I wasn’t really feeling it this weekend. I honestly wasn’t in the mood for a long drive to Pennsylvania, and my map completely turned me around and added both time and mileage. Still, I was really just coming in to grab a few Elm Street victims, almost everybody I needed to complete my scrapbook.
Brooke Theiss and Toy Newkirk were both supposed to have come to steel city con last year, but the plague shut everything down. Even now, there’s still a certain degree of trepidation and both arrived this time, but masked. It certainly put a damper on things, and I declined photos with them. Still, Toy had some interesting photos with her. Her mother had been on set when she was doing make up tests and getting her lifecast and and taking dozens of photos that she never knew about. She only discovered them a couple of years ago, and had a really interesting collection that gave her a good excuse to talk about the whole process there.
I was particular excited for Breckin Meyer though. I enjoy him in a variety of things, not the least of which are the Garfield movies. I have an unreasonable lot for these. But he’s also fun and stuff with the robot chicken crew and things like rat race. One of his early performances was in Freddys dead… He looks completely different and his voice and dropped yet. It was always strange to see him, and I assumed you with one of the guys I was never going to get in person. It was a great deal of fun to head up and chat with him and get my photo signed. I pulled down my mask and headed in.
“Gahhhhh!” Meyer exclaimed as he jumped back startled. I pulled up the Freddy hockey mask I was wearing, as we laughed over it.
“That is so %$#@&* cool!“ breathed Meyer. “So thanks for coming out and terrifying me today! “
I noticed Tom Arnold didn’t have any line so I decided to run over and see him too. He’s one I’ve been debating on, he doesn’t really get killed by Friday, but he does have a look at cameo in the film and some genuine achievements in his filmography.
Costumes were out in full force as Sunday is the costume contest for the show… The place had violently erupted in anime characters. But there is also a stunning Mothra floating through the place, as well as some interesting bits and pieces… A brilliant J Jonah Jamison and a dead on Hulk Hogan. For my part, I was phoning it in – my freddy/jason top, along with a Hockey mask I had done up in a Freddy theme. It was actually king of fun – people (especially the crafters in the artist alley) kept asking where I had gotten the mask, and I got to walk them through the process of making them!
I ended up sticking around a little bit longer than I had expected because I kept running into friends who wanted to hang out… Some of which I haven’t seen since before the plague started. It made for a longer day, and by the time I left I was wiped. I still insist that steel city is not going to be a regular stop on my route. For the most part I’m trying to avoid the big meat market autograph shows, but it’s nice to know its there, just within reach to sneak out to. Maybe next time I’ll slip over to Evans cemetery on the way home.
The plague doctor lowered her mask and began the arduous track through the crowded isles, teaming with people. She stopped short at the large, dark monster. It’s normal to flash was covered mostly in Scarlett ropes, and she evaluating the spectrum. Then, she selected a small white bag from the top of her staff, and on the sachet of lavender on one of the hooks that made up the spiraling talisman that adorned the top of the Skeksis walking stick. Next to him, a young Gelfling, chained to the monster, just looked on, puzzled and petting her Fizzgig.
That’s right, Maddie was coming with me this year – kind of a necessity since I had no hands and needed someone capapble of handing over money for admission and spaying vendors and stuff.
Akron Canton Comic con has been a regular stop now for a few years. It is one of the best of the Harper shows in the area, not just because of the costume contest that draws cosplayers from all around the area, but also the smart and interesting layout in the larger venue. The artist alley lines the upper level, and continues just by the stairs of the lower area. It means you’re going to have to pass through the artists before you hit the dealers. It’s a nice way of getting them better exposure. The venue also most cinnamon press the snack bar, selling two dollar sloppy Joe’s and hotdogs pop and ice and whatever you need. There’s tables and chairs and open spaces in the upper level for people to eat and hang out out, making this one of the more surprisingly social show.
