“Hey! Can I be your leg?”
A blue blur raced towards me. It was a cosplayer in a plushie blue outfit that reminded me of Sonic the Hedgehog. My little con buddy Maddie giggled as she whipped out the camera – after all, Voltron haven’t even made it into NEO Comiccon yet!
Sometimes when a convention changes hands, an anxious feeling of uncertainty can arise – that certainly seems to be the case with the uncertainty surrounding Akron Comic Con right now. With NEO though, there was never any doubt. After founding anr running the show for the past four years, Shawn Belles had decided to hand it off to Eric Anderson, the proprietor of Comic are Go. Anderson is a regular vendor on the con circuit and is well known and respected… and it doesn’t hurt that his store happens to be my favorite comic shop. He pulled the show off and kept it the same con that we know and love. If nothing else, the event maintained enough continuity that you probably wouldn’t even know there was a new promoter unless somebody told you. That’s good because I love this show, especially since it’s so close to home. The Soccer Sportsplex where it’s held is about a ten minuet drive from where we go to Church. Maddie and I hit the early service and then headed down the street to the con.
We knew from previous years that you couldn’t show up too late and still expect to get parking on site. We pulled in a little after eleven to find that the lot was full. I swung around and backed my little black car against a fence, creating my own parking space. While Maddie was high fiving me in the front seat, four other cars pulled in next to me, the five of us creating the last half a row of parking possible in the grass.
“I feel weird going into a convention without a costume!” Maddie complained to me. The thing is I don’t disagree with her. It reminds me of that first time out to the late and lamented Shinbokucon. I arrived in jeans and an Excel Saga shirt and felt woefully out of place among all the other cosplayers. Nevertheless I assured Maddie that in this 90° heat, she wasn’t going to want to be suited up all day – we’d do our shopping, say hello to friends, get autographs and armor up after lunch.
I brought a collection of interlocking Green Lantern covers for Paul Pelletier to sign. I had actually met him the previous day at a signing held by Comics Are Go. He and Matt Horak had popped into the shop for a couple of hours to sign comics and talk about the industry.It was a great time, almost like having my own personal panel with them. Pelletier described his early days breaking into the industry;
“I actually got into the Kubert school but then discovered I couldn’t afford to attend, so I went to work at the shoe place by day, doing comic books pencils practically for free on the side. I was drawing Ex-Mutants for Malibu and the guy who was inking the book also did work for DC. Some of his bosses there started to notice my pencils and asked ‘who is this guy that’s drawing for you?’ He gave them my information and they called me, I didn’t even have to send samples”
It’s a fascinating story, because his breakthrough into the industry wasn’t just about luck, there’s obviously a lot of hard work involved as well as being in the right place at the right time. He’s done amazing work on Aquaman and Justice League for the new 52 (I ALMOST pulled the trigger on one of his Superman prints – but it’s that new 52 outfit and I just can’t bring myself to spend money on Superman unless he has red shorts….) and I was stoked to have my books signed. We noted it was funny that while he’d always been more of a Marvel fan, most of his work had been done at DC.
While Tony Isabella was technically the guest of honor this year, the real draw for me was Tom Mandrake. Mandrake is probably best known for his legendary run with John Ostrander on the Spectre. I remember my buddy Mike Roop having a bunch of those glow in the dark covers, but I never really started reading books until very recently.I’m not sure why. They’re totally down my alley, and what’s interesting is we even see some crossover with us Ostrander’s Suicide Squad.
I didn’t just have just a stack of Spectre though, I had a curiosity with me. Mandrake did a single issue of Shadowman – something I found odd. I pointed out to him that I wasn’t aware of much work that he done with Valiant and asked if he was a regular there.
“Actually, that’s the thing, I didn’t do much work with them”, he said in slight bewilderment. “I don’t even remember how I got this job – they probably called me up because they needed an issue done quick. Back in those days we were all a lot closer in the industry…”
I grabbed some resin landscapes from a miniature dealer who was creating a variety of interesting things – since the rise of 3-D printing and the popularity of Perler beads, I don’t really see too much resin and looking at these figures you can realize exactly what a shame that is. I’m really excited to paint these and use them for photography with action figures and HeroClix. Maddie scored a Simpsons comic from Chris Yambar. He is a regular stop for her when ever we are at a convention.
I grabbed a Green Hornet poster at the local TV station’s booth and we moved on to Rubber City Cosplay to sign up for the costume contest. I noted that on the line above my entry there was another set of names with the series “Voltron”. I looked up at Cody and asked “Is there another Voltron costume here today?”
