So my fears were kind of realized this weekend… Akron Comicon is not what it once was. For a good long while, Akron Comicon was one of the two polar events that Cleveland fandom revolves around, the other being Free Comic Book Day at Carol and John’s comic shop. Akron Comicon was held in lush, beautiful locations like the Quaker Station Hall with warm colors and exposed brick and a historic aura around the building and side rooms. When they moved to the John S Knight Center, I felt like the show had really arrived. This huge facility, all glass and steel, was where I used to attend Star Trek conventions in the 1980s. Akron Comicon managed to fill those venues, and even last year at the Goodyear Hall, a beautiful old stone and brick theater, framed by colorful fall leaves, towards the edge of the downtown area, things felt classy and beautiful. This year’s event at Emidio’s banquet hall in Cuyahoga Falls feels like a step down. It’s a kind of sketchy little event center in the unfashionable side of town. I passed through metal detectors to enter the convention and was struck by how much the layout looked like the flea market set up of Akron Canton Comic Con and all the other Jeff Harper shows. Panels were held in the back area that had been curtained off with folding launch chairs set up to accommodate the meager crowd.
Akron still draws cosplayers though, and I was delighted to see not only the Beetlejuice chick, but especially the Galactus. That costume was just brilliant and really inspires me – now I seriously want to go make one of my own. There was even a Spider-Ham! And here I thought I was the ONLY Spider-Ham cosplayer out there! Rubber City Cosplay did their usual excellent job of running the costume contest and were nice enough to stream it for anyone who couldn’t make it out on Saturday!
To be honest though, I was really only here for one thing… Before selling the show, the old promoter had secured the main guest of honor, classic Cleveland TV host Superhost. He doesn’t do very many conventions or appearances and I didn’t want to miss this chance to meet him. Superhost showed up in great spirits and in costume which utterly amazed me. He brightened up at the sight of my Superman shirt declaring “Us super people have to stick together!” Next to him, the actor who played Captain Pike in the original Star Trek episode The Menagerie, was perplexed at why people weren’t stopping at his table to pay $40 for an autograph but were lining up all the way to the door to meet this strange man in a clownish Superman suit. Because of Supe, all of Cleveland fandom turned out for this show – I’ve seen nothing but photos with Superhost for the last two days on my Facebook feed and it’s glorious.
Akron Comicon itself however is less than glorious. The easiest way of describing it would be to say that it’s in decline, resorting to bringing in high-priced celebrity guests rather than staying true to its comic book roots and comes off as a low budget, first year trade show. The new crew seems to be trying to spin the show into a multi site, multimedia event, hosting a screening of local film Rottentail at a nearby theater as well as hosting an afterparty for the convention at a local bar (all for additional charges of course) with various bands.
For my part, I slipped in (No costume – amazing how many people DIDN’T recognize me without some sort of fantastic outfit) got my autograph and my photograph, then I hit the three-for-a-dollar bins and filled my bag. I’m happy I came home with a huge stack of old comics to read but I’m pessimistic about the future of what was once my favorite comic convention. It’s not that it’s BAD, it’s just that it isn’t spectacularly good anymore. It’s fallen from the crown jewel of northeast Ohio conventions to become just another show. I had in fact, planned on skipping this year and if it hadn’t been for Superhost’s appearance, I absolutely would have. It’s next year’s attendance that will really tell us if it can can survive, and what will become of it if it does.