It was about 4:30 when the boss poked his head in my office. He said it wasn’t very busy right now and he didn’t expect anybody else to shop today – that I could head out early if I wanted to. I grabbed my Iron Man helmet and was out the door like a shot, on my way to Carol and John’s. About 5 o’clock I put down my lawn chairs, set up the TV tray and made myself a nest in line. Just like every year, I looked at the clock and wondered what was I doing? I mean, honestly what am I going to do for the next SEVEN HOURS? Of course, then the next time I checked the clock I was shocked to see it was already 11:30…
There are Free Comic Book Day celebrations to one extent or another all over The United States on the first Saturday every May. Even here in the Cleveland area, Comics Are Go brought in my friend Marc Sumerak from Marvel comics as well as local artist Rick Lozano to sign pieces and sell their work. Imaginary Worlds in Cleveland Heights seems to have picked up the baton from York comics, utilizing FCBD as a food drive and offering extra free comics to anyone who brings in canned goods. I always liked this approach, I’m glad to see somebody is still doing it.
Still, the fact is that nobody does Free Comic Book Day like Carol and John’s. The event the night before officially begins around 10 o’clock, but the line starts long before that. I mentioned that I got in around five, and there were already 20 people ahead of me. Card tables had popped up for people to play board games on, Magic tournaments were going on. Cards against humanity was out and in the streets there was dancing. A podcaster set up in the corner and was interviewing avengers as they walked by. As the day turned to evening and the skies got darker, Jedi and stormtroopers marched along the road – lightsaber battles took place in the night air. The Ghostbusters arrived, and super heroes were everywhere you looked.
At my nest in line, my friend Mayday was the first to arrive with his lovely bride Pam. We chatted for a while before joining the rest of the Scooby gang at the Red Lantern, two doors down. I grabbed an appetizer with them, and when I got back to my place in line my friend Jen had arrived with pizza for all of us.
When the doors opened at 10, we hit the bar for free beers, thier bottles adorned with artwork reminiscent of this years guest of honor comics legend Jim Sternanko. Across town, the comic shop had arranged a dinner with him and about 20 guests – my friends Nick and Taylor arrived back at the shop late from that dinner and just a few minutes ahead of Jim himself.
In the meantime we hung out at the art show and I was delighted to see one of the artists had contributed a painting of the Shadow! Stetnanko is famous for is Shadow covers, indeed the one piece of his that I have signed is one of his Shadow illustrations. It made my day to see this homage, and I grabbed a print of it for myself. Before I made it out of the art show, I ran into my buddy Ryan, his wife and new baby… I played peekaboo with the little one, using the visor on the Ironman helmet. While in line in there, a tiny Darth Vader chatted me up, fascinated by my “Bones” Iron Man suit and showing me the lights on his Vader costume. I caught him later, getting into a lightsaber fight with Kylo Ren outside.
I made it back to the nest and gathered everybody up for a group photo over at the Rubber City booth, a little something to remember the night from before it was time to lineup for the free comic giveaway. As we got back, people in giant donut costumes wandered up and offered us tiny cupcakes. We packed up the nest, tossed the chairs in my car and got ready to go through. It’s always surprising how quickly the night goes, and I’ll be honest – as soon as I’ve gotten out of the comics line I vanish back home because I’m only going to get a few hours sleep before it’s time to do it all again properly on Saturday morning!
Saturday; the actual Free Comic Book Day, is always a much different kind of event in the evening one. There are more kids, and they were absolutely enchanted by my Slimer costume. My daughter Maddie came with me, donning her now–too– small Supergirl costume and on the hunt for Pokémon, Simpsons, and DC superhero girls, and of course Marvel zombies once we got into the shop.
I ran into my friend Rhonda while making the rounds, and we all made sure to get our photos in the pop figure box… I wasn’t confident of my ability to get in and out of the box Friday night, and the photos showed up better during the day anyhow. Even in Slimer though, it looked a little tricky – I ended up taking off the costume and setting it inside the box and just taking a photo of that.
In the end I only hit three shops this FCBD. C&J’s, Comics are Go (Where they recognized Maddie from the Backyard Zombie Movie series) and Imaginary Worlds. I got all but about three books I wanted. As we headed home, Maddie was digging into her comics, and recommended sparks to me. She was right about how funny the story of two cats in a robotic dog suit was. She also pulled out the Doctor Who book and exclaimed “Dad, isn’t this your favorite Doctor?” Number seven is in fact, not my favorite, but certainly ranks among the top four. She brought home two books specifically for her sister as well, Invader Zim and Street Angel’s Dog. This is really cool to watch ger recommending stories to me and other people. For herself, Maddie found a copy of Supergirl meets Scooby Doo and it blew her mind.
