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 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
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!
The Harper shows are a constant. They never change all that much, so I figured I knew what was in store for me Sunday. But I always forget – summer cons mean wardrobe malfunctions.
I had thrown up a poll to see what costume people wanted to see, and my old Mr Freeze won in a landslide. At 96%, it wasn’t even close. It had been over two years since I had Freeze out, and as I pulled it out, the wear showed. I had a lot of patching to do, including re-attaching one of the oxygen tanks to the back (and figuring a new way of doing so that didn’t just involve boat loads of glue). Also, my Freeze gun was missing. By “Missing” I mean, buried somewhere in the attic, but nt where I can find it to lay my hands on it. I looked around, trying to figure out what to do, and then decided to build a new on up around my Kyberlight lightsaber. It ended up being massive – but that’s not a bad thing. A bigger gun is far more reminiscent of the film Freeze. I packed the armor in the car and left the windows down during the early service at church. I was hoping the summer sun wouldn’t melt anything.
I started to suit up in the parking lot. It seems like this used t be easier. it certainly was when I tested it at home. The velcro tabs on the sides didn’t seem to want to hold. there was plenty of room, but they just kept coming loose. Finally I got the chestplate on and was looking for the gauntlets.
On of the air tanks came off. The hot sun had caused the glue between the metal clip and air tank to separate. Grumbling, I reached for my repair kit and grabbed a razor. I cut a lip in the tank (made from a couple of two liter bottles) and slid half the long clip inside the painted bottle itself, then the other side into the slot on the back of my armor. I prayed it would be enough to naturally clamp together, and went back to the business of putting the chestplate back on. Seriously, one velcro fastens then the other pulls off…Finally, with the armor on and the first gauntlet over my wrist…
The other tank came off. Out came the razor again, repeating the same proceedure. Back into the chestplate. Gauntlets on. Gloves on. Bald cap in place. Belt was sagging with the midplate a bit, but I’d have to live with it.
The goggles chose that moment to break, and I found myself rejiggering the clutch on the side that adjusts the tension. It was another few minuets before they were workable, and I finally slid my dome into place. I picked up the freeze gun and the muzzle promptly slid off the lightsaber. The sun had melted the glue holding this into place as well. I slid it back on and decided to let it float. It would allow me to grip the second handle sideways giving it a more industrial look, but it also meant I’d have to make sure to always point it up. If I relaxed my grip downward, the front would side off again. Fine. Lets get into the show.
I have to admit, I dig this venue. The split level with the snack bar and some good dealers makes it a nice set up. The costume contest draws an interesting crowd as well. I think it pulls in more young people than other Harper shows do. Over the years I’ve really seen the costume talent here develop into something impressive, from the amazing Umbrella ninja to the Carnivale Wonder Woman, the competition here grows better every year.
My favorite outfit of the day however, had to be the demonic Ronald McDonald. The young lady in the suit was totally into it and created a cheerfully creepy visage. I love these kind of mash ups, and was totally rooting for her in the costume contest.
I was happy to see so many fifty cent bins and even managed to plow through the single quarter box at the show, scoring a stack of vertigo books I’d always meant to check out and finding the completing issue of two different mini-series I’d been collecting. The vendor knocked a dollar off the already deeply discounted books and even better, he offered to hold onto my bag until I was ready to leave so I wouldn’t have to lug it around in the bulky costume. God bless this dude.
I missed seeing a lot of the friends I regularly run into at this show, but still had a nice time at it. It’s not hard to make new aquantances in this environment. I’m always amused when I look out and see a bunch of heroes sitting at a table with the lunch they just bought at the snack bar, or playing a board game. It’s a surreal image. There were some artists I recognized from Woo-Con and Akron, as well as some great booths. I found one table full of Godzilla movies, along with a book on Japanese film. The LaGrange table was selling old theater signs and there was an amazing selection of He-Man toys in the back. That’s really what the Harper shows are about – interesting buys and good shopping.It’s a nice little con with good deals and interesting artists, and that’s why I keep coming back.
