Carol and John’s Christmas Party 2022
If you’ll forgive a self indulgent post, I always enjoy talking about the Cleveland fandom scene, and at the heart of the comic book scene here is Carol and John’s comic shop.
The lockdowns killed a lot of the scene, and it’s been two years since CnJs threw a party, but this weekend, they decided it was time to finally test the waters. The Christmas party was back, along with the comic book cover art show which benefits the Greater Cleveland food bank. it was a great time seeing some friends I haven’t run into in well over a year- or more, and made new ones as well. It’s always the best party ever.
Free Comic Book Day 2022
Free comic book Day was this weekend. It’s a little different these days since the pandemic, and those of us in Cleveland very much miss the midnight release party that Carol and John’s used to throw. It looks like that may be gone for good, it’s a hard event for the staff to do, and John’s literally said flat out he doesn’t know if he’s bringing it back. On the other hand, he’s shifted more towards trying to bring in a high profile guest every year. Last year was Chris Claremont, and this year of course was Jim Shooter. I have a great and abiding respect her Jim Shooter, despite what many, professionals say behind his back. He created the valiant universe which brought me Shadow Man… One of my all-time top favorite characters ever. The man was a prodigy, writing Legion of superheroes as a teenager, and shepherded marvel into the 80s, finally establishing royalties for creators, and trying to make comics more familiar. He also created one of the first high profile company wide crossover events in Secret Wars… Which is what Carol and Johns were celebrating this year, complete with mock ups of the cover that you could pose in front of.
But before we hit them, we stopped by Comics Are Go… a shop closer to my home, and the other one of my regular comic shops. These are the same guys who throw NEO comic con every year, and hitting both shops would assure that Maddie and I both got the books that we were looking for, as well as a couple of duplicates to give away to kids we know. Maddie was eager to break out her new female Iron Man cosplay – one we’ve dubbed “Toni Stark” It’s a simple, casual one, with just one gauntlet and the arc reactor, as well as a wig and E.D.I.T.H. glasses.
Comics Are Go is a little bit more subdued of a environment, focusing on local artists and not so much on cosplay. Still, they’re friendly and this is a great way to get people into that shop. It’s a hole in the wall, and the more people who know about it the better.
Over at Carol and John’s, this year‘s mural was being painted upfront, while we headed into the side room to grab comics and look over the various artists wares. I pulled out my venom costume again. This was a nice little find right around the end of Halloween last year… Four dollars and it came with a mask. It’s about a half size too small,… A little tight and doesn’t want to close correctly in the back, but otherwise looks fairly good. I ended up doing a new mask for it using the plastic shell the costumes mask had come packaged in. A little bit of spray paint and some marker letting the paint just drip over the clear plastic. It gives an altogether uncomfortable look and makes it a bit more terrifying of a venom. I only scared one child… That’s a good thing. But one little boy did see me coming and just started backing up behind his father going “nope, nope, nope!“
All in all, it was a fun day. Maddie found buttons and stickers she wanted for her school bag and folders. We hit the ice cream store around the corner from Carol and John’s – they were offering an “Infinity Gauntlet” flavor with multi colors and rock candy on top. I found some interesting comics, including a deadpooh issue from one of the artists over at Comics Are Go. It’s amazing. We were in and out in just a few hours, but a nice chance to catch up with friends and get back into the scene a little.
NEOTACC Swap Meet
Every year during SanDiego Comic Con, Carol and John’s comic shop holds thier annual “Not at Comic Con” sale. Last year they partnered with the local North East Ohio Toy and Collectibles Club to host a swap meet in addition to the sale. The event was held just a few feet down fro the store, in the empty space CnJs uses for Free Comic Book Day. I missed it last year, but decided to pop in after Church and look around for a few minuets before heading home – I’m still looking for a Twiki to go with my Buck Rogers collection. I figured I’d be in and out real quick, after all, how big could it be?
You see that graphic? The one that says “Over 40 tables” with the number 40 crossed out and replaced with 70? THAT’S how big it could be. Forty tables crammed into the FCBD space with people shoulder to shoulder looking over wares. Outside, vendor tables lined the walls, stretching along the sidewalk from the grocery store to the Dollar Tree, with more occupying the space in front of the comic store. In the parking lot, a large section had been roped off, with tents and another twenty or more tables popping up amoungst the cars. There were more vendors than some comic conventions I’ve been too. It was like a smaller flea market, but without the porcelain teddy bears and antique lamps. Nothing but toys and comics and books as far as the eye could see.
