Why I won’t be returning to Cleveland Concoction.
I was very excited to see that Cleveland Concoction was returning. This has been one of my favorite conventions for a long time, and I’ve written extensively about my previous trips there. Even as recently as zip con, we were waiting for registration to open up so we could get tickets. I literally had this discussion with my friend Rose there – we’d actually both won membership to the next show back in 2019, but then covid hit and they shut down for 2020. And then again for 2021, even 2022. Honestly, you couldn’t expect them to keep rolling over the free membership for that many years and I absolutely did not want to be THAT guy. Once I finally saw that the link was active, I purchased my weekend badge. This was on March 1st.
It wasn’t until March 6th, that they posted their covid guidelines. Concoction this year will be a masked event. People will either be required to mask and all areas unless actively eating or drinking… or will be required to show proof of vaccination at registration.
That is not the show I paid for.
As a general rule, I don’t attend any event that requires me to show my papers like a refugee in the movie Casablanca. I also don’t attend masked events (and skipped Great Lakes Comic Con last year for this very reason, as well as passing on several Anime events), particularly now that we find ourselves in 2023. Sure, you may be scratching your head and pointing out “I’m sure I’ve seen you at a masked comicon or two! That’s true. Back in the early days of the pandemic, when the government lock downs were finally opening up, I absolutely headed out to shows like Toyhio and Jeff Harper’s Cleveland Comic Book and Nostalgia events. The truth is, we have small shows like this to thank for the return of conventions in a lot of ways. They kept the dealers going, they kept the habit up… and somebody had to go first. I wanted to support whoever that might be.
We’re now well past that. The moment vaccines became widely available, any question of restrictions should have been moot. Moreover we are now living in the wake of the Cochran study which showed that masking did not effectively stop much in the way of transmission Still, it’s a security blanket that many people simply will not let go of. That is your prerogative. I won’t make fun of you (to your face anyhow. But my wife and I will probably chuckle to each other about it in private). If you wish to run you show like that, it’s also your prerogative. I would have just passed on it. I still plan to skip it, but had I known in advance, I wouldn’t have bought a ticket. That’s my real issue here.
I have been fully vaccinated. It’s something I did to be able to move more easily around my job which involves visiting a variety of remote locales. Not only am I vaccinated, I’ve had covid… after my vaccination. That means I’ve also developed natural antibodies which science has shown to be a much more durable form of immunity. I am done wearing a mask. And if you ask me to show my card, it better be in a professional capacity otherwise the answer will be no. Very possibly a colorful no.
We attended Hazard con last year, also a masked event that didn’t sufficiently pre-warn us. We would have turned around and left if we hadn’t just driven a couple of hours across state lines to get there, and in any event it really did kill the day. Those little shows like Harper and Toyhios? Those are a couple of hours digging through long boxes and toybins and then out. Concoction is a weekend long event With after parties that go from dusk till dawn. It’s not the sort of thing that you want to wear a mask for 20 hours at.
Ironically, those restrictions probably wouldn’t affected me anyhow. My costume choices for the event were going to be Skeletor and Pinhead. It’s actually why I chose those for my last two convention appearances at Astronomicon and Fantasticon. They were really being pulled for ConCoction. Indeed, I’ve continued to stay clean shaven and delayed growing back my beard (which I keep to hide my weak chin) SPECIFICALLY because I can’t have it with the Pinhead makeup. It would have been very simple to add a samurai mask around my nose and chin to compliment the slightly Japanese look to my armor. Skeletor himself is a completely enclosed mask. Problem is, I don’t want to support the mask porn Concoction is still promoting. Which is a shame, because I’ve already bought my ticket and there are no refunds. I received no communication back from my emails to the show… and to be fair, we’re so close to showtime I can’t imagine it would be easy to contact me even if I didn’t end up in their Spam folder. However the entire affair has left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m not going this weekend, and I won’t be buying from their vendors or their artists, nor will I be roaming around the halls in big detailed cosplay to amuse people and take photos with attendees.I always hope I add value to a show by supporting the people there and being a walking bit of decoration. But I’m not expecting to be missed. I don’t wish harm or ill will on the show. I simply won’t be participating in it.
I’m not sure what the future holds for me in Concoction. Maddie and I will not be returning to Hazard Con, ever. In this case with Concoction, it’s not quite as dishonest as Hazard, nor is it on the level of negligence that led me to complain about the North Coast Comic Con, But I still very much resent the fact that my pittance of admission is non refundable and that I’m not hearing back from registration. Concoction has definitely fallen off of the A list for me. It’s not going to be one of my automatic must-goes any longer, the way Cinema Wasteland and NEO Comic-Con are. I can’t trust them that they won’t take my money, then add new rules and run away. It’ll take some years of watching the con and it’s regulations before I’ll be comfortable buying a pass from them again. You probably won’t hear too much about me promoting them any further either. I’ll stay home and put away the armor that I’d left out, staged and ready. Perhaps I’ll check out The Columbus Toy and Game show.
But I won’t be back at concoction anytime soon.
The Joker walked up to Skeletor with an outstretched hand. Skeletor shook hands.
