[Groop] Tone's Baltimore Comic Con report - #1

Tone Tone at moon-shine.net
Tue Sep 11 00:06:11 PDT 2007

	Okay, I am finally rested and caught up on all the e-mail I had
gotten. Now it is time for me to start giving you guys that update I
have been promising.

	It all pretty much started Friday night. After gathering all my
gear and prepping things I tried to go to bed by 9pm, but even though I
had attempted to get in the habit of going to bed on an earlier basis, I
was too excited. I think I must have not fallen asleep until some time
after 10pm, then I only slept until 2:45am. At that point I stealthily
got up, quietly got ready, and slipped into my gear. I was on my bike
and actually pedaling by 4am.
	About five miles from my home is the start of Pennsylvania's
Heritage Rail Trail, which use to be a rail road. Along with Maryland's
North Central Rail Trail it runs 41 miles south to the outskirts of
Baltimore. Abraham Lincoln used it on his way up to deliver the
Gettysburg address, and the rail was also used by escaped slaves to head
north across the Mason-Dixon line in pursuit of their freedom. In fact
just over the border on the PA side is a town called "New Freedom."
	Well, by the time I got to the Mason-Dixon Line between PA and
Maryland it was still completely dark. Remember the moon is/was in its
new-moon phase, which makes it especially dark. I was definitely
prepared though. Check out my light set up in this photo I took at the
PA/MD border:
It consisted of three white headlights on the handlebars, two small red
lights each screwed on the valves of my tire tubes, a small blinking red
light on the rear, a green glow stick on the right side toward the rear,
and a yellow glow stick on the left side behind the seat. If that was
not enough, I also wore a miner-style headlamp, which also had a
blinking red light clipped to its back. For the photo I sat the head
gear on my bike seat. Here is the same photo, but with a camera flash:
	You can see the Mason-Dixon Line posted on the map and bulletin
board in the background. The ride was certainly spooky at times,
especially when I would see pairs of yellow eyes in wooded areas. Half
of the time I could eventually tell they were just cats, but other times
I could not tell what the heck they were when I directed my head lamp at
them. One time I know I saw a fawn sitting completely still beneath a
big shrub. I kept picturing those Groo panels where Groo was in the dark
and surrounded by eyes looking at him, and I wondered what a great
imagine Sergio could sketch up of me riding my foolish butt down to
Baltimore in the middle of the night.
	Even though the glowing eyes were creepy, what was probably more
dangerous, were posts set up at cross roads so vehicles could not drive
onto the trail. Usually these would all have reflectors on them, which I
could easily pick out, but occasionally I got within a couple of yards
before I realized I had to stop or redirect myself. The worst part
though was on the way back at dusk. In Maryland the trail runs along a
stream in the Gun Powder Fall State Park, and I found myself wishing I
had goggles because of all the gnats spattering into me. As I biked
along the consistency of them colliding into my face and arms was almost
exactly the same as riding through drizzling rain. I found myself
clenching my lips together and squinting my eyes as I cycled forward.

