The cover of the Baltimore Comic-Con's 2014 yearbook, which pays tribute to Matt Wagner's creator-owned property on Grendel's 30th anniversary.
The cover of the Baltimore Comic-Con’s 2014 yearbook, which pays tribute to Matt Wagner’s creator-owned property on Grendel’s 30th anniversary.

 

BALTIMORE COMIC-CON pulls into the Inner Harbor this afternoon for three days of artist close-ups, cosplay and illustrative sessions at the Baltimore Convention Center.

To help you navigate all the fun between now and Sunday, here are a few of our don’t-miss picks:

1. THE ART AUCTION
(Friday, 5 p.m.)

This year’s Comic-Con Yearbook not only features dozens of artists paying visual tribute to Matt Wagner’s Grendel 30 years on, but the book also benefits a great cartoonist who has leukemia.

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“Grendel was always on the short list of creator-owned characters that we wanted to do, and Matt has been a returning guest since the second year [in 2002],” Baltimore Comic-Con promoter Marc Nathan tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “With the new series coming out, we felt that this was the year.” (Previous years have saluted creater-owned properties like Stan Sakai’s Usagi Jojimbo and Frank Cho’s Liberty Meadows.)

“Everyone really stepped up their game this year” for the yearbook art, says contributor Steve Conley, who will be selling new softcover editions of his book “Bloop.”

A portion of the yearbook’s auction proceeds will benefit the New York-based cartoonist Seth Kushner. “Seth is also a friend, and the [proceeds] decision happened on the night that Seth found out that he had to go in for second round” of treatment, Nathan says.

That night, Nathan called friend Dean Haspiel, the Emmy-winning cartoonist, and “we worked out a plan.”

“Seth is a photographer/writer and friend of the show, and one of my studio mates, and he is currently battling leukemia,” Haspiel tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “I immediately told Marc how gracious he was to offer that kind of gift and that was set into motion.

“On the day of the deadline for the yearbook, I suggested to Seth that he try and draw a Grendel pin-up from his hospital bed, which he did, and I called Brad Tree and asked him to stop the presses, which he did, in order to get Seth into the book,” says Haspiel, creator of the new Billy Dogma book “Fear, My Dear.”

“I know that Seth feels honored to be a part of such a thoughtful comix community and to be a recipient of such kindness. Good will goes a long way, and we’re hoping everything works out for the best for our pal, Seth.”

(To learn more about Seth and to contribute to his cause, click HERE.)

(Note: The Matt Wagner Spotlight session will be Saturday at 1 p.m.)

2. THE WALTER & LOUISE SIMONSON SPOTLIGHT
(Friday at 4 p.m.)

3. THE PAUL POPE SPOTLIGHT
(Saturday at 2 p.m.)

The Simonsons’ superheroic portfolio is a bonanza — from the Son of Krypton to the son of Odin. And Pope has created a teen superhero for a new generation with his “Battling Boy” books.

“I’m looking forward to the Paul Pope Spotlight, and the Walter and Louise Simonson Spotlight,” Haspiel tells Comic Riffs. “Paul is a peer and Walter is a mentor of mine. Two groundbreaking cartoonists whose careers I aim to emulate in both spirit and soul. And, Louise is possibly the kindest person in comics, who’s editing and writing establishes her as one of the greats.”

Paul Pope also recently re-released his Fellini-meets-Picasso graphic novel about a circus escape artist, “Escapo.

“The Paul Pope Spotlight also looks intriguing,” says Con exhibitor Carolyn Belefski, creator of the webcomic “Curls.” “I enjoy how he is so loose with his craft.”

4. PEANUTS AND BEYOND: THE OTHER SIDE OF CHARLES M. SCHULZ
(Saturday at 1 p.m.)

Schulz Museum director Karen Johnson will illuminate Schulz the man through his cartoons, including unpublished art and conceptual sketches. This session is about “seeing the world through the eyes of this artist,” Johnson tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “He said: ‘Everything I am is in the strip.’ … It’s like you get to see his thought process and all that went into it.”

In her time at the Northern California museum, Johnson tells us, “one of the best things in the past 11 years is finding these hidden treasures” — the unpublished and little-seen works.

Plus, BOOM Studios editor-in-chief Matt Gagnon will examine Sparky Schulz’s legacy as viewed through the current KaBOOM! “Peanuts” books.

(Note: Johnson will also be at Saturday night’s Harvey Awards banquet to receive the inaugural Harvey Kurtzman Hall of Fame Award on behalf of the first recipient: the late Charles Schulz.)

5. THE MAKING OF THE FIFTH BEATLE: THE BEATLES IN COMICS
(Saturday at noon)

Last weekend at the National Book Festival, I had the pleasure of talking with (and introducing during the Graphic Novel Night session) Tony-winning theater producer Vivek J. Tiwary, whose Harvey Award-nominated graphic novel “The Fifth Beatle” (art by Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker) is a passion project about Beatles manager Brian Epstein. This is a great peek into what it’s like to being a Beatles story to the page.

6. WHAT DOES AN EDITOR DO?
(Saturday at 5 p.m.)

Editors from DC, Marvel, BOOM! and Valiant will discuss how the role of editor has changed with the times in the comics industry.

This panel intrigues Belefski, the “Curls” creator, she says because
“it’s always interesting to know how editors work behind-the-scenes and the process of creating from a decision-making perspective.

“Since I’ve been editor of the past four issues of Magic Bullet, it helps to see what other editors are doing — if I decide to publish other creators in future projects, or even work with them as an art director in other roles of life.”

7.  SPOTLIGHT ON GAIL SIMONE
(Saturday at 3 p.m.)

The great Gail Simone will be in conversation with Dynamite associate editor Molly Mahan, to talk about writing about Red Sonja and the forthcoming Women of Dynamite miniseries. With any luck, she’ll also say something her brand-new assignment: Secret Six.

8. THE SIXTH ANNUAL COSTUME CONTEST
(Sunday at 1 p.m.)

Always a spectacle to witness the range of creations and ingenuity. Registration opens when the show does (10 a.m.). $5 entry for adult contestants; all youth contestants can enter free

9. TOP LOCAL ARTISTS DRAW LIVE!
(Saturday at 4 p.m.; Sunday at 4 p.m.)

On Saturday, “Liberty Meadows” creator Frank Cho will do a one-hour drawing demonstration based on audience suggestion; the art will be raffled off. And on Sunday, “Bloop” creator Steve Conley will feature how to draw nature as part of his “Kids Love Comics” session.

10. VIP ALL-STAR RECEPTION
(Friday at 8 p.m.)

For a higher price tag, you can attend this limited-ticket cocktail-party event  alongside such comics stars as Mark Waid, Dave Gibbons, Barry Kitson, Greg Capullo, Gail Simone and Maryland’s own Frank Cho — as well as Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew. (No one younger than 21 will be admitted.)

(Note, Star Wars fans: Mayhew, the world’s most famous Wookiee, will receive a Spotlight session Sunday at noon.)

For all the programming, guest lists and ticket information, go to the Baltimore Comic-Con website.