“What’s your name?” The Joker asked.
“So,” The Joker paused.” What’s your deal?”
“I’m here to take over the world!” Skeletor cackled.
The Joker shook his head.
“No, that’s my deal. You’re going to have to get a new deal.”
“What if I take over a DIFFRENT word?” Skeletor asked.
A few steps away, the the UA high teacher just laughed at them both.
I’ve got to say, it’s probably not a great idea for me to do Masters of the Universe characters two years in a row for this convention, but Skeletor had been itching to get back out since October and this is one of those sort of shows that really appreciates those kind of characters. The 40 times that I got stopped (across three hours) for photos is a good testament to that.
Fantasticon is a frequent if not regular stop for us. But I couldn’t help but notice that the place was packed this year. Last year it was manageable. In prior years, there’s been more than enough room for me to move around… to the point where I’ve actually brought out Lego costumes for the show. Not this year! Skeletor is bulky enough that he still presents a problem though… and like Pinhead last week, wardrobe malfunction seems to be the word of the day. Those huge shoulder pads are always difficult to manage. You have to get the elastic all the way under your armpit for them to set correctly, and even then… there’s a certain sweet spot that you have to get where they’re resting on top of the vest, and where the fringe parts in just the right place To really balance on your forearm. If that’s not difficult enough, as soon as I put on the harness, the lower right hand strap broke. There we are, on the sidewalk by our parked car in downtown Toledo. The temperature has plummeted and the wind is blowing, and this thing has completely broken apart. I ran to the car, grab duct tape and patched it up as best I could. It was just too cold for Maddie and me to really gear up outside, so we stacked up my armor and ran to the convention center. The harness held until we got inside, where it promptly came apart again. now separated from my emergency repair kit, I snatched a safety pin from my mask, and pinned the foam together. I also noticed that my belt felt loose for most of the day. It wasn’t until I did my final check before the costume contest that I discovered the back of the belt where the clips connect had torn. Not all the way through, it was still connected, but it created a gap that left everything terribly loose. At least Skeletor can swagger around with one hand on his belt buckle and still look natural… and it will hold long enough for me to shake a fist in the air… but still. One problem after another. I’m glad I left the stiff monster feet at home (I’d tangled with those stage stairs before!).
We headed down the comic creators isle. The few actors that they had brought in didn’t really interest me, and are charging too much to meet anyhow. Then again, it seems like the comic creators are also trying to price me out of this game now. Sam De La Rosa is all business, and as I handed over a single issue of Venom he proudly warned me “I charge you know!” I nodded. “That’s why I don’t have any money left over to buy stuff from your table!”
At least Ron Marz was interested in talking a little bit about his time on Green Lantern and how the run came about. The real treat of the day was Geof Isherwood. Not only was he signing for free, he was really happy to talk about his time on Suicide Squad. It’s one of my favorite books, and he was generally engaged.
“It was such an interesting time,” he told me. “The book has shifted into this espionage, spy sort of thing. It was really different.”
He flipped over the next book in the stack which is the cover of Superman Batman and Aquaman searching for the Atom.
“A lot of people actually tell me this is their favorite cover,” he said.
“Really?” I replied, intrigued. It’s a good one, and I definitely wanted a signature on because of the mainstream characters, but he produced so much more interesting work, that I was surprised.
“For me it was one of those moments… I finally get to draw Superman!”
I tried my best to get into a couple of the panels, but it was standing room only, with the crowd spilling out past the panel area and into the aisle. Like I said, it was a crowded day. No less crowded when it came time for the costume contest. Fantasticon brings out really great cosplayers. I saw an amazing Venom that I just had to chat with about his foam method. It had been his first contest, and he ended up placing. I love it when first timers win!
Despite being a reasonably short day – we were probably there for only about 3 hours, it was a pretty exhausting one and Maddie and I were pretty quick to head out after the contest. I made a quick sideline to grab a beautiful Hellraiser print, and check out the lego figures now that I had my mask off! But before too long we were back in the car, And headed to Burger King for ice cream.
Fantastic con remains a good solid show and I almost wonder if they’ve outgrown this venue. Time will tell. We’ll see you next year. I’m almost certain we’ll be back.
Maddie’s review is below, and the scroll further for photos!
I’d actually been meaning to get out to Astronomicon for several years now. I’ve heard about it mostly from my friend Dirk who was a frequent guest there. When he mentioned once again that it was coming up this weekend, I took a quick glance at the calander and noticed this weekend that I had one kid at grandma’s, and the other one out with her mother… and it was a perfect opportunity to sneak back out to Detroit.
The show had always struck me as one of those medium to small cones…. something pop culture and horror and comics. Burton Manor is a nice little facility out on the outskirts of nowhere, and after a glance at thier website and Google earth, I figured I knew what I was in for.
I was wrong.
Burton Manor must be bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, because when I arrived, I found a medium to large scale convention with the vision, scope and pricing to match a Horrorhound or Days of the Dead style show. It’s also very firmly a horror show. Not something that I had gotten from the vaguely Sci-Fi logo, but probably should have expected considering it’s run by Twizted, a jugaloo band (It IS Detroit, after all).
