AtlantaCon 2004 Report

Last week Mike [my oldest son], John Beatty [my oldest buddy] and I drove up for AtlantaCon 2004. The con didn’t officially start until Saturday, but we decided to go up on Friday so we would be fresh in the morning when things kicked off.

Actually it was good that we went up on Friday since the con organizers set up a pre-show sketch session. For a $25 donation [which went to Jeff Jones] you could mingle with the artists who were doing really nice head sketches and more. Artists sketching included Phil Noto, Mike Kaluata, Adam Hughes, Brian Stelfreeze, Cully Hamner, Georges Jeanty, and many others. I’ve got to make special mention of a cool sketch “combo.” Georges did a nice head shot of “Captain America looking up into the distance” for one of the fans. Later the same fan returned. Adam Hughes had added a headshot of Bucky looking up in the same direction as Cap with the caption, “Uh, Cap… what are we looking at?” That just cracked me [and everyone else at the table] up.

Mike was making the rounds getting Hellboy sketches while I sat at a table with Big Beatty and Phil Noto who were both sketching. As the sun went down Phil moved to a better light source and his seat was taken by a rotating crew which included Kelsey Shannon, James Howell and others. The table got kind of rowdy as people came up asking Big Beatty for sketches and he determined whether or not it was for a “fetish collection.” It was really cool talking movies and comics and “stuff” with everyone at the table or passing by. A guy named “Little John” was gettting sketches and said that he checks out The StalloneZone and ZONE on a regular basis. How cool is that?

The session was supposed to end at 10:00 but went on until 11:00. The artists were really giving the fans their money’s worth. Special thanks to the Gaijin folks who didn’t even get to sit and eat a proper dinner before they were swamped by fans wanting sketches!

The next morning Mike, Beatty, and I met James Howell at the Waffle House for a hearty breakfast. Then it was off to the con! As we were walking in we saw John Higashi and Steven Lee arriving. Higashi was sporting his StalloneZone shirt!

Beatty and I went up to get our passes. Adam Hughes was there to get his as well. The guy giving out the passes asked Adam if he was an artist! Adam patiently said he was and proceeded to spell his name. No passes. The guy looked in a couple of different places. Still no passes. As Adam looked around for someone he knew [or at least knew him] I asked if the passes might be under Gaijin Studio. Adam asked the man and sure enough, they were. Adam then asked if there was a pass for Allison. Nope, but the man quickly made her one. Beatty and I picked up our passes and followed Adam into the show.

The artists were starting to set up. Most dealers were ready to go and fans were lined up waiting to get in. After a bit of looking Beatty found his table. Mike and I decided to check the place out. My goal was to get Stallone pieces from Jason Pearson, Tony Harris, and Brian Stelfreeze. Anything else would be gravy. A quick circuit of the con and I was able to learn that Jason Pearson had to cancel, Brian Bolland was running a few hours late [due to a flight problem], and other artists were just rolling in. A line was starting to form for Brian Bolland. I got in along with John Higashi, Steven Lee, James Howell and a few others.

I saw Tony Harris starting to set up the Jolly Roger display. The guys said they’d hold my spot so I could go down. There was already one guy in line and knowing that Tony is very slow I decided to take them up on their offer. I was there at #2. [Last year at Heroes I just missed getting my first Harris sketch — I was next on the list when Tony had to stop sketching so he could get ready for the charity painting session — and I didn’t want to face the same thing again.] Steven Lee was behind me. Things were looking good for both of us. When it was my turn to make a request I told Tony I wanted a Stallone piece. He remembered me from last year. Tony said he’d give it a shot.

