“Dude, looks like Metal arms are in this year!”
I looked in the direction the voice was coming from. A Winter Soldier was pointing to the prosthetic Borg arm being passed back to me by security after their examination. I slid it on and nodded.
“Sure are,” I replied. “Just look over there!”
I pointed to the Sinister Six group. Doc Ock and his four static robot arms turned and smiled at us.
There were scheduling conflicts last year and I missed HOF, though I heard glowing reports from friends that attended and I really dug the cons first year (when it was MY turn to be Doc Ock!). It’s good to see that the show is growing at a steady, healthy pace. not too fast, not to slow. They’ve figured out a better way to maximize thier space too. It wasn’t shoulder to shoulder the way it had been in 2016.
I decided to try and hit the line for Kevin Eastman first. I’m not really a Turtles fan, but I respect the property and love the success Eastman became because of it. I found my friend Eric wearing his Jurassic Park outfit and waiting in Eastman’s line so I swung by to say hello. He expressed shock at me not being in costume yet and tried his best to convince me to do the costume contest. I wasn’t sure how long I was going to hang out and the contest was still five hours away. Still, waiting in this line would kill a good chunk of that time. It was a prodigious queue, curving down the end of the hall and I tried to find the end of it, only to be stopped by security. I was informed that the line had been capped at 150 people ( which they hit in the first 45 minuets of the show) and that I’d have to come back in three hours for the second signing. This situation was just a little too reminiscent of the confusion and poorly run ticketing system for George Perez the last time I was out here, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. The convention schedule, released about a week in advance, had shown two specific “Signing” times – a weird thing for a comic convention like this (I see it regularly at anime cons, but not at comic cons), and It had spooked me. I decided to head elsewhere. After all, I wasn’t REALLY here for Eastman. I was here for Peter David.
Back in the 90’s, David was instrumental in shaping the the direction of DC’s Star Trek line, having taken it over from Mike W. Barr. This is my favorite era of Star trek and those comics have always been special to me. From there I migrated over to his novels – Rock and a Hard Place is my favorite TNG book ever. I took my place in line right behind one of the guys I knew from Panels:The Comic Club.
Approaching his table I pulled out a gift I had brought him. He picked up the furry blob and looked at it.
“What is it?”
“A Borg Tribble.”
He rolled his eyes in disbelief.
“I don’t know how I’m getting this through airport security…’what’s that in your bag sir?’ ‘um, it’s an assimilated tribble….?’ ‘OUT OF THE LINE!’ ”
He confirmed my suspicions about the Stone character in Rock being a prototype for the hero of his New Frontier books, though he has no idea what my have happened to him afterwards. I followed him to his panel and was fascinated by his stories of how he got into comics, and the way he kind of drifted into different assignments. It’s been an interesting kind of career.
I popped out of the panel a little early to go get into costume. I had decided to do the first half of the show in normal clothes since it was so hot and my Borg suit wouldn’t fare well in the end of summer weather. I applied the makeup in my car (God bless the guys at Rubber City Cosplay by the way. They offered to let me suit up and do my makeup in by their booth where they had a station set up. I had to decline because I was using latex and needed my car heater vents to dry it). I was trying something new this time – instead of just drawing sick green veins on my face I built them up using cotton and latex, THEN drew the green lines on the swollen veins. It ended up being the first time I found myself truly happy with this look.
Because I resent being charged for parking, my car was half a block away, parked in front of a house. Suddenly the door burst open and a slightly scary looking man stormed out staring at me.
“DUDE! I just had to run out here to see this,” he exclaimed in amazement. “That thing is off the HOOK! What’s going on?”
I explained about the con around the corner and waved goodbye. A car load of kids drove by headed to the Wendy’s across the street from the Canton Civic Center. They yelled at me from their windows and asked what my character was called. I told them I was a Borg and waved, trying hard not to squint. The heat was making the white greasepaint run down into my eye. I crossed the street with one good eye, and fished the napkin out of the hidden compartment in my belt, then cleared the tears and makeup from under my cowl. Outside the doors was parked the greatest vespa scooter EVER, painted red with decals to look like the bike from Akira. I reapplied some white as I wandered back in, thankful for the cooler temperatures in the convention hall.