Social can sometimes be the point. There are certain people in that area like Allie or Jason, that I’m only going to run into at these particular events. And for a lot of people, this was their first time back into the convention world in over a year. I was delighted and relieved to run into Mike, the founder of Akron Comicon, working a booth. He had his own bout with the plague, and this afternoon he actually looked in better health and more positive and spry than I’d seen him, even before the calamity. My teenage daughter was accompanying me, and he actually recognized her first. Not a big surprise, considering my features were completely buried under the full body costume.
In other corners of the show, we ran into a couple that was walking around in Robotech costumes. Never my thing when I was a kid, but my friend Johnny Em turned me onto it by slipping me the novels when I was in my 20s. It’s an amazing series, and fun to see people dressing up with it. I don’t get a chance to talk about it that often. The fellow then reached behind him, into his backpack and pulled out his problem. It was a plate, with what appeared to be a steak and potatoes on it… And I knew immediately which character he was cosplaying. There’s a scene in the middle of the Macross saga, where pilot Ben is just sitting down to dinner. Suddenly the alarm klaxon goes off and he hast to rush off to his veritech plane. He turns back to his dinner, and points at it saying, “Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be back.”
The heartbreaking irony here, is he never does make it back. Something you don’t realize at the moment… It’s just a funny line that becomes heartbreaking a few chapters later. A little touch like this on the prop, it just takes the costume to a whole new meta level.
Maddie found an Avatar poster from one of the artists in Artist Alley, and absolutely fell in love with it. Was one of the first things that she bought, and it’s one of those things that I always enjoy seeing my kids buying art from the vendors, not just toys or books. For my part I hit the 50 Cent bins at Hazel’s Heroes pretty hard, flipping through them, even while in the Skeksis costume. Of course, that meant that when it was time for the costume contest, I had to find a way to hide the bag in my robes. I pushed it up as far as I could into the crook of my elbow and tried to keep that elbow almost past my back, with the bag then melting into the folds of the cloak. Perhaps I should’ve been focusing less on that, because once we got on stage, the sachet from the plague doctor fell off my staff. I reach down to grab it with my Skeksis hand, and a finger fell off. It was a disaster, the costume was falling apart before our very eyes! Everybody smiled and laughed and whore, and Maddie shuffled me quickly off the stage.
After I’d gotten out of the costume, it was back to the floor, where I could better see into the long boxes. I grabbed another stack of trade paperbacks and chatted with some of the people who could now recognize me. There was a Deadpool in a sailor moon costume who you may have recall seeing him at ZipCon back in 2020. (We leared he went by Dead Moon, rather than the SailorPool moniker I’d hung on him last year) He looked at me, aghast.
“THAT’S what you really look like?”
“Look who’s talking!” I laughed. And it was nice being able to chat with people, friends old and new face-to-face.
It had been a long day, and a crowded one. From a purely spectator standpoint, the show seemed like it was more crowded than usual, a phenomenon I’m in countering at every convention I go to this year. We ended up having to park two lots away and walked down to before we got into the show. That’s OK, I’m happy to see that the scene is making some sort of a comeback. We ended the day tired, but happy. And can’t wait to go out and do it again.
If you’re interested in seeing Maddie’s video diary of the event, you can check that out below. Otherwise jump to the pictures!
I was standing there, minding my own business, chatting with Anubis, and all of a sudden the Vulcan threw a care bear at us.
These sort of things just don’t happen to other people.
I attended Lorain Comic and Toy Expo this weekend. This is a small show in its first year, but I really wanted to support it because I want to see conventions coming back… and I admire the sheer chutzpah of trying to launch a convention even at the tail end of the pandemic. It also has a great advantage of being one town over from where I live, as well as trying to draw in cosplayers with a low key costume contest. It was a perfect opportunity for me to test the waters with my new McMandalorian costume, and Maddie was dying to break out her Clementine costume (From The Walking Dead game she’s been playing).
