Lost Nation Comic Convention premiered in Willoughby this weekend, a small show with big ambitions. The promoter of this show has been around the con scene for a while and knew the lay of the land long before trying to throw his own show. The big ambition shows in his choice of Guest of Honor, bringing in the legendary Jim Shooter.
This may have been the wrong weekend for such a show, with Colossalcon siphoning off a great deal of potential attendees. The venue at Lost Nation Sports Park was confusing and I found myself not sure where to go in at. A Soccer tournament was going on at the same time, further confusing and complicating traffic. Fortunately I spotted Deadpool by a door adorned with yellow balloons and rushed over there where I was ushered in. As you go in you had to go down a short hallway, past the restaurant and into a large empty antechamber before finding the path to the basketball court (adjacent to the indoor batting cages) where the show was located at. I wondered the entire time if I were in the wrong place, only slightly reassured by occasional signs for Lost Nation Comic Con.
Once inside though, I was greeted by a nice smattering of vendors and artists. I was really digging the toy vibe here, grabbing a figure from the NEO-TACC booth as well as some Nintendo game figurines for my arcade cabinet. Heroes United had set up both a green screen and a Star Wars backdrop for people to take photos at with props and their characters. Son of Ghoul set up in the center, the R2 builder club had an R2D2 on display while another vendor brought a video game system. in another corner, a DJ spun tunes (light rock – office music). Jim Shooter was over at his table, talking endlessly with guests. CBCS graded items and a small but steady flow of people filtered through the area. When the Ghostbuster theme came on, Tracy the Ape ran over to dance.
The panels were intimate. Jim Shooter sat in a comfy chair while a dozen or fewer people gathered around him on bleachers. He shared stories about breaking into the industry, working for Mort Wisenger and his time on Superman. At thirteen he was sending stories to DC, figuring if he could write like Marvel, it was something DC didn’t have and would want. He recalled this drawing ire from Batman creator Bob Kane and others at DC – but not Mort. Mort rode him hard, but behind his back would tell everyone how Shooter could take any story and turn it into something usable.
Towards the end of both days, there was a costume contest, but the low turnout made it a small lineup. Each person had a minuet or two to pose, then the whole line paraded around the con floor. Back at the lineup the DJ spun the Cha-Cha Slide for the contestants to dance to while the judges deliberated. By the time 4:00 rolled around, Lost Nation made an announcement letting vendors know they could tear down a little early. As I was getting ready to leave, someone tapped me n the shoulder and asked me to visit JCW Graphix booth and that they had something for me. Confused, I wandered over with my monkey head in my hands. The artist greeted me and gave me a sketch that he had drawn of me during the convention.
“When you see a monkey dressed in a Ghostbuster costume, you HAVE to draw that!” I was blown away. It’s one of my favorite take-aways from a con, ever.
There were several vendors that didn’t make both days and this hurt the con as much as the date and confusing venue. Hopefully this can all be chalked up to first year growing pains, and I really dug the vendors who were there both days. Good artist and good vendors make for a fine show.
The promoter has already announced plans for next year. Personally, I’d like to see the show move to a smaller venue that can better support them and perhaps reduce it to a one day show instead of a Saturday and Sunday. I’d liek to see more flyers and more networking to get he word out. It’s a small show and will grow best if it embraces that (for the time being). I’m eager to see where Lost Nation goes from here.
A voice rang out at me from across the room.
“Why is it every time you put a baby in a rocket, the planet blows up?”
“I didn’t even BRING the rocket this time,” I replied, glancing down my gold armor at the baby Superman in the hand held basket.
Akron Comicon was in full swing.
The con has grown every year so we’ve once again relocated; this time to the Goodyear Hall on the outskirts of the city. With this particular move came parking problems. The lots filled up fast, but we managed to grab a small patch of street a half block away in a nice shady area next to construction. It was windy and freezing Maddie and me in our costumes. The food trucks we passed looked awfully warm. (I regret not grabbing some Swenson’s)
Inside I made a beeline for Jon Bogdanove’s table. The last time he was here, his line was terribly long, and after waiting an hour, I ended up having to bail (Kiddo had a birthday party I had to get her to.). The line wasn’t as bad this time, and after half an hour we were face to face with one of my favorite Superman artists. Bogdanove is a Superman fan himself – his son is named Kal-El- and he gushed over Maddie’s Supergirl suit, expressing delight that she was actually carrying around Streaky the Supercat in her own little basket.
