I am far from a comic person. I do appreciate art though and comics are an art which after this event, I appreciate so much more.
I'd never been to a comic convention. I have waded through hundreds of pictures from my friend (Anthony) who has been to New York & San Diego's Comic-Cons before. His pictures fascinated me - people were dressing up & the fans were beyond dedicated. Their dedication alone intrigued me.
My now four-year-old son, H, loves comics. He knows even tiny details like a character that appeared once some series a while back. He retains this stuff... and cares. My husband, who had abandoned comics long ago, found himself enveloped, once again, in the graphic work of comics. Together, my husband and my son share this bond of comics.
We live in RTP-area of North Carolina. 2-1/2 hours away, there is a yearly comic convention held in Charlotte called HeroesCon (named after the store that sponsors it 'Heroes Aren't Hard to Find'). It's a 3 day event and from what we had heard, a pretty decent-sized one.
We made plans, as a family, to attend. Keep in mind my kids: C just turned 6 and often states his dislike of comics, H just turned 4 and is more than a comic fan, and then there is the "baby", O, who is 2 who likes to play with super heroes but isn't obsessed by any means. Well, based on prices and perks, we opted to get 3-day passes for the family.
Thursday, June 3rd, 2010:
My husband left for Charlotte "for work" around 5 am because that afternoon, pre-registration opened. Hubby went to get the bracelets, neck tags designed by Skottie Young (and gets 3 extras for the kidlets - yay), and goodies that come with pre-registration. Best part? Knowing that we got into the convention a half-an-hour earlier than the general public. That was the best perk to us.
Friday, June 4th, 2010:
My morning started off getting C ready and off to school and then, with 2 kids still at my side, getting ready for the trip.
Hubby got to go to HeroesCon when it opened on day one. Hubby waited in line to attend his first comic convention. It was Day One of the event and opened first only to those pre-registered. His friends tried to prepare him for what to expect and how to handle the convention but actually being there is different. He did the best he could by scoping the place out and chatting with some people he was recommended to.
I left the house at 12:30 to pick up C from school and we were on our way - 3 kids in tow, 1 adult, driving straight to Charlotte 3 hours away. All that drama aside, we arrived at the Westin Charlotte. We went the the room, got settled and got ready to head out the door to the convention.
My 1st thought? "Wow! This is huge & impressive. Now where are all the people dressed up?"
Guess I got spoiled by all those San Diego & New York pictures. Half the convention center was set up like a flea market selling mainly just comic books but along with some figures, t-shirts and very little other stuff. The other half was people sitting behind tables ready to make some money selling their artwork sketches, prints, comics, CDs, etc. It was a far cry from what I always saw in my friends pictures. No new, exciting previews of new toys or movies. I was a bit taken back, unprepared for what this convention had in store. Getting onto the floor, we started just walking around.
C, saw the Boom! Kids area and was drawn in (no pun intended here) because he loves Disney-Pixar's Cars. Cole asked Allen Gladfelter to draw in his sketch book, which was brand new at this time. Allen obliged and took his time and drawing Wingo. It was a really nice sketch but took too long for C to be able to stay and watch him (thanks ADHD). The other 2 couldn't just stand there so I walked them around a bit. Allen was nice enough to do a free sketch and all but didn't seem to care very much about how excited my son was over a Cars car being in his book. I was left with a bad taste in my mouth about how this all goes down.
Well, Boom! Kids was kind of stuck in the comic book area. Everyone else was together in the back.
We headed to Artist's Alley. Excitedly, Franco Aureliani was there. He does Tiny Titans and my kidlets like that comic a lot. H had his plan, he wanted Robin (who he adores) and C wanted Mr. Trigon. We get up to Franco and C's request remained Raven's Dad, Mr. Trigon. Franco happily sketched, inked and then colored the request. Rather fast and pretty darn perfect (especially being he is the writer, not the artist for Tiny Titans). H proceeded to ask for Cyborg in his sketch book. I don't know what happened to his Robin plan but Cyborg looked amazing in my opinion. Both are wonderful sketches and Franco was a pleasure to deal with!
Next to Franco was a guy who did some stuff I hadn't heard of.
His name was (and still is) Jamie Cosley. He had some cute sketches and paintings up (like Red Hulk and a flower, and Baby Spidey). H asked Jamie nicely for a sketch of Hulk. He quickly drew out a cute Hulk holding a McD's cup that H still looks at and giggles over (and FYI - it's scanned in & my work computer's desktop). He is a great guy and that alone makes me want to see more of his stuff.