The Lorain show is starting off its first year with a bunch of familiar faces, filling the ball room with a lot of the usual suspects from the LoCo sellers (think the Comicpalooza comic crawl I did last year), as well as vendors from the North East Ohio Toy and Collectibles Club and my home comic shop Comics are Go. While there were bargains to be found (I managed to hit up a bunch of dollar and 50 Cent bins), The emphasis on these particular vendors slightly skewed more towards collectors pricing then bargain hunting. The upside of that is it creates a dense marketplace. You could probably do the dealers room in 15 to 20 minutes, but it was worth your while to go around a few times and spend a couple hours. Every pass we made, Maddie and I spotted new things we missed on our previous trips. It’s also necessary to make a couple of passes when you’re getting stopped from time to time. We’d barely gotten down the first isle when I got pulled away to show up on Captain Crappy and Ms. Fever Blister’s livestream! ( I show up about two and a half hours in)
All in all, it made for a fun day. Maddie did a video on her experiences at the con for her youtube channel and you can find it below.
We found some fun stuff (Maddie was over the moon to find a Glacion Mimikyu plushie!) and had a good day, and definitely plan on coming back for the next one. The promoter has big ambitions, already planning out the next show, expanding it with outdoor activities for kids and at least one wrestling guest for the autograph hounds. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, because I’d really love to have a con so close to home.
Basically, when there’s nothing else, you go to a Jeff Harper show! And quite frankly, just as with Toyhio, I want to support the shows that actually dare to go on this year.
Like other Harper shows, there’s no programming, and in this case, only a smattering of vendors, but that didn’t stop me from finding the cosplayers and plundering teh fifty cent bins, scoring some great Green hornet and Deadpool titles!
I headed out to the Toyhio show this weekend. It’s one that I’ve heard it before, but never actually made it out to because it’s so far out… past Akron, past Warren, past Youngstown, so close to the border that if you sneeze really hard, you’ll find yourself in Pennsylvania. Nevertheless, Toyhio is the first show since the Covid scare to gird it’s loins and say “Yes, I’m going ahead with my event”. I absolutely want to be there to support them, because somebody has to go first.
It’s not what I call a full-fledged convention, there is no programing. Much like the Harper shows, it’s a swap meet, a one day flea market, a wide ocean of toy vendors. I only saw one attendee in a costume, other than the local chapter Starfleet, which had a table with costumed characters and even a tribble throw game, all raising money for charity.
Don’t let that description under sell you though. While it’s all just one vast dealer’s room, it’s one of the biggest ones I’ve been in. The tables stretch on endlessly, wrapping around corners, through the foyer, through doors and hallways or doors… It’s exactly that sort of labyrinthian maze that really appeals to me, with the promise of secret treasures hidden in the furthest depths of the maze. I noted that the promoters had requested vendors to limit dump bins of loose figures, and was pleased to see that they had disregarded that request. I dove in and dug endlessly.
To be clear though, this is really a collector focused show. If you’re the kind of guy who is searching for that one specific transformer where they painted the stripes black instead of white, or that one action figure that they only made 3 1/2 copies of, this is a place for you. Lots of figures behind glass, tons of vintage things that are still sealed in the box. A collector could walk into this room with $1000 of cash in his pocket, and walk out broke. I, on the other hand, am one of those guys always searching for deals. Those are harder to find here, but they do exist. I manage to score some battered he-man vehicles cheap, and wrecked the quarter bins of comics I found, as well as finding the loose Ghostbusters figure I need to customize into a Tracy. By the way, what’s going on with the Real Ghostbusters? They all suddenly shot up in price, both here and online! I’m seeing vintage ones still in the box EVERYWHERE now, and the loose, beat-up figures with no accessories that I was paying 3 to 5 dollars for a year and a half ago or suddenly now are going for 10 to 15!
The real find of the day for me though, was a loose Joker figure from wave one of the superpowers collection. I passed on a ridiculously low priced one several years ago at Great Lakes Comicon, and for me to find him here at that same price… Well I didn’t hesitate this time. He’s one of those figures that fetch ridiculous amounts of money, alongside Batman figures from that line and I never thought I’d actually managed to complete the collection with him on a bill. His suit’s discolored a little, and there’s some paint worn off that I can restore, but all in all, I’m thrilled to have him sitting up there on the shelf with the other figures, right next to the penguin.