After a quick stop at Brett Breeding’s table ($5 a signature! Yeesh!) we popped over to see Bob Wiacek. The bulk of my books to be signed were his….but they were all big collected “essentials” volumes and weighing down my bag. I do love Wiacek. He’s done a great variety of stuff, working on things like Damage Control, Shadowman and Nightmask. He brushed it off, “A lot of guys can say they’ve had long careers.”
“Not as many can say they’ve had such varied ones though,” I replied.
“I like that!” He nodded with a smile.
I kept running into friends over at Karl Story’s table. As he played Pokemon Go on his hone I beat my friend Mayday about the shoulders with a stuffed supercat until he perked up and noticed me. I didn’t have as much for Story to sign (I restrained myself from bringing my entire run of Nightwing. I don’t like being THAT guy). But I did pick a couple of things, in particular the Star Trek graphic novel “Debt of Honor”
“This was such an interesting story. It’s a shame it’s never been reprinted,” he said as he flipped through it. “IDW has the license right now, and they’d love to, but DC has no obligation to work with them and won’t release their copies of the art. IDW actually contacted me and Chris (Claremont) to see if we had any of the originals. I’ve got maybe, 30 pages but these are oversized – they’re so big they’d be hard t copy, even if I ran them down to Kinkos.”
After stopping by Dirk Manning’s booth to present him with a monster ice cream cone, Maddie guided me over to Chris Yambar’s table so she could get a new Simpson’s comic from him. He greeted us by nodding at me with a “Thank you for you son.” Akron is a very Superman oriented show, but even so, I’m always pleased when someone recognizes my Jor-El (father of Superman) costume. Maddie told him all about how much she likes the Simpsons. “I watch it every day! A couple episodes usually!”
We drifted on to chatting a bit about Yambar’s late and lamented Lawncon. The girls and I really liked it when we hit it’s final year. But perhaps not so final after all. Yambar has been long talking about resurrecting it.
“We keep wanting to do it again, but then something (health issues) would happen. It’s been a good year though, with no new things coming up. Maybe if I could get together a committee – where I could just sit back and be a benevolent overseer….”
Back in the lobby area of Goodyear Hall, Maddie and I ran into a huge scarecrow, with his handler, Harley Quinn. After pictures, we found an isolated corner by the windows where Maddie could practice her quick-change for the costume contest. It’s a long one, but Rubber City Cosplay managed to get everyone through reasonably swiftly, and it didn’t hurt that I was in line with my buddies Vito and Cassie. Despite the amazing plush monster in front of me in line, my bet was on the Alien made entirely out of balloons to win. Best costume EVER!
Akron continues to be the best con in Northeast Ohio and I’m eager to see what next year has in store!
“You did it! I can’t believe you actually did it,” Knightmage choked out between barely contained laughter. Under my Deadpool mask I smiled. I had posted a few days before that I would see him at NEO, and that I was bringing at least one of my kids. Also a unicorn. And there I was, in full Deadpool regalia, perched on top of a fluffy unicorn with comically big eyes.
NEO comic con has rapidly become one of my favorite shows, in no small part because it’s the closest comic con near me, but also because it’s so well run. I never fail to have a good time here, and the showrunner (a friend of mine) is the hardest working promoter I’ve ever seen. It’s NEO’s second year here at the North Olmsted Soccer Sportsplex and I knew from last year that parking would be a challenge. My younger daughter Lydia was feeling sick, so while the wife slept in with her, Maddie and I hit the early service at Gateway Church in North Ridgeville then jumped in the car and raced the six minuet drive down the street to the show.
By the time we hit the complex, the parking lot was full. Plenty of cars were giving up and heading to the college down the street where a shuttle bus would pick them up and ferry them back and forth. Some of the more adventurous cars however, were heading to the lawn. I pointed my large honda towards the back fence and lowed through, snagging one of the last spots in the grass.
Entering the complex, my friend Jim spied me from the ticket booth as I rode the unicorn in the building with my pass stuck on it’s horn.
“No. NO! OUT!” he grinned waggling his finger at me. One of the ticket takers plucked my pass off of Sparkle-Murder-Pie’s horn. “Okay, that covers him, but what are we charging for the UNICORN???” Jim demanded.
“She’s three years old,” I replied. “Kids get in free.”
