Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Having fun at the Albany Comic Con

An ad for the 1991 Albany Comic Con (found in Detective Comics #633)
We've been having semi-annual comic book conventions in Albany for the last three or four years now. That's a pretty good pace considering the size of the Capital District. Though, if it were up me, we'd have them every three months and they'd go the entire weekend instead of just one day.
But I'm not here to complain, quite the opposite, actually. I thought I'd take the opportunity to blog about how much I enjoy the cons we're fortunate enough to have here. But first, a quick flashback:
When I got into comics back in the early 1990s I remember attending several cons at the very same hotel the Albany Comic Con has been held at - the Holiday Inn on Wolf Road. Of course, these shows were about a third or maybe even a quarter of the size of today's cons, and typically they were held in smaller rooms on the second floor. Small as they were, there was always guest artists and writers doing signings. The biggest name I remember seeing at one of these shows was Dave Sim - the creator of cult indie comic Cerebus. I wasn't a fan of him or his book, in fact, I only knew of him from a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Cerebus crossover that happened back in the mid 1980s. I asked Mr. Sim to draw Cerebus as a ninja. He obliged and wrote a word balloon "Cerebus feels like an idiot!"
Good times.
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The main convention showroom.
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Amazing Fantasy #15 (the first appearance of Spider-Man). Even in lousy condition this comic sells for $2,500!
Anyway, this past weekend, another installment of the Albany Comic Con was held and I was excited as always to go. Comic book conventions are great for back issue collectors like me since the majority of merchandise tends to be vintage rather than modern. I notice the same vendors have their tables in more or less the same place at every show. I've also noticed which merchants tend to have the best prices and selection (for the record: Don Nicklas and Sales to Astonish are my go-to dealers for Batman back issues).

Whenever I go to a comic con I approach it the same way I would a casino. I leave my credit cards at home and I only take as much cash as I can afford to say kiss goodbye. Though, when I go to a comic con I expect to come home with an empty wallet. Also, there is a fair amount of luck and gambling involved in attending a comic con. For example, this weekend I was lucky enough to find the last two volumes of Ex Machina for half off and thus completed that collection. Another lucky find was the collected RASL hardcover for 35% off. It's a series I've never read, but only know of because it's by Jeff Smith - the creator of Bone, which is one of my all-time favorites. Will RASL have been worth the money I spent on it? I'll find out soon and share my thoughts with you.

That's something I've been seeing a lot of at conventions: trade paperbacks (TPBs) and hard covers being sold at heavily discounted prices. I absolutely love the presentation of comics in formats like these and I'll actually opt for a collected book rather than individual "floppies" whenever possible. Before Borders went out of business, I built up a pretty substantial collection of these books on a near weekly basis thanks to the coupons they'd send me. Borders is long gone, but thankfully comic cons are still around to offer great reads at great prices. I've actually reached a point where I refuse to pay cover price for a TPB anymore. Is it just me?
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50% OFF!? Score!
But getting back to last weekend's con. I have to say it was one of the better shows I've attended in some time. I've noticed each con tends to be a little bit bigger than the one before it. It's actually pretty amazing and encouraging to see so many people come out to these events. And unlike the shows I went to in the 90s, today's conventions are made up of more than just nerdy white guys. I'd estimate upwards of a third of the attendees were female. If I were a better journalist I would've taken the time to interview some of them and find out why they were there. I'll try to do that at the next con.

What's also nice is the Albany Comic Con has become big enough to support two rooms of vendors. The main event hall contains all the comic book dealers and all the artists and writers' tables. There's a second room on the other side of the hotel with a plethora of toy dealers and vendors of other collectible merchandise (i.e. bootleg videos, anime, old magazines, movie posters, original art, etc.). I don't collect toys or artwork, but I always enjoy perusing this room and seeing all the G.I. Joe, Transformers, MASK, and Star Wars toys I had as a kid. I'm often tempted to buy some of these toys, purely out of nostalgia, but I know they'd just wind up on a shelf collecting dust.
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G.I. Joe action figures still in their original packaging!
As for my actual haul, I have to say I'm quite pleased with what I got. I picked up quite a few TPBs as well as some Silver and Bronze Age Batman comics at reasonable prices. For the comic book collector, one of life's greatest moments is when you can add new finds to your collection and fill in those gaps. I've still got quite a ways to go in actually completing my Batman collection (if such a thing is possible). Still, every little bit helps and the thrill of "the hunt" never gets old.
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My haul. About $100 worth of back issues and great bookshelf items.
I hope to see you at the next con. And if you see us, be sure to say hi :)
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Look! All three of us bloggers in the same place at the same time and the universe DIDN'T implode!

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