Toyhio is a really fun show. I’m pleased to say it was well attended, drawing well over a thousand people with lots of parents bringing kids to browse through the wares. I wish it were closer, because I suspect that it would be a regular afternoon stop once or twice a year, but considering I’m spending as much time driving to and from it as I am lurking through the halls, it’ll probably be a while until I return. Nevertheless, if you’re in eastern Ohio, this should definitely be on your event list!
I decided to end this year’s convention season softly, much the way I began it. I headed out to Genghis Con, which like OddMall is a smaller more eclectic event that I’ve been meaning to get to for years. Genghis Con is a small press, independent and comix event held annually in the Cleveland area. It’s always on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and yet despite being at the same time every year, I always seem to forget about it. This year with a renewed intent to visit shows I haven’t been to before I was determined to finally make the scene here.
Genghis Con has been held in a number of different venues over the years, beginning with the Beachland Ballroom some years back, and more recently finding a home in Lakewood. This year was their first time in the Flats, and I worried about finding parking. I managed to score place on the street a block away from the venue, an old machine and tool factory, and walked the short distance, following other people who seemed to be in the know. The old factory space is a beautiful venue, with strings of lights hung by the wooden rafters and exposed brick, it has a very “arts district” kind of feel which is perfect for this event.
Genghis Con is a much smaller event than your average convention, kind of like the Artist Alley at a comicon – it’s a strange mixture of flea market and art show, with more local talent and lots of underground fare.
There is way more political activism at the show than your usually see in a comic convention, and a wider array of the strange and the weird. I spied creepy Christmas ornaments, weird magazines, comic books and graphic novels and greeting cards.Everybody had buttons and stickers, and I found a bizarre indie pamphlet which chronicled one man’s hobby of designing terrible He-Man action figures – strange customs like Skeletor riding a dolphin or He-Man with inflamed nipples.
Personally I was here for Derf. I had briefly met Derf Backderf earlier this year at the Pekar Park comic fest – a similar event held in Cleveland Heights. Derf had been on hand for a Q&A after a screening of My Friend Dhamer, the film based on his graphic novel. I had recently checked out the expanded edition from the library and wanted to get a copy of my own. I also wanted to get in autograph and a photograph – I didn’t have anything on hand when I seen him at Pekar Park and my camera had run out of space right about then so I wasn’t able to snap a pic either. Derf had copies at his table and was gracious enough to sign a copy of the book, even doing a sketch of its titular character on the front cover. While I was getting my photograph with him, friends Mark and Mike drifted by waving and out of nowhere I spied my buddy Lizzy from Heroes United (a charity group we both do work for). I disentangle myself from Derf, shook his hand and went over to greet friends.
After I dashed across the aisle to grab a copy of that brilliant “Terrible He-Man Figures” ‘zine from Mullet Turtle comics I’d seen earlier, I ended up hanging out with Mike and Mark, and wandering the convention floor with them – watching Mike get his comics signed and picking up a blank covers for the Carol and Johns art show later this month. We chatted about the art that we saw, incivility on the internet, and I introduced them to my friend Lizzy who was relieved to finally have somebody to talk Star Trek with.
At the vegan booth I gentleman offered us brownies and asked just each who our favorite Doctor Who was. Mike chose Tom Baker and I am immediately replied Jon Pertwee. It made the bakers day to discover people who replied something other than David Tennant, and we laughed our way down to hook up with other friends. My friend Craig from the Panels comic club slipped me his latest work, a wrestling story with a anti-bullying team, and I grabbed some horror material from one of the other booths.
Genghis Con is fun, but not necessarily my thing. I expected to probably be in and out of there in less than an hour, but meeting up with a surprising amount of people that I knew really made it a nice day – there are far worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon then hanging out with friends and admiring local art. This probably won’t be one of my regular stops, but I can definitely see me popping back here in there
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.
