According to Wikipedia; Yuri’s Night is an international celebration held every April 12 to commemorate milestones in space exploration. Yuri’s Night is named for the first human to launch into space, Yuri Gagarin, who flew the Vostok 1 spaceship on April 12, 1961. In Cleveland, we hold it at the Great Lakes Science Center.
Man. That sounds like an awfully stuffy affair doesn’t it? Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
Yuri’s night kicks off with the VIP arty at 6:30, in a roped off area serves amazing food from Cleveland’s most innovative restaurants. New York style pizza with prosciutto, soft tacos made from an amazing seasoned pork. Sandwiches and salads, a deconstructed sushi-like dish with mango and peppers. Strange margaritas in plastic cups and an open bar. And even here in the VIP, I found myself surrounded by sci-fi costumes. Some elaborate Star wars or giant astronauts, and some as simple as funny hats. There was even one person dressed as Stitch, complet with two extra arms wired to her real forearms. Cosplay is so pervasive at this event that a sign over at the Melt table (where they were hocking their take on oatmeal creams) read “If your outfit isn’n’t sci-fi related, you must give us your best Chewbacca impression before taking a cookie”.
The rest of the science center and it’s exhibits are available as well, but the halls felt eerily empty the first hour until the general admission began to trickle in. At one table, a young lady in a funny outfit served up cheese balls that had been dipped in liquid nitrogen. You have to keep the ball moving in your mouth or it’ll stick to your tongue (like Schwartz and the lampost in A Christmas Story). You breath steam out of your nose and mouth while you eat it. The taste is like a cheetos flavored snowball.
In one section, science demonstrations go on with bottle rockets, while further down there was a photo booth just around the corner from the main stage where they alternated between a band and a DJ. The lower area really starts to fill up the later the evening goes. Around ten, the floor was packed and I wandered down. I always say it’s not a party until the lightsabers come out, and I immediately found myself by a dark Jedi with two red lightsabers. Old Skool Cleveland pumped out cover songs and when they kicked off Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, we were all in full swing dancing. For a moment I lost myself.
Sometimes that’s easier in a costume. I pulled out my Borg suit for t he first time in a couple years. There’s not a lot of places for me to wear this, but it was right at home there at Yuri’s night. From the Balcony I spotted some friends coming in with a Xenomorph egg in tow and a chestburster popping out. I ran into Ghostbuster friends in thier spaceball costumes – I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t recognize them until they grabbed me to say hello! I screamed my lungs out for the I Dream of Jeannie team during the costume contest, and wandered around the science center like any curious Borg would – a drink constantly in my metal prosthetic claw.
I missed my chance to come out last year and now I really regret that. This may have been the best party I’ve been to in years, and as the night drew on I never even noticed the time fly by. It’s been ages since I’d been to the Great Lakes Science Center (Certianly before I was married) and I can’t think of a more fun way to renew my acquaintance with this particular attraction. I’m already thinking of my costume for the next Yuri’s night next year and I can’t wait.
The mad scientist ran up to me with a shiny gold nugget in his hand exclaiming “Dude, I think I found a part of your costume! “. Sure enough, one of the rivets from my club had fallen off and found it’s way across his path somewhere deep in the parking lot. Floating above my shoulder, or Orko’s glowing eyes smiled. Ratha Con was going to be good.
I had some friends head out of this show several years ago and it’s one I’ve always wanted to go to – based on the sheer niftyness of the name alone. The problem is, it’s a small show– even by my standards – and a long way away. Those two things don’t usually compute, but I had to drop a birthday gift out near Columbus and the rest of my Saturday was free so I decided after four or five years of procrastinating to finally take the leap and cruise to the Athens Community Center. I’m glad I did.