And of course this is really the whole point of Free Comic Book Day – to support the local shops, and get involved in the community. Hope yours was just as amazing.
Last year, when the carpetbaggers at Wizard World blew into town, I took to the streets to protest. Specifically, the streets that lead to the local comic shops in the area. I hit about eight places last year, and it was my goal to do better this time around. I donned my Star Lord jacket and headed out.
Comics Are Go
5188 Detroit Rd
Sheffield Village, OH 44035
I started the day off meeting up with my friend Jennifer and her daughter Samantha at my home shop, Comics Are Go for my first stop. Eric had set up at Wizard World (“consorting with the enemy” he told me) and then was heading to Columbus for a Harper show. That’s okay, Ed was manning the home front and chatted up Jennifer while Samantha and I dug through the discount trade bins. I grabbed a couple of avengers books entirely because they’ve got Ben Grimm in them while Jen found a Ghostbusters Annual to get. I waved goodbye to them and started to make my way towards the freeway. A couple stops before that though…..
394 Broad St
Elyria, OH 44035
Over to Keith’s to pick up some new Superman as I make my way to the freeway. I declined the bag for my comic books, so he sandwiched them between two old indie books with the covers ripped off to protect them from the weather! I always feel weird in here, I used to work in the same corner building when it was a different business… I’m hoping to be back here around free comic book Day too!
Comics and More
831 Chestnut Commons Dr,
Elyria, OH 44035
The comic book side of strongsville hobby is my last stop before I hit the freeway – it’s on the edge of town and I always think of it more as a hobby shop then a comic shop… So I sometimes accidentally overlook it. I missed going here last year and was happy to correct that oversight this time around! There’s always a weird varity of things here, more trades than comics but more interesting toys and models and you’re finding your average comic shop as well! I’m heading to Parma next!
Carol and Johns 17462 Lorain Ave
Cleveland, OH 44111
United States. A comic tour of Cleveland wouldn’t be complete without a stop out here…. kind of cool to see that the place is packed!
4704 Rocky River Dr
Cleveland, OH 44135
Taking the little side trip year, last year I went out of my way to stop at recess games… This year I thought I’d drop in at war zone again, it’s been awhile – are used to play hero clix here in my tournament days. It’s a small, cramped, dark maze of games and figurines stacked up on top of each other – the sort of hidden treasure trove that you could dig for ever in and always find something new.
B and L comics
5591 Ridge Road,
People love the store – one of the guys in my comic book club has told me it’s his favorite shop – and it shows, considering the place was still full and busy on a comic con weekend. It actually makes me feel good to see how busy the shop then today – this ones an old school shop, cramped and dark – there is an old tube TV playing infomercials underneath the counter… And I can always count on them to have a long box full of beat up Silver age books for $.50 each
5853 Ridge Rd,
Cleveland (Parma), OH 44129
Right down the street is north coast nostalgia, who also usually has a nice selection of quarter bins full of interesting stuff – but this time around I found something really cool! The hologram figure of green Lantern… I remember this look from the rock of ages storyline in the early days of JLA. However, I’ve never seen one of these figures before – I didn’t even know they existed!
Ground Zero Comics
15139 Pearl Rd,
Strongsville, OH 44136
Still much heavier game emphasis at Ground Zero, but I Gotta admit I enjoy being greeted at the door by the gigantic Deadpool statue. Once again, the place was full of guys playing games and digging through boxes. I’m beginning to suspect that all the action this weekend just might NOT be at Wizard World…..
Kidforce collectables 103 Front St
Berea, OH 44017
I genuinely don’t remember if I just forgot about kid force last year or if I had just run out of steam by that point… But I definitely wanted to check them out this time around. I know they’ve been in this location for a couple years now, but it’s not the one I remember – I’ve seen them in a couple of their previous locations in the past and I must admit I really like the new digs. In addition to being a big pop marketplace, and game retailer, there’s also rows of pinball machines here! It’s an interesting new direction to see your game shop go – really digging it!
