and I arrive in Charlotte at a little after 7PM
on Thursday. While checking in to the Weston
we see Hal, Matt and Kwan from the
Art List. Brian Stelfreeze
and Cully Hamner are also in the lobby.
I call James "The James" Howell and he
tells me he'll arrive at the hotel in a few minutes. Mike
and I put our things in our room. We freshen up a bit
and head back down to the lobby. It's been about 10 minutes
and still no "The James." Matt, Hal,
Mike and I head back up to my room to wait for "The
Matt remembered to bring me a Stallone piece
that Steve McNiven did for me at MegaCon after
I left. Heroes hasn't even started and I already
have a new addition to
my gallery! ; ) "The James" arrives and
so we head down to the lobby.
As we're all getting ready to go out for dinner, "The
James" says, "Have you all seen Batman
Begins? Wasn't it great?" Everyone has seen it
and agrees... except for me.
I say that I liked it, but had some problems
with it. "The James" gives me a look like
I just threw up in his cereal [he's the king of
giving people looks]. "What problems
did you have?" he asks. So I begin to lay out a few
of them. With each one "The James" looks
pained and then gives me a rationalization.
As we're walking, Brian Stelfreeze, Cully
and their crew appear. We all say, "hi" and stop
to talk for a minute. Brian then says, "Have
you all seen Batman Begins?
Wasn't it great?" ["The James" gives
me a smug smile.] Everyone nods and says, "yeah"...
everyone except for me. I say, "I liked it,
but had some problems with it." Since we're
all going out in different directions, I say that I'll talk
to him about it later.
We head over to dinner, and all through the course of the
meal the discussion is Batman Begins. Everyone but
"The James" agrees that I've brought up
some valid concerns. "The James" just doesn't
see it. He's like Tom Cruise talking about Katie
Holmes when it comes to Batman Returns. We all
head back to the hotel and end
up talking art, comics, movies and playing a movie
trivia game. "The James" is nearly
The next morning, I'm up early. Mike is sleeping
in and coming over after the show starts, but since I've
scored a special guest pass via John Higashi
[who is arriving
on Saturday], I can get in early. "The James"
and I meet in the lobby and decide to pass on the $16
breakfast buffet and go for the $2.75 bagel.
We hang out in the
lobby and talk to different folks as they pass through.
Rico comes by looking for
some dish soap to wash his baby's bottle. Casey Jones
passes through and says
that he's going to have a Stallone piece for me by
the end of this show! Matt and
Hal come down.
Stelfreeze and Cully come through. Someone brings
up Batman Begins [it wasn't
me, I promise]. I tell Brian some of my concerns.
He listens and says, "You know, you're right.
I hadn't thought of that!"
[I give "The James" a smug smile.]
I say, "Overall
I liked it though and expect the sequel to be even better."
We all head over to the show. I get in James Jean's
line for Paul Singh who can't make the show. Man,
it seems that everyone wants something from James Jean.
I give him Paul's reference and money for Paul
say that John Higashi will take the art back with
stop by and say, "Hi" to Adam and Alison.
get on Rick Leonardi's list. He says he's going
to draw Rambo. I look for Nat Jones who hasn't
arrived yet. I talk with Mike Ploog and lay the groundwork
for John Higashi to get a take home commission. I
get on Cliff Chiang's list.
I spend a lot of the day hanging out with the guys from
Studios: Gary McKee, Jason Walker,
Mike Torrence and Brian Walker. I set
up a water color Stallone piece from Gary and
Jason and I agree to a future Stallone piece.
I check back on Nat Jones throughout the day,
but he looks to be a no show... as does Craig Hamilton.
Dinner that night is at Uno's. There are 14
so we get two tables. The place is packed, but
we get seated pretty quickly. I'm at the quiet table
[yeah, Gary McKee is at the other one and no Beatty
dinner we head up to the Tsunami Studios room. Brian
Walker gifts me a Stallone
piece that he did! We're all laughing and talking junk when
some of us discover
that two of the people sitting at Gary's
table for dinner, work in the porn industry! Gary
is also shocked and we're all laughing because he didn't
know that when he shared his beef tips with the woman. Gary
gets all flustered which makes everyone laugh harder.