I say small show, but it’s a small show that feels big. Ratha Con leans heavily on its programming and activity options. In a lot of ways it it felt like a small-scale anime show or the Cleveland ConCoction. There was a tabletop gaming room catering to war games and RPGs, as well as a video game room – and let me tell you something, I’m a sucker for a good video game room. It was the one place I kept wondering back to when I had 10 or 15 minutes to kill – chatting with the room attendant about how much we both loved the arcade version of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker and losing embarrassing races on Mario Kart 64. Along the same hallway are the two rooms used for panels. The small room was set up as more of a round table discussion area where as the larger one had a traditional rows of chairs with the guest sitting behind a table with a Mic.
I made a point of attending The 3-D printing workshop. They were using better equipment than I am, with heated print beds, hotter extruders, and quicker speeds – there wasn’t a lot for me to learn there on the printing side though I did take notes on some of the modelling software they have been dabbling in.. I’ve actually had very good results using my traditional brace 3-D and Microsoft 3-D builder – but I’m open to trying something if I get better and easier results, and ended up walking away with some new ideas .
Down the hall, I heard music, so I popped out of the 3D printing panel and found myself at the video game music trivia. A trio of wind and reed instruments would play out the score from a game and the audience would guess the game for bragging rights and prizes. These very talented musicians would be up at the main stage later, rendering out the bouncy sounds of the Cantina band from Star Wars.
Jake Kearney was up next, with his walking dead panel. Kearney bit player who betrayed one of the Saviors for a few episodes last season until he finally got mauled by the tiger. The problem with Walking Dead panels of curse is that most of the behind the scenes anecdotes are already covered in the companion show Talking Dead. What Kearney brings to the table is more of an outsiders view – someone who has appeared on the show, but isn’t IN the show. It was a sparsely attended panel, and he seemed a little unprepared. It was as if he merely wanted to take questions, questions that largely weren’t coming from this small audience. That’s okay, I had to cut out early any hour to make it to the main stage so I could watch the magic show.
That’s right, there’s a magic show.
Ratha Con brought back a return guest from previous years – “Big Daddy Cool” who billed himself as an “Impossibleist”. It was a fun show, with good visuals. The audience however, seem to be a little hesitant to participate so when he called for volunteers I wandered up in full Man-At-Arms regalia and choose my card! Big Daddy would later host a magic workshop in one of the panel rooms which I was also dying to see. It’s been a few years since I did magic regularly, although my daughter Lydia has been picking it up from here and there for her YouTube series. Big Daddy showed us a few simple effects, demonstrated some ideas and then when I mentioned that I happened to be a magician as well, he pulled out a variation on a mentalism effect he was showing us – one with cards, using a mechanic that would only be familiar to another magician – that was fun.
The dealers room sprawled across a gym area, with rows and rows of vendors, one corner reserved for the main stage as well as a couple of photo ops against the front wall – a Tardis and a speeder bike from Star Wars. This, in addition to the green screen photo booth in the video game room gives attendees a lot of options to play around and get silly at the show when you’re not in a panel or watching the pirate themed belly dancer on the main stage.
Because it’s a pop culture show and not necessarily a comic con or anime con the vendor’s room was filled with a lot of artists, jewelry makers, prop makers, and sellers of generally weird things – it’s a sort of vendors room and you expect from an OddMall or RenFest. There were a couple of toy vendors, a VR station, one comic book vendor and a lot of interesting things to see. I dig ecclectic flea markets but always have a hard time finding something to buy in them.
The costume contests are broken down into kids and adults. The kids parade around the vendor’s are in before The casting has tests are broken into kids and adults – the kids parade around the vendor’s room before lining up and showing off on stage whether judge… I saw the scariest most serious looking joker ever – followed by a girl in a Tom Servo outfit from MST3K!
We won’t speak of the giant Pikachu waddling at the end of the line. I’m still trying to figure out how it got on the speeder bike.
It’s another one of those fun things about it being pop culture event and not strictly a comic con or sci-fi show – you get a marvelous variety of cosplayers. Walter and The Dude from the Big Lebowski were both there, as well as the blues brothers, as well as a stunning armor that took first place in the adult contest and the beautiful Five Nights at Freddys robot that took second. Unlike the kids, their adults are prejudged in a two hour block over in one of the panel rooms. It makes things easier and get you some time to really connect with the judges and explain what your costume is made out of. Honestly, I think I’m beginning to prefer this method.
