So my fears were kind of realized this weekend… Akron Comicon is not what it once was. For a good long while, Akron Comicon was one of the two polar events that Cleveland fandom revolves around, the other being Free Comic Book Day at Carol and John’s comic shop. Akron Comicon was held in lush, beautiful locations like the Quaker Station Hall with warm colors and exposed brick and a historic aura around the building and side rooms. When they moved to the John S Knight Center, I felt like the show had really arrived. This huge facility, all glass and steel, was where I used to attend Star Trek conventions in the 1980s. Akron Comicon managed to fill those venues, and even last year at the Goodyear Hall, a beautiful old stone and brick theater, framed by colorful fall leaves, towards the edge of the downtown area, things felt classy and beautiful. This year’s event at Emidio’s banquet hall in Cuyahoga Falls feels like a step down. It’s a kind of sketchy little event center in the unfashionable side of town. I passed through metal detectors to enter the convention and was struck by how much the layout looked like the flea market set up of Akron Canton Comic Con and all the other Jeff Harper shows. Panels were held in the back area that had been curtained off with folding launch chairs set up to accommodate the meager crowd.
Akron still draws cosplayers though, and I was delighted to see not only the Beetlejuice chick, but especially the Galactus. That costume was just brilliant and really inspires me – now I seriously want to go make one of my own. There was even a Spider-Ham! And here I thought I was the ONLY Spider-Ham cosplayer out there! Rubber City Cosplay did their usual excellent job of running the costume contest and were nice enough to stream it for anyone who couldn’t make it out on Saturday!
To be honest though, I was really only here for one thing… Before selling the show, the old promoter had secured the main guest of honor, classic Cleveland TV host Superhost. He doesn’t do very many conventions or appearances and I didn’t want to miss this chance to meet him. Superhost showed up in great spirits and in costume which utterly amazed me. He brightened up at the sight of my Superman shirt declaring “Us super people have to stick together!” Next to him, the actor who played Captain Pike in the original Star Trek episode The Menagerie, was perplexed at why people weren’t stopping at his table to pay $40 for an autograph but were lining up all the way to the door to meet this strange man in a clownish Superman suit. Because of Supe, all of Cleveland fandom turned out for this show – I’ve seen nothing but photos with Superhost for the last two days on my Facebook feed and it’s glorious.
Akron Comicon itself however is less than glorious. The easiest way of describing it would be to say that it’s in decline, resorting to bringing in high-priced celebrity guests rather than staying true to its comic book roots and comes off as a low budget, first year trade show. The new crew seems to be trying to spin the show into a multi site, multimedia event, hosting a screening of local film Rottentail at a nearby theater as well as hosting an afterparty for the convention at a local bar (all for additional charges of course) with various bands.
For my part, I slipped in (No costume – amazing how many people DIDN’T recognize me without some sort of fantastic outfit) got my autograph and my photograph, then I hit the three-for-a-dollar bins and filled my bag. I’m happy I came home with a huge stack of old comics to read but I’m pessimistic about the future of what was once my favorite comic convention. It’s not that it’s BAD, it’s just that it isn’t spectacularly good anymore. It’s fallen from the crown jewel of northeast Ohio conventions to become just another show. I had in fact, planned on skipping this year and if it hadn’t been for Superhost’s appearance, I absolutely would have. It’s next year’s attendance that will really tell us if it can can survive, and what will become of it if it does.
A voice rang out at me from across the room.
“Why is it every time you put a baby in a rocket, the planet blows up?”
“I didn’t even BRING the rocket this time,” I replied, glancing down my gold armor at the baby Superman in the hand held basket.
Akron Comicon was in full swing.
The con has grown every year so we’ve once again relocated; this time to the Goodyear Hall on the outskirts of the city. With this particular move came parking problems. The lots filled up fast, but we managed to grab a small patch of street a half block away in a nice shady area next to construction. It was windy and freezing Maddie and me in our costumes. The food trucks we passed looked awfully warm. (I regret not grabbing some Swenson’s)
Inside I made a beeline for Jon Bogdanove’s table. The last time he was here, his line was terribly long, and after waiting an hour, I ended up having to bail (Kiddo had a birthday party I had to get her to.). The line wasn’t as bad this time, and after half an hour we were face to face with one of my favorite Superman artists. Bogdanove is a Superman fan himself – his son is named Kal-El- and he gushed over Maddie’s Supergirl suit, expressing delight that she was actually carrying around Streaky the Supercat in her own little basket.