Still, the staff were efficient, friendly and really good people. They kept traffic flowing, and could point you to wherever you needed to go at a moment’s notice. One of them saw I was having trouble with my shoulder pads and offered to give me a hand… hooking the pads onto the clips on my vest, and then sending me on my way with a smile. These guys really do go above and beyond the call of duty.
I spent the day fielding the occasional question “Since When does Pinhead dress like that?”
“Since the Scarlet Gospels!” (Clive Barkers literary end to the Hellraiser saga, where he descripes Pinhead stealing Lucifer’s armor) I’d had this new costume sitting in my basement since just before the government lock downs. This Hellraiser armor had originally been intended for ConCoction that year, but ConCoction was one of the 1st shows to have to close their doors due to the widespread lockdowns (They’re actually only coming back for the first time this year). I hadn’t had an appropriate horror themed show the really shown this off out since then. At Astronomicon there’s a heavy cosplay influence. They encourage it by running costume contests on Saturday, with prizes designed to encourage people to bring their “A” game. The kids and pet costume contest was so much fun, with so many terrifying and yet adorable costumes parading by. One little girl, She couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7, paraded around in a Venom costume. As I was walking by I smiled and complimented her her pointing out that she had a very scary mask. She grinned, pulled the mask down over her head, took a step towards her father and started biting on his arm!
A Warhammer cleric meandered around the show in dark red robes, techno glory and four legs .A-war hammer cleric mold around the show in dark red robes, techno glory and 6 flags. I made a point to find him so I could get photos, and he was thrilled to talk about his costume. He’d only completed it the night before, so this was absolutely its 1st time out. It was the first time out for my Hellraiser armor as well, and that’s always a struggle. Actually, struggle is putting it mildly. The words of the day were “wardrobe of malfunction”.
Before I even arrived on site, as I was driving out , my chain mail ripped off of the right shoulder, and then completely off my left arm. Fortunately, I came with a full repair kit. I pulled out the wireless hot glue gun, and welded them back into place once I was safely parked. After I had gotten in to the show, the Velcro on my belt decided to give way. I excuse myself and headed back to the car. I punched a hole through with the back of the belt, and then Connected it using the belt clip on my keys. That made heading through the metal detector interesting. “I’ve got a set of keys on me, but I can’t actually reach them or take them out!” the Security guard checked behind me with a chuckle, and waved me through.
My left boot was the next to go. The Velcro just wasn’t holding, and things felt a little too tight. I ended up grabbing a roll of duck tape, and actually increased the width of the foot itself. Then I reglued the Velcro on top of the new boot flap. That would hold for the rest of the day, only coming apart once I made it back to the car to leave. On the other hand, the left boot was giving my left thigh ideas… and the armor just would not stay connected to the garter. I finally ended up fixing this problem By grabbing a duck tape roll again, and literally taping the garter up to the armor, forcing the Velcro together and adding extra adhesion. It managed to hold until after the contest walk through, but I did attend the awards hand out with my leg strategically pressed up against my staff to hold it in place. Up on the stage, I was joined by the Warhammer Cleric I mentioned earlier. He looked over at me and lifted his helmet.
“We made it,” He smiled at me.
“Oh I knew when I first saw you this afternoon, that you’d take first place,” I nodded back, pleased. He tilted his head to me and whispered confidentially.
“And I knew you’d be right up here with me.”
You know, I hear so many of my friends complain about the backstabbing and gossiping and trash talking that goes on in the cosplay community. I just don’t hang with people like that and instead try to be positive. So when I get a really touching moment like this – it’s EXACTLY what I always talk about when I say the best part of the con is hanging out with people in the contest lineup – talking with them and socializing. Weather it’s gushing over the TMNT in the trenchcoat or chatting with the other pinhead about how her makeup was so much cleaner than mine…or even discussing 3d printing with the emcee and how I made my box. This is the stuff that keeps me going to these things.
Unfortunately, Detroit got hit with a bad snowstorm the week before and it delayed the delivery of the trophies for the winners of the contest. The judge asked us to hang back so she could get our addresses, promising to mail them out to us. She pulled out her note cards and copied each one down, then came to me. As I finished she looked up at me in mock horror.
“We let someone from OHIO place in our costume contest???”
The costume contest isn’t the only programming though, I watched an interesting presentation of speed painting. An artist in a shirt riddled with flashing Christmas lights proceeded to create 3 distinct pieces relating to the guests that day. Each Painting is beautiful and recognizable, despite being done within 15 minutes. It’s amusing to watch him dancing paint as music pulses in the background. I also made it out to the Clerks panel. I’m really only at best, a casual fan of pre #KevinSmithLied work, but I always enjoy listening to tales from the film set. My particular favorite of this panel was Jeff Anderson telling the story of a young PA. You see, Jason Mews, who plays Jay, had a tendency to wander off. He sees something interesting going on, or flirts with a girl, or sneaks off to get high… and he just was never around when they needed come. By the 2nd week, the film hired a PA whose sole job was to keep track of Jason and know where he was at all times. Jason of course, didn’t take kindly to this. At one point, he ran to the bathroom. The PA waited outside, until grabbing Anderson and asking “could you check In there to see what’s going on?” Jason had snuck out the window to ditch her.