13446 Cedar Rd,
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
I actually checked out imaginary worlds in Cleveland Heights back when they first opened, but the place is just so far out of the way for me that I haven’t been back much> They also have dollar bins as opposed to fifty cent or quarter bins, which is frequently too rich for my blood. But oh holy crap…these actually may be the best dollar bins in Cleveland. I pulled a Dark Shadows in there, noticing that there’s a surprising amount of beat up gold key in there. There’s a price break at 25 for $20 and I think I may just have to pop back after I get paid again. The owner told me he could fill out my Thing collection and I think I see all the issues of Camelot 3000 that I’m missing in there…
It’s tough to say goodbye to big fun – A more tearful farewell even then York comics last year. This vintage toy, novelty, in pop culture shop has been the linchpin of the Coventry road shopping experience for as long as I can remember. I’ve been coming out here for 20 years, and I’m happy to say that I never took it for granted, and visited as often as I could – always finding something amazing whether it was in the back, in the context of beans, or in the dozens of tiny card catalogue drawers Full of Oriental trading toys. I’m gonna miss you guys as they pack up and move along.
My tour this year lasted six and a half hours covering eleven locations and once again saying goodby to one. Next year I think I may just have to try something different….this tour takes a lot out of me. I’m exhausted….
It’s very strange, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a convention shrink in the way Cleveland Comic Con has. Still, it may have been just what it needed – a new tweak to the formula that finally makes this convention work.
Cleveland Comic con has had a bumpy road – with growing pains exacerbated by disorganisation and a grander scope then they can facilitate. I think they tried too much too soon and it has constantly dogged the quality of this convention and kept me away quite a bit. This year was different, everything moved smoothly. It feels like the convention dialed back some of that scope and is able to better accommodate the type of crowd it receives. That doesn’t preclude growing in the future, but they’re not ready yet – and the smaller two building-one stage set up they had running here suits them very nicely.
They gone out of their way to bring in some interesting guests as well – Sam Jones was there, overcharging for his Flash Gordon autograph. They brought in some minor characters from the Walking Dead as well. Vincent Ward and Santiago Cirillo are both actors I’ve already got on my walking dead poster… Santiago did Concoction a year ago and was just as much fun this time around – even with a lot of the same stories… I wandered into his panel, and he stopped dead pointed at me and yelled “yes! Slime me!”
That’s right, Cleveland comic con was finally the big reveal for my slimer costume.
Slimer was actually a big hit with everybody – freaking out some of the venders and drawing laughter and applause from Jones over at his Flash Gordon table.One young man stopped by me and asked “is it worth it? . I admit, it was hotter than expected, but absolutely. He is a remarkably fun character and you can get really silly with the body language – the people at the ghostbusters booth lost their minds over me!
I actually really dig the way they handled this costume contest – with prejudging around one, and everybody lined up for that. It would’ve been nicer however, if they had made the instructions about this clearer – I honestly just stumbled into the correct line and had I arrived much later I would’ve been excluded.
But all in all, I like prejudging – they give you a chance to really connect with the judges and explain what you have done and how you’ve done it without being under the pressure or time crunch of a costume parade. A couple hours later we are all lined up and doing our thing on stage which once again, a great deal of fun… It didn’t occur to them to let me speak or take a microphone, so everything was non-verbal – everything was expression and body language in this suit. It’s an interesting challenge, and I think I like it.
I finally got around to replacing my copy of Diane Carey’s Final Frontier – the one that I gave to my best friends ex-girlfriend. I always figured I just grab another one off the shelf of the local used bookstore, and hadn’t come across one since! Next to it in the paperback bin was an interesting looking copy of the Exorcist. I topped off my bag with a copy of the Art of Atari. I’ve been jonesing for this book since they announced it, and gem city had its usual excellent prices!
I’m really happy about what Cleveland comic con has become. It’s actually morphed into exactly the sort of show that I really enjoy – and I think now, it’ll have a better chance at growing organically… and that is something I deafinately want to see!
Comic Creator Autographs
It’s been over a year since I updated this list, and now’s as good a time as any! Again, we’re not really going to discuss the pros and cons of comic professionals charging for autographs. There’s plenty of other forums for that. We’re just going to acknowledge the reality of modern convention economics. This is a little something to help you know what to expect when you go to a con so you don’t get blind sided. A lot of artists don’t have autograph charges clearly displayed and frequently con websites either don’t have this information or are asked not to display it. Here’s my current list – in sort of alphabetical order. It’s not exhaustive by any means, things may change next month or next year. We’ll update and repost as we learn more.
Amanda Conner – free for 5 books, $2 after, $5 for CGC.