After a quick stop at Brett Breeding’s table ($5 a signature! Yeesh!) we popped over to see Bob Wiacek. The bulk of my books to be signed were his….but they were all big collected “essentials” volumes and weighing down my bag. I do love Wiacek. He’s done a great variety of stuff, working on things like Damage Control, Shadowman and Nightmask. He brushed it off, “A lot of guys can say they’ve had long careers.”
“Not as many can say they’ve had such varied ones though,” I replied.
“I like that!” He nodded with a smile.
I kept running into friends over at Karl Story’s table. As he played Pokemon Go on his hone I beat my friend Mayday about the shoulders with a stuffed supercat until he perked up and noticed me. I didn’t have as much for Story to sign (I restrained myself from bringing my entire run of Nightwing. I don’t like being THAT guy). But I did pick a couple of things, in particular the Star Trek graphic novel “Debt of Honor”
“This was such an interesting story. It’s a shame it’s never been reprinted,” he said as he flipped through it. “IDW has the license right now, and they’d love to, but DC has no obligation to work with them and won’t release their copies of the art. IDW actually contacted me and Chris (Claremont) to see if we had any of the originals. I’ve got maybe, 30 pages but these are oversized – they’re so big they’d be hard t copy, even if I ran them down to Kinkos.”
After stopping by Dirk Manning’s booth to present him with a monster ice cream cone, Maddie guided me over to Chris Yambar’s table so she could get a new Simpson’s comic from him. He greeted us by nodding at me with a “Thank you for you son.” Akron is a very Superman oriented show, but even so, I’m always pleased when someone recognizes my Jor-El (father of Superman) costume. Maddie told him all about how much she likes the Simpsons. “I watch it every day! A couple episodes usually!”
We drifted on to chatting a bit about Yambar’s late and lamented Lawncon. The girls and I really liked it when we hit it’s final year. But perhaps not so final after all. Yambar has been long talking about resurrecting it.
“We keep wanting to do it again, but then something (health issues) would happen. It’s been a good year though, with no new things coming up. Maybe if I could get together a committee – where I could just sit back and be a benevolent overseer….”
Back in the lobby area of Goodyear Hall, Maddie and I ran into a huge scarecrow, with his handler, Harley Quinn. After pictures, we found an isolated corner by the windows where Maddie could practice her quick-change for the costume contest. It’s a long one, but Rubber City Cosplay managed to get everyone through reasonably swiftly, and it didn’t hurt that I was in line with my buddies Vito and Cassie. Despite the amazing plush monster in front of me in line, my bet was on the Alien made entirely out of balloons to win. Best costume EVER!
Akron continues to be the best con in Northeast Ohio and I’m eager to see what next year has in store!
Akron Comicon continues to be the best show in northeast Ohio. The caliber of guests never ceases to amaze me.
They were doing a Black Lightning reunion this year bring together Jack Harris, the original editor along with Trevor Von Eden, the original artist, and of course Tony Isabella who is a regular fixture at this comic con. I’m a big fan of Trevor Von Eden, particularly his Batman work – there is a painted cover he did for the first Ras Al Ghul story ever read and it’s always stuck with me. His line wound passed Tony’s table so I got a chat with him a little bit on the way there… He delighted in making puns about Spider – Ham outfit and signed a couple books for me as we chatted. Trevor was less personable but he also gives off a very humble vibe. He seems like he’s just glad to be here and still surprised about the number of fans he has.