When Madeline and I hit Hazard Con earlier this year, a booth was there promoting Great Lakes Geek Fest. It’s a new convention this year which definitely catches my interest, but being in Geneva, Ohio, I knew it was going to be a bit of a haul getting out there. As the event approached, I wasn’t sure whether I really wanted to go or not – I was debating up until Saturday morning in fact. It just so happens that my family had other plans and would be gone for the day, so I decided I might as well give this new show a shot.
I’m never a big fan of a show using the word “geek” in the title, but I try not to let that prejudice me too much. What was really turning me off though, was the fact that the schedule of events took so long to get posted. I saw several announcements that there’d be panels and games and a costume contest, but the show never posted a schedule until 15 hours before the show began. I kind of need more notice than that to decide whether I want to go to a show – especially if I have any of the kids with me. For this reason, I was reluctant to go and definitely wasn’t bringing Maddie or Lydia with me., since there was no way for me to know if there’d be enough activity to keep their short attention spans occupied ( a good call by the way, I don’t think there was).
The layout was a turn off as well. The action was separated across two buildings – Great Lakes Geek Fest had secured a community center as well as the gym of the local Rec Center. The end result makes the convention look smaller than it is. Neither of these venues could have accommodated all of the vendors the show had secured, but at the same time, there weren’t enough tables to completely fill up I both venues the end result was both buildings ended up looking a little empty, with not quite enough vendors or attendees. To further complicate the situation, these two buildings weren’t exactly close to each other. There’s about a block and a half walk you’re the middle of the town to get from one to the other, including crossing the Main Street in Geneva. This is particularly challenging if you’re wearing a costume, and God help you if you have any sort of anxiety.
The convention tried to spin the layout in a positive way, “it’s a short walk, and there’s plenty of places to stuff your face between the two buildings!” It’s actually a good angle, and if they could secure the cooperation of local businesses, perhaps set up a table or two outside and make it into an actual Festival, this might actually turn it into something unique (it’d be a difficult task, and a big ambition). Indeed, some of my more curious encounters happened during my trips up and down the street. At one point a woman on the back seat of the motorcycle her Man was riding paused at the stop light to take photos. Later on, one of the other attendees rushed up to me for a photo. We had stopped in front of the large front window of a local restaurant and while he tried in vain to bring up his photo app, a little girl inside the restaurant noticed me in the Mr. Freeze suit. Her eyes grew wide and I waved. She smiled and waved back, to the amusement of her mother. This could be fun if the walk could somehow be incorporated into the con experience. however, if this isn’t possible, then I’d rather see them fill up a single venue and get everybody under the same roof.
Great Lakes Geek Fest impressed me with an impressive variety of vendors. There were volunteer groups and jewelry makers, action figures and artists, candy and comic books. Outside there were giant replicas of a TIE fighter, Dalek, and X-Wing dot-dot-dot but a shame that I couldn’t locate them in the confusing layout until the show was nearly over. There weren’t as many comic book vendors as I would have liked to have seen, though the ones who were there were recognizable and reliable (Shout out to my local comic shop Comics are Go! for setting up out there!). I’m still regretting passing on that Battle Armor Skeletor I saw in the Adam’s Action Figures booth, and had to grab some unicorn poop for the kids from the candy booth. No real deals in the comic boxes, the best you would do was a dollar a book on some indie titles.
After driving an hour and twenty minuets to get to the con, as I was suiting up I realized something terrible. I had chosen to bring Mr. Freeze out, it was Batman Day after all, but as I reached in my car to start assembling the freeze gun I was astonished to see that I’d forgotten the main body. The lightsaber that powers it was there, so was the front barrel- a clear cylinder made from a soda bottle. But the main body was still back at home, sitting on my pool table, 77 miles away. I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to settle for just the soda-bottle-on-a-stick as my freeze gun (Ironically, I’d recently rescued an intrestingly shaped vodka bottle from the street to use as just this kind of hand held smaller freeze gun. I should have just gone with that). I was a little embarrassed (luckily you can’t see in in the dome helmet with all the condensation!) but people actually really seemed to dig it and were amused at the kitsch of it.