I like Fantasticon, but was planning on skipping it this year until I noticed the date. It was scheduled the same weekend as Wizard World Cleveland so Fantasticon gave me the perfect alternative to the cash-grabbing giant currently destroying the con scene that Wizard World represents.
Just like with ConCoction, I decided to break out a costume I hadn’t worn in a while and that hadn’t gotten a lot of exposure last year, on the con circuit anyhow – Sparkle Murder Pie did several charity events, but only appeared at one convention.
I found a parking spot on the street, just behind the baseball stadium that sat between me and the convention center. I pulled the unicorn out of the car and stashed the legs and feet inside the hollow body, then looed my bag at hte crook of my elbow and lifted the costume, ready to walk around the block.
The unicorn horn broke clear off. It was a clean split, right at the joint (It was built in three pieces and glued together). I lept back to my car and rummaged through the reair bucket, grabbing the Hot glue gun and duck tape. I could’t fix this here in the street, but with a little luck, there’d be an open electrical outlet at the Seagate Center.
The high winds blew me back and forth like a kite, but somehow I managed to make it to the doors without dropping anything. I found a power jack in the foyer, before I even reached the inner doors and hooked up the glue gun while I suited up and cleared excess glue from teh horn, creating a flat surface on the bottom. In five minuets I was applying a thick bead of glue to the horn nad pressing it back on to the unicorn’s forehead. I clicked on the light, praying it would hold. In the meantime, one of the Seagate center’s emplyees had spotted my struggle and rushed out to help, handing me my bag and holding the door oen for me and the unicorn. (I should have gotten the name of the young Africian Americian emplyee in the red and black Ohio hat so I could brag on him. Seagate Center should be really proud of thier employees. This was the best service I’ve ever gotten at a con!)
You know what? with all the micro cons I found myself at last year, it’s been a little while since I did a big show like this and I’d forgotten what it was like to be stopped every three steps for photos. Sparkle Murder Pie was a big hit with the kids at the show, most of which were brave enough to come up and pet her. Of course I wasn’t he only Deadpool there (Actually why I don’t dress up as him -there’s always a bunch running around). I found a Magical Girl Deadpool, a casual Deadpool and another Deadpool with a unicorn. Mine was bigger, but his was wearable and vibrated. He wrapped it around my neck so I could feel the vmassaging vibrations.
“Yyyyarrgggllee….” I gurgled, lifting my face up in ecstasy.
I made my way over to Bob Hall’s table. I’d met him a couple years ago at NEO comicon, where I’d bought a print of the villian Master Darque – one ofthe manin villians ofthe valient universe and the main nemisis to one of my favorite suerheroes; Shadowman. I’m not exaggerating when I say Shadowman is one of my favorites. He’s in my all time top five and I think his title was one of the most underrated books of the 90’s. This time he had an 11×17 print of the cover for the last issue and I couldn’t get my cash out quick enough. The last time Bob and I had spoken, he’d told me about how he got started with the character, and how it had ended with Acclaim coming in and wanting to reboot the character into something completely diffrent, so he did the story where Jack climbed up to the top of the building and jumps. He points out that we never see him hit the ground though. “I always assumed some other writer come along and take over – figure a way out of the cliffhanger, but they never did!”. It’s a cliffhanger that has taunted me for twenty five years, since I first read it. In the last couple of years though, things have changed. Valient is once again publishing comics. I mentioned to Bob that even though the current Shadowman is fine, it lacks his touch.
“They actually called me and told me that the title doen’t have quite the magic I t did when i was writing it, and asked if I wanted to come in and do something on it. I offered to write a special where I go back to that last issue and finally resolve that cliffhanger, so they have some integration and resolution. But then management changed and it was decided that having the old writers come in was to gimmiky and passe.”
Then Bob did the unthinkable. He told me the story. I finally know how the cliffhanger from the final issue of his Shadowman ends. It may be one of the single coolest things to ever happen to me at a convention.