I made my way over to Tom DeFalcos table and was shocked that there was no line. DeFalco is another example of the amazing calibre guests Akron Comicon brings.He was involved in the Spider-Man comics from the 70s through the 80s and the 90s either as editor or writer… If you pick up a spider book in that 20 year period, he had something to do with it. Iindeed, he was the entire reason I decided to come dressed as Spider – Ham, at least for part of the day. He laughed and shook his head and made sure to get a photo with me “so I can prove everybody my life’s work hasn’t been in vain! “. I couldn’t help but notice that Akron abandoned the idea of celebrity guests this year, which is fine because no extra from the walking dead or old 70s TV superhero could have made me more excited than getting to meet this former editor in chief of Marvel comics. Talking with DeFalco was absolutely The high point of my convention this year!
Once I had finished getting my autographs and meeting people, it was time to change into the more cumbersome suit. I have given Slimer a nice test run at Cleveland comic con, in preparation for this show. I always intended to have him running around Akron Comicon, and it turned out to be the perfect venue. Nice wide aisles, with a good temperature – I wasn’t roasting in the suit this time around.It’s also a good place to show him off because Akron’s a convention that just about everybody goes to and a lot of these people have been following my progress constructing him.
The flow of the place seemed a little bit better this year as well… There was a doorway connecting the dealers room to the panel room. I don’t recall seeing it last year, and it did mean there was room for one less booth, but the ease that it made travelling back and forth was seriously worth it. I managed to catch the Black Lightning panel as well as The comic professional panel. I was a little bummed I missed out on Dirk Manning’s Wright or Wrong talk, but he recorded it so I can catch it later.
The panels room was also where the costume contest was held. Things flowed extremely well this year, which was a pleasant surprise… it may in fact, be The first time that the costume contest has actually run smoothly at Akron Comicon. Rubber City Cosplay has really got a handle on things, especially considering that they had taken over the judging as well – a new responsibility for them this year. They handled it better than ever.
All in all, I’m pleased to see that Akron Comicon continues to grow and thrive and be the best convention in the area, and I can’t wait to return next year!
Akron’s costume contest though has always been a challenge. Because it’s so big, it’s hard to fit in a room, and this year Rubber City Cosplay had thier hands full trying to figure it out.
Over the past year in particular, it’s been a real pleasure watching Rubber City Cosplay develop as a contest facilitator. They’ve gotten more comfortable with the role and developed genuinely good strategies for keeping things going efficiently. However, Akron is the big show. With literally hundreds of contestants and a surprisingly small space, this is the most challenging contest they handle. There was confusion on where to go. The hall downstairs had been partitioned off into two smaller rooms. You began in the first room with a camera and a green screen, then made your way out the door onto the main stage… so before going out and getting announced, there was this other group with a camera, taking pictures before the contest – their original plan had been to interview each contestant as well, something they weren’t allowed to do as it would slow things down too much. I assumed that they were perhaps broadcasting the images over to the main screen, but now I’m not even sure they were really a contest component. All of this delayed the start and slowed the lineup down.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I was exhausted already and my boots were killing me – I was grateful for the chance to sit down while waiting. gave me a chance to help the guy in front of me get out of his gloves and get into his helmet- magnetic pieces and velcro and all sorts of wierd stuff! I appreciate that helm and costume all the more for having seen it up close as he got it on. My friend William was down the line keeping Chris Gulley’s Black Panther cape in place.
We were told we couldn’t stay in the room to watch the cosplay contest and this was a kind of a drag. It’s one of the important things to note. the sense of community in the costume contests is always one of my favorite parts of a con – talking to people about how they made their costumes, what they’ve done before – cosplay is an instant icebreaker for those of us who are introverts. In the good ones you really see everyone cheering for everyone else and that was really present here. In my never-so-humble opinion, partitioning that room was a bad idea. A large space is needed for this event if it’s going to be the huge component it always has been at Akron. I don’t think we had more room than this back at the Quaker Station hall.