The dealer’s room is vast, and I spent a lot of time circuitously moving through it. It’s the best way to get people a chance to check out the costume and take photos with it. Interestingly enough, one thing I noticed was babies love Pinhead! I don’t know what it was, if it was the stark white skin or the gold armor… if it’s just that hes highly visible and easy for them to see, but more than one kid being carried by his mom would just stare and grin at me, reaching out to touch the pins. I would offer up the box and watch them grab at it. One Mom laughing hysterically told me, “This was the best part of our day!”
That’s one of the things I love about horror conventions. You meet the nicest, friendliest people… I know that’s counterintuitive, but it’s just the way it is. Even more so than Comic-Con’s, horror conventions have a sort of camaraderie that you don’t find anywhere else. At one point, I was staring through The dig bins of cheap action figures and spotted the perfect He-man… but I couldn’t reach it in my armor. I tapped the shoulder of the guy next to me, and asked “could you do me a favor? I can’t actually bend over in this. could you grab that He-man with the blue boots and that bin there, so I could buy it?” he laughed and scooped up the figure for me. The dealer accepted some slightly sweaty dollar bills from the inside of my glove and I ran off with my prize. We always want to shop the dealer’s room, it’s what makes these conventions happen and I definitely want to make sure that it’s worth their while. Especially if I’m going to be clogging up the aisles with a bulky costume like this!
All in all, I’m very glad I headed out to Astronomicon however, I don’t think I’ll be back. It’s a little too expensive for my taste, and quite frankly, it’s already outgrown this venue. I arrived early in the morning so that I could do the difficult parts of my makeup application in the parking lot. I was fortunate to be able to find a spot pretty close to the building. Apparently I was the only one with that sort of good fortune, as all day people complained about the parking situation. I believe it too, because I constantly heard announcements over the loudspeaker about this car getting toad and that car being illegally parked.
Still, despite it all, it was a good day, and if you’re in the area – there’s worse things you could do on a Saturday!
So I gotta say, the last time Maddie and I hit Zipcon, I was not impressed. I really like the Zipcon of old… a student run anime con, and a free one day event… that always worked for me. Then the management flipped, and there was more pressure to put in guests. More pressure to bring in names and with that comes expense. And that expense gets passed on to the attendees. Last year in particular, the show was just not worth the $10 admission. There were a bunch of problems, with lackluster panels… when those panels actually occurred. People blowing stuff off and just not showing up, Not enough help, not enough ratio of staff to visitors… it was just a mess. I really wasn’t interested in going back.
Of course, this was one of the last shows right before the government locked its citizens down, and Zipcon would not return for 2021 or 2022. When it came back on the schedule this year, Maddie in particular was really eager to go again. It’s not just that she wanted to do more conventions, she wanted to do more anime conventions, so off we went.
I will admit, it’s actually helped that we’ve had two years to watch a bunch of anime and get me caught up on modern series. I was in my Gran Torino costume, accompanying Maddie’s Eraser. The Gran Torino made a big enough splash that we hadn’t even made it into the show before the gentleman at the register desk looked at me in amazement. “Gran Torino! That’s a first for me!”
It might be fair to say that the two year break also did the panelists some good. Talks and skits and demonstrations that had been prepared two years ago had time to be refined and revisited before presenting them this year. We actually ended up hitting three different ones, all really good talks. I especially enjoyed seeing previews of upcoming stuff, as well as look back at some older anime that’s not necessary Studio Ghibli.
For whatever reason, the dealer’s room felt bigger too. I don’t think that it was physically, but I certainly felt like there was more to browse through, as we dug through booth after booth of brightly colored kawaii.
One of the stranger things that happened, we were walking down the promenade, And after stopping for some pictures, the photographer ran up to us and asked if we could come back with her and be in a group picture of My Hero Academia cosplayers. We happily followed her. It was a nice big group, not quite a dozen people. The thing is, the group kept growing. People would walk by and getting pulled in. We kept adding to this group, one my hero cosplayers after another… until it turned into this massive photo. I’ve looked on with envy over the years, friends joining these huge planned photo shoots. Batman family, Justice League, Mandalorians, that’s sort of thing. This was the biggest one I’ve ever gotten to be a part of and it was just amazing. It absolutely made Maddie’s convention.
For me, the highlights of this sort of thing is always seeing friends that I haven’t seen in a while. There are some people here that I haven’t seen since the lockdown. Others may have popped up here and there, but a really nice day to catch everybody all at once. I got to apologize to my friend Allie for not recognizing her at a Hall of Fame City Comic-Con. That always bothered me, but then again, it’s a occupational hazard of cosplay. Also good to catch up with Chris, now 3 months newlywed.
Maddie and I rounded out of the day playing video games in the game room… Mario Kart projected on a giant screen which was absolutely amazing . We also had to catch up with The Confused Greenies Patchwork Players. This improv troop is one of Maddie’s favorite things about specialized. I’ve always enjoyed them, but they’ve always seem a little weird part of con programming, but always welcome and fun.