Fifty cent bins were in abundance, but most were on the floor where I couldn’t reach while riding the unicorn. The one vendor who had his on the table got my business as I pulled as many Superman and Fanatastic Four issues as I could pack into the bag holding my shoes and jacket. I found Pokemon for the girls and almost pulled the trigger on a Total Justice Batman repaint I’d never seen before. I kind of regret passing that one up now.
The costumes this time around were amazing, including not one but two Ghost Riders. I also ran into a gent with a hadmade Assasin’s Creed costume that was stunning. The weapons, the beadwork, all of the details had been crafted by had over months. There was an adorable Eevee with a magic staf that twinkled and shone in the most wonderful light display. I was rooting for both of them to win the costume contest. I also nticed a Foxy and Freddy from Five Nights at Freddy’s. There was great deatail on these suits, with visible wires and underskeleton – touches that made them a nice cut above. I hadn’t realized that I knew the occupant of the foxy – Erin, who I had made an aquantance with on the con circuit last year was one of the villinous animatronics.
She wasn’t the only familiar face there though. I ran into my buddy Ed from Heroes United and as we chatted over upcoming events My oldfriend Sean (who founded NEO comicon) waved me over. I hadn’t seen him since NEO last August and he was surprised since we usually run into each other on the con circuit. I explained I was doing fewer shows this year and he was relieved that everything was okay.
I managed to sit through most of the creating comics panel with Darryl Banks, Bob Hall and Pat Brodrick. I had never realized that Darryl had been a teacher. The Green Lantern artist told a story about going as a fan to a comic con when he was first starting out and asking Gil Kane to look at his work. Kane did and told him it was okay. Darryl was a little deflated untill everyone started asking him what Kane had said. “He said it was OKAY? Wow! Gil dosen’t ever say that! He never likes ANYTHING!”. It was just as interesting to hear abotu how Bob Hall came from a theater background, and that sort of storytelling led him to comics. Indeed, it was that kind of experiance that Jim Shooter was looking for when he made him an editor.
I really do enjoy Fantasticon. It has a little bit of everything I want in a convention, and it was the perfect alternative to Wizard World for me this year.
“You did it! I can’t believe you actually did it,” Knightmage choked out between barely contained laughter. Under my Deadpool mask I smiled. I had posted a few days before that I would see him at NEO, and that I was bringing at least one of my kids. Also a unicorn. And there I was, in full Deadpool regalia, perched on top of a fluffy unicorn with comically big eyes.
NEO comic con has rapidly become one of my favorite shows, in no small part because it’s the closest comic con near me, but also because it’s so well run. I never fail to have a good time here, and the showrunner (a friend of mine) is the hardest working promoter I’ve ever seen. It’s NEO’s second year here at the North Olmsted Soccer Sportsplex and I knew from last year that parking would be a challenge. My younger daughter Lydia was feeling sick, so while the wife slept in with her, Maddie and I hit the early service at Gateway Church in North Ridgeville then jumped in the car and raced the six minuet drive down the street to the show.
By the time we hit the complex, the parking lot was full. Plenty of cars were giving up and heading to the college down the street where a shuttle bus would pick them up and ferry them back and forth. Some of the more adventurous cars however, were heading to the lawn. I pointed my large honda towards the back fence and lowed through, snagging one of the last spots in the grass.
Entering the complex, my friend Jim spied me from the ticket booth as I rode the unicorn in the building with my pass stuck on it’s horn.
“No. NO! OUT!” he grinned waggling his finger at me. One of the ticket takers plucked my pass off of Sparkle-Murder-Pie’s horn. “Okay, that covers him, but what are we charging for the UNICORN???” Jim demanded.
“She’s three years old,” I replied. “Kids get in free.”
Jim threw up his hands in exasperation, laughing. To be fair, I had my own concerns about bringing Sparkle-Murder-Pie the Unicorn to this show. I remember it being crowded last year, and was wondering if I’d have any problems getting around, but while there were a few choke points in the complex (especially by the entrance or the connecting path between the two sections) NEO is extremely efficient in the way it uses it’s space. I remained unhindered for most of the day. Shawn, the promoter, spotted me and gave the unicorn a friendly slap on it’s hollow flank as he passed by.
