Let's start this off with one last piece from the show. This was done for Matt and he knew that Kitty is one of my favorites to draw. As a matter of fact, I drew Supergirl, Atom Eve and Kitty. All on the top of my list. The show was great just from that alone. The rest is just icing. :)
This part might be boring for those that have heard it first hand but I'm still going to share. The flight up from Tampa to Pittsburgh was good. I had a rental car reserved. Just a compact, but they upgraded me to a really nice sedan at no extra charge. Good start for the weekend. Easy 40 minute drive to the hotel and convention center. Prior to moving to Florida, I lived in Tennessee and would drive to the Pittsburgh ComiCon. I did that for so many years I have learned my way around the area. When I checked in at the hotel, the desk clerk stated that I had a room with two double beds and asked if I was alone. I said yes and he then said they could really use the room because they had so many request for rooms with two beds and that he could upgrade me to a king suite on the penthouse floor at no extra charge. Well, okay, if I have to take a penthouse suite for the price of a regular room, I guess I will. I'm generous to a fault for things like that. Remember these upgrades for when we get to the end of this story.
The convention center is not 50 yards from the hotel so after unpacking I went over and set up. I only missed the first hour and a half. My spot was between Tim Vigil and Moonstone Comics. But in front of me was a 15 foot tall wall of t-shirts. And the thing was two aisles wide. And I was centered on it. I couldn't see any of the convention hall. I spent Friday in that location. In that first day I saw almost everyone I would see for the weekend. I started in on my advance sketch list while chatting away. Attendance seemed low even for a Friday, but then I was only seeing 100 square feet of the hall. Carlos Lising invited me to join him and a group of people for dinner Friday night but I was exhausted and knew I wouldn't be good company. I had already planned on a Saturday dinner out, knowing that I would be rested. So I had to decline. Good thing too, I grabbed some food to eat in my room and then collapsed.
Woke up Saturday morning, 6am. Had breakfast in the hotel restaurant then went back to my room to work on some sketches before the show. 10am was the start time and I was already well into my list. And speaking of the list, I closed it Friday afternoon because I didn't think I could take anymore requests. Also, on Saturday I moved two spaces down to the end of the aisle. That table wasn't being used and it got me away from the t-shirt wall. Now I could see about 20% of the show. This day was a blur of sketches and catching up with people I only see at conventions. Good times! I did the Quick Sketch fundraiser for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Later a group of us went out for dinner after the show but before the art auction. The group was Brian "Batmite" Jones, his nephew Jordan, Anthony and his wife Jen, and Amanda and her husband Carlos Lising. (I give Amanda top billing here, she deserves it: she knows Nicole Kidman!!! Really!!!) It was a great time. The conversation went all over the place. I have blackmail material on Brian now, I learned that Jordan can switch over from being a nice guy to a killing machine with a trigger word, I learned that Jen is in fact a comic book widow but is very supportive. (Hey, she went to dinner with us! She is almost Saint Jen at this point) That Amanda was born in several different countries (you can tell from her accent) and that you cannot trust any story Carlos tells you but you can get the truth out of him with a spider. Anthony was the tough one to crack. You could tell he has had special ops training in the retention of information. And me, hell, I will tell you anything you want to know. And stuff you might not want to know. I had such a good time with these wonderful folks, I hope that this is the start of a tradition. Thanks again, I hope I wasn't too loud and boisterous to handle. (And I hope I got everyones name right)
Sunday was a quick day. Finished up sketches that I started in my room after dinner. Matt came by to pick up his Kitty Pryde sketch (above). Said goodbye to folks that were leaving. And had to leave at 1pm in order to return the rental car and catch my flight. I was told to expect delays at one of the tunnels on my way to the airport, but no delays at all. More in my favor. Returned the car, cost less than expected because I got back earlier than planned. Checked baggage, went through security and got a late lunch. There was a storm heading towards the Pittsburgh area. A big one. Late afternoon arrival expected. Looked like I was going to get out just in time.
Here's where the universe balances all those sweet upgrades and good times. Can't have the scales tip too much you know. Here is the breakdown. The storm hit 20 minutes before our flight was to leave. Our plane arrived but couldn't come to the gate because we had lightning all around the airport. 30 minutes later, those poor people were allowed to deplane. We boarded and we were off. I think we took off in the eye of the storm because after 30 minutes in the air we were pummeled with turbulence. This slowly got worse. We finally got a break from all the clouds but that was when I noticed we were heading out over the Atlantic. Yup, coastline, water, us. Not the usual flight plan. Shortly after that we started shaking again. We did this for quite a while and then the pilot said the Tampa Airport was shut down because of a massive storm. We were in a holding pattern for sometime before he said we were now heading to Ft. Lauderdale. It was the safe thing to do, no doubt, but we were a flying martini shaker all the way there. Finally landing at 8pm. Two hours after I would have been home. They got the word that Tampa was open so we refueled and headed to the runway. But before taking off, Tampa closed again. We sat on the tarmac for 20 minutes and got the word Tampa was open again. We were off. The flying martini shaker was on it's way. We were told it would be 45 minutes to the gate. Almost an hour and a half later we made it. We had flown in circles. My wife had checked a flight tracker online and found we got to the Tampa area then went around Orlando and back. This was the second and third worse flights for turbulence I had been on. But everyone was safe and we were finally home. The airline broke my suitcase and tore open the box to inspect my banner. But I was home. And 30 minutes after getting home, another storm hit us. Violent thunder and lightning shook the house. But I was home. :)
Again my guess is the universe balanced out some of my good fortune. And that's okay, because I know the scale are still tipped way in my favor anyway. Oh, I forgot to mention, I have a little bit of a fear of flying. I understand the odds of a disastrous end is unlikely, I think it's more of a control issue. I hate being the passenger in a car too.
Thanks to everyone who made the trip memorable in a good way! Renee and her team did another outstanding job of putting on a fun show and treating everyone like family. Let's do it again next year, shall we?
This is Post #932