Then it was over to the Gaijin booth. The whole gang was there Adam and Allison, Cully, Karl, Brian and Kelsey [who was wearing his StalloneZone shirt!]. Phil Noto was sketching there as well. Several fans were oogling a Brian Stelfreeze painting which was a beaut! I asked Brian if he had started a list and he hadn’t. I was first! When I told Brian I wanted him to do a Stallone piece he called out to Cully [who was sitting further down the way], “Hey Cully! I’m being called up to the big leagues!” LOL! Brian said he wanted to give Jack Carter a shot! Cool by me, as that would have been my choice for him as well.

As I walked the convention I met up with fans that I usually only get to “talk” to via e-mail like Terry webmaster of ComicArt Community, Benno, Rich DeDominicis, Ken Danker of Monster Collectables and Scott Blacksher.

Scott Blacksher has a really cool “Astro-Zombies” Theme. We’ve exchanged a few e-mails over the past year. Scott came by the table and commissioned Beatty to do him an Astro-Zombie sketch.

I could tell that Beatty wasn’t feeling well [too much junk food on the ride up is our guess] but before the sketch was done, I thought that he’d recovered. John didn’t think so. He told Scott that he was sorry that the sketch wasn’t better and he could have it for free.

Scott was really surprised and said the sketch was fine, but Beatty refused to take any money and even said he’d try to come up with a better piece sometime in the future. Scott thanked Beatty and said that he had an autographed copy of “Mark of the Astro-Zombies” that Beatty could have. Big John passed the tape on to me since he knows that I’ve been wanting to see the movie and I’ll get to it before he ever does!

Finally Brian Bolland arrived! By this time Brian had a huge line of people waiting. With almost no time to even catch his breath, Brian began to take time with each fan. Some only wanted a chance to thank Brian for the wonderful work that he’s produced [and continues to produce]. Others were hoping for a sketch or even an opportunity to buy one of his prelims. When it was my time with Brian, I thanked him for providing me with many hours of pleasure, asked if he would autograph a book for a friend and pose for a picture with me. Brian was gracious and modest. He was a true pleasure to meet and I hope that he enjoyed meeting his fans as much as they enjoyed meeting him!

It was cool catching up with some artists that I hadn’t seen in a while. Dan Bereton and his lovely lady were there leading the celebration of the tenth anniversary of The Nocturnals. Eddie Powell and his wife had some really cool Goon t-shirts [James Howell got the last 2XL before me!], sketchbooks, and more. Gus Vasquez was there and promised to have my Stallone commission ready at Heroes. Gus said he’d do it that weekend, but I want him to take the time he’d like to do it “up right.”

Speaking of doing it up right, Sanford Greene has been turning out some great stuff lately. Sanford was sketching away, but did take some time to show us the latest book he’s putting together. It’s got a really hip look and should be a lot of fun once he gets it rolling. LeSean was also doing some work that really kicks butt. Hmmm… perhaps I’ll get them in the Stallone Gallery at some point. Andy Lee was there… and Jason Walker too!

I decided I would head over and see if Brian Stelfreeze had finished my Jack Carter commission. As I got closer to the Gaijin table, a couple of fans who know I collect Stallone pieces mentioned that they’d seen what Brian had done for me and that it totally kicked uh, butt. When I got there Brian was talking to another fan but I could see the completed piece! Man!! Brian had nailed it. His Jack Carter was one bad mofo. Going back to Brian‘s analogy of being called up to the “big leagues” — well, if that’s the case then Brian hit a grand slam the first time at bat. I couldn’t thank him enough for the piece. I did give him a StalloneZone t-shirt though.

I also gave shirts to Cully and Adam since they had completed Stallone sketches before I had the shirts and I didn’t want them to be left out. The cool thing is that some fans and pros are wearing the shirts to conventions [and not just to mow the grass]. At this point I’m totally out of shirts and I unfortunately ran out before getting one to Tony Harris [I thought we had put a couple back… but they got away].

Speaking of Tony Harris, I decided to check and see if he had finished my commission since Saturday was winding down. I was surprised to find that Tony hadn’t even finished the first sketch yet. Well… at least I was number 2 and Tony was confident that he’d be able to finish before we pulled out on Sunday at noon.