This time out, I made one more upgrade to the Borg suit. I added a borg tribble of my own (with more lights on it that the one I presented to David) who would sit on my shoulder (magnets in the tribble and my costume). One of my favorite moments was a family coming up to me and asking for a picture. The little daughter, riding on mommy’s hip wasn’t too sure about my robot in corpse paint. I plucked the furry little ball off my shoulder and asked if she’d like to hold the Tribble. “He’s soft,” I explained as she snatched him from my hand. The camera got a big smile from her.
Across the hall, I spotted my friends Rocky (also dressed as a Winter Soldier, but also carrying around Rocket Raccoon) and Chris (Appropriately garbed as Casey Jones), who had just arrived. I let them know about the early lineup for Kevin Eastman and we headed that way. It wasn’t quite two yet, but the line was already the length of the civic center. As we stepped into the queue, I saw Ben from comic club rushing from the Eastman’s presentation and heading down the hall. I waved him over.
“Man, this is crazy,” he exclaimed. “It never occurred to me that people would actually duck out of Kevin Eastman’s panel to start lining up early!”
I introduced Ben to Chris and Rocky, and explained comic club. We all made a little nest in line. The guys chatted about new costumes, Infinity War and Turtles while Rocket and my Tribble got into fights.
“I was heading into the parking lot,” Rocky told us. “Rocket Raccoon was in my passenger seat. The guy at the gate took my money then looked in and said ‘You guys have a good time’. So apparently Rocket counts as one of the guys…”
To quote A Christmas Story; “The line stretched all the way to Terre Haute, and I was at the end of it”. Still, it was good to be with friends and we eventually got our stuff signed. I noted the “No posed photos” sign and slipped Rocky (ahead of me in line) my camera to snap shots of me meeting Eastman. Kevin drew “Casey Jones Doodles” all over Chris’s hockey stick, and loved my outfit as my borg arm handed over my comic using it’s claw. His assistant asked for a photo.
“There’s a LOT of cosplay at this show isn’t there?” Eastman asked. I acknowledged that Ohio has a lot of interesting costume culture.
There was just enough time after we got out of the endless Eastman line for me to plow through the 3-for-$1 bins, scoring about thirty books as well as a handfull of small pokemon for me to bring home to the kids. My backpack sagged on my shoulders, heavy with comic books as I headed backstage for the costume contest.
My name rang out. I was late and Spider-Man was looking for me.
“Coming! Coming! I’m here!” I panted as I shuffled off my backpack and stowed it under a backstage chair. Spidey pointed to the second line.
“Okay! Line up right here.”
I walked over and pointed at the floor.
“Right here? Here. Right THIS spot?”
Spidey gave me an exasperated smile and swatted me away. Looking around I found myself next to my friend Jason, who was ready with a quick change Clark Kent/ Superman costume (much like the one Maddie wore to NEO). Seems like I had friends to keep me company in every line I found myself in. Cassie and Vito were too far away for me to reach, but Dwayne snuck up behind me and greeted me – I hadn’t even recognized him in costume!
HOF is a good con, and consistently brings in top talent like no other convention its size. If they could just figure out how to handle the crowds for those guests, it would be a near perfect show. That and ditch the charge for the convention hall parking lot (Akron comic con, and Geekfest both managed to provide free parking, Heck, CONCoction MOVED so they could). Still, it’s good vendors, exceptional guest and good times with friends. Barring further schedule conflicts I expect to be back next year!
Is it just me or is that a very, very long name for a convention? It’s also a kind of a long drive – and traffic was not kind. I first heard about Hall of Fame city comic con around the time AllAmericon was in full swing. The draw for me here, like AllAmericon, was the guests. I had already met Jim Steranko, but they were bringing in George Pérez and Howard Chaykin. That’s a pretty big deal. Perez in general is a huge deal, and a massive catch… But Chaykin matters as well. Before there was a vertigo imprint at DC comics Chaykin really was the linchpin of their mature readers line with his revamps of both Blackhawk and The Shadow. He’s returned to the Shadow at Dynamite comics as well as being the powerhouse behind a whole slew of creator owned comics.