He nodded. “They’re playing a couple of the characters – Keith and Link.”
Maddie and I looked at each other.
“We’ve got to find these guys to get a picture!”
Indeed, we’d already spend much of the day chasing down cosplayers for pictures. Coming in to the show, Maddie had spied a girl dressed as Pokemon’s Serena. It’s Maddie’s favorite character, and she’d actually had her Serena custom on the previous weekend. She was totally excited to see another one. We also ran into my wife’s friend Crystal in her Miss Piggy outfit. She had nailed the character. it wasn’t just the ig nose or the blonde wig, what really sold it was the eye makeup. Big black lashes and heavy eyeliner, topped with purple eye shadow, I had never realized until that moment how essential all that is to the look.
We followed a trail of feathers on the ground to find Cruella Deville, but my favorite costume of the day was Chubby Bunny Cosplay, dressed as the Evil Queen from Snow White. Not only was the costume perfect, she had brought props that just made the look. A goblet that frothed (with cotton) and glowed (with LEDs), a magic mirror and a large spell book (which was hollow and served to carry her hone and wallet!). Maddie and I both cheered when she won the Adult division in the costume contest.
It was after 12:30 and Maddie was getting hungry so we headed out front and caught the shuttle bus. The viehicle was brimming with hustle and bustle, cosplayers all around us. It took us down the road a bit to the local college where there was overflow parking for the convention. The welcoming sight of a McDonald’s loomed across the street. Maddie and I nipped across the intersection to grab lunch and cool down under the air-conditioned golden arches. By the time we had eaten and got back to the show, it was just after one and we are ready to suit up.
About 17 hours before the convention, Maddie had come to me asking if we could pull her Iron Sapphire, – she hadn’t worn it in two or three years, and I knew it would have to be altered. We dug through the attic and found most of the pieces, I cancelled my plans to see Troll 2 at the Cedar Lee, and get to work adding inserts and extensions in the armor to make it fit a 13-year-old girl instead of an 11-year-old. (and here I had thought that since I finished my upgrades on Voltron Friday morning, I wasn’t going to have to deal with any con crunch this weekend!) While we’re at it, we added extra lights, rebuilt the mask and tiara and completely revamped the mid-section for my daughter who is now taller and – well, shaped differently then she had been a few years ago. By 1 o’clock in the morning I had painted pieces drying on the porch and was ready for bed. It’s a little nerve wracking though, we were breaking one of my general rules – always try on the whole thing together before bringing it out to a show. It turned out to be okay – the midplate didn’t go up quite high enough, but it was forgivable and Maddie darkened up the Star Sapphire logos on her shoulders with a sharpie while we were in the car, giving it that final touch. I suited up as Voltron and never even made it into the convention center before getting stopped three times for photos. The addition of the sword to the costume is something that had often been requested of me, this time around I decided to not only create it but to do so in the anime tradition – that is, oversized and detailed. I had taken care to make sure that it was removable – the hilt had no paint on it since it would probably just rub off from being inserted into the lion heads that form to my hands. One of my favorite things during this show was to hand the sword over to people who wanted pictures with me and show them holding it in the photo. By the end of the convention we got the hang of pulling the sword out of the lion head using two hands with a sharp upward motion and then lining up to the holes and steadily inserting it back in.
As we passed Archie Cunningham‘s booth, he waved us over, delighted and wanting a picture.
“Hang on, and I’ve got something for you!”
He reached under his table and produced one of his prints of Voltron : Legendary Defender and presented it to me.
“I was so upset with how the series ended, and I think it’s last time I’m ever going to draw him this way. I’m gonna go back to the classic – the way you look!”
We wandered around, taking pictures with Pennywise, a space marine, even a xenomorph from Aliens! Maddie got in on the act as well taking photos in her Iron Sapphire outfit and had a generally good time despite the uncomfortable armor (I had been right, even the three hours we were suited up was tough. We never would have made it through five hours). One of the vendor’s was nice enough to handle water bottles “I know how hot those things can get!” He suggested hooking up a old computer fan in the helmet perhaps to help cool me down.
When it was time to lineup for the costume contest, I was fortunate enough to be right behind the other Voltron cosplayers, and Maddie was right in front of another young woman in hand made Iron Man armor – the synchronicity was beautiful. My friend Rhonda was in the line next to us so we were surrounded by familiar faces.