I managed to catch several of the panels, listening to the tail end of the Kirby panel and sitting through about half of the Batman at 80 panel. This was fun, because the moderator was pointing out some interesting facts about Mr. Freeze, in deference to me being in the room! I had no idea that Mr. Freeze had first appeared in a Blackhawk comic! it’s these kinds of obscure facts that you’re only going to get at a con. These were well thought out and good stuff. Earlier in the day there had been some games as well – things like comic price is right and jeopardy, which looked like fun (but too early for me to get out to).
In addition to good programming, Great Lake also drew a very friendly crowd. It didn’t hurt that I had a couple of friends there, but I was also able to chat forever with the local Deadpool as we compared notes about the way our respective unicorns work…no, really. He gave me some ideas for an internal mechanism involving pringles cans and epoxy. I got to pose for fight pictures with an excellent Wonder Woman and was impressed to see a curious genderbent Joker – actually, not so much a Joker as a “Partyman” from the 1989 Prince song that accompanied the Batman film. Her face lit up when I recognized the look and she told me I was the only on who had know what it was! Today she was going as Party Ma’am, and I was delighted that my knowing the character had made her day.
The costume contest was held outside which actually helped me see better in those dark wielder goggles I wear. I chatted with Zatanna before drifting towards the DC group to hang out (I only knew one person but that didn’t matter. We were still all bonded by out costume choices). I always say that this is my favorite part of any costume contest, just hanging out and getting to know the other people there. I ended up chatting with the person in front of me all the way up until he had to dash on stage for judging! We cheered on the kids and teenagers competing as the sun began to get low and the entire DC group spontaneously decided we need a group photo. It was a good day.
Despite having some issues, Great Lakes Geek Fest ended up being a nice time. There was a steady stream of attendees, never empty, but never full either. I’m hoping that the bumps in the road were just first year growing pains. It’s a good local con in an area that could use exactly this type of show. The long drive may keep me from coming back immediately, but I definitely want to sit and watch this one grow, get better and eventually take over the world.
Steel City Comic Con was this weekend, but that’s a bit big for me, especially with celebs charging an extra $20 for a photo at thier table on top of autograph charges. That didn’t stop me from sending my Victor Crowley poster with a friend to get signed, but I digress….
While we were taking a con break this weekend, Maddie finally got around to doing her own video reviews of the last couple shows she attended! I’m always interested to get her perspective on the conventions we attend. Below you’ll find her reviews of both Hazard Con and NEO Comiccon!
“Hey! Can I be your leg?”
A blue blur raced towards me. It was a cosplayer in a plushie blue outfit that reminded me of Sonic the Hedgehog. My little con buddy Maddie giggled as she whipped out the camera – after all, Voltron haven’t even made it into NEO Comiccon yet!
Sometimes when a convention changes hands, an anxious feeling of uncertainty can arise – that certainly seems to be the case with the uncertainty surrounding Akron Comic Con right now. With NEO though, there was never any doubt. After founding anr running the show for the past four years, Shawn Belles had decided to hand it off to Eric Anderson, the proprietor of Comic are Go. Anderson is a regular vendor on the con circuit and is well known and respected… and it doesn’t hurt that his store happens to be my favorite comic shop. He pulled the show off and kept it the same con that we know and love. If nothing else, the event maintained enough continuity that you probably wouldn’t even know there was a new promoter unless somebody told you. That’s good because I love this show, especially since it’s so close to home. The Soccer Sportsplex where it’s held is about a ten minuet drive from where we go to Church. Maddie and I hit the early service and then headed down the street to the con.
We knew from previous years that you couldn’t show up too late and still expect to get parking on site. We pulled in a little after eleven to find that the lot was full. I swung around and backed my little black car against a fence, creating my own parking space. While Maddie was high fiving me in the front seat, four other cars pulled in next to me, the five of us creating the last half a row of parking possible in the grass.
“I feel weird going into a convention without a costume!” Maddie complained to me. The thing is I don’t disagree with her. It reminds me of that first time out to the late and lamented Shinbokucon. I arrived in jeans and an Excel Saga shirt and felt woefully out of place among all the other cosplayers. Nevertheless I assured Maddie that in this 90° heat, she wasn’t going to want to be suited up all day – we’d do our shopping, say hello to friends, get autographs and armor up after lunch.
