Sorry for the delay in updates. Have been working on some Star Wars sketchcards for Topps and my deadline had to come first. (You can see them on my site- I have a bit of breathing room before my next sketchcard gig (Transformers!), so back to Metropolis, IL we go!

Artist Alley/Writers Way is where I “hung out” most of the weekend, and where I usually call home the first full weekend in June. I’ve been an artist guest since 2005, and that’s when we started the first Artists Alley at the annual Superman Celebration.

Fellow artist guest Steve Stanley and I were set up in the old Metropolis Community Center near Superman Square. It was also know as the “Comic Art Gallery” since we had some of our art on display on there, along with a kids art contest.

My pal Kevin Williams and his puppet Muley The Mule came along for the trip and helped us out by watching tables and keeping folks entertained. The space was great and had AMAZING A/C! (Very important in Metropolis during the summer.) For the next couple of years we were there and joined by some of ‘The Memphis Mafia” (Mid-South Cartoonists Association), comics guests Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Jake Black, Jon Bogdonave, Steve “The Dude” Rude, and actor Jerry Maren (a “Mole-Man” one of only three confirmed surviving dwarf munchkins from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz) and his wife actress/stunt double Elizabeth Barrington.

In 2007 we decided to start holding after hours events at the Artists Alley. We had the building and there were only one or two events at night in Metropolis. When dark came to Metropolis most folks went back to their hotels or over the bridge to Paducah, KY. We didn’t feel like going back to our hotel rooms, had the building for the weekend, and decided to invite all of our Metropolis super-friends over for a costume party.

We got food, drinks and door prizes. We showed fan films outside, did a “1 man cake-walk” (long story about Steve “Cake” Stanley), and had a great time. The night time parties at the Artists Alley gave fans a chance to dress up and socialize after the sun went down- which in June can be much easier time to cosplay in! Since then we’ve seen more and more people out after dark and vendors on Market Street staying open later and later each year. Now it’s not unusual to see activity well after midnight.

In 2008 after that space was sold to be turned into a Dippin’ Dots location, we moved up Market Street to a space that allowed us to have a bit more space for tables, comics panels, art show, art contest, and fan films- and changed the name to “Artists Alley and Writers Way“. The A/C and lighting wasn’t as good, but the comics fans followed and we had other great comics guests join us like Gail Simone, John Ostrander, Mary Mitchell, Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson, Josh Elder, Mike Norton, Freddie Williams II, Jamal Igle, Dave Beaty, as well as movie/TV guests Beverly Washburn, Mark Pillow, Tracy Roberts, and Ilya Salkind.

This year it was decided to make the AA/WW location “Planet Krypton” (named after the space mural inside), and just hold panels, fan films, dance party, and “Superboy” signings there (more about all that in a future blog post). Artist Alley/Writers Way was relocated up the street a few doors in the local carpenters union hall- just across the street from the Noel Neill/Lois Lane statue at 8th and Market Street. I had a few folks ask me if I was worried about people finding the new location. I told them I wasn’t. The Lois Lane statue and celebrity autograph signings were across the street at Bantera Bank, we would have air conditioning, it’s on the program guide map, and our ace in the hole- we were going to have a George Pérez! Comics fans WOULD find us!

I was pleased to find out that not only did the new location’s A/C worked wonderfully, but it also gave us more room for tables…and lots of George Pérez fans! I was right, they did find us! There were so many we had to create a queue line to direct traffic, and there were people waiting outside Friday morning morning when I got there early to open up. He’s a very popular guy.

George drew sketches, signed autographs, and chatted with fans and friends all weekend. I didn’t hear him complain once the whole time, and he took time with each fan. The man is a MACHINE!

George was a really great guest and I enjoyed having my table next to his. I got a big kick out of watching him jump up to take pictures of cosplayers and with fans all weekend. He has energy I wish you could bottle, or at least share!

I got so many brownie points when I got home thanks to Mr. Pérez! I asked him to sign a TPB and commissioned a Wonder Woman sketch for my wife Nicki. I also bought a Powergirl/Huntress print for her that he was selling to raise money for my friends Danny and Karla Ogle.

Karla is co-chair of the Superman Celebration (with her sister Lisa Gower).  Just after last year’s Superman Celebration her husband (and celebration volunteer) Danny was diagnosed with Stage IV Osteosarcoma Cancer.  George sold out of the prints and gave ALL the money to the Ogle Family Cancer Fund. George regularly raises money for the HERO Initiative.

George is a big fan of cos-players, and can be seen having his photo taken with them at conventions all over, especially DragonCon and MegaCon. He’s a big comics fan-boy himself, and has the coolest comic shirts thanks to his wife! (Hope she can make the trip next time!)

Super-Heather and Wonder-Margie were nice enough to help promote my wife’s website Fangirl Wednesday while at Artists Alley! Thanks, girls!

Over the weekend George had a lot of his costumed super-friends stop by AA/WW for a visit. Many of them even threw him a surprise birthday party on Friday night.

His niece Camille was able to make it up from Florida for his birthday and was the biggest surprise for him! I think her visit was his favorite birthday present all weekend. She really made her uncle’s birthday very special for him.

I know he was missing his wife and being home, but between Camille and dozens of George’s closest super-friends being there I think he had a great birthday weekend in Metropolis. Uh, for the record we didn’t know George was diabetic…sorry, George!

I was really happy to finally see Terry Beatty able to make it to Metropolis. He’s had something else going on the same weekend before and been unable to attend in the past. He’s been an artist on the DC animated comic books for years, and is currently the artist for The Phantom Sunday newspaper strips!