Jim threw up his hands in exasperation, laughing. To be fair, I had my own concerns about bringing Sparkle-Murder-Pie the Unicorn to this show. I remember it being crowded last year, and was wondering if I’d have any problems getting around, but while there were a few choke points in the complex (especially by the entrance or the connecting path between the two sections) NEO is extremely efficient in the way it uses it’s space. I remained unhindered for most of the day. Shawn, the promoter, spotted me and gave the unicorn a friendly slap on it’s hollow flank as he passed by.
I had to get my picture in front of the TARDIS. The TRACE people did me one better, opening both doors and helping me maneuver the unicorn in. As I emerged, I pointed to the giant Pikachu rounding the corner and Maddie squealed. We rushed over for more photos. Emerging from the weirdest selfie ever, Maddie announced she was hungry and we went in search of lunch. I dig the snack bar here. They don’t gouge at convention level prices for food and the con is good to them. Maddie grabbed a hot dog and I got some pizza. Over at our table, my friend Chris came over to me, his Black Mask in hand.
“Dude, do you have any tape?”
“Hot glue gun in the car,” I replied. Then I spotted an electrical outlet over in the corner by the lunch tables. “We can plug it in there. Give me a couple minuets to do finish eating and we can do a swag dump while I pick up the gun.” We ran to the car, and Chris was nice enough to fix one of my hooves while patching up his mask.
Between lunch and the swag dump, I missed the comic creator’s panel with Tony Isabella and Mark Sumerck. It’s a drag (I’m still hoping someone filmed it and youtubes it) but to be fair, Marc is a friend and I heard a lot of his stories. Lately, Tony’s been hitting the con circuit hard since the release of the Black Lightning TV show and I’d bet I also caught most of his recent schtick at ConCoction last Feburary, so if any panel had to go – this was the one.
We stuck around for the next one though – it was an action workshop, run by a film choreographer. It’s an unusual panel to see at a comic book convention, but they were hosting the fan film production company that does TRACE and their more recent Superman project. I’m familiar with how a lot of action is staged and how you throw a punch (more importantly how you TAKE a hit), so I left Maddie there to watch (I figure she might pick up some ideas for The Backyard Zombie Movie) while I snuck off to Tony’s table. I had an erstwhile copy of Essential Captain America vol 5 that I need an autograph on. I’m not sure if I picked this up after my last encounter with Tony or if I just didn’t have it with me before. I handed it over and he happily replied “The first signature is free….just like ALL the best drugs!”. Yeah, that’s right, Tony has started charging. We had some warning about this last year – it was definitely under consideration and I was pleased it didn’t happen at Akron Comic Con, but it’s finally occurred. He is however, offering free signatures on anything bought at his table and on one of your own items. I gotta admit, this is perfectly fair. If you’re going to charge to autograph, this is definitely the right way to do it.
To my great delight, the other comic guest wern’t asking for autograph fees. Phil Hester and Ande parks are well known for thier Green Arrow, but I was all about thier Dynamite work, and I plopped down a small stack of Green Hornet for them to sign. On the top of the collection though, there was one particular issue that stood apart. It was an Aliens story called “Purge”. It’s a one-shot featuring characters I was always disappointed never appeared any where else. I don’t know if I found this in a quarter bin, or was given it or if it was off the shelf, but it’s always been one of my favorite Aliens stories. As Ande signed I turned the conversation over to his time of The Lone Ranger.
“It’s interesting, I wasn’t a fan of the character going in,” he said. “They gave me ‘The Death of Zorro’ and I was like ‘okay.’. Then they told me it was a Lone ranger story and I didn’t know what to think about that. But writing it I just fell in love with the characters, with the ranger and Tonto and all of them, it made me a fan.”
In this blog and elsewhere, I’ve long said that Dynamite is the only place that’s gotten the Lone Ranger right. I mentioned to Ande that I really wanted to like the movie, but that it was nowhere near his run on the book.
“I saw the movie and just though ‘All you guys had to do was follow the path we set on the book, and I just don’t understand why they didn’t do that.'”
You took the words right out of my mouth.
Maddie and I made our way down the table over to Angel Medina. My buddy Mayday always makes a point to stop by Angel’s table any time they are at a con together. We’ve been at Great Lakes Comic Con together but I didn’t have anything to sign. This time however, I came prepared. Maddie pulled a couple of Spider-man comics and a Dreadstar out of my backpack as I sat perched on top of my unicorn. I pulled up my Deadpool mask and we got Medinia’s attention. He thumbed in my direction.
“So, you with him?” He asked.
“That’s my Dad,” Maddie replied.
