terrific city, easy to get around, and great eats
Lots of fans thinks Starfire could use a sweater.

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Convention & Food Diary: C2E2

6 May

IMG_7882Friday Day 1

11:50 am Hello Chicago! This year thought I would skip O’Hare and try the much smaller Midway airport. I had one carryon (mostly my Girls Night Out comics and a banner stand), so took the CTA into downtown Chicago. Cost $2.25, instead of plunking down $40+ for a taxi.

1 pm
Walked the few blocks from the subway station to my hotel to check-in and drop off my bag.The show has already been open for three hours now I need to get down there.

2 pm Whoops- sidetracked by the Lego store right outside my hotel. Best pick-a-brick wall I’ve ever seen! Grabbed a lunch to go at Asian fast food outpost Wow Bao. $6 for two buns – teriyaki chicken bun, Thai peanut noodles and a coconut custard dessert bun.
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I ate while walking down the fabled Magificent Mile to the Graham Crackers store on East Madison. The plan was to duck into the store while waiting for the free shuttle to the con, but the bus was already there!

3 pm Arrived at the humungoid McCormick Place. Setup my shared table in Artist Alley with Brian Shearer. 5 minutes later father looking for comics for his daughter- score!

5 pm Initial excitement slowly turns to boredom. I build a Lego house for my Deadpool minifigure. Time to take a walk and get coffee. Ran into James Tynion IV and we go in search of a Starbucks. A tall frappucino seems ridiculous at $5 so instead I shell out $3.75 for a latte. We walk the floor a bit, run into Christy Blanch, who has been making waves with her super popular online course “Gender Through Comics” at the Marvel booth, before heading back to our respective tables.

IMG_79117 pm floor closes. The con spills out into the adjacent hotel filling up the hotel bar and spilling out into all the nooks and crannies. I join the crazy cab line outside the hotel. C.B. Cebulski, Tom Brevoort, Jill Thompson, Brian Azzarello, guests at the dinner are already there but fortunately we are headed to the same place, the annual C2E2 dinner organized by ReedExpo.

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8 :10 pm the lengthy and slow moving cab line means we’re late arriving at the Little Goat. Expectations are high since last year’s dinner was so good. Boom! and former Top Cow publisher Filip Sablick is there, and the other guests Mira Furlan (Lost, Babylon 5) and Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5, Tron) proved to be amiable dinner companions. We head back to Hyatt bar where CB bought a round for our group and chatted for a while.
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Day 2

Saturday

IMG_79758:15 am arrive early at the Hyatt for breakfast with a bunch of cool comics women. Carol Tilley arrives next, then Marvel editor Ellie Pyle, the Beat’s Heidi MacDonald, CBR’s Brigid Alverson (one of the few journalists left in this business) and finally Tina Coleman in a bright wig. We had a spirited discussion on Chicago and salty meats. I had an okay corned beef hash. $3 tofu scramble, which was more accurately just diced tofu with a bit of seasoning, but if you’re a vegetarian on a budget it would do the job.

10 am Increased security and bag checks means delays in entering the show floor. Fortunately I had an exhibitor’s pass. Lots and lots of first time con goers. A young boy gripping a sketchbook is on the hunt for artists. He’s definitely not a first timer.

3 pm Starved. Everything tells me not to go to the food court but I do anyway, because I’m too low on energy to go outside. Brian told me already his horror story of paying $27 for a mediocre sandwich drink and snack. I tried to minimize the damage and spent $3 on a very regrettable donut to tide me over until dinner.

image-27 pm show floor closes. We head to Kroll’s a few minutes walk away for a meet up of comics creators including Andy Schmidt, Ryan Browne, Josh Fialkov, Ed Brisson, Nick Dedual, Shaun Manning, Paul Allor. Respectable alcohol menu – I try to drown out the bad donut experience with an Abita Purple Haze beer.

8 pm Many pros like Jim McCann (writer Mind the Gap, Lost Vegas) already know Chicago’s Chinatown is a reliable nearby spot for decent and cheap food. We walk to the Sun Bros’ haunt, the Phoenix Restaurant. The decor was non-existent, but they had a smattering of late night dim sum and decent fried noodles, a welcome change from pricey convention hotel food. For more of a Chinese diner experience, St. Alp’s Teahouse on the first level of the building had a great and very typical fast casual Hong Kong selection.