Alex Saviuk – $5
Arvell Jones – $5
Bob Camp – $30
Bob Hall – free for the first issue, or if you purchase a something from the table, otherwise $5
Bob Layton- $5 for CGC graded signings, otherwise free
BobMcloud – one for free, then $5
Bill Sienkiewicz – two for free, then $3, $10 for CGC
Charles Soule – $10 CGC grading signings
Edgar Delgado – $5 CGC grading signings
Fabian Nicieza – $10 Deadpool/X-Force related
Fiona Staples – $20 CGC grading signings (otherwise free)
Graham Nolan recently started charging, but not sure how much.
Gerry Conway – $5
Greg Horn – $20 GameStop variants (otherwise free)
George Perez – Free, but he has a ticketing system so get to his table first thin after the show opens or you’ll be stuck in line for HOURS waiting for a spot to open up. Alternatively, if you can deal with not MEETING him, you can buy a print and he’ll sign that and a couple books in between sketches and stuff.
Humberto Ramos – $10-$20
J. O’Barr – $5
Jae Lee- $5
John Romita Jr – three for free, then $2. $10 for CGC grading.
Jose Delbo – $5
Joe Rubinstein – $2 ($50 for Wolverine)
Jimmy Palmiotti – free for 5 books, $2 after, $5 for CGC.
J Scott Campbell $10
John Cassandry $10
John Beatty – $3
Jim Sternako charges $15 per item last I checked – and that includes items and prints BOUGHT FROM HIS TABLE. Also, do not ask for a photo with him.
Keith Pollard – $5
Kevin Eastman – first is free, $20 after that
Klaus Janson– $20 CGC grading signings
Len Wein – $5, $20 CGC grading signings, $25 for Hulk 181, Giant Size X-Men #1 or House of Secrets #92.
Larry Hama will sign two items for free and charges after that.
Matteo Scalera – $20 CGC grading signings
Mike Zeck – $5
Marv Wolfman – one free (I’ve heard elsewhere it’s two for free, but in his last interview he said one), $5.00 after that
Mark Texeria- $5 per book (with free head sketch)
Mike Grell – $5
Neal Adams – $30
Pat Brodrick – $3
Ron Frenz -$3
Rob Liefeld – $25-$50
Rags Morales – $5
Stan Lee – $60-$100
Whilce Portacio – $10-$20
Victor Olazaba – $10
Tip Jar – pay what you want
Denny O’Neil (Heros alliace tip jar)
Tip Jar -Comic Book Leagal Defence Fund
Brian Michael Bendis (Be prepaired to wait a long time in line)
Fred Van Lente
Tony Isabella (There’s certain issues that DC broke it’s agreement with him on, don’t bring those, otherwise free – also, he’s been talking abuot starting to charge if his sales don’t pick up)
I mentioned yesterday that my Ock suit has grown so cumbersome that I required a handler. You may have seen Rhonny Reaper around the net at Dollar Bin Horror or haunting the depths of Cinema Wasteland, but Sunday was her very first time out to Lake Effect Comic Con – and I thought it would be interesting to get a fresh perspective one it. Here’s her review.
This year was my first year attending Lake Effect Comic Con and it was a blast. Matthew told me that in past years it had been held at a movie theater, but now the Holiday Inn in Mentor is its home. I’m kind of sad I missed it before because I think the theater sounds like a lovely spot for a con, but this was nice as well. It seemed smaller than I imagined. The show was not crowded, but we did get there late so I’m assuming the early birds had already dispersed.
I myself had a fantastic time! I went with Matthew acting as his “hands” so he could be Doc Ock. EVERYONE wanted pictures with Matt when we first got there, so it took us a minute to get into the show room. I’ve always loved horror but just recently started working on a horror comic selection, so this was the first time I knew what I was looking for…and I found it in abundance! So many wonderful golden age horror comics for $1 and $2 each! I also found a copy of My Friend Dahmer at the Comics Are Go table, thanks to Matt’s keen eyes. Eric over there gave me the sweetest deal on the book!
Towards the end, they held a costume contest for all the cosplayers, and everyone looked fantastic!!! From the little Wonder Woman to the Sailor Moon, everyone came out in style! I myself came as Lydia Deetz (from Beetlejuice), which I thought was more on the simple side of cosplay…which is why I was shocked the judges picked me for female adult! I’m still in shock…but happy as ever about the killer Deadpool mask I received as the prize (I’m more into horror comics than classic super heroes…but I mean who doesn’t LOVE some Deadpool?)! They also gave a special prize to the Yip Yip alien costume from Sesame Street (which really gave Matt a run for his money) because it was GLORIUOS! You just had to! All in all, this con was a blast and gave me my best haul ever! Can’t wait till the next one!!!
