Wow.  My first ever appearance at the Baltimore Comic Con was a mind-boggling experience; I don’t even know where to start!  I hit the road about 6am last Friday, and I knew it was going to be a great day when I passed a big “Scholastic Book Fairs” truck with a huge Clifford the Big Red Dog painted on the side!  The weather was perfect and the roads were clear of construction delays- a rare occurrence on I-81.  I made my way to the convention center, which is located  in the inner harbor, by early afternoon.  After setting up my table for the next day’s event, it was off for dinner with some great artist friends.  Scott Christian Sava and his family invited me to join them for dinner, and their two 10-year-old twin boys were given a copy of Hamster SAM to read in return for a “review”.  Logan could not put the book down during dinner (a good sign for me, but nearly got me in trouble with mom!).  His review was short and sweet, and interestingly- he wrote it on…a kleenex!  This is fitting, as the story contains a vile character named “King Crud”, who drives around outer space in his “Schnozzola 3000” space station.  How perfect is it that the review was written on a tissue!!!!??  Logan gave the book a good review; mentioning that he loves it, that it’s very funny- but one might find a few vocabulary words “tricky”, like the word “credentials”.  I foresee a professional reviewer here, folks!  Other dinner guests included the gifted artist and publisher, Harold Buccholz of Archie Comics,  Danielle Corsetto, popular webcomic artist/writer who is a pro with a pen and quick on the funny,  and Mike Kunkel, award-winning California-based animator, designer, writer- also creator of Herobear and the Kid– and all-around nice guy.  The 2-day comic event was a blast; it’s really the Super Bowl of people-watching!  Fans of comics young and old come dressed in the costumes of their favorite characters; and this can be quite interesting, shall we say.  Conventions like this are popular around the country; and they are mostly aimed at adult comic readers.  This show, however, and Charlotte’s own “HeroesCon” are very kid-friendly.  The organizers of the Baltimore show invited about 20 kids creators to set up in an area called the Kids Love Comics Pavilion.  Inside the rectangular fortress of artist tables was an area called the Imagination Station, where kids and parents could come in and sit down and draw or color comics!  Also- a kids stage area was programmed every hour with professional artists presenting demonstrations and workshops for kids, who gathered around and sat on the floor- drawing along with each artist.  I enjoyed putting on 2 of these presentations, one each on Saturday and Sunday.  This was brilliantly produced by Mark and Christopher Mariano, along with John Gallagher.  Mark & Chris, besides being brothers, are also band mates, and their stage presence really made these programs a huge success!  They really know how to engage a crowd and create an atmosphere of fun.  In the pic montage, you can see them hosting a drawing game show that Mark created, called “Doodle, Scribble Draw!”, which pits two teams of artists and kid volunteers in a head-to-head drawing competition for points, and ultimately- the championship belt!  Tons of parents came up to me and commented to me personally about how awesome this kids area was; and just how much they enjoyed the experience.  More comic conventions should consider providing a space like this, in order to introduce kids to the joys of comics and reading.  I briefly got to catch up with friend Jimmy Gownley, NY Times best selling author of Amelia Rules! graphic novels.  Jimmy was kind enough to take time out of his incredibly busy schedule a few weeks back to read my Hamster SAM book and offer a blurb that I can use to help promote it.  He was very kind and offered a highly complimentary statement about the book.   Networking and making new friends is also a major part of participating in shows like this.  I met so many nice people involved in the creation of comics, along with their family members.  Too many to name, and I wouldn’t want to leave any names out- but it is so great to meet other people who do what I do; and to compare notes and share resources and stories.  And yes; I sold some Hamster SAM books and posters, handed out hundreds of bookmarks and activity sheets, and made a good number of fans.  Seen in the photo montage above, are me at my table waiting for the doors to open on Saturday, before literally thousands of fans pour in; also 2 young, face painted girls with my Lunar Dust Bunny character, and then a photo of the huge crowd gathered around to watch a round of “Doodle, Scribble, Draw!”   I hope to be able to return next year with the next volume of…Hamster SAM!!!