HOF had a couple of problems right off the bat – mostly communication issues. First and foremost, they specifically answered a convention goer’s Facebook question about parking… Stating there are plenty of free parking on site. This ended up not being the case and if you want to park in the convention hall lot, you were going to drop six dollars. Just as much for a couple of surrounding spaces as well. I flew my little Superman Honda straight past the convention hall, and found a quiet little side street to park on about a block away – it was there that I started to unpack my doctor octopus costume. ( an old man came out of his house and asked me what all this was…was I there to spray for bugs?).
Ock has been upgraded, it’s something I’ve been meaning to do since his appearance at Neo comic con last year. It’s one of those outfits that for me, has always been about the engineering – a way to make or four arms move. When I first deputed at Lake Effect some four years ago, it was even simpler. Sunglasses and tinfoil insulation around my arms, with duckbill flappers instead of claws. For NEO, I had the bright idea of adding in a couple of grabbers from the dollar store – this necessitated a few more lengths of tinfoil insulation, but that at the happy effect of making my arms much longer than they had been previously. I liked it. The thing is those arms while practical, don’t have the absolute fantastic look to them that I see on so many other cosplayers. It was time to upgrade those tentacles. I enclosed the insulation with rings and rings and rings of foam, detailed and painted to look like a pig iron. I also added a waistband this time around. It’s a detail that you don’t see in every incarnation, but for this particular look I felt like it would be a great place to do a little bit more dremeling and perhaps add some lights. I had hoped to add a couple of strings of EL wire through the octopus arms as well, but never managed to get around to it. Still the effect was everything I had hoped for, and this time round I added a new innovation– attached to one of those grabbers from the dollar store, I worked in a selfie stick that once properly attached and turned on, I could take photographs from my phone at any time. (When you get to the end of this article, there’s going to be a LOT of Ock selfies. Sorry about that….)
Traffic held me up, and I was running late anyhow. Instead of arriving around noon-ish as I had hoped to, I arrived at ten minuets ’till one. I was immediately greeted by convention goers just outside of the hall, who informed me that the registration for the costume contest was just about to close! I panicked, and they were nice enough to open the door for me as I swept in got my admission and begged them to let me sign up late!
A side note here, I am never doing Dr Octopus again unless I have a handler. I underestimated the difficulty of doing certain things… Opening doors, swiping my phone or changing it to selfie mode with my claw’s stylus, stuff like that. When I got to the admission table I leaned over and the ticket taker cheerfully plucked the $10 admission fee out of my lab coat pocket then wrapped a wristband around one of my Ock claws. I immediately ran into friends Taylor and Nick who were both kind enough to be my hands when I needed them. It’s one of those things I love about the cosplay community – socializing and getting to know everyone while we wait in the line-up for the costume contests… One person was nice enough to turn on the lights on my lower claws, another was nice enough to turn on the lights on my midsection. Everybody took selfies with me and giggled at the octopus arms with the cell phone attached! It was a great group, very friendly and everybody was so happy just to be there. There were dozens of Harley Quinns, there were actually two Bob’s Burgers groups… Who would’ve thought that? There was a bubbly, friendly Supergirl who I had enormous fun discussing the Supergirl TV show with. It’s so nice to be able to gush about such a perfect Superman series! I’m jealous, she’s got Melissa Benoist’s autograph!
We all ended up in the line up for a while, but once that costume contest began, they got every through at an impressive speed, and everyone watching seemed to really love what they were seeing. There was such a wonderful diversity of outfits, not just super heros and villians, but horror characters like Freddy and Ash, in addition to anime and game characters! as I headed towards the stage i realized the unthinkable had happened. My Goggles, which were on my forehead had completely fogged up. when I slipped them down I was blind! I pushed them back up and gingerly negotiated the stairs, making my way to the “X” mark. As the announcers were introducing me, I grabbed the goggles with an Ock arm. There was a fine layer of perspiration on my forehead, making it easier to slide the goggles down then stared blindly at the big dark blob that I could only hope was the audience. Behind me, the announcer from Heroic Adventures was delightedly shocked. “Did you just move the glasses down with the arm? Like in the movie?” Ryan, in his gender bend Katana outfit, insisted on us all taking a selfie with the Ock arms right there and then before I left the stage! (Big thanks to Amenisty Cosplay for shooting this!)