I really enjoyed Ratha Con, and I’m a little bummed that it’s such a long drive to get there because I really can’t justify coming back unless I’m already staying in the area. Maybe next year I can arrange a weekend with my wife’s friends in Lancaster so I can sneak back out to Athens for the day. You know, that just might work!
I may not see you back there next year, but sooner or later I’ll be back for sure!
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.
The search for Eternian allies continues. First to the north…
Then into the truly bizarre…..
This really says it all.
When last we left Man-at-Arms, he had boarded the mysterious blue box and gone off in search of allies.
It begins in the northern wastes….
and then into the fiery depths.
Even on Earth (in the most 80’s photo ever)
and in the deepest reaches of space!
Still more to come!
It’s been a few years since I hit Fantasticon. I was there for it’s first appearance in Toledo (at a slightly smaller venue that they outgrew in their first outing) but scheduling conflicts had kept me from getting back to the burgeoning show and I had always wondered what had become of it once it moved to the much larger space in the Seagate Center.
My first impression was that sadly, the parking situation hadn’t gotten any better. if anything, it had worsened a bit as I had feared. Lot parking around the center was a flat $5, with hourly rates in the basement of the Center itself . Still five as long as you’re gone in five hours. I wasn’t, but the extra two beans was worth it to be able to park a mere twenty feet from the elevator and have easy access to my car in the cumbersome Lego Deadpool suit I was waddling around in. I had no handler and knew that having to wander a block either carrying or wearing the costume would have been impossible.
Inside, signs smartly directed me to the registration counter and inside. The layout is very well done and easy to get around. I found myself thankful for the smooth polished floors that made it easy for me to move my lego feet.
While I miss the warm, homey hotel like- feel of that first venue, I have to admit the larger dealers room was nice. I lugged my two Batman volumes over to Mike DeCarlo’s table. While Jim Aparo is the definitive Batman artist for me, but when he inked his own stuff it would always feel a little muddy. Aparo was always at his best when DeCarlo was inking – crisp and solid and defined. He smiled when I told him this.
“Jim always told me that besides himself, I was his favorite inker!” he grinned as he thanked me.
I headed over to the panel stage – a corner cordoned off with curtains and chairs just in time for the trivia contest. The corner had letters pasted to the walls; A,B,C, and D. Everyone stood and listened for the multiple choice question, and would then go stand by the letter that went with thier answer.
“This is a lot more walking than I had bargained for!” I exclaimed, bouncing my way from corner “C” to corner “A”. I ended up in the top four before I missed a question and had to quit. I love the game and they way they set it up.
I ran into my friend Ed and drafted him to be my handler for a hour where he helped me shop. It’s the problem with the lego suits- no hands and if you wait until the end of the show, that stuff you were looking at might just ave vanished….. Ed was a huge help that was above and beyond and I really appreciated it.
I also managed to sneak in to watch most of Daniel Phillips panel as he made up an assistant into a sinister cat-like creature. I’m not familiar enough with this guys work – I need to fix that.
Towards the end of the day I made it back for the costume contest. It’s always interesting chatting with the other people there about what they made and how they did it. I was flanked by a couple guys in armor discussing how they built their outfits and what they’d like to try for a Hulkbuster suit (something I’d like to make myself). I leapt back in fear as a dark Jedi glided towards me applying a Force choke. Lego Deadpool danced behind Pyramid Head as I marveled at Youndu Poppins and the way she’d made the arrow into the umbrella. I got to talk sewing with Cinderella (Her second twirl dress – Her Elsa had won last year and her Cinderella would win this time around as well). We took interviews with the local news station and generally goofed around with the other attendees until it was time to head in. There’s a reason I always describe that wait right before the costume contest as my favorite part of any show.