You know, it was getting manageable… That stack of comic books on the end table – the one near my spot on the couch was down to a reasonable size.
Then free comic book Day occurred.
I want to step back for a moment and think about how good we have it here in the Cleveland area – we are almost spoiled by the abundance of comic book shops and fandom events within easy reach. On Free Comic Book Day in particular, we have the midnight party for the Free Comic Book Day release at Carol and John’s Comic Shop. The first people in line arrived about 9o’clock Thursday night – and waited all the way up to midnight Friday night to receive a full set of the Free Comic Cook Day releases (and dubious bragging rights….). I’m not nearly that dedicated. I came out after work, arriving about 5:45 to set up my little village in line. Several chairs, some for my neighbors as well as myself, a table, and a carpetbag bag full of games and crafting supplies. I wanted to try something different out this year – a mash-up of every superhero I could possibly think of. I crafted a Thor hammer and half a Cap shirt while waiting in line. I then added a green lantern ring, Iron Man armor, then pulled my Batman mask over my Spider-Man mask, pulled up a pair of thing pants underneath a wonder woman belt and added a superman cape. I refer to this look as “Everyman”.
Seriously though, you would not believe how fast six hours flies by amid all this chaos… Wandering up and down the lines, and visiting friends while observing the random hijinks that occur around us. A group of dancers spontaneously began to preform in the street. The Ghostbusters car screamed into the parking lot with lights and siren going. A police car blasting the Darth Vader theme cruised by as Daft Punk danced and puzzled over baby Groot. All up and down the line, people were playing games – you can see Magic tournaments and hero clix battles. I stopped by the Scooby’s corner to join them in a game of Cards Against Humanity is for a bit. My friends and I greeted old friends and new friends – we posed for pictures, and we constantly made fun of poor Steph who has probably never been called a “trash panda “nearly so many times in one setting before. (indeed, I think my favorite part of the night was watching rocket raccoon get carded at the restaurant… The server looked at her license, shruged her shoulders and said “I don’t know why I’m even doing this… I’d never have guessed this with you! “)
Coming straight from work, I have to admit that doing the midnight release party always makes for a long day… Every single time, I find my social anxiety which tempt me to just stay home, and every single time I’m glad that I did. This is the event that everyone comes out to. I sometimes see certain friends at comic club, others I see at conventions, others I see when I do charity events, but for Free Comic Book Day, it seems like I see everybody I know!
After collecting books I beat a hasty retreat back home – because I’d be getting up again and returning in 10 hours or less!
The daytime events always seem a little bit more subdued compared to the evening events – though perhaps that’s just because of the early time that I’m arriving (got to snag that special book by Marc Sumerack before they run out!). I made it back in line at Carol and Johns just in time to get interviewed by the Plain Dealer and appear in the newspaper on Sunday. I chose a much more manageable costume, donning The Penguin outfit I had put together for the premiere of the Lego Batman movie.
It’s interesting, I managed to run into a very different group of people during the daytime events as I hopped from shop to shop in an attempt to acquire the 30 or so books that I was interested in (out of the 50 offered this year). Written in chalk all over the sidewalk and walls leading up to Carol and Johns were the phrase I am Groot… Children’s chalk drawings later the sidewalk and I stood in line that was significantly shorter than last year – the weather was definitely keeping some people away, but we wouldn’t let this deter us (though it did keep me down to only hopping between three shops!)
The guys at Comics are Go managed to save an Animal Jam comic for my daughter Maddie (she, her mother and sister along with several friends were having a mother-daughter tea party at the restaurant about three doors down – I joined them afterwards at the comic shop for free comic book Day). When Maddie brought over one of her friends they dug through the stock in the back and thier own personal pulls in the back to find an issue for her as well. This is why Comics are Go is still my home shop (with Carol and John’s being a close second and my alternate – after all I work on that side of town). It’s not the five for a dollar bins that they had set out (and man did I hit those things hard – I brought home 30 new issues from there!) or the creators they bring in like Rick Lozano or Dirk Diggler… No, it’s the personal service and the guys that work there that really make all the difference.