Tom, who arrived earlier than us, apparently chatted a bit with Rob Anderson & Grace Chang of Panda Dog Press. So we, as a family, went to see them (and also did so on Saturday & Sunday). They were so nice! They gave each kid a button which they happily wore. They spoke to the kids so nicely and for some reason, Owen was very interested. Rob tried to use his phone to take a picture of the kidlets in their pins. They were super cool people.We didn't realize that the comic they did, Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit, was brand new and debuting at HeroesCon. We so would have bought one!
Kidlets got hungry, cranky and ready to relax. We called it a night just after 6 pm and headed back to our room at the Westin. We had a great view of the convention center and at night it was just a great, beautiful view.
While hubby ran out to get food, I decided I'd try and devise a plan of attack, if you will, for the next 2 days. Trying to figure out who we should make sure to try and see because the kids knew their work or something. I tried, best a non-comic mom could. Eventually, we all went to sleep.
Saturday, June 5th, 2010:
We were there before it opened. H proudly wore his Flash shirt, a cape he got 2 years ago with an "H" on it, and had me faux-hawk his hair red. Cuteness should help, right?
1st person H went to was Mike Norton. I saw he did Green Arrow & Blue Beetle stuff and he looked nice enough. Mike definitely was nice. H asked for Blue Beetle. Mike asked if he wanted The Brave & The Bold Blue Beetle as-if to confirm. H quickly retorted by specifying he wanted the old Blue Beetle like the one in the picture behind Mike himself. Mike seemed a bit taken back by a little kid wanted old-skool Ted Kord Blue Beetle but gladly fulfilled his request. He was very nice to us all.
I had a good feeling for the morning. We started on a great note. H was happy he included his name on the picture too!
Walking around a bit more we got pulled in by Mark Mariano and his friend. They were selling their comic called Happyloo. It was a series of stories, all wordless, and each comic was followed up by real life facts (like if there was a panda in the story, they'd talk about real pandas and bamboo and such). It was a nice idea. Bright. Colorful. Cheery. Something that even O could enjoy.
Mark asked if they wanted a sketch and they both said yes. C said he wanted Fred Flintstone. He obliged but to be honest, my on-the-fly Fred would have been better. H didn't care so he drew one of his main characters named Meatsauce. He told us how he was based on his father. Meatsauce was an OK sketch but it didn't matter. The guys were super sweet. They are from North Jersey (kinda near home-ish) and they seemed to genuinely care about the kids.
They gave each kid (and us) 2 bookmarks. We did buy the Happyloo book for $8.00. They thought the kids were cute and loved that they listened to such great music like Pantera and how they started singing 'We Will Rock You' by Queen, even including O. Mark's friend was so impressed, he gave them a CD they were selling for $5.00 a pop for free. It was their band called the O>Matics. Pretty cool, huh? Well, the music, again in MY opinion, was horrible. Stick with the comics, Mark!
Walking around, Tom noticed John Gallagher, mainly because he had NASCAR Heroes on his table and anything that might interest C had to be a good thing. I don't know how I missed him in my "planning" last night but apparently I had. Behind him a banner of a character called Buzzboy hung. Buzzboy looked very familiar.
The kids asked him for sketches. C went first and he got the main character of NASCAR Heroes, Jimmy Dash. While waiting for the sketch, C picked out a few copies of NASCAR Heroes for us to buy.
Then it was H's turn. He chose the guy behind John, Buzzboy. As he sketched away, he chatted. I told him how H loves Robin. He said that he always had and that was his inspiration for Buzzboy.
Now it clicked. That is why his character looked so familiar. He definitely (and admittedly) resembled Robin which is pretty cool. I really enjoyed hearing about the inspiration of his Super Hero.
Next to John Gallagher was Dave McDonald. He's an author/Illustrator/Lots more!
He was super nice to the kids, but that's more his sorta thing - Kids! Seems everything he does revolves around kids, which is perfect for us! The kids each got a small B&W comic booklet of one of his characters Vincent VanDoodle. H got a business card that had a mustache on it because "real cartoonists have a cartoon mustache". Plus, look how ultra cute H looks in it! :) He totally dug this thing. His hook certainly worked on my kids!
H was walking past Tim Townsend and his art caught his attention. He held out his sketch book and asked politely for a sketch of Iron-Man. Tim apologetically said he was not doing sketches at this weekend. H almost broke down into tears. Tim felt badly and gave him one of the sketched prints he was selling for free just to make him not cry. H thought it was very nice (as did we). Sorry our son made ya feel bad, Tim! It's hard to resist that face... we should know!