By the time 6 o’clock was rolling around, we were too tired to even look for the cosplay masquerade. It had been a long day, but a genuinely excellent way of kicking off convention season. Maddie’s done her own video review, which you’ll find down here, then jump past it for way too many pictures!
Oddmall: Hallowondrous 2022
It’s actually been a while since I made it out to an Oddmall. I like Oddmall. It’s hard to peg down exactly what it is… It’s not really a convention, more of a marketplace. But it’s a marketplace with entertainment. They don’t usually have full panels, though sometimes there are readings and such. Usually there is music and some comedy. There’s also typically a costume contest. In that, there’s definitely more in common with a full blown convention then say, one of the Harper shows… And those do bill themselves as conventions. The programming itself feels a little bit more like a library convention, but on the other hand, those don’t tend to have such a focus on the dealers room as this marketplace. Like I said, hard to define.
I had actually intended to hit Oddmall : Hallowondrous back before the lockdowns. The last one that I’ve been put on, I had sat, looked at my costumes and thought “I should really go down there and check this one out. It’ll be a great place to test out this suit of armor…“ But, when the weekend came, I ended up just not feeling it, too busy, too tired, whatever the excuse was. I thought “I’ll just go next year.“
Well we all know what happens next don’t we?
Truth is, I haven’t been back to an Oddmall since then. They canceled it a good years worth of shows, and I wasn’t digging the mask mandates… then the political administration changed and gas immediately went up by over 50%, then the Ukraine war started, and gas went up another 50%… all truncating my con tour.
Still, I wasn’t quite ready for convention season to be over, and I figured I could sneak out to Hallowondrous Friday night after work. Skeletor hadn’t been out too much yet, and a second appearance in a smaller venue would help me work the last of the kinks out. I also wanted to bring him because this version of Oddmall has a peculiar feature… Half of it is outside. Andy fills the Shriners hall Full of vendors, surrounding the main stage. Then he adds an extra three or four rows of vendors outside, as well as a line of food trucks to peddle their wares to the hungry attendees. Because it’s Halloween, the vendors all have buckets of candy for kids to trick-or-treat from booth booth. All in all, it’s a great set up. It also makes for a nice environment for Skeletor … Outside with the lights on the costume glowing, he becomes a particularly striking figure.
Inside, I watched the open mic section going, then transition into a DJ doing nerdcore music. All fun, as I browse through the endless isles of curiosities and handmade art. I had one small child in a storm trooper costume just fascinated by me in my costume. At one point he ran up to me and exclaimed “I have something to show you!“ So I followed him over to a vendor that was selling a hand carved Skeletor art box. A lot of fun to be able to play like that.
When the costume contest finally came around, I hung out in the back with a giggly bunch of anime girls and a man dressed as macho man Randy savage. That sort of thing always makes these events interesting, the strange cross sections you get. Macho man is convinced that we are in the same universe, since Mattel had been releasing the masters of the WWE figures. We headed out on stage to battle it out for the contest title. And as we enter, we were shocked to see a giant chicken on stage. A strange inflatable costume. Even stranger was when a second giant chicken in a fluffy yellow feather costume jumped up and got into a fight with the first chicken… It’s moments like those where you just stand and wonder about how you got yourself into the situation.
Andy came up to interview me and I introduced myself.
“I am Skeletor , and my newest plan to defeat he-man and the masters of the universe is to conquer Oddmall!!!”
“It’s not that hard, You can have it,” and he replied with a sardonic chuckle.
They followed up the costume contest with a performance by local band Gothnicc – a surprisingly good concert, and nice way for me to wrap up my night. Oddmall is always a delight, and I’m so happy to finally made it out to Halloween dress. We’ve typically hit at least one of these a year, and I think that’s a habit I need to get back into. We’ll see you guys next year!
Hall of Fame City Comicon videos
One of my favorite things is discovering videos of events that I pop up in. You may remember that Maddie and I hit hall of Fame City Comic Con a couple weeks ago. Just this morning, these two vids popped up on my feed and I wanted to share them here!
Hall of Fame City Comic Con 2022
Besides the fact that it got canceled for a while because of the plague, I have missed a lot of Hall of Fame city comic cons simply because it’s settled into always being scheduled the week of cinema wasteland. However, lately, wasteland hasn’t really been a three day thing for me, and my daughter really wanted to squeeze in as many conventions this year as possible, considering that she had to sit out a year and a half of canceled conventions just as she had started getting into that sort of life. So, I carved up a Skeletor costume, and glued together a Batgirl suit for her and awfully went to Canton.
I will admit, I’ve kind of missed the show. It’s a genuinely good convention with a lot of heart. There’s some smart ideas here, bringing in a couple of big names… Usually one or two big name creators and one or two celebrities. It’s a formula that works both for them and for Youngstown Comicon. I was actually excited to see Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche, but even more so… I was here for Al Snow. Now you may not know this about me, but I’m not a wrestling guy. I’m really not interested in wrestlers at all… But back in the early 2000s, MTV ran a wrestling show called “Tough Enough“ and like all MTV shows, they ran it constantly, and something about Al’s character on the show really spoke to me. I’ve always wanted to meet him, and was really happy when he started on the autograph circuit recently.