What surprised me was the amount of comics on sale. Tons of quarter bins and fifty cent comics. They may actually have outnumbered the dollar comics. I’ve lamented in recent years that the quarter bins seem to be vanishing from the convention scene – and to be fair, there were more here than I’ve seen at any recent conventions I’ve gone to, nevertheless, this gives me hope. I went crazy in these longboxes, grabbing dozens of issues – particularly Superman and Dark Avengers.
I never did locate a Twiki (or any other Buck Rogers toys for that matter) and I must say I showed admirable restraint in not pulling the triger on MULTIPE Talon Fighters, complete with Point Dread. I picked up two Sabrina mangas for Maddie for a dollar each (and sour patch kids for Lydia next door at the dollar store – have to be fair!), as well as a cute Hulkbuster plushie and a Masters of the Universe Snakeman, also for a dollar each. The Snakemen may not have been my favorite of the He-Man villians, but for a buck? I’m buying that Rattlor!
The real find of the day though (and the one that, combined with the quarter bins, made me go over budget) was a loose Doctor Who figure. It’s a #3 – My doctor. Even more importantly, he was in green, and wearing calf boots. He was perfect and priced so low that it was a steal. I can’t even begin to express how excited this purchase made me.
I couldn’t believe I’d been there almost two hours. I never expected something so big or to find the deals that I did. This was actually pretty fun, and may just become a regular annual stop for me.
Free Comic Book Day 2019
Depending on where you live, what shops you have nearby, everyone does something diffrent for Free Comic Book Day. Some shops just hand you a few extra books with your purchase. Others, like the late and lamented York comics, leverage it as a charity event – giving away the gold books but throwing in extra silver books for a canned food donation. And here in Cleveland, at Carol and Johns, they throw a party.
The party is actually on Friday night, the day before FCBD, leading up to the midnight release of the books. The shop is open late with sales and deals. At 10:00pm the annex opens with a pop up bar serving complementary soda and comic themed beer. People who tip get an extra free comic. Down on the other side of the strip, another room opens, housing a comic themed (this year the theme was X-Men) art show (it’s also where you go to get your free comics at midnight), where artists in attendance do free sketches and sell their wares. In recent years, other businesses in the same strip complex have gotten in on the act, with the local toy collectors club setting up in the Working Class Brewery, and the ice cream shop offering up an Infinity Gauntlet themed dish.
The lineup starts well before ten though. When I arrived around five, the line had already started. As the night went on, Two podcasts set up shop along the line. An artist set up his easel at the corner. People mingled and played board games in line. Costumes began to pop up and take photos. A large Millennium Falcon interior was available for pictures, as well as the wanted poster from the X-Men story “Days of Future Past”. Stormtroopers and Jedi marched in the streets. It’s the party we wait all year for.
There’s always prep for FCBD. I decided this was the year I finally execute the idea I’d been playing with for a couple years. I wanted to do Freddy Kruger as a Yellow Lantern (Sinestro Corps). I’d worn out my old Freddy makeup a few years ago, but that’s fine. The point is to do a makeup (Build it from scratch) that takes several hours while I wait in line, and Sinestro Corps is cool because there are glowing lights on the costume – and this is DEFINITELY the event you want to have a glowing costume at. The night atmosphere really brings it out. In anticipation, I had fashioned a new glove with clear yellow blades that lit up, and pulled out the old Sinestro suit from the closet. In addition, my buddy Ryan had put a call out, informing me that he had taken a bungee cord to the eye and was stuck wearing an eyepatch for the next week or so which pretty much ruined his costume plans. “Can you help me pull together a Nick Fury?”. I pulled my leather trench coat, my Winter Soldier Cap shirt and stuck a shield sticker over the buckle of my utility belt, then told Ryan to wear navy pants and we’d dress him on site.
I’d packed the Batmobile accessories as well. It wasn’t a sure thing – the day had been rainy but I figured that if the rain let up and I could find a visible parking space near the line that It would be fun to build up the Batmobile. When I arrived I scored a spot just one store away from the end of the line, by the grocery store. It was good enough and I built up the car, then set up my nest in line. After I’d been working on makeup for an hour and a half I’d only gotten the basic structure of the chin done. It was around this time that the car in the space directly in front of my nest in line pulled out. I grabbed my friend Marcus and begged him to hold the parking spot for thirty seconds. I sprinted over to my car, yellow latex chin dangling from my face as he stood in the empty space, arms spread. The Batmobile raced over and took up a place right up front, directly across from my nest. Four hours into the night I’d gotten my Freddy makeup mostly done while chatting with friends from Pop and Panels and the Scoobies. One of the guys from The Panel Scanners Podcast had been eyeing my progress from a distance and now came up to me and asked if I could head over to thier booth so they could interview me. I promised I’d walk down as soon as I suited up and started grabbing costume pieces from my car to pull over my latex and greaspaint stained clothes. I hit the button on my belt to make sure the lights worked.
