New Frontier (It's Nice to Be Remembered)

Bloggified by Jake on Friday, May 13, 2016

Robert Baker originally wrote this on the now-defunct Ye Olde Comick Booke Blogge in around 2007.

Way back in 2003, Jake and I went to our first non-San Diego convention in Las Vegas. Most of our regular group was going, but they didn't want to take a day off work, so Jake and I-- having pathetic jobs we could easily get out of-- headed to Vegas Friday morning for a day to ourselves.

Almost literally, as it turned out. The attendance was small, to say the least, and we had our run of the place. Remember, San Diego was our only comparison, so an initial walk-through of the three rows and four columns of booths (with an artists alley of about twenty tables, most of which were unoccupied for the first hour) set up in the Mandalay Bay convention hall led us to believe we were going to be playing a lot of roulette waiting for the rest of the guys to tell them what a mistake coming to this con was. We decided to wait for the first wave of appearances at a series of tables set up in the back of the hall. At 11 o'clock, the first names rolled in and made the attendance all the more laughable, as the fans had to wind their way through about sixty yards of roped-off space to get to each tables. Bendis was the only one to have a full que waiting for him when he showed up, but after twenty minutes of autographs anybody could just walk-up.

This was when we realized a smaller con was ideal for getting sketches and fraternizing with the artists. We got to stand and talk with Darick Robertson, Ale Garza, and J.H. Williams III for over half-an-hour each, and Lee Bermejo for nearly an hour, simply because nobody else was there. We were in sketch whore heaven!

DC was the only company represented, so when we had exausted the special appearance tables, Jake and I went to see who'd be appearing at the DC booth. Judd Winick and Darwyn Cooke were the names listed on the dry erase board. I knew Winick as the guy doing Green Lantern, Jake knew him as the guy from "The Real World." I knew Cooke as the guy who'd done a cool Batman one-shot, but at least he was an artist. So we waited.

Winick showed up first, so we got in his "line". Then Darwyn Cooke showed up, looking ever bit like he'd just warped from 1952: buzz cut hair, horn-rimmed glasses and a suit with a thin tie. We got some awesome sketches from Cooke, but-- and I'm sure Jake would agree-- the best thing we walked away with that day was the enthusiasm Darwyn had instilled in us about his epic project The New Frontier.

We immediately rushed over to his booth, hidden in the last row facing the wall, where he had told us to go to see more about the project. Being Halloween weekend, Darwyn and his friends decided to theme their booth after the book, making into a 1950's airline called New Frontier. Everyone at the booth was dressed as pilots or stewardesses, and Darwyn himself, it turned out, was dressed as Slam Bradley, his favorite character.The booth was decorated with large banners, promotional art for the book scattered the tables and old bombs sat prominently on the corners of the booth. Why? Because they looked cool. The most astonishing part of it was that Darwyn had paid for it all himself, not DC, because Darwyn was that enthusiastic about his project. It turned out almost everyone working with him were also artists, and were very willing to do sketches for us. In particular, J. Bone (an uncredited assistant to Cooke on The New Frontier) blew me away with the sketch he did for me.

That night when the rest of our group arrived Jake and I got them equally excited about Cooke, his booth and The New Frontier. We spent a good number of hours at that booth over the remainder of the weekend, and that Las Vegas con ranks as one of my favorites. It got us hooked on doing multiple conventions each year, in no small part due to Darwyn Cooke and his enthusiasm.

Six months later we all went to WonderCon, where Darwyn was a guest of honor, and The New Frontier was in full swing and an unqualified success. The real kick-in-the-head was when we first saw him that weekend he remembered us. Not by name, but he remembered specific things about us, and that was incredibly cool. He was so friendly towards us, that on Sunday Darwyn, J. Bone and Dave Bullock had lunch with Jake and I. It was a great for us, though I'm sure they've forgotten it.

We saw him one more time in San Diego a year later when he was up for a number of Eisner awards. Again we had the pleasure of being in his company, and again it was a time none of us will soon forget.

As this entire post is simply about name dropping, I'll get to the point of it all. This week the Absolute edition of The New Frontier came out. It is without question one of the best purchases you could ever make if you liked the book the first time around, and if you've never read it, you might as well get the bells-and-whistles edition. The supplemental material is impressive and the larger format makes the artwork shine.

On the very last page is a list of people Darwyn wished to acknowledge. It came as quite the surprise to see that, amidst the hundred or so other names, we were mentioned as a group, Mark by name (you cocksucker!)Seven words that, to the majority of the people would seem like no big deal-- "You weren't memorable enough to get your name in it, so get over yourself."--, but to me it shows that we had an impact. He appreciated our support, and to me that's the coolest thing in the world.

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