We made one last pass at the dealers room, but shopping is always hard when you’re in a cumbersome outfit. Still, you never know what you might find. During that last pass, in an old toy booth, I spied it – a vintage 1979 Twiki action figure. It was in fact, the exact figure I’d been looking for at the Neotacc swap meet a couple weeks prior. I reached into the hidden pocket by my hip armor and grabbed my cash. I ended up paying about 25% more than I was really comfortable with on the toy, but I shouldn’t complain – it’s easily worth double what I paid, and routinely goes for much more on eBay. I definitely got a deal.
Finally it was time to pack things up and head home. The crest in my breast plate fell out as I was shuffling out of my armor – I had managed to perspire right through the foam. We cranked up the AC and left our makeshift spot in the now mostly empty parking lot. NEO Comiccon was still the great convention that it always has been and I’m glad to see it in good hands. We can’t wait to come back next year.
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.
“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!)
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!)
Maddie and I headed out to Warren Michigan this weekend for Great Lakes Comic Con. I broke a couple of my rules this time around actually, the first one being I don’t like to take the girls out to shows I haven’t checked out ahead of time. I’ve never been to this one, and it’s a bit of a drive. I broke the same rule last week taking Lydia to the Anime con in Akron I suppose, but that one I had a little more confidence in, where as this one I really didn’t know what I was walking into – still, Maddie is getting older and she’s able to hang out a lot longer at one of these things. In fact, she made it through entire show! Eight hours is impressive for a 10-year-old…
The second rule that I broke was a big one. In general you never want to wait until the day of the event to try out a new costume. Unfortunately, I had such an enormous time crunch with Man at Arms that I didn’t have time to really give it a try out. You see, you want to put the whole thing on at least once, even if it’s just for 15 minutes, or half an hour – you just want to see how it feels, what it’s like going on and coming off, what it does to your peripheral vision, can you sit, how big are you….stuff like that. I had in fact, tried on all the parts individually, I knew that the undershirt was stiff, and I knew that the breastplate would squeeze my head going through and that my arm would be a little tight on the shoulder pad side. I knew that I’d have to wriggle to get the belt on, but that the elastic would stretch and contract enough to keep at snug. The problem is, I hadn’t done them all together – and that would come back to bite me later.
The outfit was actually surprisingly comfortable, it seems I learn a little bit more each time and make one of these – I had full range of movement, and because of the fingerless gloves, I didn’t lose my fine motor skills. Kneeling was still a challenge but I could run! That was important considering how cold the day was – trips between the car and the convention centre need to be short, especially since Maddie didn’t want to wear her jacket for fear it would cover her She-Ra costume. The suit was warm but not too warm and the helm would make me perspired a bit, but it kept me well insulated during lunch when I had to eat outside (I was too big to fit in the car). The big problem came when I tried to take it off – the plate on the arms did just fine when I was slipping them through the openings on the side of the chestpiece, but taking it off those panels would catch and my arms didn’t seem to want to go back through the breastplate! I had already got my head inside I was trying to pull from the neck (the way I commonly get out of these pieces of armour). Suddenly, from outside of the darkness I heard voices…
“Hey dude you do you need help? “.
“Here, let me give you a hand! ”
“Come on guys let’s give him some help over here! ”
Nimble fingers pushed the plating on my arm in so that it would clear the armhole while pairs of hands grabbed the sides of the armor and pulled, helping me slide out. I looked up and found myself surrounded by every wrestler from the WWF in the 80’s. Sergeant Slaughter was there, the junkyard dog, Macho Man and Rowdy Roddy Piper. This was a group of cosplayers who I had seen in the costume contest as a WW F group – partly because Sergeant Slaughter, the real one, was one of the guests. they’re actually run out and got into a wrestling match in front of the crowd that it was hilarious!
This is really a great example of the goodwill that I saw in between all the cosplayers at great Lakes comic con – it was an incredibly friendly atmosphere, with people chatting to each other exchanging tips and talking about how they built what. When it’s this kind of an atmosphere, this kind of a friendly group – it just makes things so much better. You can see that everybody is here not so much to really compete against each other, but rather to enjoy everybody and enjoy the hobby and just have fun. It makes such a huge difference!
There was a woman dressed in little powder puffs with the sash that read “Tribble Queen” I love that outfit – it was just such a creative and fun idea. I checked out the Lady Predator as well, she had the actual countdown from the movie running on her wrist. It was an app on her phone and she had created a gauntlet on which she could mount it – just brilliant.
I chatted with an amazing Swamp thing. Seriously, look at this outfit for a moment. He created every bit of it. He covered his face with Rice Krispies, then did a life cast which he pulled a latex mold of. He cast the hands and feet. The amount of detail and work here is amazing.