“Man, you don’t know how lucky you are,” he told her. “When I was a kid, my parent’s just didn’t get it. They’d drop me off at the con and pick me up later. They’d wonder why I was wasting my time on this stuff..and when I told them I was going to college for it? Forget it! It wasn’t until I showed my mom that first paycheck with Spider-man on it…It wasn’t until then that she understood maybe you can make a living this way.”
He finished signing my books and waved towards me. “You’re lucky. Your dad’s a nerd – and I mean that in a good way.”
We moved on as another person was chatting Angel up about Dreadstar. They mentioned that they had planned on bringing some for Angel to sign, but just couldn’t locate any of the First Publishing issues. Angel reached under his table producing a copy from that run and signed it.”That’s awesome!” he gushed. “What do I owe you?” Angel shook his head and waved him on, no charge.
We explored further, running into friends and taking photos and suddenly I found myself at the end of a long conga line chanting “One of us! One of us!” The line came to a stop but Deadpool kept riding his pony past them, racing across the sportsplex to photobomb a tense confrontation between Wolverine and a movie accurate, leather-clad Deadpool. Hulk shuffled over to me, petting the unicorn’s soft fur, the epitome of calm. I thumbed through dozens of three for a dollar bins and came away with a dozen Superman books. Maddie supported one of the local artists and purchased a Jigglypuff poster from him. I finally made it over to the American Knight table to see my old POP buddies Jae and Rick who were releasing their very first issue of the long-awaited book.
They were sold out.
Seriously. I arrived just in time to seethe last issues snatched up. “I go over to see Ange Medina first and because of that I miss out???” I screamed in mock outrage. Truth is, I couldn’t be happier for them. They have been working on this book for a while and a lot of us have been waiting to see this come out for years – indeed, at least as long as NEO Comic Con has been around. Greg was back and heard my disapointment.
“Did you get the digital copy?”
“No, I wan’t part of the Kickstarter”
He reached in his bag and pulled out his copy and passed it to me. “I got my digital one, and you really need to read it. You can have mine.”
I couldn’t believe it. I asked how much I owed him and he wouldn’t hear of it. “We gotta stick together, you know?”
Finally, the moment Maddie had been waiting for drew close. It was twenty minuets before the line up for the kids costume contest. We slipped into the back of the sportsplex, in a dark and unused portion of the complex. I helped Maddie don her overshirt and we got her clipboard out of the backpack. There in the dark, she practiced her quick-change twirl about four times. Confident in her display, we stuffed her cape up the back of the shirt and hiked the Supergirl skirt up so it was hidden under the billowy white blouse, cinched tight around the waist with a smart beige leather belt. Maddie joined the other kids by the panel area and I was happy to see her hanging out and chatting. I think she’s discovering (like I did) that the best part of a costume contest is hanging out with the other contestants backstage and getting to know them. She was particularly enchanted by the boy in the Aliens costume – funny since we just finished that movie a week prior. The line started to move, and the emcee called her name.
“And next we have Maddie as Supergirl!”
He caught a glimpse of her in the yoga pants and white blouse and corrected himself quizzically.
“I mean, FROM Supergirl….”
Maddie reached the center of the stage, grinned and ripped open her blouse, revealing the red “S” underneath. The judge’s jaw dropped as the crowd erupted in applause. Maddie twirled the blouse off and pulled her skirt down into view, ripping off her glasses. It was the best quick change I’d seen from her yet.
I’d trot on stage later as Deadpool, but I’m pretty sure Maddie’s turn was the highlight of the show for me. We headed back to the car exhausted and ready for dinner back at home…but also ready to come back next year! Keep an eye out for Maddie’s con VOLG (She’s been slow getting into it, but I bet it’ll be up by the end of the week). In the meantime, check out Maddie’s quick change in the kids costume contest here as well as my Unicorn waddle in the adult contest! (Thanks to Ken Nemec for recording it!)
I do seem to be hitting the smallest of cons this year – while I like small cons, I’m not actively seeking them out by size! When I discovered that Weplcon was being held at a library, that didn’t bother me much, I had visions of Akron’s Geekfest, held annually at their library. Of course the Akron library has a huge stage and room to spread out. Not so at the Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library.