Across town, Jerry over at Strongsville Hobby made sure that I filled my gold book quota– as well as snagging an extra copy of The Tick for a friend of mine who are just moved and didn’t have any comic shops near her. It’s one of those things that makes me realize just how blessed we are in this area… I know I’ve said that already, but it bears repeating. Jerry has taken in the spirit of Free Comic Book Day a step further, offering a bunch of the one dollar image preview books as freebies right along side of the normal FCBD picks… I grabbed a bunch of back stock that he had on half off and waved goodbye as he donned his Batsuit, collected Supergirl and Deadpool to head off in greet the kids at Free Comic Book Day events at local libraries.
I ended my weekend by gathering up the family and heading over to Amherst Cinema for a screening of Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2. It seems like this happens every year- my friends all hit the years movie on Thurs or Fri and I don’t make it out until Sunday evening! Admittedly, some of that has to do with me holding out for a screening at Amherst Cinema (all seats are $4.00!) but sometimes it’s just that I can’t make the schedules work.
Guardians is the rare comic movie that my wife wanted to see. Maddie was a little reluctant and not in the mood to go out, but I think she may just have loved it more than any of us!
“Look! It’s Howard the Duck!” She exclaimed in disbelief, leaping from her seat in the middle of the crowded theater as my wife and younger daughter giggled Their way through the film.
A perfect way to end our FCBD adventures. I hope yours was just as productive. (and by the way, if in northeast ohio, check out my FCBD stops!)
You can tell by the flyers and artwork that the promoter of NEO ComicCon tries hard to keep a fun and light atmosphere for his show. It’s kept that same atmosphere from it’s inaugural year in 2015, yet in some ways it feels like it’s taken a few steps back.
NEO brings some great vendors to the show, people like Fear’s Confections and the TRACE Doctor Who Drama. There’s cosplayers like Knightmage and local fan favorite comic talent like Dan Gorman, Ted Sikora, Marc Sumerak and Tony Isabella. Even Jason Fitch and Rick Lozano were there to promote their upcoming American Knight. It’s a fine guest list with plenty to see here and a dealer’s room big enough to take a bit of time to explore. In particular I found the booth with a TON of vintage Star Wars to be fascinating (and I have a couple friends who spent more than a little of their time there!). There’s deals to be had here to, though you have to dig just a bit more than just trying to spot the .50 bins. I found two of Checker’s Gold Key Star Trek collections for $3 each (originally $23 each) as well as a couple of issues of the Solution that I’ve never seen. I grabbed art cards for the girls at Gorman’s table and was sorely tempted by some of the creepies at Straw Dog’s booth.
The big problem however, was the dealers room was all there was this time around. There was no programming, no panels, no screenings, nothing. Last year I praised NEO for taking some time to actually do some panels in addition to everything else. This year, they sacrificed the programming for more dealers room space. And indeed, while it was SO much easier to get around this year, the lack of programming was sorely missed. Like I said, a step backwards.
What NEO ends up as….it’s more than a Bazaar, but slightly less than a full fledged convention. I had great fun today, meeting up with friends, taking photos, playing Cards against Humanity in the bar. However, if I’d have come alone, I would have done the dealer’s room in an hour and left. It explains all those cars I saw leaving again as I drove in. There was nothing to keep them there. I’d liek to see more going on here, and perhaps the move to a different location (down the freeway a bit in North Olmsted) will help facilitate that. I like NEO and the philosophy behind it, and I only hope it moves forward next year at NEO 3.0!
It’s more weird. The Hellraiser comics were popular enough, with stunning cover art. A lot of people flocked to the awful Pinhead limited series, but this one kind of slipped under the radar.
Hellraiser is a niche audience. So is Marshall Law. Putting them both together gets you an even more rarified audience, no a wider one, so it’s no wonder this kind of came and went without notice.
I get the impression that there is far more Marshall Law influence here than Hellraiser, though it has some interesting ideas, it’s mnostly hack and slash drenched in satire and heavy handed social commentary.
It’s worth picking up out of a dollar bin for the sight gags and simply as a curiosity, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to seek it out.
I’ve made no secret that I wholly lifted the concept for my novel CONundrum from this, though past the premise the stories aren’t even close. The idea of a rom com at an annual convention though is just brilliant. It appeals to me at a very basic level because I’ve been going to conventions since I was 12. I started with Star Trek cons and moved on to horror. These days it’s evenly balanced between horror and comicons, with the occasional anime cone thrown in, but really, no matter what the subject matter is, the conventions experience is universal. I knew exactly what they are talking about in this series and honestly, this happens. You go to the same con every year, you keep running into the same people. You occasionally hobnob with the guests at the bar or in the restaurant. You might even fall in love (I’ve been to two weddings at Cinema Wasteland alone).