The next morning I am awakened by a phone call at 6AM
from John Higashi. He's driven through the night
[on 2 hours of sleep after a full day of work] and
is ready for some breakfast. I get cleaned up and head down.
John arrives and we find a Burger King
for some "nourishment." As we're eating John
maps out his strategy. He's a day late [but NOT a dollar
behind] and he writes down names and locations of artists
on his "hit list." Military invasions have
been planned with less strategy and I know that Higashi
is on a mission.
The show opens and I discover that Higashi hit the
ground running. Literrally. And carrying several bags of
art. Higashi is already on several artists' lists
also picking up commissions and pages that
he worked deals on before the
show even started!
see Rick Leonardi who has completed my Rambo
piece! Cool! Very cool!
I meet Howard Chaykin. He is one of my comic
idols. If Howard writes or draws it, I'll buy
it. Meeting Chaykin is so cool. He tells me
about a new comic that he has coming out. It's in the tradition
of Peckinpaugh. It's called Generations and
sounds awesome. Chaykin also tells me about a noir
comic that he'd like to
do, but so far he hasn't found a publisher. It's a very
and dark realistic story. I hope that it finds a home. Chaykin
says that he's doing head sketches for ACTOR, but
we'd be better off with a home commission. I decide to wait
and see if I can work out something later. Meeting Howard
Chaykin has been a highlight of ANY convention
I've ever been to.
Jones arrives! I head over and talk to him. Nat
says that he usually doesn't sketch at shows, but
because he knows I am a fan of his work [and maybe because
it's obvious that the piece won't end up on
ebay], and because my theme is different, he agrees
to a sketch! Yeah, baby. I pick up the sketch later in the
afternoon and love it. Cobra by Nat Jones.
I get word that Craig Hamilton has arrived. "The
James" and I head over to his table. Craig
has a piece that he completed for "The James."
It's Snow and Big Bad Wolfand it is sooo sweet.
I set up a commission with Craig, who decides to
do it as a take home piece since
he couldn't get to me last year at Heroes. Craig
promises it will be really nice. How could it not be, since
Craig is doing it?
Gary McKee has been working all day on my Stallone
watercolor piece. He opted to
do Sly as The Punisher. It was cool seeing Gary
work on it from concept sketch to finished piece.
And I agree with Gary, Sly would have made
an excellent Punisher.
I see a lot of friends including Tim Gordon [from
The Tampa Comic and Toy Convention], Robert Jewell,
and others. Richard "Jaws" Kiel is there.
I guess it
goes without say, that he's HUGE. As the show winds
down for day two, we head
back to the hotel for the Art Auction. The room is
packed. Higashi bids on a few
items and wins one. After the auction, Mike and I
decide on pizza in the room.
Normally we'd hang out with the guys again, but tonight
we opt to play some poker
[for fun] and watch "Tombstone." Man,
Val Kilmer owns that movie. He should have won an
next morning, we check out of the
room and head over to the last day of the
show. The group immediately gets in Mike Ploog's
line. Mike's old school. I grew up on his "Werewolf
by Night," "Frankenstien"
and work for Warren. Mr. Ploog is [and has
been since the con opened] drawing FREE headshots
for fans. Up to this point, I've
never asked an artist to draw Stallone when they're
sketching for free. It's one thing to
whip out Batman or Spider-Man or a
character that they've probably drawn dozens
of times. It's a whole different can of worms
to ask them to draw a real person. But this is Mike Ploog!!
I decide to ask him to draw Jack Carter and I use
Brian Stelfreeze's piece as reference. When it's
my turn, I hand over my sketchbook and reference
and Mike draws me a nice little Stallone headshot!
Whoo-hooo! I have Mike Ploog in my Stallone Gallery!
I check in with Casey Jones and he's done me a great,
It's Sly from Oscar and the
design on the sketch is awesome.
Casey, you are the MAN!!!
Cliff Chiang has completed his Stallone
piece. It's a really sweet piece of Rocky and Adrian.
Cliff has really captued the essense of both
of these characters. I absolutely love it!
Heroes has once again been a great show.
I was able to hang out with my son and friends, meet artists
who've I've admired and even get new artwork for my Stallone
Gallery. I should have better pictures of the artists
and scans of my new pieces posted within the next week.
I'm already looking forward to next year to do it