Much to my delight he instantly recognized the costume and was actually quite excited for it. “Somebody finally shows up cosplaying the Shadow!“. That’s actually a fun response, and it was enjoyable to chat with him for a little while.
I’ve actually chosen the Shadow so that I could spend about half of the show in a lighter costume that I could move around in… something I could see well in and still have access to both hands. But I was genuinely surprised at how many people recognized the character. The Shadow was getting a lot of love at Hall of fame city, con, with people constantly coming up to me and declaring “who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?“. I did have one young man come up to me and ask “Phantom Stranger?”. I explained to him who he was and described him as a character that Batman had been based largely on. He asked me an interesting question, “is he crazier than Batman? Because at this point, Batman is kind of gone insane…“ I had to think about this for a moment. I replied “I’m not sure, the thing is, with a shadow, there’s not much that human left in there anymore.“ That’s actually kind of cool thing not to just get to talk about your favorite character, but to explore it with somebody who’s new to the hero.
Right around the halfway point, we snuck back out to the car so I can change into my Skeletor costume. I’d been laser focused on this suit for about six weeks, carving the armor from scratch, spray painting the bodysuit to give it an airbrushed look, and installing lights in electronics specifically near the jeweled areas so they would sparkle more. I’d run out of time though, and was going to end up wearing a mask rather than doing a make up. This was a disappointment to me, but in the end, the mask looked just as striking… Perhaps even more so. Much to my surprise, I had noticed earlier that Acheww Cosplay, one of the costume contest judges, had actually shown up also in a Skeletor costume. I wasn’t sure if that was good luck or bad. My friend Micheal from far far away cosplay actually stopped me shortly after I got in, just wanting to take in the whole thing. “How did you know it was me?“ I asked. “The foamwork.“ He replied, nodding slowly. The foam shoes made it difficult to walk in, but I managed to
I’m not sure how long it was before I noticed my belt was slipping. The Velcro hadn’t separated yet, but it was certainly getting loose and causing me problems. I fidgeted and adjusted, while trying to keep my giant shoulder pads above the harness. The first time out in a new costume means that’s when you’re gonna find all the flaws. Still, I managed to shift and push the belt up enough to wedge it against my belly and keep it in place as I tried to chat with the people backstage. In her group, Maddie was having a fine time getting to know the other teenagers in the lineup. She was making friends and reassuring the ones who were nervous about going up for the first time. This is fun stuff that she’s been growing further and further into. She walks into the convention and just breathe it all in, “I am home!”.
I managed to get across the stage and through pre-judging without anything coming apart. I did however get lost on stage and I had to be turned around to hit the proper exit! That was embarrassing enough, but it got even worse when the belt gave way after I was back down in the hall. Dream, the Sandman came to my aid and help me get the thing re-fastened. It held long enough for me to get called back on the stage… And that’s when it popped for good. I took up a place right behind the green goblin, and posed in such a way where it looked like my head was resting on the belt buckle… What was really happening was my elbow was pulled in tight to keep the belt flat against my hip on one side while I angled my staff to press against it on the other side. With photos over, and us getting ready to leave, I finally gave up on trying to keep the suit together and let the ball belt come loose once I got outside. I think in the future I will be securing that thing with hooks rather than Velcro.
I may also need to rig up some sort of a spike or hook to help stabilize the shoulder pads,And remove the chain mail from around them. It’s not doing anything for the look and just getting in the way. Still, this is all the sort of thing that you go through and learn as you’re trying out a new suit. I’m very happy with the way that Skeletor was received at the convention. One person even stopped dead, pointed and said “That’s the movie Skeletor!”, taking in the jewels and the detail. It was a nice discussion about the Masters of the Universe film, and how Frank Langella steals every scenehes in. While the suit isn’t strictly meant to be the movie version, it’s certainly influenced by it. Likewise, Maddie was having a good day in her new Batgirl costume. We had settled on Stephanie Brown from the current Batgirls comic that I’ve been constantly raving about here. It ended up being a good look for her, and really well received. Like Steph, Maddie is also Distraction Incarnate! It was a nice comfortable suit, something that’s important when you’re putting her in a costume! In fact, Maddie liked the jacket so much she wants a plain version for every day wear. I’m also really proud of that belt. I 3d printed a Batman ’66 Batgirl buckle for her, as well as little black bat accents that I pasted on my standard design foam pouches. We cinched that purple bet at the back with a hook (LIKE WE’RE GOING TO DO WITH SKELETOR DAGNABBIT!) and tossed an old Covid mask and a lovely purple cloak she got from her grandmother on her. It’s just perfect.
We walked away with stacks of comics, new Lego figures and the autograph I’ve been seeking as well as fun memories. Hall of Fame is a good show, and I’m eager to return to it. We’ll see what happens next year!
