I made one final check of the car before I headed out to pick up Ken. Scissors, Duck Tape, Half a tube of Velvet Crush color paint, extra velcro and elastic, Giant Lego Joker, a DC converter for the cigarette lighter in the car and a hot glue gun. Perhaps it’s just because it’s the height of summer, but something ALWAYS breaks when I head to Youngstown for AllAmeriCon.
For years I’ve been saying I wanted to keep an eye on this show to see what it grows into. I think this year it’s happened. They leveled up and it’s become the next incarnation it was desperately trying to achieve. Moving into the much larger Covelli Center in downtown Youngstown was a necessary move and it definitely had me wondering what the show would look like this year.
The truth is, things have not really changed that drastically, indeed, the layout is VERY familiar, almost as if someone had downloaded the con into photoshop, and then stretched out the size until it was bigger. It looks very much the same, but there’s more of everything and more room in those isles where we struggled shoulder-to-shoulder last year. I dig this because I really do feel like I’m still attending the same show I’ve come to enjoy over the last four years, rather than it feeling like a whole new con (which I genuinely feared) The strategy seems to be the same as well, bring in one or two amazing comic guests to focus on while maintaining a great selection of vendors and artists. There was a renewed focus on programming this year, with a couple of panels complementing the massive costume contest.
Did I mention the ginormous costume contest? All Americon has always brought out the best in cosplayers and if you compete here, you definitely want to bring your A game, but this year the scope expanded disproportionately to the con size. According to Miss Procrastination Cosplay, it went from 30 or so last year to a whopping 80 contestants this year. Seriously, they give Akron Comicon a run for thier money this year! The highlight was the amazing Cinderella who transformed from rags into the ballgown in a twirl. A well deserved best in show. There was a marvelous Bane with curious foam muscles under a zentai suit and purposed Hulk hands ending at a venom meter on his writs. Star was characters arrived, five nights at freddys, a beautiful Pokemon hunter and a surprising amount of furries, as well as a couple of Deadpools. I ran into Wolverine from last year (a bit more bloody this time around….influence of the Logan film I imagine) and his son who was Star-Lord (MAN I wish I had finished Yondu in time for this!) instead of Spidey this time around. One guy did a great Doc Ock with pool noodles and a backpack (FINALLY! Someone else doing Ock! I love it!). There was a stunning ice knight, as well as a beautiful Iron Man suit that was just about perfect in every way (except for the fact that he only arrived twenty minuets before the costume contest – so unless you attended that you probably didn’t see him)
I finally managed to get my Lego Joker done just in time for the show.Almost predictably, the elastic on the right leg snapped as I was getting it on. I duck tapped it into place as a temporary solution – we arrived later than expected and I didn’t want to wait for the hot glue gun to warm up before going in. I planned to take a break mid-day and fix it then. I’d tested the suit out in the tight corridors of my home, but I didn’t count on the wind…a section of velcro ripped, but the remaining ones kept my head on. Still a slightly gimpy leg and wobbly head didn’t deter me. By the way, speaking of Jokers…MAN there were a lot of Jokers here. I spotted at least five others, two of them women, all of them different. It’s weird, I’m very used to seeing tons of Harley Quinns, but not so very many Jokers. I was definitely in good company. Still, I was happy that mine was different from the other ones. Children would spot me from across the room and their eyes would light up. I don’t think I’ve ever had a costume that excited as many kids at this one.
Catching a Lego Batman was the best part of the day.
I made my way around the floor and while I missed Knightmage’s Cosplay 101 panel, I did slip into an elevator and snuck through the back way in the offices and managed to catch the Star Wars panel. There was a large trash can in the back that I was able to rest my arms on as I stood lurking in the back, chuckling at the stories of midnight showings and first times seeing the films. Occasionally someone would turn around and notice the giant Lego Joker hanging in the back and do a double take.
Panels. I was pleased to see a little more than last year, but I’d still like to see a couple more added in, especially as this show is trying to grow as a two day con. Two panels and a costume contest is still a little light on programming considering the size it’s swelled to
Nevertheless, I got my panel fix when I headed over to Bob Layton’s table. Layton is a well known Iron Man alumni, as well as being one of the head guys over at the classic Valiant. Bob will talk for hours if you let him, and I personally was inclined to let him!
“We may not have had the best art, but we had storytelling”.
I mentioned how much I loved the old Gold Key characters they used.
“That was something we did for the retailers,” he replied.”We needed something recognizable for them to latch on to, and Jim ad a relationship with those guys.”
It’s sad to hear him talk about the fall of Valiant, and the transfer to Acclaim after Triumph investors pulled out. He describes Acclaim as “The biggest group of scumbags out there. And I was a VP, so I was in those meetings with all these scummy people.” He described leaving about half of his severance on the table – 1.2 million, because six months was just too long to keep putting up with it. “I saw where the industry was going and I got out.” But still he has hope, and believes the future of the comic industry is in the European model.
“I walked into a comic shop in France and it was beautiful. All wood bookshelves, these hardback volumes – not like the single issues we do. They last forever, and you don’t have to put them in a plastic bag!”
One table down, Rags Morales is the exact opposite of Layton. While Layton exudes energy, Rags oozes a laid back attitude – with a relaxed and lazy charm that makes you instantly like him. I could only find one book from my shelves for him to sign (which turned out to be serendipitous as he was charging five dollars a autograph). He looked over the Nightwing cover and grinned.
“This cover made my dizzy,” he informed me, pointing to the background rather than the figures grappling in the image. “It’s supposed to be a fight in mid-air, but if you look closely….it’s upside-down.”
It was a good day. My shoulders hurt from being in Lego Joker for four hours, but I can’t complain. It was possibly the best year yet for All-AmeriCon. Can’t wait to see what they do next year!