I brought a collection of interlocking Green Lantern covers for Paul Pelletier to sign. I had actually met him the previous day at a signing held by Comics Are Go. He and Matt Horak had popped into the shop for a couple of hours to sign comics and talk about the industry.It was a great time, almost like having my own personal panel with them. Pelletier described his early days breaking into the industry;
“I actually got into the Kubert school but then discovered I couldn’t afford to attend, so I went to work at the shoe place by day, doing comic books pencils practically for free on the side. I was drawing Ex-Mutants for Malibu and the guy who was inking the book also did work for DC. Some of his bosses there started to notice my pencils and asked ‘who is this guy that’s drawing for you?’ He gave them my information and they called me, I didn’t even have to send samples”
It’s a fascinating story, because his breakthrough into the industry wasn’t just about luck, there’s obviously a lot of hard work involved as well as being in the right place at the right time. He’s done amazing work on Aquaman and Justice League for the new 52 (I ALMOST pulled the trigger on one of his Superman prints – but it’s that new 52 outfit and I just can’t bring myself to spend money on Superman unless he has red shorts….) and I was stoked to have my books signed. We noted it was funny that while he’d always been more of a Marvel fan, most of his work had been done at DC.
While Tony Isabella was technically the guest of honor this year, the real draw for me was Tom Mandrake. Mandrake is probably best known for his legendary run with John Ostrander on the Spectre. I remember my buddy Mike Roop having a bunch of those glow in the dark covers, but I never really started reading books until very recently.I’m not sure why. They’re totally down my alley, and what’s interesting is we even see some crossover with us Ostrander’s Suicide Squad.
I didn’t just have just a stack of Spectre though, I had a curiosity with me. Mandrake did a single issue of Shadowman – something I found odd. I pointed out to him that I wasn’t aware of much work that he done with Valiant and asked if he was a regular there.
“Actually, that’s the thing, I didn’t do much work with them”, he said in slight bewilderment. “I don’t even remember how I got this job – they probably called me up because they needed an issue done quick. Back in those days we were all a lot closer in the industry…”
I grabbed some resin landscapes from a miniature dealer who was creating a variety of interesting things – since the rise of 3-D printing and the popularity of Perler beads, I don’t really see too much resin and looking at these figures you can realize exactly what a shame that is. I’m really excited to paint these and use them for photography with action figures and HeroClix. Maddie scored a Simpsons comic from Chris Yambar. He is a regular stop for her when ever we are at a convention.
I grabbed a Green Hornet poster at the local TV station’s booth and we moved on to Rubber City Cosplay to sign up for the costume contest. I noted that on the line above my entry there was another set of names with the series “Voltron”. I looked up at Cody and asked “Is there another Voltron costume here today?”
He nodded. “They’re playing a couple of the characters – Keith and Link.”
Maddie and I looked at each other.
“We’ve got to find these guys to get a picture!”
Indeed, we’d already spend much of the day chasing down cosplayers for pictures. Coming in to the show, Maddie had spied a girl dressed as Pokemon’s Serena. It’s Maddie’s favorite character, and she’d actually had her Serena custom on the previous weekend. She was totally excited to see another one. We also ran into my wife’s friend Crystal in her Miss Piggy outfit. She had nailed the character. it wasn’t just the ig nose or the blonde wig, what really sold it was the eye makeup. Big black lashes and heavy eyeliner, topped with purple eye shadow, I had never realized until that moment how essential all that is to the look.
We followed a trail of feathers on the ground to find Cruella Deville, but my favorite costume of the day was Chubby Bunny Cosplay, dressed as the Evil Queen from Snow White. Not only was the costume perfect, she had brought props that just made the look. A goblet that frothed (with cotton) and glowed (with LEDs), a magic mirror and a large spell book (which was hollow and served to carry her hone and wallet!). Maddie and I both cheered when she won the Adult division in the costume contest.