“Magical girl curtain holding power!” I exclaimed at the anime girl holding the entrance in. She brandished her wand at me. “Just you wait! I’ll turn you into the REAL Deadpool instead of a LEGO one!” She then followed me into the adjacent convention hall, an empty one that had been converted for use as a green room. It was dark and cold, like an empty aircraft hanger. The lower temperature did me some good as Harley Quinn chatted me up. Lego suits get warm.
When my number was called I bounded out and eyed the portable stairs warily. I’d been practicing with those big feet…
I grabbed the handrails and dove in. I made it up two steps and was trying to navigate the third….and the stirs began to topple backwards….with me on it!
I was rescued by the Lone Ranger.
The Emcee, whose costume I’d been admiring an hour earlier dashed up, caught the railing to steady it as he gave me a good push up. I jumped on the stage in triumph to applause and laughter. Down the stairs was easier than up. Crisis averted.
I have to admit, I really dig this show. It’s run with heart. They bring in fun guests and JUST enough programming to make it a real event, and keep it balanced between shopping and programming. I’m hoping my schedule conflicts are behind me and I can start making this a regular stop on the con circuit. Either way, sooner or later, I’ll be back.
PS : I made the news!
The first thing that struck me when I headed into Great Lakes Comic Con was how long the admission line was. It wound around the hallway, twice as long as I remember it being in past years. This isn’t a bad thing – I like GLCC and am pleased to see it grow….and besides. I had to get into my costume.
I learned from my experience at All-Americon that trying to get from the car into a convention center wearing a Lego suit is more trouble than it’s worth, so my buddy Rocky and I lugged it in and I struggled into the bulky outfit while we stood in line. By the time we hit the point where the line curve around on itself, I was suited up. After taking photos with half a dozen people, we rounded the corner to the registration table where bewildered bouncers tried to figure out how to get a wristband around my oversized mitt.
The idea for a Greatest American Hero in Lego came from a doodle I did around Christmastime. A whim when I learned William Katt would be joining us at GLCC. I still can’t believe I actually built this thing, but there I was making a beeline for his table. One side was partitioned off with curtains, and we made it in just before the line cut off (he had a panel coming up). As I shuffled in, the actor nearly leapt over the table to greet me, arms wide open with a huge grin on his face.
“Look at this! Just…LOOK at this!” he breathed in amazement. Suddenly were were surrounded by a dozen or more cameras snapping away. Rocky tried to find a vantage point and and failed, eventually pulling us aside to get our photo for my own collection.
As he signed a House photo for me, we chatted about his recent appearance on Supergirl. Despite my disappointment at it only being a cameo, he knew that going in – it turns out the producers were fans of The Greatest American Hero and just wanted to sneak him in there somewhere. I asked what it was like working with John Hart – the Lone ranger. The question gave him pause, as he realized I was talking about the episode of GAH called “My Heroes have always been Cowboys”.
“The thing is,” he responded thoughtfully, “My heroes have always REALLY been cowboys. My father made a living for years as a cowboy in westerns and we watched the Lone Ranger when I was growing up.” He paused, choking up a bit. “That was really special. Thank you for asking about it.”
Katt will tell you himself that he’s a chatty cathy and will talk your ear off at the table, but I knew he had a panel coming up and I cut it short. As Rocky and I wandered to the panel room, I looked over.
“Okay. I’m good. We can go now…it’s not going to get any better than that!”
He laughed. “We still have the costume contest at 4!” He was right of course. He hadn’t brought that wrestler Spider-Man all the way to Michigan for nothing.
After William Katt’s panel, I made it over to Jim Sternako’s talk by the bleacher section. Sternako is arguably one of the most important artists in comic…and he knows it. I admire the former, but don’t care for the latter. He announced that he was going to start his panel off by talking about his time as a magician and escape artist – but what he was REALLY talking about was his claim that Jack Kirby modeled Mr. Miracle after him. About thirty minuets in, the Lego suit started to weigh on me and it was time to take a break. I stashed it in the car and headed back to the vendor room to shop.
