Let me just preface this article by saying that I am suffering from comic convention fatigue. For the past the 10 years I’ve been going to such events (I attended NYCC in 2007 and have been going ever since), I have noticed that with each passing year my excitement for these kind of shows has dwindled.
It used to be such a high level of hype, such a childlike glee that I would have when one of these conventions was around the corner. But for the first time in over a decade, I will not be going to NYCC and truth be told, I don’t really think it’s going to break my heart not being there.
So with that feeling in mind, I was lucky enough to sneak in a day this past weekend at Keystone Comic-Con, a brand new convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Most press guests try to see the bulk of the con on the big day (Saturday) but due to previous plans, I was not able to do such. Instead, I went on Sunday, September 16th, and I think I picked the best day to go.
And let me tell you, being there was a breath of fresh air.
I walked into the center expecting a ton of people, bumper to bumper traffic, and me fighting to get through crowds. What I got was multiple booths featuring your common comic convention merchandise and barely any guests. This was exactly what I needed at this point in my life, because as previously mentioned, I was pretty worn out by the craziness of the conventions I had attended in recent years.
Now that’s not to say the floor wasn’t without fault. The selection of toys, books, and all other stuff of similar nature was fine, but man, looking at some of the floor layout, it was just sad. There were booths with just movie posters and trailers showing. There were cardboard cutouts you’d see in the cinema. Worst of all, the people who were hustling and bustling their line of work didn’t have much to write home about.
I’m speaking of course, about the artists, who dwell in an area called “artist’s alley” during these shows. Their area barely got any foot traffic and that is just rough. They are some of the most talented men and women out there who put out one passionate product after another for fan consumption, but at Keystone, they were lucky if they broke even.
One such artist who I returned to multiple times during the convention was Tom Velez, an extremely talented artist who has some extremely gorgeous pieces. The guy was one of the many artists who came to the con to peddle his stuff but unfortunately the turnout just didn’t help. Anyway, he has plenty of Marvel, DC, and Star Wars pieces that would keep any fan gawking at it for hours. I learned about Tom’s work through my friend Pete, the latter and I who both working for BingeMedia.net.
Tom became a buddy through social media and out of love and support for his work, I did purchase some of his artwork at his online store, and later on I purchased a variant cover he did for IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series. It was an honor to finally swap words with this man, a truly humbled individual who puts out some of the best artwork I have ever seen, and I’m not biased. It’s something else.
On Sunday I purchased his art book and an Ant-Man piece but trust me, if I had more money to burn, I would’ve bought his entire catalog. Mr. Velez and his wife were both a pleasure to meet and I urge you to check his stuff. You can find him on Instagram at @thetomvelez and Twitter under the same handle. You can check out his online store here
Tom wasn’t the only artist who I purchased from that day. I also made my way over to Christopher Uminga’s table, another favorite of mine who I seek out at every convention he’s at. His style of art is more cartoony, but is a ton of fun and I just love it. You can check out Uminga’s online store here. At his table I picked up an Iron Spider piece, then made my way back to the show floor.
Making my way throughout the convention, it was actually pretty cool that if I saw something I wanted to buy and walked away from it temporarily, I could easily reroute back to said booth without trouble. At the bigger cons, this might prove troublesome, especially if you had your eye on specific item.
The floor was pretty clear cut in where everything was, and it was all in one area, which was super nice. Cons of recent years have gotten so crowded elements have to be spread out not just in different floors of the center, but in various areas of the city. Not a fan.
Know what I am a fan of though? The current run of Amazing Spider-Man comics. So I was glad I was at this con, and let me tell you why-on one of my multiple trips back to artist’s alley, I was able to meet and get a signature from Nick Spencer, who writes the Amazing Spider-Man. Nick’s work on the book is phenomenal, and he was such a great individual to talk to. His work on the book has gotten me back into the flagship adventures of Spidey after years of not reading amazing, and I’m very grateful that I ran into him. For the record, I passed his table once, saw there was no line, swung around (spider-man pun?), and went back to his table. There was still nobody there to meet him. Crazy.
There is no doubt that Keystone will grow in popularity in the upcoming years. The lack of promotion for this very con proved that the powers that be will have to figure out how to make sure more fans show up next year (in late August 2019).
I only knew about it due to the fact that I follow a lot of The Office pages on Facebook, and there was some members of the show’s cast there. I was lucky enough to meet Brian Baumgartner who played the chili spilling, lovable doofus Kevin on the show for the entire run of the program. He was awesome to meet and super chill, very friendly. No complaints here!
That being said, While I did have a bit to complain about for the first year of Keystone Comic-Con, overall it was a pleasant experience that left me tired at the end (sore from walking around all day), but I had a fantastic time meeting everyone I did and seeing what it was all about. I don’t know if I’ll be a repeat attendee every year. However, for this one experience, it was more than satisfying.
That’s what she said.