I took my 7-year-old son, Andrew, to his first Comic-Con today, and I chose wisely: it was the Kid's Comic-Con in the Bronx. Instead of a lot of descriptions of the day's events, I'm just going to give you a visual guide of the day, starring Andrew, with a slight bit of commentary by me.
Andrew sported his new Spider-Man hat which he picked out last night at the mall, and, although you can't see it beneath his jacket, he decided to nerd it up by sporting a Flash pin he found in his room as he was getting dressed, thereby maintaining the proper Marvel/DC balance. It was a cold morning for this supposed "Spring" day. And, yes, that's snow on the ground.
Andrew wasn't much interested in the stuff at the tables. He was excited to pick up a free Sonic the Hedgehog comic, but he declined plenty of free stuff at other tables. Who declines free comics and books? Andrew, apparently. While he impatiently waited, Joe Staton drew a Wonder Woman sketch for my 4-year-old daughter (who had a day with Mom while we hit the geek trail). Andrew didn't even want a Staton sketch! He did like the vending machine, though, and here he is eating Cheez-Its in front of the Secret Identity Podcast folks, who are really cool guys who want to promote my upcoming projects, so hopefully you'll get to see or hear an interview with me on that show sometime soon. Note to parents who take their kids to conventions: bring plenty of snacks! I actually did that, but I left them in the car, and that vending machine was the only thing providing sustenance during our repeated laps around the room.
Still with the Cheez-Its, as we see the lack of crowds. Surprisingly low turnout for a great little show, full of cool workshops for kids and creators doing sketches for free (or very, very low prices--like $5 or less). I saw maybe only a few kids younger than 10. Where are all the kids at the Kid's Comic-Con???
Here's Jacob Chabot (of Mighty Skullboy Army fame, which my wife loves--she bought all the minicomics at the first New York Comic-Con) and Chris Giarrusso (of Mighty Marvels fame). You can't see Andrew in the frame, but he's off camera on the right, eating Cheez-Its. He did score a cool Giarrusso Spider-Man sketch, though--the only orginal art he picked up at a place full of really cool artists. Andrew is picky, but at least he has good taste. The sketch was sweet.
Andrew, chewing Cheez-Its as we pass by the Kyle Baker table. Andrew had no interest in a free Kyle Baker sketch! Oh, well...
I didn't think he was really loving the convention experience. He kind of wanted to go home even though we drove three hours to get here, and we'd only been at the show for an hour. We grabbed a couple more free comics, (Simpsons, Archie, Lion King), Andrew made his only purchase of the day, a copy of a Magic Treehouse chapter book, for $1.00 off a 10-year-old "dealer." He went to a comic-con and buys a chapter book. Nerd. Doesn't he know the kids love the comics?
Before we left for good, I convinced him to check out one of the workshops, and the only one going on at the time was the "How to Draw Manga" thing. The kind and friendly Alex Simmons helped us find the room, and we tried not to interrupt the lesson too much as we took our seats.
We learned how to make a front-view face, Manga-Style! Awesome.
Andrew, frustrated, tried to copy what was on the chalkboard, but since he's only 7, his drawing didn't look like the one on the board. He wanted it to be perfect. It wasn't. He clearly wanted to leave, but I told him to stay until he finished his drawing, which ended up being the best face he's ever drawn in his life. He was still not happy with it, but he let me put it in the bag to bring home. He was pretty grumpy at this point from the lack of a real lunch. The Cheez-Its didn't meet his nutritional requirement, apparently.
We made the three-hour drive back to Pittsfield, and he napped most of the way home. Before we got back to the house, we stopped at the famous Daddyo's Diner, which has great food at a reasonable price. The menu is amazingly extensive--not only do they have breakfast all day (with crepes too!), but they have tons of specialty burgers and plenty of other dinner choices that are delicious. Nobody ever goes there, except our family, apparently. Andrew and I were literally the only customers in the restaurant at 5:30 on a Saturday night. Like a great comic book that nobody else seems to read, Daddyo's is doomed to failure, but I'm going to enjoy the heck out of it while it lasts. It will be a good meal, at least, after a disappointing day for Andrew.
But wait! Andrew was eager to check out his stash of free comics! He took out the Simpsons issue and read the entire thing. He's NEVER read a comic by himself before. He likes when I read them to him sometimes, and he reads chapter books for extra-credit assignments from school, but he has never read a comic book story on his own. And he read the Simpsons comic from cover-to-cover, laughing and telling me about the funny parts. Even when his nutritious dinner of chocolate chip pancakes with a side of bacon arrived, he ignored the food--and he hadn't eaten anything except Cheez-Its since breakfast--to finish the comic. Could the trip to the Kid's Comic-Con have been a success?
By the end of the night, Andrew had read two entire comics and said, "I want to save that drawing I did today. I want to use ink and then erase the pencil lines." (Which he had seen Joe Staton do when he drew the Wonder Woman sketch while he impatiently waited earlier). "I think my drawing is pretty good. It's a good face."
He told me he wants me to teach him how to draw other kinds of faces, and mentioned other comic books he wants to read.
I expected an excited kid who was eager to get free stuff and happy to watch artists draw cool sketches for him. That's what I thought would happen today. I didn't get that at all. What I got was a serious kid who absorbed the lessons of the comic-con and, in his own way, began to appreciate comic books.
The Kid's Comic-Con was a success, at least for this 7-year-old. You just wouldn't have known it as you watched him dismissively eat his Cheez-Its in the Bronx.