My history with WizardWorld Chicago is a monumental story of persistence and growth in my goal of being a comic book creator. What was setup to be a generous getaway (instigated by my friend, Dan Leister's urging for me to go and the lump sum of spending money my mother so graciously dropped in my lap), began something special -- something monumental, that in the ten years since (wow…did I really just say that?), has shaped me into the creative force I am today. So its with no small amount of pride that I say I'm coming home to WW Chicago.
That's a funny thing for me to say -- I'm an Ohioan -- born and raised in the capital city of Columbus, having only the briefest of stints in calling anywhere else my home -- NONE OF WHICH being the Windy City. But like I said, there's something about that show -- though not even my first (Columbus's own, Mid-Ohio -- which is now under the WizardWorld umbrella -- had that honor about three years prior), that will FOREVER mark it as something special in my eyes.
I had only glimpsed behind the curtain a few times, having met some of comic-doms soon-to-be notable and certainly worthwhile creators, back at Mid-Ohio. Folks like Skottie Young and Greg Titus (when they rolled under the group moniker Led Heavy), Keron Grant (a CCAD grad and all around slick cat with artistic chops to die for), Brian Bendis who hailed from up the interstate, pushing his self-published crime-noir joints. But it was Chicago where I got to go on the OTHER SIDE of the table for the first time. Hooked up with Dan, who was promoting his first book, Celestial Alliance -- a one-shot piece, penned by Darren Sanchez, who I think at the time was a coordinator of the WW shows -- I was able to see what it was like being a creator, having people intend to spend their HARD EARNED money on the talents they admire. And I would put those lessons to the test the following year, when I returned, with my own group of upcoming creators, intent to set the comic book world on FIRE!
It also marked the first time I ever spoke freely about not following in the footsteps of the status quo, instead paving my own way into the comic market. I was standing in line for the Marvel Comics portfolio review (which drew hopefuls from all over the country!), not waiting for my turn, mind you, but keeping Mike Watson (a former rival who I had recently decided should be one of my best friends -- and to this day still is!) company. While in line, we met James Heffron -- whose Ultimate War sample pages were so crisp and beautiful, we figured he would SURELY be one of Marvel's next BIG creators -- and got to chatting it up with him. I ended up going on about how I couldn't do what they're doing -- waiting to be measured like that. How I'd rather not put a few pages in front of an editor to judge my skill and worthiness, but rather a book that should they pass on it, I could still sell and gain my own notoriety. Marvel ended up passing Mike (saying his work was too urban) AND they pulled the GREATEST travesty on the masses by NOT putting James on an Ultimates title -- HE DID THE ULTIMATE IRON MAN SUIT, PERFECTLY! But then again, maybe it was to our gain -- James and I talked more that night and while its never been said that I had anything to do with it, the following year he launched Law Dog Comics with Territory 51 and has been kicking butt and making AWESOME comics ever since! And don't worry about Mike, he went on to launch his own imprint, Freestlye Komics, where I cut my teeth writing the first six issues of his flagship title, Hotshot.
The follow up years to that first WizardWorld, found me returning as the head of an artist collective called The Co. (in the same vein as Led Heavy and Artxilla), collecting and donating more than $1000 to A.C.T.O.R. (A Commitment to Our Roots) which is, known today as Hero Initiative, and meeting exciting, new creators like Mike Dolce (who worked with Dan on The Sire), Alverne Ball (phenomenal writer and co-creator of Arion Digital Media Group) and Jeff Balke (a tremendous colorist, who provided colors for the cover of The Trouble w/Love). I think some where in there, I even pitched the idea for would become Origins Unknown to Darren [Sanchez] at a VIP party (no, not Vantage:Inhouse Productions, but "very important persons" -- winks). Now, I'm returning with my own imprint and a healthy number of titles to promote, my fan-favorite 8 bits and doing a panel with my U Cre-8 Comics line. With so much in arsenal harkening back to that first show, so many years ago, I can't wait to see what this show will mean for the next ten years. See you in Chicago!