I had to get my picture in front of the TARDIS. The TRACE people did me one better, opening both doors and helping me maneuver the unicorn in. As I emerged, I pointed to the giant Pikachu rounding the corner and Maddie squealed. We rushed over for more photos. Emerging from the weirdest selfie ever, Maddie announced she was hungry and we went in search of lunch. I dig the snack bar here. They don’t gouge at convention level prices for food and the con is good to them. Maddie grabbed a hot dog and I got some pizza. Over at our table, my friend Chris came over to me, his Black Mask in hand.
“Dude, do you have any tape?”
“Hot glue gun in the car,” I replied. Then I spotted an electrical outlet over in the corner by the lunch tables. “We can plug it in there. Give me a couple minuets to do finish eating and we can do a swag dump while I pick up the gun.” We ran to the car, and Chris was nice enough to fix one of my hooves while patching up his mask.
Between lunch and the swag dump, I missed the comic creator’s panel with Tony Isabella and Mark Sumerck. It’s a drag (I’m still hoping someone filmed it and youtubes it) but to be fair, Marc is a friend and I heard a lot of his stories. Lately, Tony’s been hitting the con circuit hard since the release of the Black Lightning TV show and I’d bet I also caught most of his recent schtick at ConCoction last Feburary, so if any panel had to go – this was the one.
We stuck around for the next one though – it was an action workshop, run by a film choreographer. It’s an unusual panel to see at a comic book convention, but they were hosting the fan film production company that does TRACE and their more recent Superman project. I’m familiar with how a lot of action is staged and how you throw a punch (more importantly how you TAKE a hit), so I left Maddie there to watch (I figure she might pick up some ideas for The Backyard Zombie Movie) while I snuck off to Tony’s table. I had an erstwhile copy of Essential Captain America vol 5 that I need an autograph on. I’m not sure if I picked this up after my last encounter with Tony or if I just didn’t have it with me before. I handed it over and he happily replied “The first signature is free….just like ALL the best drugs!”. Yeah, that’s right, Tony has started charging. We had some warning about this last year – it was definitely under consideration and I was pleased it didn’t happen at Akron Comic Con, but it’s finally occurred. He is however, offering free signatures on anything bought at his table and on one of your own items. I gotta admit, this is perfectly fair. If you’re going to charge to autograph, this is definitely the right way to do it.
To my great delight, the other comic guest wern’t asking for autograph fees. Phil Hester and Ande parks are well known for thier Green Arrow, but I was all about thier Dynamite work, and I plopped down a small stack of Green Hornet for them to sign. On the top of the collection though, there was one particular issue that stood apart. It was an Aliens story called “Purge”. It’s a one-shot featuring characters I was always disappointed never appeared any where else. I don’t know if I found this in a quarter bin, or was given it or if it was off the shelf, but it’s always been one of my favorite Aliens stories. As Ande signed I turned the conversation over to his time of The Lone Ranger.
“It’s interesting, I wasn’t a fan of the character going in,” he said. “They gave me ‘The Death of Zorro’ and I was like ‘okay.’. Then they told me it was a Lone ranger story and I didn’t know what to think about that. But writing it I just fell in love with the characters, with the ranger and Tonto and all of them, it made me a fan.”
In this blog and elsewhere, I’ve long said that Dynamite is the only place that’s gotten the Lone Ranger right. I mentioned to Ande that I really wanted to like the movie, but that it was nowhere near his run on the book.
“I saw the movie and just though ‘All you guys had to do was follow the path we set on the book, and I just don’t understand why they didn’t do that.'”
You took the words right out of my mouth.
Maddie and I made our way down the table over to Angel Medina. My buddy Mayday always makes a point to stop by Angel’s table any time they are at a con together. We’ve been at Great Lakes Comic Con together but I didn’t have anything to sign. This time however, I came prepared. Maddie pulled a couple of Spider-man comics and a Dreadstar out of my backpack as I sat perched on top of my unicorn. I pulled up my Deadpool mask and we got Medinia’s attention. He thumbed in my direction.