There there was this one person dressed as Shak-Ti from the Star Wars expanded universe. Johnyaya over at Skeletons in Spacesuits talked with her a bit about the costume; The entire headset was shaped foam with thick paint and some sort of sealer. I didn’t believe her. She replied “No one does. Touch it.”
To my utter shock they managed to get through 50 contestants in the adult costume contest and did it in 20 minutes! Seriously, I love Akron Comicon, but they could learn a thing from the organization and way they pulled this off!
I think the kids Contest one longer actually, fewer participants and a little bit more opportunity to do stuff for the judges. There are some marvelous kids costumes as well, including a Jedi who had an Ewok friend that she puppeteered as a marionette! That was amazing! The little Hawkgirl was beautiful and so well done, her father, a golden age Flash was equally impressive.
Saturday was a little light on panels, although what they did have was marvelous. Most of the talks were held in a little unmarked room tucked away on the side of the convention center by the snack bar – not a lot of space for people, but they weren’t well attended either… It seems like this is a smaller component at this show, and I understand. I give them props on this, that there was a lot of other stuff going on as well – they had an amazing retro arcade set up in one corner courtesy of Big Toys Arcade. The booth was filled, complete with pinball and about half a dozen video game machines all set on free play. There was one Transformers pinball machine set to take quarters, with the proceeds going to charity. Very cool, and a great idea. The arcade was possibly Maddie’s favorite thing to do during the day, and we visited it several times. I had a great deal of fun on the X-Files pinball machine, I don’t get to do that as much as I’d like these days and I miss pinball – Maddie was digging some of the arcade machines, especially the multicade cabinet that was running six different games, which ever one you would choose. All cabinets were up for sale and this just seem like a clever way to show them off as well as provide an activity at the convention. While it is normal for Anime Convention is to have game rooms, it’s not quite as common at comic conventions and I love that they’re lifting this idea from the animation shows.
There were also killer photo ops around the convention center. The 501st legion was there of course, and with them were some droid builders who brought some of thier creations with them. Not just an Artoo, the one you commonly see it is shows – they had several different robots around including trade federation droids and that little weird orange Artoo knock off that we see in the background of a lot of Star War. A Kylo Ren was available for photo ops along with a bevy of storm troopers, and they dominated a corner of the show.
Taking up residence in the opposite corner, were the Great Lakes Ghostbusters. Now I’m familiar with the Ohio Ghostbusters, I see these guys a lot on the convention circuit but the Great Lakes Ghostbusters is a chapter that I have not run into before. They have their own Ecto-1, a car which we were delighted to take photos of and in front of. They also had a table full of paraphernalia, game and props, including the new proton packs from the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot. The Ghostbusters arcade game sat all lit up in the back of thier corner, unplayed. Tthat’s kind of a shame, it probably should’ve gone over in the arcade which was right next door to them…
One of the ghostbusters was wearing a slime blower that actually sprayed soap bubbles – not big ones, but suds. It was hilarious to watch him hose down the kids in the crowd, or occasionally go after one of his ghostbuster brethren. I’ve been thinking about making a Slime Blower myself, and I chatted with them a little bit about the recipe, because I really loved that it was able to shoot something like this that evaporates immediately but has such a dynamic visual impact!
I wanna know what was up with the armored ghostbuster they had with them that dressed all in black… Dude that was the scariest looking ghostbuster I have ever laid eyes on!
Further down, past the artist alley into the guest area stood huge oversize Transformers. What I didn’t realize, was that these were actually costumes – at certain times during the con, Optimus Prime would come to life as somebody climbed in him. They also removed the panel from the Grimlock to show the dazzlingly complicated interworkings that would allow it to walk – just amazing.
Sadly, Tom Cook had to cancel for health reasons and I was disappointed not to get to meet him – but Jeff Lee, the creator of the video game and character Q-Bert was amazingly friendly and a lot of fun to talk to. He loaded my daughter up with flip books and a print, then he signed my Q Bert Atari 2600 cartridge. He was really excited to talk about Q-Bert’s appearance in Wreck-It Ralph and to my great surprise he ended up being one of the judges for the adult costume contest. He does stunning paintings, and has had some really fun at pieces done with Q-Bert as the subject – you absolutely need to check him out over his website http://www.jeffreyplee.com/blog/.
I brought a stack of books for Pat Brodrick to sign, and while I was there I bought a beautiful print of the Shadow that he had done! This was really exciting, as I’d seen this image before but never owned it. I chatted with him a little bit about what it was like to work on Batman year three – he mentioned he had been really excited to be in on that book and doesn’t understand why they haven’t collected it yet, I was just talking to do you see the other day about that.” Broderick was charging three dollars a book to sign, which was a little bit disappointing but still more affordable than any celebrity autographs. I’m not liking this trend, but as long as the prices stay down I can weather it.