	Okay, so I am sure you guys are probably sick of the cycling
stuff, so I will wrap it up. Basically I was off the 41 mile trail by
about 8am, and I completely the additional 16 miles to the Convention
Center by 9:45, which gave me 15 minutes before the Comic Con opened. I
quickly freshened up in the bathroom, changed in my Groo shirt, and
snatched up a program booklet. While flipping through it to figure out
where Sergio's table was I slowly followed the meandering ULTRA-LONG
line, which eventually curved back onto itself two times. I finally got
my place at the end of the line and after about ten minutes only then
realized, even though I already had my Ticket-Master bought ticket in
hand, I still had to have it verified by getting a wrist band at one of
the front desks. I naturally did so, but I ended up loosing my place in
line because by then it had already started moving and I could not find
where I had been.
	It must have been some time after 11am when I finally got onto
the actually Con floor. That was not my only problem though. Earlier on
I mentioned to the Groop Sergio's name was no longer listed on the guest
page of the Baltimore Comic Con web site and wondered if this was a
problem. Well, it turned out in the program booklet there was also no
indication where Sergio's table was located! His name was only listed as
one of the autographing artists and as a spotlight panel in an upstairs
conference room later in the day.
	I have never been to a Comic Con as large as this one, so I
found myself starting from scratch and simply following my own search
pattern. Eventually I found the Dark Horse booth, which was in booth
1305, but not listed in the convention map either. I asked if they
happened to know where Sergio was, and they said they did not even
realize he was at the Con, which got me a bit worried. I told them
Sergio was in fact listed in the program, had a panel later on, and Mark
had said he would be in attendance. Being the good natured individual I
am, I even offered to return with information to Sergio's whereabouts if
I was ever able to find him.
	Eventually of course I did find Sergio and his table. At that
point I knew meetings him was really going to happen. I did not expect
his line to be so long. It seem to consistently have one to two dozen
people lined up, and even later in the day I counted no less than six at
any given time. Here is a photo of the line:
	It is a bit hard to make out in the photo, but Sergio's table is
beneath his white banner, which is just above that bald guy in the white
T-shirt. I was behind "Mr. Red-shirt" and there were still two or three
people behind me at the time.
	Growing up all the other kids collected "cooler" comics like
X-Men and stuff, but Sergio definitely had one of the longer lines,
which made me feel sad for some of the other artists at booths around
him. I did not mind much. Waiting in Sergio's queue just meant my feet
would hurt from standing around a little longer, and after biking for
over five hours that was nothing.

	By process of elimination I finally got to Sergio's table.
	I was practically at a loss for words, but Sergio was extremely
welcoming. Even while being so busy greeting his fans, signing
autographs, and doodling the occasional sketch, he had already noticed
my Groo shirt and my Groop membership cards proudly hanging around my
neck. In his experience he smoothly eased my nervousness with a warm
hand shake and kind words.
	Most of my Groo collection is stored back in New York City, but
I did bring along my copy of the first printing of "MAD's Sergio On
Parade," which I bought MANY years ago when it was new on the shelf. I
was originally a fan of Sergio's marginals in the MAD magazines my
friends had, and initially picked out Groo only because I recognized
Sergio's name on a Groo cover while thumbing through random comics when
waiting for a friend looking for his monthly comic fix.
	Here is a photo of the cover from my copy of "Sergio on Parade":
	...and here is what Sergio sketched inside:

	While Sergio was making quick work of his sketch in my book, I
managed to get some sense about me. I spoke up and was able to bring up
the pre-paid Groo hats Gary had arranged for me, and before I even
finished my sentence Sergio verbally confirmed my order, had the hats in
front of him, and asked if I wanted them autographed. That was an easy
enough question for me to say yes to. :)
	Here are some photos of one of the hats I got:

	I had also noticed the Groo magnets on the table at Sergio's
side. Our Gary G. was gracious enough to score me two of the magnets,
but it had seemed Sergio's inventory of the Rufferto magnets was over
with because of Sergio's generosity in giving them away to the little
kids. Well, it turned out Sergio DID have some Rufferto magnets left,
and I personally witnessed Sergio freely distributing them to the young
ones several times on Saturday. Needless to say I was able to speak up
enough to ask for a couple of magnets. Now I have all three:
	If you take a look at the "Groo & Friends" magnet, you will
notice Rufferto is missing an eye spot. Sergio is always willing to draw
an eye spot on the magnets in person, but I wanted to keep them
	After getting the magnets and the hats, Sergio did not have
anything else on his table Groo-related I did not have, except for the
Spanish versions of the trade paper backs. I had already told myself I
would not start up an international collection because that could
potentially be infinite and I can not read other languages except poor
Portuguese anyway. I was really hoping Sergio would have copies of the
Anniversary Special, but he did not. Though he did seem convinced some
dealer at the convention must have copies, but I and other fans proved
him wrong by the time of Sergio's' spotlight panel.