Fifty cent bins were everywhere. I never did find that $15 Superpowers Joker I passed on last year, but ended u with a nice stack of beat up silver age Flash, Spider-man and DC Comics presents. In one bin, I spied art 1 and 3 of Disney’s Dick Tracy series. I looked up at the vendor complaining goodnaturedly “Come on! No issue two???” I saw to my embarrassment that it was my friend Sean, who run NEO Comic Con. He shook his head back wit ha smile “If I could only find it!”
After watching the kids contest, it was back in costume for the rest of the day. A brief stop to harass the Ghostbusters and their undead consultant beetlejuice, then it was time for the adult costume contest. Backstage, Rocky and I joked and hung out with a security guard from 5 nights at freddy’s and a Homecoming Spider-Gwen as the Predators looked on. Nothing to see here folks. I cheered on my friend Elisa as she took third in the contest.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love this show. I only wish it were closer to home. With it’s focus on comic guests and a couple of media personalities sprinkled through it’s just the righ size and balance and it’s no wonder it continues to grow…and no wonder it continues to be one of my regular stops. See you guys next year!
I love these- there’s almost a narrative you can follow. It starts with War on Eternia.
Just as it looks like our heros are overwhelmed, an ally arrives and Man-At-Arms sets off in search of allies
The search begins in part two!
Akron Comicon continues to be the best show in northeast Ohio. The caliber of guests never ceases to amaze me.
They were doing a Black Lightning reunion this year bring together Jack Harris, the original editor along with Trevor Von Eden, the original artist, and of course Tony Isabella who is a regular fixture at this comic con. I’m a big fan of Trevor Von Eden, particularly his Batman work – there is a painted cover he did for the first Ras Al Ghul story ever read and it’s always stuck with me. His line wound passed Tony’s table so I got a chat with him a little bit on the way there… He delighted in making puns about Spider – Ham outfit and signed a couple books for me as we chatted. Trevor was less personable but he also gives off a very humble vibe. He seems like he’s just glad to be here and still surprised about the number of fans he has.
I made my way over to Tom DeFalcos table and was shocked that there was no line. DeFalco is another example of the amazing calibre guests Akron Comicon brings.He was involved in the Spider-Man comics from the 70s through the 80s and the 90s either as editor or writer… If you pick up a spider book in that 20 year period, he had something to do with it. Iindeed, he was the entire reason I decided to come dressed as Spider – Ham, at least for part of the day. He laughed and shook his head and made sure to get a photo with me “so I can prove everybody my life’s work hasn’t been in vain! “. I couldn’t help but notice that Akron abandoned the idea of celebrity guests this year, which is fine because no extra from the walking dead or old 70s TV superhero could have made me more excited than getting to meet this former editor in chief of Marvel comics. Talking with DeFalco was absolutely The high point of my convention this year!
Once I had finished getting my autographs and meeting people, it was time to change into the more cumbersome suit. I have given Slimer a nice test run at Cleveland comic con, in preparation for this show. I always intended to have him running around Akron Comicon, and it turned out to be the perfect venue. Nice wide aisles, with a good temperature – I wasn’t roasting in the suit this time around.It’s also a good place to show him off because Akron’s a convention that just about everybody goes to and a lot of these people have been following my progress constructing him.
The flow of the place seemed a little bit better this year as well… There was a doorway connecting the dealers room to the panel room. I don’t recall seeing it last year, and it did mean there was room for one less booth, but the ease that it made travelling back and forth was seriously worth it. I managed to catch the Black Lightning panel as well as The comic professional panel. I was a little bummed I missed out on Dirk Manning’s Wright or Wrong talk, but he recorded it so I can catch it later.
The panels room was also where the costume contest was held. Things flowed extremely well this year, which was a pleasant surprise… it may in fact, be The first time that the costume contest has actually run smoothly at Akron Comicon. Rubber City Cosplay has really got a handle on things, especially considering that they had taken over the judging as well – a new responsibility for them this year. They handled it better than ever.
All in all, I’m pleased to see that Akron Comicon continues to grow and thrive and be the best convention in the area, and I can’t wait to return next year!