Weplcon takes place on the lower floor of the small library, occupying several rooms as well as setting up a face paint station. It’s something more than a library kids event, while being something less than a convention. They offer way more than your typical Library event, with panels, a dealers room and a cosplay contest, not to mention a green screen station (and unlike my friends and I at heroes united, where we take the photos and post them a couple of days later, they were actually editing them right there and printing them out for people on the color laser printer!). This kind of stuff tends to bring out great costumes, like my friend Bob, debuting his wookie outfit (complete with a disassembled C3P0 in a sack to carry on his back). There was the cutest Squirrel Girl ever (and she really hammed it up during the costume contest) as well as a lady on the older side in a sailor scout suit – she mentioned making the boots out of duck tape since that how the Cure used to do it. Even the Emcee was decked out in one of the more stunning Twilight Sparkle dresses I’ve encountered!
I actually kind of dig what they do during the contest- they look your character up and then throw a google image search up on the screen behind you so you are standing in your costume in front of the source material. Not only does it help the audience (who by the way, help choose some of the winners!) and judges make a decision on costumes, but it’s a stunning (yet simple) way of presenting the contestants. Great production value for such a small venue.
When you enter and sign in with registration (It’s free admission since it’s a public library, but they do like to know how many came and who is in the costume contest) they hand you fistfulls of coupons; Chipotle, Applebees, bowling, not to mention a bunch of raffle tickets for you to bid on things in the dealers room. The dealers room itself was small but packed, with familiar vendors like Comics and Friends or Cleveland ConCoction set up. In the center was a table for the raffle featuring giant stacks of graphic novels and movies – all old, used stuff that was being retired from the library. It’s a clever way of purging the old stock and with a show this small, your odds of getting something were good.
The kids went with me to this one and we decided on a Krypton theme. Maddie even did a review of the show!
Overall, we had fun and I like what they are trying to do, but it’s a little too far of a drive from the west side of Cleveland for something this small of scale. Shows like this (library based) don’t typically grow, but then again, this was better done than most and I can’t help wondering what it would be like if it did!
Lake Effect isn’t what it used to be. This was one of my favorite shows for awhile, because of the charm of having a free comic con at a movie theater, as well as the vast array of deals all over the place and marvelous programming. I’m glad the show has grown, and really needed to move – but since heading over to the hotel and transitioning into that sort of con, it’s identity has changed a great deal.
Gone are the amazing deals and cheap finds. As emphasis has moved off of programming, panels and screenings have vanished more and more until the event really has begun to resemble a Jeff Harper show… that is to say, a giant swap meet that you pay admission for.
There’s still a fun vibe here, it attracts cosplayers because of the costume contest and there’s friends to meet. My buddy Rhonda and I hung out with Dirk Manning a little bit, and chatted up several other folks we saw wondering around. Free stuff was in abundance this year too, at every door there seemed to be a person stationed with a bag of pins to handout (poor Rhonda spent all day adding buttons to my Comicon backpack) and on the flyer table full of freebies there were Green Lantern batteries for Heroclix! I was so excited to finally grab one of these! One person walked up to me and handed over a button with Barry Allen’s lightning bolt insignia on it, and informed me I’d been Flashed.
To my great delight, my buddy Jim won the costume contest for his Dr Forster (from mystery science theatre 3000) costume. There were a lot of great outfits this year and it seems like the convention is starting to fill up again. Attendance was down last couple of years but this time around there seemed to be more people walking around and that’s good… I wasn’t sure how that would pan out considering there are a lot of folks pissed about the entrance fee increasing this year to 8 dollars for such a small show.
I’ve got a lot of affection for Lake Effect, but I may be skipping it next year. There’s still fun to be had here, but I’m not a big fan of what it’s becoming. We’ll see what happens in 2019.
I’ll be perfectly honest, while this is generally average show – I really enjoy it because of all the friends that go here. I hit Akron Canton to hang out with Mike and Jason and Alli and to introduce my friend Rhonda to all of these people, as well as participate in the costume contest. Indeed, it was a beautiful day, just cool enough that I wasn’t melting in my Lego Deadpool suit – and in a smaller environment like this Lego Deadpool get a lot of love. It was a lot of fun to run around in this and delight all the kids at this show.
There were more deals last year, I actually found some 50 Cent and quarter bins then. This year there is only one three for a dollar bin, and it was full of Archies (What is it with Harper shows and Archies anyhow?). Still, we hunted through the dollar bins – I got a nice run of Fight Club 2, as well as some Camelot 3000s that I had my eye out for. At least the dollar bins are scattered all across this hall as well as other deals – my friend Rhonda found an issue Creepy magazine for a shockingly good price.
Akron Canton is just what it’s always been, a Jeff Harper flea market with a admission – but it’s also a great place to hang out with friends and score some special stuff. I’ve got a soft spot for this little show and I’m pretty sure I’ll be back next year.