The story isn’t just a romance though, I’m not that big a girl. It’s honestly funny. You can tell the author has logged a whole bunch of hours behind a con table. The humor is respectful. She doesn’t make fun of the con experience, we’re in on the joke.
I initially found this in three single digest volumes at the Library, and then immediately ran over to Borders and bought them. Since then it’s been collected into one volume with a little bit of extra content. Go for that one, and if it’s no longer on the shelves, hit up Amazon. If you’ve ever spent time at a sci-fi, comic or anime con (especially if you were or are younger), trust me. This story is for you.
I think we’ve pretty well established that I am a DC person. I have always been a DC partisan. I think a lot of it has to do with when I really came in to comics – those years in the late 80s especially for a fascinating time for DC where they were dabbling in deconstruction long before it was fashionable. There were new prestige projects coming out it seemed, every month (books like the ones pictured above)– and I would gaze at them longingly in the ads that sat in the back of my Star Trek and Superman books. These were very hit or miss, but they were daring. Vertigo came around and changed everything, sorting all of that sort of thing into one place, and in some ways it feels like it tamed those tendencies. It’s certainly redirected them.
Still, even within the mainstream titles things felt different – like they were growing up. I saw themes and elements in Superman that I didn’t remember being there in the silver age, Batman was more violent, the JLI bickered and were dysfunctional – it all felt like DC was really trying to focus on writing and storytelling in an era that, as we rode into the 90s, seemed increasingly focused on art over a story – with superstars like McFarlane and Liefield creating a house style at Marvel that would eventually migrate over to Image… But never seemed to affect DC.
The point being – I never read X-Men. Even when I was a young kid, picking up Spiderman and Superman comics, I always avoided X-Men. Something about the pointyness of their costumes always bothered me – it’s a crazy aesthetic peeve, but it’s pervasive in the 80s X books. The shoulders of Colossus costume, Nightcrawlers too– Jean Grey’s mask and wolverines whole outfit… So many points you could cut yourself just by looking at them! There was a exception, I do remember finding a copy of the Asgard wars and really enjoying it… But it was an anomaly. I was still by and large, reading DC comics even when this volume fell in my lap. It had the advantage of featuring the New Mutants, which was an idea I really loved. Even though I wasn’t a fan of Marvel and X-Men, I was aware of the distinction between the main team, and the team of students – in fact it would be the gateway for me to enter that universe later on.
Asgard Wars also had the great advantage of introducing me to some of my favorite characters in the X-Men universe – in particular, Kitty’s dragon named Lockheed. Even without knowing much more about him then that particular story, I would be doodling and cartooning him for the next 10 years… Going so far as to have one of my birthday cakes done in the shape of his character. Is it wrong that I was far more amused and intrigued by Lockheed then I was by Kitty? It kind of shows my complete disconnect from X-Men as I was growing up.
The other character that I fell in love with in Asgard Wars was Warlock. He is written and drawn in such a fascinating way throughout this entire story – quirky and funny and unpredictable. I would go on to collect tons of New Mutants later on in my life, always looking to recreate some of that same feeling of fun and whimsy that I got when I first read this book. They never quite found his voice again though. I was always disappointed that no one else quite captured how much fun this character could be and I have never loved him as much as I do in this book.
Still, other than this I was not reading X-Men. I had a friend back in high school, whose name was Tim – he didn’t read any other comics but X-Men… And he had been reading them for probably 10 years or more. He spoke fondly of it and had a real commitment to the series that I just didn’t understand.
It was about this time, the very early 90s, that I finally found myself dabbling. The Jim Lee run had exploded, and the cartoon was right around the corner, paving the way for what is arguably the most recognizable version of these characters since the brown suit Wolverine Claremont Era.
It started, as I mentioned with New Mutants, although at that point they were no longer the New Mutants – so rather it began with X-Force. It wasn’t the first issue, I believe we were somewhere around issue 19… A good jumping on point, as the team changes its roster a bit, changes its costumes, and attempts to go on without its leader. It was a good time for X-force, Fabian Nicieza was in full effect on the book and the next six months would be a fun story arc that gave you a real sense of continuity and a feel for the direction the book would be taking. The growth of the characters also was appealing to me. They had grown from High School kids into College age people. Sam had really grown into himself, and I was really having fun reading characters like Boomer and Rictor.