It was great to see so many of these familiar faces though. That Nocturne I saw at Hall of Fame City was back, as well as the Freddy Kruger. Cinderella showed me the work she put into her glass slippers and it wasn’t untill after the con that I realized Secret Squirrel was the same guy who did Domo Batman last year! There was a little Rhino that was COMPLETELY on point and picking fights with everyone ( I was so happy that he placed in the kids contest!) and the absolute best Iron Man I’ve ever seen in a kids costume….in fact it was better than most adult Iron Men! My friend Jim pointed out to me a kid in a Cyrano Jones outfit, complete with Tribbles. Another in a Smaug costume. Fantasy dominated the contest this year and Man-At-Arms ran around trying to get pictures with every barbarian warrior he saw. The Z.E.R.O.S. were there in full effect with Ryan yelling “Man-At-Arms is my hero!” as I headed into the costume contest.My friend William really put it best.
“Got to experience the two extremes of cosplay attitudes today at the Akron ComiCon.
On the negative side, saw a contestant that I won’t single out getting in his car after the contest was over, whining and complaining that “this contest was crap” and “I have over a thousand hours invested in this”, yadda yadda yadda.”
Allow me to interject at this point, that my friend Marc witnessed the same thing by the same person a little later – “the same adult male throw a major tantrum because someone else won a small piece of etched glass instead of him. Obviously, he was the only one worthy and the judges were idiots and the contest was rigged and life isn’t fair and Hilary is evil (not trying to politicize. That was actually part of the tantrum).And this was in the convention center near my table, not in the parking lot, which means this same tantrum was thrown multiple times.”
But William continues :
“Then, there was the plus side. A little girl saw me and became ecstatic. She was a huge Captain America fan (she was too young to know who USAgent is, and Cap wore the uniform before Walker did, so she’s forgiven), and her face just lit up seeing me, and she needed a pic.
It didn’t matter to her that the guy dressed like her hero was nearly three hundred pounds and constantly wiping away the sweat pouring out of a mask with no ventilation. It didn’t matter that I haven’t dyed my belt to match the suspenders better, or that I’m not real happy with the paint job on the shield. It didn’t matter that my version is an amalgamation of different versions of the comic costume along with the MCU Cap costumes, and so isn’t a perfectionist version of either.
All that little girl cared about was her hero kneeling down to take a picture with her, and smiling at her.
The costume and shield may be fake, but that smile was as real as it gets.
I feel sorry for the guy who felt cheated out of a win in a contest of people dressed as imaginary characters, as if winning or losing have anything to do with what is important in cosplay.
I’d much rather be in the company of that little girl, who was just happy to see the character she loved.”
That’s it right there. You know something? I’ve never won or even placed in Akron costume contest. Not once. But that’s not why I do it…the community, the camaraderie and just the time to have fun…it’s worth it all. Just look at all of these people in the photos below and you’ll see it too.
I can’t wait for next year.
I didn’t mean to freak people out. Really.
The guest line up for Akron is always a good one, but this one was particularly exciting, bringing in yet another walking dead zombie as well as excellent talent such as Alan Grant and Alan Davis. I knew I would be is standing in line a lot so I decided to spend at least the first two hours of the con in street clothes – jeans and a sweater. It was hilarious, people didn’t recognize me! Those who did were a bit freaked out by the fact that I wasn’t in a costume…Bobbie Harleypool walked by and yelled at me “why aren’t you in costume???”. Once upon a time cosplay afforded me a certian degree of anonymity. Now it seems it’s gone the other way around….
Alan Grant was my first stop. He is charming and personable and he wrote some of the greatest Batman stories of the 90s. His run with Norman Breyfogal is nothing short of legendary. He was the writer on Detective when the Tim Drake Robin was being introduced. It’s one of my favourite eras because we get a lot of short, one issue, self-contained stories. It’s something he mentioned he enjoyed writing, stuff that was to the point, and had a beginning, middle, and end.
I made my way over to P. Craig Russell, who I’ve always really associated with his brilliant Sandman work. Still, I had discovered he did an issue of X–Men that is in one of my many collected editions. It was fun to chat about this one, he mentioned that JR JR was always really great to do finishes over and out while you could still see Romitia’s influence in a lot of the pages, he turned to one particular panel of a stunning building in skyscape and told me “but this panel right here, this is all me! “.
I was sad not to make it to Alan Davies, his line was just prohibitive and they kept cutting it off…but Tom Orze