Look, I’m as surprised as anyone. I was certain that geek fast was dead. I mean, the plague killed bigger and more powerful conventions than them… And they already missed a year here and there even without those complications. It’s a difficult event for the library to mount, a lot of variables a lot of planning. I really wouldn’t have blamed them for just deciding to sit this one out.
I’ve actually only heard that they were coming back about three weeks ago. Definitely not much more than two weeks before the event itself, and it was so close to Neo Comicon that I wasn’t sure if we really had it in us to do two back to back shows. Still, it’s a show I like, being one of those more programming driven events. Maddie hadn’t been out to this thing since all the way back in 2016, and she found herself really looking forward to it, another chance to bring out her my hero academia costume and connect with other people. So, Saturday morning, we loaded up the car and headed out.
I was taking a chance bringing out my Borg costume for this one… Star Trek is passé these days, and Star Wars is real the real attention is at. Still, I was pleased to discover I wasn’t the only person and track garb there. This event draws a lot of boomers and Xers, with children that they’ve raised on Star Trek. I was surprised at how often I was recognized, not only by adults, but by teenagers! Around the corner at one point and one of the vendors piped up “now there is the scariest summer of my life!“. He was of course referring to the Star Trek next generation cliffhanger “the best of both worlds“. I nodded. “It’s funny, but of all the two-parter is they did after that, they never quite managed to get you to those same stakes.“ The vendor agreed. “During that third season,“ he told me. “They’ve gotten into the habit of always resolving everything within the last five minutes… But we got closer and closer to the end of this episode, 10 minutes, five minutes, three minutes, and I found myself wondering how tehy were going to wrap this up. I spent all summer nervous and wondering what was going to happen when the show came back.“. I remember that summer too. I mentioned to him that I was certain that Captain Picard wasn’t coming back to the show, that he’d be taken off with these bad guys, and that Patrick Stewart would basically go off and go back to Shakespeare while Commander Riker would take command of the enterprise for the remainder of the series pack. It was fun chatting with somebody about this and reminiscing about the days when Star Trek was genuinely good and had such cultural relevance. As I wandered around, I made sure to menace the other people in Star Trek costumes, and was surprised to how many there were… In fact, I wasn’t even the only one carrying around a triple! There was a great looking doctor crusher with a triple in her jacket pocket. It seem to be behaving better than mine, considering I couldn’t get mine to sit on my shoulder the way it’s supposed to. I managed to get it attached just before pre-judging for the costume contest and about 20 minutes before I had to walk on stage for the main competition. That’s really my main goal, to have him ride out on my shoulder so that I can remove him and display him to the audience. I’ve gotta remember to use a better magnet the next time though.
That pre-judging was a problem. One of the main events that Maddie and I were looking forward to was a screening of Howls moving castle. The Akron Summit public library has a massive auditorium with a large screen… Just about movie size, so they get to see this on the big screen is a real treat. However, the movie was screening from Eleven to One, and pre-judging was at noon! It didn’t help that Maddie and I were a little late getting in as well, so we probably missed about 20% of the movie, but we did get to watch was every bit as good as we remember, and incredibly fun to watch on a proper screen with a good sound system.
Costumes were in abundance, despite the fact that the costume contests itself was a little lightly populated. Queen Anna Boleyn shuffled through the doors as I was making my way out for a swag dump, she waved a wand at me to vanish the evil machinery! She would occasionally come up to me throughout the convention with a screwdriver adjusting my mechanics. Another running joke was the way that R2 D2 seem to keep running into me. The R2-D2 builders club had a table downstairs with the 501st Legion, creating of nice Star Wars presence there. But occasionally the droid would roll his way upstairs and mingle with the rest of the people. It would see me and Emmett allowed high pitch scream, as I’d come over and scan it and examine it for the edification of the crowd. At times I almost felt like a little droid was following me!
I’ll say this, not only did Geekfest return, they veritably exploded. It’s bigger than I’ve ever seen it before, with them really pulling out all the stops. I remember the days when this show was basically maybe a half dozen tables up by the auditorium, mostly library personnel making buttons and playing games with the kids, one panel room and maybe some improv going on in the main auditorium. This time around they utilized all four floors. Star Wars characters on the ground floor along with a cosplay repair station… I can’t even tell you how amazing that was! When fingers started popping off my glove, I was grateful to be able to use their hot glue gun to put myself back together. Also video game rooms downstairs with retro video games and custom ones made by one of the guests. Another floor had board games… Some of them giant size. A couple tables in the middle were reserved for first timers playing dungeons and dragons. Another floor gave you a chance to explore strange history, along with a table of comics to give away. The vendors and artists were spread out as well. Instead of a handful of tables… A group of vendors that are slowly growing more and more numerous over the years, you could now find artists and vendors scattered throughout the library. There are tables around the length of the entrance, and then spread down below the atrium, and then even more nestled in between the bookshelves and rose and valleys of the library. It’s a fascinating set up, and the library actually went out of its way to draw attention to them by issuing kids a “passport“ where they can get stickers from each booth… Trying to collect them all, and thereby visit all of the guests. This is all in addition to the art show that was going on on the ground floor, one that you could vote in for People’s choice award… And constant panels and games going on in the two conference rooms in the atrium. Indeed, the overlap was so great, that we always seem to be running from event to event, particularly towards the end when we were coming out for the costume contest lineup. Maddie was none too pleased to have to leave her panel to get in line. “They were going to give away BOOKS at the end!” She lamented.