As I passed through one hall, a flash of light went to buy my eye and I heard crashes done I turned and found lightsaber battles going on in an empty room. You know, I’ve said it more than once but it really is true – it’s just not a party until the lightsabers come out.
With over 2000 people in attendance, crowd control was occasionally a problem… Especially for a guy with four extra arms who was larger than he is used to being. I managed to get around, but the artist alley where the cosplay booth was set up always seem to be shoulder to shoulder. The dealers room was slightly better, with aisles and line set ups for the artists to help manage traffic flow a little bit more efficiently. I was surprised at how small a space the vendor’s room actually was . For such a huge building they weren’t using a great deal of it – the convention really only had the dealers room, hallway antechamber outside of it, and one side room to spread the show across. I can see why they weren’t doing any panels or screenings – the con hadn’t secured enough space.
Howard Chaykin was exactly as advertised. He’s brash, rude and obnoxious. If you’ve ever read any interview with him or heard an editor talk about him, it comes through. He greated us with a hearty “What the f#$% are you just standing back there in line for? Come on up!” He waved us up as he said goodbye to the last people departing his table “People wasting thier entire f@#$%&!* life waiting….”. He eyed us up and down. “Well I see the dignity police have the day off….”
I had a boss like Chaykin. Everyone hated him, but I discovered the trick to dealing with them was to give as good as you get and play along.
“Yeah,” I replied. “That’s why I’m in disguise. Now just tell me one thing; of all the things you could write why Blackhawk?”
Without missing a beat he shot back “Why not?”, then considered the question for a moment and we were off, talking about his fascination with those comics and the concept, hearing about his ideas on the character and his opinions on more recent iterations
The line for George Pérez was endless. Well that’s not exactly true, it was actually the WAIT for George Pérez that was actually endless. Earlier in the day they handed out 100 tickets, and you would come back to check where they were at – if there is no one in line with the ticket then someone without a ticket could come up and get an autograph or sketch. I’m not sure how I feel about this system, if you got a high number you’d be stuck there all day… And that dealers room does not provide enough to do if you were going to be stuck there for say, three hours or so. I was fortunate enough to have friends to hang out with – and God bless Taylor and Nick for hanging out so that they could pull out my comics to be signed and help me lug my swag around. It was fun running into Sean and Mike as well, not to mention the Rubber City Cosplay group with all the familiar faces there. it’s one of the fun things about doing the convention circuit, you run into a lot of the same people despite there being significant distance between everyone normally. The dealers room wasn’t bad, I was pleased to see some booths that I’m not familiar with, not to mention several 50 Cent bins. Not as many deals as I would normally be hunting for, but that didn’t seem to be bothering anybody else. The atmosphere was happy and cheerful – everybody was having a great time. That’s certainly a good sign for first-year.
Still, there is room for improvement. The parking situation needs to be addressed, and I think this convention may have outgrown its space within its first year. I would really like to see more programming going on, if you’re going to bring in a few top-level talent like this, I’d love to hear them speak. I know that can be difficult, Steranko and Perez’s lines never ended, and according to the organizer, both Steranko and Perez declined to do a panel because they didn’t want to leave people standing in line (But shouldn’t the ticketing strategy solve that? Perhaps not. It didn’t seem to be working out as ideally as it might). Still, as much as I enjoy the shopping and the hobnobbing with friends – I want more. I think Hall of Fame City Comic Con really could offer more as well, and become one of the essential stops on the Ohio convention circuit. I’m curious to see what happens next year, and cautiously optimistic. I’m not entirely certain I’ll be back next year…
But I assure you, I’ll be watching.