They didn’t. Crap.
I turned over the battery pack to make sure the AAs were in tight and spotted the problem. The wire that feeds into the socket connector where the battery pack connects in had pulled out. I whipped out my swiss army knife (I always keep it in my car) and my buddy Rocky held the belt still, looking on in disbelief as I rewired the belt, bypassing the juncture and splicing the wires directly into the battery pack, then insulating the wires with duck tape.
As we were watching my belt finally light up, Mayday swung by and asked if I had any tape. His belt was giving him problems too. We emptied the roll of duck tape and got him fixed up. I could see it was a bad night for belts when Vito stopped me later on to ask if I could help him fix his Batman belt…..
Inside the shop, Winston discovered he had a suspicious visitor. The cat eyed the strange dog in the spider-man costume warily. FCBD is always a little rough on the comic shop’s feline mascot. The crowds inside were packed shoulder to shoulder, debating the virtues of the Wolverine Canadian Ale vs the Cyclops Weak Summer Pilsner. I was certain that Endgame was all anyone would be talking about. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t. The conversations around me were constantly “What do you think of the new Child’s Play movie coming out?” or speculation on the new Sonic the Hedghog film.
Back at the nest, Jen and her kids descended on us and my friend Vanessa pulled up a chair after her place in line had gotten ursurped by a bunch of guys noisily playing marvel monopoly practically on top of her seat (We’re happy to take in refugees). Rocky and Mayday grabbed thier hammer and lightsaber respectively asking if the trolls needed eviction. She shook her head laughing.
Every single year I’m amazed at how fast six or seven hours in line pass. But then, it’s not really a queue – it really wouldn’t be worth this kind of wait, just for ten free comics (eleven if you could the graphic novel they throw in for the first 200). No, this is a party that lasts all night. I’d be back in the morning for another run through. The day event is a little more subdued and I usually hit Comics are Go as well, but the evening party is the one we always spend the most time at. It’s one of the benefits of having one of the best comic shops in the country local, and no one else does FCBD like this.
Free Comic Book Day 2018
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.
Carol and John’s Christmas Party
It’s hard to believe that it’s this time again. The annual Christmas party at the comic shop has become a longstanding tradition in Cleveland; easily as important event as Free Comic Book Day. There’s cookies and cupcakes and beer and art. There’s mingling with friends as well as the yearly food drive.
This time around, I contributed two covers to the art show, pieces which were raffled off to raise funds for the local food bank. I always feel a little inadequate next to some of the stunning art displayed (someone crossstitched a cover. Another one this year had LIGHTS!) but it’s not a competition. Just fun for a good cause.
Comics were being given away alongside the custom brewed beer (seriously, I just want the bottle with Winston’s face on it). Even that got passed along to the son of my wife’s hairdresser (Who couldn’t have been more excited!). I arrived with a group of friends who immediately got lost in the crowd. (How do I manage to lose Superman and Batman anyhow?) Still, everywhere i looked there were familiar faces. It’s a party after all. It took me half an hour to make it to the door when I was ready to go and outside I found Santa and Mrs. Claus sitting on an overturned grocery cart with a PBR and a cigarette.
We basically captured Christmas in Cleveland pretty perfectly. Can’t wait to do it all again next year.
Free Comic Book Day 2017
You know, it was getting manageable… That stack of comic books on the end table – the one near my spot on the couch was down to a reasonable size.
Then free comic book Day occurred.
I want to step back for a moment and think about how good we have it here in the Cleveland area – we are almost spoiled by the abundance of comic book shops and fandom events within easy reach. On Free Comic Book Day in particular, we have the midnight party for the Free Comic Book Day release at Carol and John’s Comic Shop. The first people in line arrived about 9o’clock Thursday night – and waited all the way up to midnight Friday night to receive a full set of the Free Comic Cook Day releases (and dubious bragging rights….). I’m not nearly that dedicated. I came out after work, arriving about 5:45 to set up my little village in line. Several chairs, some for my neighbors as well as myself, a table, and a carpetbag bag full of games and crafting supplies. I wanted to try something different out this year – a mash-up of every superhero I could possibly think of. I crafted a Thor hammer and half a Cap shirt while waiting in line. I then added a green lantern ring, Iron Man armor, then pulled my Batman mask over my Spider-Man mask, pulled up a pair of thing pants underneath a wonder woman belt and added a superman cape. I refer to this look as “Everyman”.