I met Terry several years ago at Wonderfest in Louisville, KY. He’s a big fan of monsters and model kits, so I really dig him! In Metropolis I got a Phantom sketchcard from him, and had him sign one of my animated Batman pages and some comics. Also got a Batgirl sketch for Nicki- you can never have too many brownie points, guys! Poor guy, though- when he got home from Metropolis his A/C was out! Nicki and I had that happen last year. I hate I didn’t get to have dinner with Terry while he was in town, but I had other commitments on Friday and Saturday nights at Planet Krypton. Luckily some of the Memphis Mafia did get to. Hopefully I’ll run into Terry again soon. Would love to go back to Wonderfest.

Speaking of the “Memphis Mafia“, we had some new faces in Artist Alley/Writers Way this year. MSCA member Lonnie Easterling and his family set up to promote his webcomic and book “Spud Comics“. They’ve made the trip before but this was the first time for Lonnie to be an artist guest. MSCA president Chris Jowers and vice president Charles Ettinger also came up to hang out with us, as well as members Adam and Penny Shaw, DaMarco Randle, and Andrew Chandler.

Fellow Memphians Christina and Jim Hall also joined us. Jim’s been an artist for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Dark Horse Comics. This was Jim’s first time as an artist guest there and said he hoped it wouldn’t be his last! I hope so, too. He and Christina seemed to be having a blast. Kind of hard not to in the official home of Superman!

More Memphians and members of  “Team Jetta” (or should I say “Team Turra“..?) Micah, Cliff, and Thai Riley made the 3hr drive up, too. They each got a great sketch from George, cosplayed, and hung out at the  MAW Productions booth over the weekend.

Also joining us for the first time were writers Larry Tye (Superman biographer) and Bruce Scivally– author of “Superman on Film, Television, Radio and Broadway” and “Billion Dollar Batman“. Writer/publisher Larry Ward (Noel Neill biographer) also stopped by for a bit, too. Larry recently moved to Metropolis and is currently heading up the restoration of the Massac Theatre in town.

Some of the “usual suspects” in AA/WW again this year were voice actor Jeffrey Breslauer, artist Trevor Hawkins, comics creators Sean Dulaney, Jason and Dawn Rawley, and MSCA members / “Team Jetta” crewJanet Stone Wade, Martheus Antone Wade, Kevin L. Williams, and Muley The Mule. Antone and Janet also brought their son Anakin who is finally old enough to really enjoy being in Metropolis. He loved seeing all the costumed heroes, playing with action figures, and drawing at the Jetta booth.

I usually do a few pieces of art to display in the art show at AA/WW. This year I had a few marker illustrations and a couple paintings like this black and white airbrushed George Reeves Superman portrait. Artist Trevor Hawkins (far left/Jimmy Olsen) also had several of his mixed media painting on display, too. Every year he gives each of the media guests a painting, and this year he gave one to George Pérez for his birthday.

Every year we hold an art contest which is broken up into several different age categories. The kids (and big kids) look forward to it each year. We had a lot of great entries again and I got to award the winners on Sunday at the main tent. Unfortunately this winner had to leave almost immediately after entering due to a family emergency, but had his prize and ribbon mailed to him later by the celebration staff. Thanks to Christina Hall for helping to judge the contest.

I always get a kick out of seeing many of my friends I only run into in Metropolis, but I really get a kick out of meeting young artists at my table or panels. I met this artist (who is autistic and deaf) and his family last year. Every time I saw him he had new drawing on his Magna Doodle. This year when he stopped by my table he had Superman drawings on paper to show me. They were really cool, but the wild thing is he doesn’t really sketch them- he draws them like he would on the Magna Doodle. I was amazed and proud to see that what I had shown him last year in my panel had stuck with him and he had drawn it in his style. Hey, it’s not often people listen to what I say! I’ve gotten to teach some kids art classes at the DAC here at home and do some private tutoring for my friend Owen. Hope to continue to do more.

I can’t talk about Artist Alley/Writers Way without mentioning Cliff and Wanda Helm, or “Papa Cliff and Mama Wanda” as they’ve come to be known to us. (Love the t-shirts!) They are the parents of Karla and Lisa (the co-chairs of the celebration) and are the unsung heroes of AA/WW. We really couldn’t do it without them, and it really is a family event. Karla and Lisa’s kids and husbands all volunteer and do whatever needs to get done. Can’t thank them all enough. They’ve all been through a lot over the past year or so- floods, car wrecks, cancer, and more.

One thing my friend Tim Brown (who runs all the A/V at Planet Krypton),  some of the AA/WW artists, and I did to try to help was put on a silent auction. Actually we did two auctions- one for the Ogle Family Cancer Fund and one for the Save The Massac Theatre Fund– which Lisa heads. Both were a big success, and got a lot of stuff out of my attic and garage- which made my wife happy!

I did a limited run of 100 Massac prints to sell at the celebration (that’s one on the front of my table). All of the proceeds from the sale of those prints goes to the Save The Massac Theatre Fund and are on sale at Creations The Florist in Metropolis for $20 each. One of the highlights of the weekend was watching the new roof go up on the historic theater, and I’ll post more about the restoration in the future. It originally opened back in 1938 (the same year Superman first appeared in Action Comics), and  the place is going to look amazing!

If you ever get to attend the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL I hope you stop by Artist Alley/Writers Way. I think it’s worth searching for!

Up next- the Metropolis midway, cosplayers, and the big costume contest! Until then, “Stay \S/uper!”