It’s that time of year again. That time when Wizard World sets up in Cleveland and I look for an alternative. Last year I ended up finding another convention to go to – and I enjoyed Great Lakes so much that I returned this year as well, however they didn’t co-incide with Wizard World Cleveland this time so I needed to find something else to do.
Before I found Great Lakes Comic Con last year I had considered protesting Wizard World Cleveland by hitting all the local comic shops and spending some cash there. It still seemed like a good idea and so I set aside some oney – the equivilent to what I would usually spend at a Comic Con, hopped in my car and headed out on my “I-refuse-to-go-to-Wizard-World” tour. #NotAtWizardWorld #ShopSmall
First stop is Keith’s comics in Elyria!
Address: 394 Broad St, Elyria, OH 44035
Phone: (440) 323-2000
This place of been here forever, and was one of the comic shops to rise during the boom of the 90s. The owner Brian is always involved in free, comic book day and the superhero events in the Elyria Square. Grabbing some Superman for me, and Supergirl for Maddie here.
Next we turn around and hit the freeway to pop over to my “home shop”…..
Comics Are Go
I first discovered comics are go when it was still Astound comics and located in WestLake… Amy and I were on our anniversary and going to dinner at the restaurant next door to the shop.
It’s been my preferred comic shop for at least a decade, and I always feel bad that I don’t spend more money there!
These days, it’s on by my friend Eric who are used to play hero clix with, and I know I’m never getting out of there without a long chat with the guys there!
They just filled up the dollar bins with a bunch of silver age books…And OMG, I think that’s the first hulk I ever bought when I was a child!
Okay, admittedly I’m stretching my definition by including recess here – but back when this shop first started it was reality recess, and they did include comic books. It used to be a small lot in the mall, and would frequently move location – technically it was a temporary set up to get a better rate. These days they’ve long outgrown that small space, taking up entire corner of the shopping complex outside great Northern mall – a sprawling space with every game you can possibly imagine.
Carol and John’s
I always refer to Carol and Johns as sort of the center of Cleveland comic book culture – with big events like their free comic book Day party and Christmas celebrations, not to mention their involvement with pop! The comic culture club, and their general investment in the Cleveland community… With all of this, I always seem to find myself coming back here – it’s been made easier than last few years since I now work close by and they can almost always be relied to have the most recent stuff from a month or so back still in stock. It’s one of the biggest shops in the area, and certainly the nicest… Definitely enough of an impact that wizard world noticed them and did some cross promotion with them.
And did I mention that everything is on sale? (I’m catching up on my suicide squad ) They’re having their own event… Winston world- Winston himself, is celebrating by taking a nap. Too much catnip on Saint Patrick’s Day…
B and L Cards, comics and nostalga
B and L reminds me a lot of the way, bookshops were just before the boom… Dark and dusty, with Sun stained posters littering the front window… It’s not necessarily a bad thing either. This used to be one of my regular stops on free comic book day, in till the comic shop hopping got to be a little too much for me… Owner Larry, had a small part 10 years ago in the independent movie Hero Tomorrow made by The creator of Apama; Clevelands own Superhero. They usually have a big bin of fifty cent comics by the register which is where I make a beeline for right away every time. Today it was front loaded with a bunch of Archies, but there was some marvelous silver age stuff towards the back – I’m particularly excited about that Flash and Thor stuff.
My next stop wasn’t far, and I forgot about the 25 cent bins here! You know what? I don’t know why, but it’s been years since I’ve been in the store. I’ve never understood how Northcoast Nostalga and B and L comics survive being literally right down the street from each other, but somehow they make it work. North coast Nostalgia seems like the exact opposite of B and L, brightly lit with discount boxes everywhere, shirts and statues – I get a very colourful and homey feeling walking into this place. I’m trying to spend about the same amount of money at every place, but as far as individual issues go… I probably loaded up with more comics here then anywhere else I’ve stopped!
My next stop was actually my third in the Parma area. I’m going to genuinely miss York comics… The owner is retiring so it’s not something to be sad about, but this was always a place I could count on getting the hard to get free comic book day books… I love that they did a food drive as part of their FCBD celebration( they’d hand everybody a bag full of the standard books, but if you wanted the slightly more rare ones… You had to bring in canned food) I remember one day I stood in line with two bags of food because the kids have decided not to come with me at the last minute. The guy behind me didn’t realize that this was how York was operating and the book he really wanted was one of the ones not included in the standard set… I was able to give him one of my spare bags of food so he can get the mouse guard hardcover he really wanted! There are always interesting things to be found here – this is the store where Maddie first discovered Star Sapphire and absolutely fell in love with the character… I’m glad I managed to slip in here at least one more time before they closed.