Larry Hama, who wrote all of the GI Joe comics for Marvel and picked the series back up just a few years ago had a sign up declaring he would autograph two items for free. I love this – completely reasonable and understandable. I had brought four books (those little G.I. Joe digest size editions that Marvel used to put out with three issues per book – I’ve always had great affection for these) but was utterly content to walk away with only two of them signed. It was great to meet the man who had created so much of what we understand in GI Joe.
Speaking of GI Joe, the main celebrity guest of course was Sergeant Slaughter! He was a nice and friendly enough guy who genuinely seems to appreciate its fans. I wish you get a different handler though, this guy was the epitome of the bad manager. He was intrusive, a little demanding and just got in the way. Good handlers are invisible, they handle the money and keep the line moving. There is no reason to really be noticeable at all when you’re in an environment like this where there wasn’t a line and nobody was trying to take advantage of the guest. Still, when you look at this picture – it’s the epitome of 80’s cartoons!
Fifty cent bins were plentiful at this show– in fact they were even a couple of booths with a ton of quarter bins! You’re pressing my deal buttons right now… But then again, this is really what I show up at these events for! Even at Broderick’s table those prints that I bought were half off. We saw wonderful toys and some beautiful artwork. Maddie found a Pokémon booth and was going nuts! There were items for more expensive tastes as well, I managed to pick up the Walking Dead compendium vol three for my wife, and there are plenty of expensive books and collectables there as well – but let’s face it, I’m there for the deals and actually, I didn’t take nearly as good advantage of it as I should have. I loaded up on a bunch of the Marvel essentials volumes though, these things are running about five dollars each nowadays and usually have about 20 issues in them – that’s a quarter bin right there in your hand! We found a cute little Wonder Woman necklace for Lydia done in the shape of the pop vynal figures. I almost pulled the trigger on a Bow from She-Ra figure, but the girls aren’t really playing with She-Ra toys as much anymore… Still I’m kind of a regretting not grabbing that guy. There is an amazing booth that was creating sock puppets and Muppets style puppets from recognizable pop culture figures like Deadpool, Spiderman and Superman – these were just incredibly cute. *edit* I searched the vendors list on GLCC’s website to find these guys. The vendor is Ruppets! Seriously, go check them out. The FB page has more pictures than their vendors site, so here’s the link. https://www.facebook.com/ruppits
I really would have loved to have gotten one, but I’m not doing puppet shows anywhere right now and I just don’t know what I would’ve done with one… Kind of the same reason I didn’t grab that Bow figure or that superpowers Clark Kent – not sure where I would display them, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be playing with them.
We missed most of the “how to create our own comic panel”. I think Maddie was hoping for more of a hands on experience the way the Elyria Comic book initiative presents it. However, we stuck around for the thunder cats panel with Larry Kenney. This was a real treat to hear him talk about the philosophy of the show and working on it. There was a fundamental idea behind the stories. They wanted to show the characters trying to talk things out and reason with their foes before or instead of physically battling them. I’m not sure that I agree with his belief that it was less violent then He-Man or G I Joe, but I certainly understand the point Larry was trying to make. It was really interesting to hear him talk about coming back to ThunderCats for the rebooted series – and that the series was actually getting decent ratings, however it wasn’t getting great toy sales and that’s what ultimately doomed the show. Kinney seems to have some real affection for these characters and is somewhat protective of them – that’s fun to see. It was also enormous fun to hear him do other familiar voices, things like Count Chocula or the Sonny the Cocoa Puffs bird or even the “taste the rainbow” voice that you here at the end of the skittles commercials!
The moderator of this panel was the show runner, who was also present for the costume contests and was very visible in the show. One of the things that attracts me about Great Lakes Comic Con is the fact that it’s run by a fan and it shows. The philosophy feels very similar to that of Akron Comicon, this show is being run for the love of it, not just as an exercise in profit or a giant cash grab like the Wizard World show that was happening at the same time this weekend in Cleveland. Of the two this is definitely the place I wanted to be. We made good time, 2 1/2 half hours out of Cleveland. It’s still a pretty long drive though. If this event were closer it would absolutely be a regular stop for me. From what I heard, the show grew significantly this year. That’s exciting to hear. I’m eager to see where it goes in the future!
Maddie asked me what he was supposed to be.
“Is he like a giant Teddy Bear?”
“Yes” was the easiest answer.