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.
Bob Hall wrote most of the run of my favorite Valiant title – that being Shadowman. When I met him at NEO Comic Con I was hoping for a Shadowman print to get signed. A Master Darque one was close enough!
In its first year, Neo Comic Con exceeded all expectations with attendance nearly double what they had projected. While growth was slow in the second year – a mild swelling if you will, the shoulder to shoulder traffic inside the hotel made it clear that it was time to move to someplace bigger already, if they wanted to grow. In it’s third outing, this year moving to the soccer sportsplex in North Olmsted, they exceeded their previous attendance records before noon, eventually topping out at about 1/3 more attendees than ever before.
I have to admit I’m pleased by all of this, it’s nice to have a show like this practically in my backyard – 10 miles away and a 15 minute drive. I’m familiar with the venue, Heroes United did an event there (a superhero night for the soccer players) and was excited about the layout – it reminded me a great deal of All-Americon. That’s really what I was
expecting, something very much like the previous versions of all American when they had set up over Packard Hall. What we ended up seeing was actually pretty different.
Neo created an interesting flow here with the vendors all set up on one side of the arena, and the artists alley in a completely separate section separated by bleachers, tables and the snack bar. It works and it makes sense, the flow actually feels good – but I’d feel better if were more than one entrance. If you want to get to the side with the artists and cosplayers, you absolutely have to walk through all of the vendor tables and in my case that proved difficult since I was carrying stuff to set up at the Heroes United table.
Also complicating things with the parking situation.By the time I arrived, a mere hour and a half after the doors opened, the lot was full. I managed to snag and innocuous little space right behind the factory across the street – plenty of shade and enough maneuvering that it would make someone trying to tow or vandalize my car more trouble than it was worth. The convention and also secured parking down the street at the college and was running shuttles every 15 minutes – this isn’t a bad idea, but for those of us carrying bulky props and wearing cumbersome suits, it was absolutely going to be a hurdle… and I’m not sure what the fix is for this is either. Under the circumstances I think they came up with the best solution that they could.
Still, it made loading and unloading an issue (swapping the baby basket for the rocketship halfway through the day), and made my lunch plans impossible. We ended up grabbing food at the snack bar and commandeering a table for me and my friends. Big props to the Soccer sportsplex staff by the way. They really rolled with the event and got into things. There are some venues that don’t really dig convention crowds– the fanboys and the cosplayers put them off. There is the infamous story of the hotel in Butler back when Monster Bash was at its last location and the bellboy going up and down the hall screaming “go away monster people! “. These guys embraced it, and were having fun… The man at the counter paused me to get a picture in before taking my order. It was a good day for them as well! They were selling out of items regularly and I’m not surprised… They had normal pricing on just about everything, higher than McDonald’s you might say, but reasonable – $2.50 for a slice of pizza, $1.50 for a drink. Definitely not gouging. I dig that, and it really made me feel better about buying my lunch there.
It’s always a pleasure to see Rubber City Cosplay, promoting positivity and taking photos at their booth. The whole Photo Booth thing seems to be taking off too. One of the other charity groups in the area had theirs set up and their hook was it your photo with Superman and Batman, or select members. In addition – Heroes United had their booth set up with a green screen photo op providing nine backgrounds to choose from… A little something different.
Of course my big thing for this convention was to get over to meet Bob Hall. Hall was the writer for one of my absolute favorite series – Shadowman. He took over early in the run and stayed with the Valiant title right up until the end, just before the Acclaim reboot.
“They gave me the choice of five different titles to write,” he said. “I chose Shadowman because it was the one that was doing the worst… I figured if this book completely fails, at least I’m not going to be the first writer it tanks on… ”
“When Acclaim came in, they told me that the character wasn’t black enough! What does that even mean? He’s Creole! But they wanted something different. They wanted a character they could put into video games thats why I ended of the book, because if they were going to make him completely different, they may as well make him a different character altogether. I did the story where he climbed up to the top of the building and jumps. 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!”
Next to halls table, it’s Kevin Nolan – an artist I enjoy, particuarly for his work on the Superman/Aliens series… We both commiserated over what a wonderful character the Kara girl in the book is in our surprise over her never appearing anywhere else.
I rounded up of the day by getting Tony Isabella’s table. Tony is a legend when it comes to DC titles, having created Black Lightning and he’s also a regular on the Northeast Ohio convention circuit. I was particularly interested in hearing his take on the new Black Lightning television show that supposed to be hitting the CW.
“They flew me out, and brought me into a room with two big whiteboards that I was not allowed to take photos of!” he chuckled. “What I saw were too big columns, one with a lot of studio ideas, and another column with a lot of my stuff. They’re asking me things about stories I wrote 20 years ago, and if feels like there’s a lot of me in this show… There’s a lot of the studio too, but is a good mix of the two. I’m looking forward to it.”
This was interesting to me, because I’ve had my misgivings about this show. I enjoy Black Lightning; Batman and the Outsiders is one of the best Bat books from the silver age! But I look at the suit and I don’t know what they were thinking. I don’t get the origins of this look at all, and it really made me trepiditious about the story. To hear Tony say that they’re putting a lot of his vision in it actually makes me feel a great deal better – particularly in that he got down to some specifics, rather than a nebulous “it’s going to be great!” kind of statement that you have to make when you’re under contract.
Cosplayers came out in force for this event… Neo has always drawn its fair share of costumes, and usueally always some good looking people wandering around the show. They’ve encouraged it by giving free admission to people in costume, and inviting recognizable cosplay talent like night mage, are KG cosplay, Princess Morgan and Miss procrastination… This however, was their first year doing a costume contest and I’m pleased with how good the competition was. Everybody was bringing their A game, with impressive costumes like an Oogie Boogie from nightmare before Christmas, and a dead on Ghostbuster, Judge Death from Judge Dredd, and dozens and dozens of Spider-Man. Seriously, I thought there were a lot of Spider-Man at Great Lakes Comicon? Not even close – I couldn’t walk two steps without stumbling over webs at Neo.
I managed to track down the single 50 Cent bin at the show and pull about a dozen things out of there, pointing out some of the better silver age horror to my friend Rhonda. Still, most of the deals I grabbed were in the form of those old essentials volumes. These things are still plentiful and cheap, and the best way to catch up on really old comics – I’m currently building my Fantastic Four collection. Besides those, I absolutely could not pass up a couple volumes of Daredevil including stuff that was way older than anything I’ve ever been able to afford.
When all is said and done, it was a great weekend. I think that even now, after three years, NEO ComicCon is still very much looking for an identity… But I also think more than ever it has figured out what kind of show it wants to be, and it’s really beginning to look like that.
I can’t wait for next year.
(Photos stolen from every corner of Facebook – my apologies. I didn’t really get any pictures of my own!)