Ground Zero Comics
Address: 15139 Pearl Rd, Strongsville, OH 44136
I have fond memories of discovering this place back in the summer of 96, when I was home from College and just kicking around that evening – it was surprisingly late but the place is still open… I grabbed some Ambush bug and discovered they weren’t officially open, but was invited to join the party going on. I headed to the back where Monty Python and the holy grail was running. I hung out, we played games, somebody brought out a guitar and I strummed a few songs. Some drunk douche bags crossed the street and got into the parking lot, trying to make trouble and start a fight. A battleaxe was pulled down from the wall in the comic shop as we walked out. The drunk guys spied the ancient weapon and decided discretion was the better part of valor, beating a hasty retreat. It was a great night.
I ended up missing a couple shops on this tour though, I really feel bad about skipping Strongsville Hobby – that’s my friend Jerry’s store. Jerry also heads up the charity group Heroes United, where I do a lot of events. The comics component to the store is relatively new, just in the past year and a half or so so I keep forgetting about it. I’ll make sure to include them the next time I do this though!
I don’t think I’ve got this many current comics in a long time… I took the opportunity to catch up on things like super sons and Suicide Squad and couldn’t resist that Aqua man with superman on the cover! But it’s this silver age stuff that I kept running across in dump bins that really excites me – especially weird stuff like These RadioShack comics. I got the Wonder Woman one as well, and I want more
I was asked by a friend who I respect, why this had to necessarily be a “Protest”. And while a tour like this can be fun in of itself (some friends and I were talking about doing something similar to this in the summer),the impetus behind it honestly was my own little bit of personal activism – that is to put my money where my mouth is.
That may require a bit of explanation.
I find that large shows like Wizard World crush smaller ones out of existence and cause a sort of inflation that is perfectly acceptible in thier own micro economy. The problem is , that inflation spreads to other shows that can’t adequately support it but feel compelled to try – bringing in bigger name guests to compete with WW, and those guests have already marked up their pricing to meet the demand there, but that’s pricing that takes away from the vendors at those smaller shows. This is not a knee-jerk reaction from me against the “big con” by the way, Not every large show is the exploitative cash grab that WW feels like. Indiana Comic Con for instance is an equally big event, with far more heart – once they figure out how to run it smoothly, it’s going to be a powerhouse. One friend also pointed out Colossalcon – a show that I don’t have a lot of interest in attending, but don’t bear any ill will towards. It’s local, and fan driven and just what a convention should be. WW (and one or two others) in particular draws my disdain; I have very specific issues with the way WW is run and it’s effects I see on the community and/or convention scene. It’s one of a few shows that have drastically changed the convention scene over the last decade into something that resemble far more of a cash grab rather than a celebration of fandom (and I do not understand why people don’t realize the degree to which they are being gouged). I look at the cost of setting up at one of these and find it’s not particularity beneficial toward local vendors, and doesn’t benefit the local economy the way a smaller one does. This isn’t like say, Cinema Wasteland, a locally run and based con where they invite say, eight Hollywood guests, then fill the room with another twenty or thirty local vendors. That ratio works. It benefits the local community and economy. Something like WW has that ratio upside down with a handful of local vendors, while largely populating the con with carpetbaggers who suck the cash from the local economy and ride off to the next stop. Looking at the attendance, and the lineups – I assure you, this con isn’t bringing in tourist dollars.
All of this is why I stand by my belief that it does more harm than good. This is why I won’t attend Wizard World – not even if you gave me tickets (My wife actually tried to win some for me and I recoiled in horror! I’ve never been so glad to lose in my life!)
Still, a good point was made that Several very good friends of mine are set up there promoting their livelihoods as writers and artists. This is how they make a living, appearing at cons. I know for a fact that at least three of the shop owners I visited were either attended as visitors, not to mention dozens of my friends. And that presents a conundrum. How do I make my public objection the con without making them feel like I’m attacking them? How do I make this a positive thing, rather than just an online kevtching session?
Ultimately, I chose a little bit of personal activism. Instead of complaing about this all day and attacking the thing I hate, I choose to support the thing I love. I think that’s a positive and appropriate response.
I hope the rest of you go and do the same.