In the meantime, the X-Men cartoon was taking the community by storm, making the X-Men more popular than ever – and it was enough to suck me in, and was a very simple sidestep from X Force.
The thing is, the X-Men of this era were very superhero oriented – accessible but comparatively vapid. Classic villains would show up, but for no other reason than it was time for them to appear in the book. There were spurious tires to classic characters and storylines – even then I was aware of Clarmont epic run – who wasn’t? But this had really mutated into standard superhero soap opera fare. And that’s okay, but it still lacked that special spark that made my friend Tim such a devotees of this series. That’s not to say that there aren’t great points here – this is the series that took me from a mere interest in Rogue to absolutely loving her, it’s the series that brought us Gambit. And then there’s the white issue – this particular story tears me up every single time. Also coming out around this era was thier attempt to launch a new book to fill the New Mutant’s shaped hole that X-Force’s graduation to College age left in the mutant line of comics. The result was Generation X – a book that I absolutely adored. To this day I feel it got sabotaged by the hiatus caused when Age of Apocalypse started…but I digress…you can read all about that in a short article over here – https://argocitycomics.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/in-defense-of-generation-x/
In recent days I’ve noticed a lot of the wonderful Essential volumes dropping in price – I frequently see them for five dollars, although Carol and Johns recently had a sale with them priced as low as three. I’ve been picking these up at conventions a lot, most recently at Great Lakes Comic Con and decided to take some time and really try to explore this classic Era.
What is fascinating is to encounter some of these storylines for the first time – Silver Samurai and the Brood and the Hellfire club, they all fit better in this period… They are introduced organically rather than the way they feel shoehorned in later on in the series. A lot of those stories I remember from the cartoon, I’m finally experiencing the source material – indeed, I’m coming in right around the time when my favorite little guy Lockheed was introduced! There is a strong continuity here, one of the things that appealed to me so very much about the Superman comics during the Byrne and Ordway Era. It seems like it would be hard to just drop in to this series though, and it’s one of the reasons I think I’ve always found it so inaccessible – it takes a commitment to read the stuff.
There is a better understanding of these characters to be had though, with a lot that I expected as well as some character development perhaps I hadn’t expected. Cyclops, who I generally find insufferable, is far more interesting in these stories – there is more to him than the stuffed shirt we get so used to in the 90s Era. It’s interesting to see characters like Yukio The Ronin show up here. I know her from the early Phalanx prologue with Storm, it was an issue I originally bored because I thought I saw Jubilee on the cover. You can hardly blame me for making this mistake can you? I mean take a look below at the image of the way Yukio is drawn in this issue compare it to how she is drawn in essentials number four. I’ll chop them up and put them side-by side.
I swear she has de-aged… Honestly, I like the way Paul Smith draws her better – there is more character on her face, she’s not as pretty, but still has that impish Full-of-life attitude and it’s far more evident in her face and body language. I’m looking at that later issue now, and she still looks like Jubilee to me.
As I read on, it occurs to me to wonder if the success of X-Men during this period is about Claremont or about how well they fit into the 80s. Kitty is a quintessential 80s girl. I’m not even sure what it is about her, she’s not a stereotype but everything about her screams 1980s – her posture, the body of her hair (no Aqua net, not high or teased or anything like that, just the body and shape), The way she carries herself, her drive and her attitude – the same is very true of Jubilee, who is a quintessential 90s slacker girl. The problem with these characters however is that they root themselves or the stories and the team in that particular time frame. Still, they work so well in that time frame. More then any other era, Wolverine’s cowboy hat looks right at home here, cyclops is large glasses work better here, The technology juxtaposes better against the warm wood furnishings of the 80s mansion and it feels more fantastic… a period before high-technology became commonplace in our lives.
These days it seems like X-Men bounces between trying to be relevant, and trying to be familiar to those who have only seen the films. There are still fun periods, in particular I was enjoying the run about eight years ago where things have kind of reverted to a simpler adventure format – coming out of the Grant Morrison run. It was fun, and simpler and we were seeing the best elements of the best costumes rolled into modern interpretations.
Today, it seems we have gone in the other direction – that continuity that I spoke of earlier? Today it’s wound so tightly across the titles in the series, that much like the avengers books, it becomes insular and difficult to drop in and out of. Over the years, we’ve picked up so many different characters along the way that it feels like they need to shoehorn them all into the series at some point or another as well focusing on a cohesive team that works well together and has chemistry. It’s hard for me to get into the X-Men comics of today.
Perhaps that’s why I’m looking to the past.