It was after 12:30 and Maddie was getting hungry so we headed out front and caught the shuttle bus. The viehicle was brimming with hustle and bustle, cosplayers all around us. It took us down the road a bit to the local college where there was overflow parking for the convention. The welcoming sight of a McDonald’s loomed across the street. Maddie and I nipped across the intersection to grab lunch and cool down under the air-conditioned golden arches. By the time we had eaten and got back to the show, it was just after one and we are ready to suit up.
About 17 hours before the convention, Maddie had come to me asking if we could pull her Iron Sapphire, – she hadn’t worn it in two or three years, and I knew it would have to be altered. We dug through the attic and found most of the pieces, I cancelled my plans to see Troll 2 at the Cedar Lee, and get to work adding inserts and extensions in the armor to make it fit a 13-year-old girl instead of an 11-year-old. (and here I had thought that since I finished my upgrades on Voltron Friday morning, I wasn’t going to have to deal with any con crunch this weekend!) While we’re at it, we added extra lights, rebuilt the mask and tiara and completely revamped the mid-section for my daughter who is now taller and – well, shaped differently then she had been a few years ago. By 1 o’clock in the morning I had painted pieces drying on the porch and was ready for bed. It’s a little nerve wracking though, we were breaking one of my general rules – always try on the whole thing together before bringing it out to a show. It turned out to be okay – the midplate didn’t go up quite high enough, but it was forgivable and Maddie darkened up the Star Sapphire logos on her shoulders with a sharpie while we were in the car, giving it that final touch. I suited up as Voltron and never even made it into the convention center before getting stopped three times for photos. The addition of the sword to the costume is something that had often been requested of me, this time around I decided to not only create it but to do so in the anime tradition – that is, oversized and detailed. I had taken care to make sure that it was removable – the hilt had no paint on it since it would probably just rub off from being inserted into the lion heads that form to my hands. One of my favorite things during this show was to hand the sword over to people who wanted pictures with me and show them holding it in the photo. By the end of the convention we got the hang of pulling the sword out of the lion head using two hands with a sharp upward motion and then lining up to the holes and steadily inserting it back in.
As we passed Archie Cunningham‘s booth, he waved us over, delighted and wanting a picture.
“Hang on, and I’ve got something for you!”
He reached under his table and produced one of his prints of Voltron : Legendary Defender and presented it to me.
“I was so upset with how the series ended, and I think it’s last time I’m ever going to draw him this way. I’m gonna go back to the classic – the way you look!”
We wandered around, taking pictures with Pennywise, a space marine, even a xenomorph from Aliens! Maddie got in on the act as well taking photos in her Iron Sapphire outfit and had a generally good time despite the uncomfortable armor (I had been right, even the three hours we were suited up was tough. We never would have made it through five hours). One of the vendor’s was nice enough to handle water bottles “I know how hot those things can get!” He suggested hooking up a old computer fan in the helmet perhaps to help cool me down.
When it was time to lineup for the costume contest, I was fortunate enough to be right behind the other Voltron cosplayers, and Maddie was right in front of another young woman in hand made Iron Man armor – the synchronicity was beautiful. My friend Rhonda was in the line next to us so we were surrounded by familiar faces.
We made one last pass at the dealers room, but shopping is always hard when you’re in a cumbersome outfit. Still, you never know what you might find. During that last pass, in an old toy booth, I spied it – a vintage 1979 Twiki action figure. It was in fact, the exact figure I’d been looking for at the Neotacc swap meet a couple weeks prior. I reached into the hidden pocket by my hip armor and grabbed my cash. I ended up paying about 25% more than I was really comfortable with on the toy, but I shouldn’t complain – it’s easily worth double what I paid, and routinely goes for much more on eBay. I definitely got a deal.
Finally it was time to pack things up and head home. The crest in my breast plate fell out as I was shuffling out of my armor – I had managed to perspire right through the foam. We cranked up the AC and left our makeshift spot in the now mostly empty parking lot. NEO Comiccon was still the great convention that it always has been and I’m glad to see it in good hands. We can’t wait to come back next year.