Still, despite all the challenges, as we drove home, Maddie and I agreed this may just have been the best convention we went to this year. Being so program driven just makes for a far more entertaining experience, and is exactly the sort of thing that will keep Maddie (who’s convention attention span is usually about 2 to 3 hours) completely occupied for over five hours. It’s also a great place to make new friends, something that kiddo is discovering and taking full advantage of.
Here’s the thing, the festival bills itself as a mini comicon? I don’t think so. There’s things I’m much fuller convention experience than a lot of the ones that we pay much more money to get into. It’s also become one of our favorites, and will be back next year.
NEO Comicon 2022
It’s summertime, and con season is in full swing. The end of July is always reserved for NEO ComiCon… Also known as “the closest comic convention to my house”. We usually go to the early service at church on these weeks and then hit this show afterwards, they’ll open the doors at 10, and we’ll be able to get there before 11 that way… Literally 10 minutes down the street.
NEO ComiCon was of course one of those that had to close due to the plague, but they came back last year… Sort of. Well we’re happy to see the show back, last year and this year included no programming. No panels, no costume contest, no talks at all really. And the comic creators that were present, they’re all local guys. No that’s not necessarily a bad thing, the Cleveland area has a lots of great local artists, some true elder statesman from DC like Tony Wsabella and Mike W Barr… but I’m missing the days where NEO was bringing in people like Phil Hester from the Green Hornet, or Tom Mandrake, the artist from Ostrander Spectre run… people that I’ve never gotten to meet before, and who would do a panel or two to describe their time in the industry. I missed the fight demonstrations that the stunt people would do… I miss all of this kind of stuff, because that’s what really makes a comic con for me. Right now, NEO ComiCon feels a lot like a gigantic Harper show… A huge flea market… But what a flea market!
Spanning the course of two soccer fields, NEO ComiCon is still a massive marketplace, and one that welcomes in cosplayers and fanboys of all types. My McMandalorian is not a competition level suits, so it seemed a perfect event to bring out… Especially since it hasn’t gotten that much floor time since I created it last year. Maddie on the other hand was bringing out her my hero character Todoroki again… Basically we were a carbon copy of the pair that we were for Mahoning Comic Con a few weeks ago.
There’s a much bigger and diverse crowd here. Maddie ran into a ton more people from my hero academia, and a lot more recognized her costume as well. For my part, I was content to just be looking silly, and hanging out with friends. My buddy Josh had brought out his Mandopool costume… There’s actually a full Deadpool mask on underneath that helmet. We compared our Baby Yodas and just had fun freaking out the people around us.
Speaking of freaking out, I’m always pleased to see how much horror these things draw… A girl in a Chucky outfit, a Pennywise floating down the aisle, Jason stocking the corners… All of this stuff is fun. It also speaks to just how varied a crowd NEO ComiCon draws.
It’s not to say that the day went off without a hitch. The shuttle bus from the convention center to the parking lot went MIA for a good half hour… It was bizarre. They were some hot tempers in the crowd as well, be reading the Neo representative who is coming out to keep us updated. To his credit, Ed handled it very well, and definitely didn’t deserve the abuse he was getting.
There is also a very strange moment… I was chatting up a young woman and talking about foamsmithing, admiring her armor and shield, while she asked questions about my clown shoes. Then, a sketchy gentleman dressed in black came up to us to pitch Akron comicon…
“I know you’re coming!“ He said to me “I’m sure I’ve seen you there before!“
I was polite and didn’t question it. But it was a strange pitch… And afterwords, Lady Red asked me “what do you make that guy?“ Unseen behind my helmet, ice smiled sadly with a small sigh. “Huckster.“. And proceeded to explain to her why I don’t go to Akron comicon anymore (A combination of them moving it out of Akron and into a strange converted grocery store that they have an interest in… To the way they stiffed the old owner on the payment when he sold them the convention, to the way they named checked a customer that they were having an argument with and name the new rule after him on a live stream… It was all in poor taste, and Akron just isn’t the same show anymore.)
Still, all in all good day, a little exhausting, but great fun. I hit Comic’s Are Go’s dollar bins pretty hard, and found a custom Lego booth selling minifigs for $3 (as opposed to the $5 booth on the other side of the con) which I plundered. (I still regret not grabbing more marvel zombies). We played plinko at the TV station’s table and Maddie won a backpack and I got a great poster with HandI’s comic heroes on it. I even found tons of cheap horror movies (again – I regret not going back to that quarter bin after I broke that $20 bill) and Maddie found stickers and some Hunger Games trading cards that just fascinated her! We took tons of fun pictures -not quite as many setups as I’ve been seeing at other shows, but I got to say, that 501’s wanted booth – good stuff there.
I spoke to Sean, the founder of the show, and he assures me the costume contest will be back next year, I’m hoping that the panels and more programming wil