Rob Prior was set up doing some air brush paintings. Rob is quite an interesting guy. He’s worked in a number of artistic capactities in the comic and film industry. His most recent work has been on the Buffy, Angel, and Firefly TV shows. I’d heard that Rob was in the process of directing a movie called Shadowwalkers from a story that he’d created. Rob was nice enough to share the story and progress on getting the film made. If everything comes to pass we’re going to be in for a very cool couple of hours. The story is ripe for a multitude of venues from other movies to games to a tv series… but Rob is just concentrating on THIS movie now. Rob Prior‘s a guy to keep an eye on and I wish him continued success.

As the show was winding down Kelsey and I were laughing about the hacki-sack game that he got into at MegaCon. Before you could say hacki- Kelsey, Mike and Big Beatty started up a game. Soon Brian was involved… then Cully… and things were rockin’. I don’t know if watching Beatty keep missing with his kicks or Mike‘s doublekicks had us laughing more. The game was called when the janitors were ready to turn off the ligjhts. [At least it seemed that late!]

John Higashi, Steven Lee, James Howell, Jason Walker, Big Beatty, Mike, and I [along with another six or eight people] decided to have dinner at Road House. The meal lasted literally for over two hours as we all laughed and told “war stories” of conventions and art collecting. After everyone had ordered and some of us had even started to get our food the waitress came back to tell John Higashi that they were out of baked potatoes.

John was pretty disappointed, but not as disappointed as Big Beatty when he was told they were out of club sandwiches! Higashi opted for the onions [don’t ask]. Anyway… John‘s picking at his steak mumbling that he would have really liked his potatoe when the waitress brings out baked patatoes to others! Finally she comes back by [John‘s finished his steak by now] and she says, “Oh, we’ve got potatoes now.” John [looking sad] says, “No, that’s ok… I’m finished now.” “But sir, would you like your onions brought out?” John hung his head even lower and said, “No thanks. I’m finished.”

Now you might think that a man who was sad about not getting 1/3 of his meal would not be the target of teasing. But if you do think that way, then you don’t know Big Beatty. Beatty started in with riffs about Higashi being the infamous Johnny StarWarz [‘dat’s right StarWarz with a “Z”] and we were all off to the races. Before too long we had Johnny‘s “gang sign” [making a “J” and a “W” with the fingers on each hand], Johnny pimping out his rental car, making deals for commissions and then his homies bringing up “da cash,” Johnny wearing a Death Star medalian for his bling… and on and on and on.

When we finally left the restaurant it was after 10:30… and we were beat. So it was back to the hotel for a bit of sleep… The next morning Mike and I headed back to the Waffle House where we crossed paths with John Higashi, James Howell and Steven Lee. Then on to the convention.

Beatty and I were hanging at his table talking to the folks from Cute Girl Demographics who had the next table. Kelsey came by and hung out for a while. Ya just gotta love Kelsey [even if he did spill coffee on Mike]! After a bit I decided to go down and check on Tony Harris‘ progress. It’s always a good feeling to hear someone tell you how cool your piece is before you get to see it and that’s exactly what happened as I approached Tony‘s table.

Tony had really created a beautiful piece. This is the same guy who told me he had problems with doing a likeness! Man, his Stallone is dead on. Tony always turns out a great sketch and this one was exceptional. Big Beatty thinks it’s the best in my collection. And getting any compliment from Beatty is as rare as Higashi getting a baked potato at Road House.

I couldn’t belive my luck. I was able to get both Brian Stelfreeze and Tony Harris to do Stallone pieces for me… and they both nailed him. Life is good!

As much as I wanted to stay, I knew that we needed to head back to Daytona since we all had work or school the next day. [And in my case I had both since I’m a middle school administrator.] We made a final pass of the convention floor and said our good byes.

We’d had a great time… and are already counting the days untl Heroes!