IMG_796310 pm We head back to the Hyatt bar. As expected much more crowded than the previous night. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is there. We manage to snag seats by the bar which becomes very important – as it quickly becomes impossible to get any of the harried bartender’s attention. A wedding party shows up looking bemused and incredibly out of place.

As the night wore on, the crowd thinned. Food popped up everywhere. Ross Richie was sharing pizza leftover from the Valiant crew. Jill Thompson passed around some of her homemade cookies. Meanwhile shot glasses were appearing and Nick Barrucci seemed to be in the middle of it.

2 am Last call – suddenly everyone seemed to have two drinks in hand.

2:30 am Regretting the choice of staying outside the convention. Fortunately got a cab easily and made my way back uptown.

Day 3
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11 am Floor is already bustling with people, especially at the Athleta Comics booth where Israel Idonije, the 6′ 6″ defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, is doing photo ops with some very excited kids. Feeling very small, I duck behind him to deliver a croissant to a hungry looking Ron Marz before heading back at my table.

IMG_8011I slip away to hit a bunch of workshops-Boom! and Valiant’s prove to be interesting. Comic Writing panel is full but I manage to talk my way in as a Comics Experience alum.

2:30 pm Once again starved. My table mate Brian graciously heads out of the convention center and returns with a filet o’ fish for me. (Filet o’ fish is my go to comfort food.)

5 pm Everyone cheered as the overhead lights dimmed to signal the end of the convention. Packed up, said my goodbyes and shared a cab with Brandon Peterson to Midway airport.Despite some traffic, we made good time. After a huge checkin line, security was a breeze and we hit Gold Coast Dogs. The Chicago Style dog with everything on it proved to be the perfect note with which to end the convention.

8 pm boarded my plane for home.

Tales from the Con: A Snapshot of Emerald City Comic Con

5 Mar

 

It’s Day Two of the marvelous convention known as Emerald City Comic Con, and I am feeling a little like Dorothy here in Seattle.  Does no one honk in this city? How many coffee joints can you fit in one block? And what’s with the plaid?

It’s easy to see why ECCC is a favorite among comics creators. Many, like New York based writer Ron Marz (Shinku, Witchblade) go out of their way to attend this one.  With its easy vibe, it’s a nice contrast to the keyed up energy at New York and San Diego Comic Con. It’s a convention where companies like Oni, Dark Horse and Image have a bigger presence than DC and Marvel.  There were no insane lines for the panels I attended.  And it’s easy enough to chat with popular award winning creators like Scott Snyder (Batman, American Vampire), and Jim McCann and Janet Lee (Return of the Dapper Men, Lost Vegas)

This has probably been the most family friendly con I’ve attended, and stark evidence againstthe notion that women don’t attend conventions.  Women were EVERYWHERE and in full force.  One the second floor I saw plenty of moms and daughters ooh-ing over the Lego collection of StarWars, Minecraft and other brick creations. The Lego section was truly impressive – something for other cons to consider.

ECCC’s popularity has its downside.  The convention has doubled in size and shows some growing pains like many other conventions.  Saturday and Sunday tickets were sold out, so if you didn’t plan ahead you were out of luck.  Registration was a little dicey – confusion reignedwhen I asked volunteers where to pick up my Pro pass.  Artist Alley was cleaved into two separate chunks, causing additional confusion.  But enough complaining, it’s enough like Oz here that I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

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At the airport bookstore in Sao Paolo, Brazil

17 Feb

At the airport bookstore in Sao Paolo, Brazil

Enter the New Year

1 Jan

As 2012 turned into 2013 across multiple time zones last night, I was in front of my computer the whole time finishing a script. (Shows you what a total procrastinating geek I am.) It was not a glorious moment. In the moments when the words were just not flowing, I jotted down some spontaneous New Year’s resolutions on Evernote.

Here they are in their cut n’ paste glory:

Stop letting the small things make my life miserable.

Eat more veggies, less meat and dairy.

Ignore ads as much as possible.

Be more planned.

Be more spontaneous.