“So, you with him?” He asked.
“That’s my Dad,” Maddie replied.
“Man, you don’t know how lucky you are,” he told her. “When I was a kid, my parent’s just didn’t get it. They’d drop me off at the con and pick me up later. They’d wonder why I was wasting my time on this stuff..and when I told them I was going to college for it? Forget it! It wasn’t until I showed my mom that first paycheck with Spider-man on it…It wasn’t until then that she understood maybe you can make a living this way.”
He finished signing my books and waved towards me. “You’re lucky. Your dad’s a nerd – and I mean that in a good way.”
We moved on as another person was chatting Angel up about Dreadstar. They mentioned that they had planned on bringing some for Angel to sign, but just couldn’t locate any of the First Publishing issues. Angel reached under his table producing a copy from that run and signed it.”That’s awesome!” he gushed. “What do I owe you?” Angel shook his head and waved him on, no charge.
We explored further, running into friends and taking photos and suddenly I found myself at the end of a long conga line chanting “One of us! One of us!” The line came to a stop but Deadpool kept riding his pony past them, racing across the sportsplex to photobomb a tense confrontation between Wolverine and a movie accurate, leather-clad Deadpool. Hulk shuffled over to me, petting the unicorn’s soft fur, the epitome of calm. I thumbed through dozens of three for a dollar bins and came away with a dozen Superman books. Maddie supported one of the local artists and purchased a Jigglypuff poster from him. I finally made it over to the American Knight table to see my old POP buddies Jae and Rick who were releasing their very first issue of the long-awaited book.
They were sold out.
Seriously. I arrived just in time to seethe last issues snatched up. “I go over to see Ange Medina first and because of that I miss out???” I screamed in mock outrage. Truth is, I couldn’t be happier for them. They have been working on this book for a while and a lot of us have been waiting to see this come out for years – indeed, at least as long as NEO Comic Con has been around. Greg was back and heard my disapointment.
“Did you get the digital copy?”
“No, I wan’t part of the Kickstarter”
He reached in his bag and pulled out his copy and passed it to me. “I got my digital one, and you really need to read it. You can have mine.”
I couldn’t believe it. I asked how much I owed him and he wouldn’t hear of it. “We gotta stick together, you know?”
Finally, the moment Maddie had been waiting for drew close. It was twenty minuets before the line up for the kids costume contest. We slipped into the back of the sportsplex, in a dark and unused portion of the complex. I helped Maddie don her overshirt and we got her clipboard out of the backpack. There in the dark, she practiced her quick-change twirl about four times. Confident in her display, we stuffed her cape up the back of the shirt and hiked the Supergirl skirt up so it was hidden under the billowy white blouse, cinched tight around the waist with a smart beige leather belt. Maddie joined the other kids by the panel area and I was happy to see her hanging out and chatting. I think she’s discovering (like I did) that the best part of a costume contest is hanging out with the other contestants backstage and getting to know them. She was particularly enchanted by the boy in the Aliens costume – funny since we just finished that movie a week prior. The line started to move, and the emcee called her name.
“And next we have Maddie as Supergirl!”
He caught a glimpse of her in the yoga pants and white blouse and corrected himself quizzically.
“I mean, FROM Supergirl….”
Maddie reached the center of the stage, grinned and ripped open her blouse, revealing the red “S” underneath. The judge’s jaw dropped as the crowd erupted in applause. Maddie twirled the blouse off and pulled her skirt down into view, ripping off her glasses. It was the best quick change I’d seen from her yet.
I’d trot on stage later as Deadpool, but I’m pretty sure Maddie’s turn was the highlight of the show for me. We headed back to the car exhausted and ready for dinner back at home…but also ready to come back next year! Keep an eye out for Maddie’s con VOLG (She’s been slow getting into it, but I bet it’ll be up by the end of the week). In the meantime, check out Maddie’s quick change in the kids costume contest here as well as my Unicorn waddle in the adult contest! (Thanks to Ken Nemec for recording it!)