Seriously though, you would not believe how fast six hours flies by amid all this chaos… Wandering up and down the lines, and visiting friends while observing the random hijinks that occur around us. A group of dancers spontaneously began to preform in the street. The Ghostbusters car screamed into the parking lot with lights and siren going. A police car blasting the Darth Vader theme cruised by as Daft Punk danced and puzzled over baby Groot. All up and down the line, people were playing games – you can see Magic tournaments and hero clix battles. I stopped by the Scooby’s corner to join them in a game of Cards Against Humanity is for a bit. My friends and I greeted old friends and new friends – we posed for pictures, and we constantly made fun of poor Steph who has probably never been called a “trash panda “nearly so many times in one setting before. (indeed, I think my favorite part of the night was watching rocket raccoon get carded at the restaurant… The server looked at her license, shruged her shoulders and said “I don’t know why I’m even doing this… I’d never have guessed this with you! “)
Coming straight from work, I have to admit that doing the midnight release party always makes for a long day… Every single time, I find my social anxiety which tempt me to just stay home, and every single time I’m glad that I did. This is the event that everyone comes out to. I sometimes see certain friends at comic club, others I see at conventions, others I see when I do charity events, but for Free Comic Book Day, it seems like I see everybody I know!
After collecting books I beat a hasty retreat back home – because I’d be getting up again and returning in 10 hours or less!
The daytime events always seem a little bit more subdued compared to the evening events – though perhaps that’s just because of the early time that I’m arriving (got to snag that special book by Marc Sumerack before they run out!). I made it back in line at Carol and Johns just in time to get interviewed by the Plain Dealer and appear in the newspaper on Sunday. I chose a much more manageable costume, donning The Penguin outfit I had put together for the premiere of the Lego Batman movie.
It’s interesting, I managed to run into a very different group of people during the daytime events as I hopped from shop to shop in an attempt to acquire the 30 or so books that I was interested in (out of the 50 offered this year). Written in chalk all over the sidewalk and walls leading up to Carol and Johns were the phrase I am Groot… Children’s chalk drawings later the sidewalk and I stood in line that was significantly shorter than last year – the weather was definitely keeping some people away, but we wouldn’t let this deter us (though it did keep me down to only hopping between three shops!)
The guys at Comics are Go managed to save an Animal Jam comic for my daughter Maddie (she, her mother and sister along with several friends were having a mother-daughter tea party at the restaurant about three doors down – I joined them afterwards at the comic shop for free comic book Day). When Maddie brought over one of her friends they dug through the stock in the back and thier own personal pulls in the back to find an issue for her as well. This is why Comics are Go is still my home shop (with Carol and John’s being a close second and my alternate – after all I work on that side of town). It’s not the five for a dollar bins that they had set out (and man did I hit those things hard – I brought home 30 new issues from there!) or the creators they bring in like Rick Lozano or Dirk Diggler… No, it’s the personal service and the guys that work there that really make all the difference.
Across town, Jerry over at Strongsville Hobby made sure that I filled my gold book quota– as well as snagging an extra copy of The Tick for a friend of mine who are just moved and didn’t have any comic shops near her. It’s one of those things that makes me realize just how blessed we are in this area… I know I’ve said that already, but it bears repeating. Jerry has taken in the spirit of Free Comic Book Day a step further, offering a bunch of the one dollar image preview books as freebies right along side of the normal FCBD picks… I grabbed a bunch of back stock that he had on half off and waved goodbye as he donned his Batsuit, collected Supergirl and Deadpool to head off in greet the kids at Free Comic Book Day events at local libraries.
I ended my weekend by gathering up the family and heading over to Amherst Cinema for a screening of Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2. It seems like this happens every year- my friends all hit the years movie on Thurs or Fri and I don’t make it out until Sunday evening! Admittedly, some of that has to do with me holding out for a screening at Amherst Cinema (all seats are $4.00!) but sometimes it’s just that I can’t make the schedules work.
Guardians is the rare comic movie that my wife wanted to see. Maddie was a little reluctant and not in the mood to go out, but I think she may just have loved it more than any of us!
“Look! It’s Howard the Duck!” She exclaimed in disbelief, leaping from her seat in the middle of the crowded theater as my wife and younger daughter giggled Their way through the film.
A perfect way to end our FCBD adventures. I hope yours was just as productive. (and by the way, if in northeast ohio, check out my FCBD stops!)
Strongsville Hobby and Comics and More
Plain Dealer’s article on FCBD (You’ll find me featured about halfway down)