Be more prolific.

Believe more and question less.

Steer clear of fake people.

Drunk tweet a little more often.

Build more Legos.

Looking at it this morning I still think it’s a pretty fine list. Add on to it “stop procrastinating,” “blog more regularly,” and “proof before hitting send” and I think I’m set for this year.

Cheers to you, your loved ones and hope 2013 will be a better year than the last!

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Only One Week Left to go!

9 Dec

Only One Week Left to go!

Here’s how that cover is shaping up so far…

Only two more weeks to go on the Girls Night Out Kickstarter campaign!

1 Dec

Pencil 2 cover girls night out 2clean

Please pledge now – this is the only way you can guarantee reading Girls Night Out: Tales of New York! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/amychu/girls-night-out-tales-of-new-york

SHATTERED: Working with Larry Hama on ‘The Date’

4 Nov

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I’ve been asked how a newcomer such as myself ended up collaborating with the legendary creator Larry Hama, a respected veteran of the industry for the new Asian American comics anthology SHATTERED. Here’s the actual story:

It was exactly two years ago from today, funnily enough. My very first encounter with the writer/artist and former DC and Marvel editor wasn’t at a convention or store signing. It was at a very crowded cocktail fundraiser at a Manhattan art gallery for the Asian American Arts Alliance, a nonprofit community organization. I happened to be invited at the last minute by Ken Chen, the Executive Director of the Asian American Writers Workshop and a lifelong comics nut ( I believe he did his masters thesis on Chris Ware). Larry was good naturedly circulating anonymously in the crowd until Ken spotted him and introduced us. It came out in the conversation that in the ’70s young Larry had been part of the Basement Workshop, an arts activist and social justice group which spawned many of the New York City Asian American arts nonprofit organizations you see today. As someone who worked in the Asian American non profit sector for years, I was tickled to death to find we had several friends in common because of this.

Larry, who is known for his work on GI Joe, Bucky O’Hare, Elektra, Wolverine, is a pioneer for fighting racial and gender stereotyping in comics characters. He has a long history of creating unapologetically strong female characters like G.I. Joe’s Scarlett and pushing characters like the ninja Storm Shadow beyond the typical villainous Asian caricatures of the time. A genial and charismatic guy, he had a neverending stockpile of amazing and entertaining stories of those days. We had a terrific conversation.

Fast forward several months. My original pitch in collaboration with the very talented Toronto based artist Craig Yeung had been accepted by the folks at SHATTERED but I was told there was another story with some similar themes. Could I change the setting somehow? I didn’t really have any good ideas.

In the meantime the New York University Asian Pacific American Institute selected Larry as their Artist-in-Residence and in January of this year I was invited along with others like Greg Pak (Hulk, Vision Machine), long time letterer letterer Janice Chiang (Archie, Smurfs) and SHATTERED Editor in Chief and Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Yang to participate in a blog session about the Asian American experience. Over dinner several ideas and personal anecdotes were thrown around.

Larry started talking about something that sparked an idea in my mind. His parents had been incarcerated in the infamous Japanese American internment camps in California during World War II. I knew SHATTERED would be distributed to schools and public libraries and that this subject should be in the Anthology somehow. It was perfect. I quickly rewrote the story and emailed Larry to thank him for the inspiration. His response was pretty short and immediate: Who’s drawing it? My heart stopped a little reading that. I’m not sure of the last time anyone has seen Larry pencil a story. I immediately sent him the script and held my breath. His next email said he thought he might me able to do it in collaboration with Craig. Craig has inked quite a bit including Runaways for Marvel. And with Janice Chiang on board to do the lettering, it worked out perfectly. Craig ended up doing the pencils for my original story which became the title story for my own first short story anthology Girls Night Out through Alpha Girl Comics. And Larry was the easiest guy ever to work with – even offering to redo any panels if I wanted.

SHATTERED: The Asian American Comics Anthology published by The New Press is available Nov. 6 through Amazon, bookstores and comic stores and also features the work of longtime creators like Cliff Chiang, Sean Chen, and Bernard Chang.