Last year I decided to just swing by Carol and John’s comic shop for the FCBD midnight release, and hit the place around 11:45. This was a mistake. The line stretched almost to the end of the building complex and moved slow. It wasn’t the comic shops fault, they didn’t expect this many people. I didn’t end up getting out until around 2:30, and it was too crowded and I was in a bad mood altogether. The next day, people kept running out of comics and it was a drag -my favorite shop Comics are Go really saved the day with nice sets of FCBD comics for my girls. This year, I came in with a plan. I expected to be up all night. I pulled out my mazinger costume and grabbed a lawn chair. I met up with people from POP the Comic club and you know, the night flew by. Carol and John’s really worked things out too. They rented an empty space next to the shop, and set up two lines for the comic tables – plenty of space. On one side of the room, they held a comic related art show, on the other, they had vendor and information tables with cupcakes and concessions, along with familiar faces like the Akron Comicon, the Doctor Who Society of Cleveland and POP. Also, being the most kid friendly comic book shop on the planet, Carol and John’s had a special play area set up for the kids. There wouldn’t be a whole lot of children at the midnight party (but still more than you might expect), however, they would be out in full force the next morning! Mazinger was a big hit by the way. Carol and John’s was giving out patches to the cosplayers and I love mine, but I would have dressed up anyhow. I may have taken more photos over three hours at the party and in that line than I did over five hours in the costume at Shinboku con. If a person knew the character, they immediately recognized it. If they didn’t know him…there was a lot of Optimus Prime and Voltron guesses. For the most part I didn’t correct people. Why harsh someone’s buzz anyhow? I took advantage of the artist alley for a change too. I got Thom Zhaler to draw my girls a My Little Pony. “”You don’t have to say it’s for your girls,” he smiled at me. “It’s okay if it’s for you you know!” It really was for my girls though. If I’d been getting one for me it would have been Doctor Whooves. Actually, that still might happen sometime. The Twilight Sparkle sketch is up in the girl’s room now, right above their autograph from the Little Mermaid. The love it. The next morning I got the girls up and I headed out to York comics. York had a really cool set up as well. They were doing a food drive. Everyone who walked in the door got the main set of books – the 12 “Gold” books. They already had these bagged in a large box and just handed out bags to everyone who walked in. In addition, if you brought in a few canned food items, you could grab ten more from the “silver” book (the other FCBD books – these are optional to order) table. I like the idea because raising food for the Cleveland food bank is a good cause, and even if you don’t participate, you’re still going to walk out with 12 free books. If you do participate, there’s a greater chance that you will walk away with the “Silver” tier books you want. I talked with on fellow in line who couldn’t get the Mouseguard hardback at Carol and Johns the previous night. That was why he was here, and I noticed he did manage to get his copy that morning. I headed back over to Carol and Johns. I was mostly here because Marc Sumerick was giving away signed copies of the collected Franklin Richards strips that he scripted, and was only going to be there from 11:00 to 1 I believe. Marc singed a copy for each of my girls and Maddie in particular is loving it. It feels like Gus Beezer to her, though to me it feels more like Calvin and Hobbes. It almost feels strange. I know Marc. I see him a couple times a month, so getting an autograph from him is kind of weird. But still, the girls loved it. I ended my day by swinging by Comics are Go! which I’ve mentioned earlier is my favorite comic shop. They had a nice selection of the Gold books along with a TON of Rocket Raccon. Scott was also have a sidewalk sale and a table full of .50 cent bins! I dove in and emptied them of all the Shadow, Green Hornet and Daredevils I could find. Actually the best discount bins of the day. It’s worth mentioning, that even though I didn’t make it to it (the girls just didn’t feel like going out), there was a great event going on in downtown Elyria where I live with superheros putting on a live show, the bank being robbed and Batman putting a stop to it! All in all, I had a great Free Comic Book Day. I came home with over 40 free comics and bought about 30 more from different dump bins (I make a point to buy something from the shops I get my freebies at. That’s only fair). More importantly, I got to spend some time in the comic scene this weekend, hang out with friends and dress up as a giant robot. I hope you’re FCBD was a good as mine! This little guys was my biggest fan. he kept coming up to me all night! I love the tricked out Mini cooper as a Ghostbuster car. Best idea ever! We actually started our night off with a game of Spider-man Monopoly before I left for the party! BEST. COSTUME. EVER. Had to get a photo by the TARDIS Special thanks to Mark Brown who took a lot of t he better photos in this post!