	Before ending my awestruck meeting with Sergio, there was still
at least one thing left for me to do at Sergio's table. I noticed he had
at least one folder of pre-made sketches, and since I biked 58 miles to
meet Sergio for the first time ever on Groo's 25th anniversary... I was
psyched to have a look in his portfolio and definitely financially
prepared to buy something original.
	When I mentioned I was interested in Sergio's original art he
immediately suggested I come around the table inside his booth. Not only
that, but he said I should hang out and have a seat. Sergio actually
interrupted the artist in the next booth to snag one of his extra seats,
and he unfolded it and set it down for me before also pulling out his
larger portfolio of artwork. I felt like I was getting VIP treatment,
and when I began to question him if he was sure about it, Sergio shot me
down like a family member, who would not take no for an answer when
giving a gift.
	I enthusiastically flipped through his pages appreciating every
piece of art and the privilege of seeing it all first hand. There were
some really sweet pieces, which stood out at me. One was a large-format
sword fight seen of Groo slicing a bunch of lizard-like men surrounding
him. Unfortunately, that work was tagged at $600, which was just a bit
beyond my price range. Apart from that though, there was a really
tasteful image of Rufferto with Groo's swords, which I particularly
liked. It had one of the lower price tags at $100, so I went for it:
	After deciding on the piece, I patiently waited, watched, and
appreciated Sergio's interactions with his other fans. Eventually Sergio
turned to me to say some amusing comment about how the line never ends.
At that point he noticed I was finished and he actually apologized to me
as if he had been ignoring me. I told him he was ridiculous, and if he
needed a break or anything else I could offer him assistance since I
primarily came to the Con for him. I could see the look of appreciation
in his smile, but he said he had things under control and we completed
the transaction. As usual, Sergio had a canister for CBLDF donations and
was asking for donations for sketches or for more than three signatures.
I had not reached any of the limits, but I gladly donated $50 in
appreciation to his efforts. Come to think of it, Sergio did not even
ask me for the money for the magnets and I was too scatter-brained to
think of it, so technically I owe him money! :)
	Before departing I asked Sergio about some old bike messenger
related artwork he had made for MAD long ago because I was possibly
interested in purchasing it if he still had it. He barely remembered the
piece, but told me even if he did not have it he could easily re-sketch
and send it to me, so he gave me his contact info. I was shocked at
that, but apparently he trusted me enough with it and I am honored by
it. Afterward I told Sergio I would be walking around the Con a bit, but
would return to see if he needed any assistance. I know our Gary helps
Sergio out in San Diego, but there was no visual Groopie presence in
Baltimore, so I had no problem stepping up if needed. Sergio told me
that would be really terrific of me.

	After that I headed back to the Dark Horse booth just to let
them know where Sergio was located. They were actually only about five
booths away, yet they still had no clue Sergio was there. :)
	With my primary mission complete the only thing left to do was
do a more thorough inspection of the place because earlier while
wandering around I was ONLY seeking out Sergio's booth. Now I had some
time to relax and stroll around to see if I could locate any rare Groo
items I did not have. Perhaps I am inexperienced in the ways of Comic
Cons, but I ended up not finding anything I wanted. I did see a few
random Groo comic books and some of the first issues, but nothing I did
not already have. I did have my collection list too, but as you can see
I have A LOT of Groo stuff already:
	This list might be good for those wanting to learn what they
might be missing in their own collections. Viewers might have to fiddle
with the font sizing and paper margins to get the lines to fit as I
intended them to. After the Sergio panel I showed Eric and Dominick my
printed copy, and they both seemed interested in seeing my listings
later on, so I figured it might be useful to others as well.

	Well, I think this has been quite a bit of reading for ANYONE to
digest in one sitting, so I will leave you guys with that for now and
follow up later on. I just hope I have not put you guys to sleep or left
anyone hanging. More later,

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