Other articles by fellow Shattered contributors
Adam WarRock: http://www.adamwarrock.com/?p=2827
8Asians: http://www.8asians.com/2012/10/30/why-shattered-the-asian-american-comics-anthology-secret-identities-is-important/
Angry Girl Comics:http://angrygirlcomics.tumblr.com/post/34654916825/hi-friends-i-hope-all-my-fellow-nycers-survived
Reappropriate: http://reappropriate.co/?p=2582
Angry Asian Man: http://blog.angryasianman.com/2012/11/my-very-own-superhero-in-shattered.htmlhttp://blog.angryasianman.com/2012/11/my-very-own-superhero-in-shattered.html

New York Comic Con Day 1

12 Oct

The best day to go in my opinion. More relaxed and less crowded, it’s a good time to scope out the place and also get your autographs and commissions in Artist Alley.

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Asbury Park Comic Con: Burgers, Bloody Marys, and oh yes, Comics.

6 Oct

Mike & Ming at Asbury Park

After hitting a dozen comic book conventions this past year I thought I’d seen it all. That is, until about a week ago when I headed to the Jersey Shore to check out Asbury Park Comic Con. It was an hour’s drive but I was curious. I had already taken a pass on the glitzy and expensive MorrisonCon at the Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas that weekend. APCC by contrast, was in an old bowling alley in a town that had seen better days.

I knew something was different as soon as we walked in. The smell of sizzling burgers filled the air. There was a grill in front of the room. And a bar. No, wait, two bars! And there was music in the background. Turns out the bowling alley Asbury Lanes has been a club for several years now, and a popular venue for punk bands like Butthole Surfers. We were, in fact, just down the road from the Stone Pony of Springsteen fame. Organizer Cliff Galbraith (Rat Bastard) paid homage to Asbury Park’s music heritage with an impressive playlist ranging from Dwight Yoakam to Alex Chilton.

The featured guests were particularly entranced with the venue. Creator Larry Hama (G.I. Joe, Bucky O’Hare), who has seen his share of conventions, marveled at the presence of a bar right on the con floor. The stiff drinks were widely praised – Bloody Marys were a popular choice. The omnipresent Emmy Award winning artist Dean Haspiel (didn’t I just see him in Baltimore?) cheerfully informed me he had four root canals the previous day as he ordered a Coke and a shot of Makers Mark from the pink haired bartender. A bemused artist Reilly Brown (Cable, Deadpool, and the creator owned Power Play) said it felt just like a Springsteen song as he sat in front of the empty bowling lanes. In the corner by the bar I spotted Mike & Ming, otherwise known as Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen, reality show stars of AMC’s Comic Book Men. They were live podcasting their show I Sell Comics sporadically throughout the day. Super friendly, both were much more real in real life and chatted amiably with everyone who passed by.

Larry Hama sketches for fans

And then there were the comics. Enough to attract roughly 600 people over the course of the day, according to Cliff. He and comics dealer Robert Bruce (also a familiar face on AMC’s Comic Book Men) managed to cram 40+ exhibitor tables in and around the bowling lanes. The result was a marvelous and eclectic mix of indie, minis, superheroes and vintage. The vibe was laid back and natural – I chatted with several creators including aspiring penciler Javier Cruz Winnick and Jersey guy Joe Martino, cancer hero and creator of Ripperman and the Kickstarter funded The Mighty Titan.

The Mighty Titan Joe Martino

By late afternoon Comics Beat editor and man-about-town Torsten Adair sat in the corner of the bar/lounge gleefully showing off his stash of quirky finds to Hannah Means-Shannon and myself. Reilly Brown finally took a break from his table balancing what appeared to be two beers and a shot or ginger ales – I didn’t ask back to the space he shared with artist George O’Connor and photographer Seth Kushner.

I ‘m glad I decided against spending the almost $800 plus airfare for MorrisonCon. Asbury Park Comic Con was a gem of a con, and only cost a whopping $6, $1 of which went laudably to the comics charity Hero Initiative. The burgers were shockingly excellent and the drinks cheap and strong. People showed up, browsed, hung out and enjoyed the fun and kitschy vibe. Sorry, Grant Morrison, but by the end of the day, my mind was blown. I left feeling like I had just crashed the coolest college party on campus.

The Beat editor Torsten Adair shows off his loot

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