We called it a day for the comic show. We had plans to make C happy and go to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum which opened up next door. But, we couldn't leave the convention without getting 3 light sabers, now could we?
(the force is strong in this one)
Sunday, June 6th, 2010:
We went in with a mission. We didn't have much time between breakfast, packing, and having to checkout. So we made every second count best we could. H made it count too. He wore his Iron-Man costume complete with "working" Repulsor and Arc Reactor. He was ready to be cute...
We walked by Sanford Greene and decided to ask him for a sketch. We had to wait while he chatted with a "neighbor" and then a guy came over. The guy apparently commissioned some sketches from him and had him sign some other ones. H proceeded to ask for Batman Brave & The Bold. He got a very cool, very simple, very perfect Batman head. We all totally dig it!
I am sure it was because it was day 3 of the convention and he was kinda burnt out but he was a bit on the "ugh - another brat asking for something"-side in my motherly opinion. Not holding it against him, just noted for next time we may meet.
The last artist we saw was a guy who was sitting on the back wall and had some wonderful colored sketches up behind him. As we passed by, he told us he did free sketches. His name is Jason Carr of Vanguards of Comics. We were excited to have him sketch in H's book. H, again pulling out a sorta oddball guy, asked for Galactus. Jason asked us to leave the book and come back in 30 minutes.
When we came back to get the book, he drew an awesome Galactus (I think it looks cool although I don't know who he is)(a comic-loving friend said his favorite drawing we got was the Galactus one).
He said he didn't realize his colors would bleed through the page so bad and he felt bad. He ripped out the "messed up" page and gave us a sketch someone asked him to draw but never came to get. It was a cool picture of Raven. I know Raven. It's obviously not drawn in the book but a separate sheet of paper. I kinda feel like that one is mine. :)
We didn't find or get sketches from most of who I "planned". Meh. So it goes. But, there were two people we actually cared about.
One was Evan Dorkin who does Super Martian Robot Girl on Yo Gabba Gabba!. He would have been awesome since YGG is one of O's favorite shows. That was the first "super hero" he liked. It was someone they all could have agreed upon. No luck finding him.
The other person was Sean Gordon Murphy. We couldn't find him either. He does Teen Titans who is like super huge in this house right now. H is always begging to put on Teen Titans and come on... Teen Titans has one of the coolest theme songs! How many shows have 2 versions of their theme song one of them being in Japanese? Cool, huh? Well, sadly, we couldn't find him but that's just how this stuff goes.. I guess.
Again, I expected lots of people dressed up. Guess that's why I guess staring at Anthony's pictures from NY & SD Comic Cons.
Anyway, we did see: Captain America (he had an amazing costume that must have cost a lot and made him sweat a lot), Superman, Red Skull, Snake Eyes & Scarlet, Joker, Harlequin, Lara Croft (more than one), Zatana, Reed Hood & Loki, and Mockingbird. After looking online at pictures from HeroesCon, apparently there were more people we didn't see, but, oh well.
EXTRA THOUGHTS & RANDOM TIDBITS:
What was your impression? It was bigger than I thought but not as fun as I thought. There were no new toys or sneak peeks. I don't care about old comic books which filled nearly half the convention hall. The artists stuff was really cool, but many of them only seemed to care about paying customers. I get that but things is, what my kid likes, is what sells in our house. They shouldn't dismiss a kid who comes over. They are the new generation. They are who is gonna keep it all alive.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. In fact, I am a sick person and am trying to figure out how to go to the next set of conventions!
What on earth did you like about it? Well, I loved watching people work. Seeing artists sketch. Seeing people do inking and coloring. Watching people paint in canvas. I love art. I love seeing it done. It was just fascinating. I like how passionate people are. I like that my middle son & husband are amongst others who appreciate comics like they do. I liked "finding" comics that weren't mainstream and ones that C or O might enjoy.
Anything else? Well, a week & half since HeroesCon, the kids love HappyLoo! I "read" it to them once and now H loves to make his own stories up to the pictures. I think it's truly a wonderful idea. Marvel & DC should hop on that boat... make a graphic novel with no words, just once, for kids. Anyway, kudos to Mariano for his wonderful idea and execution.
Also, I have dealt with Jamie Cosley since then. He drew an awesome Father's Day present for my hubby - he made him into a Green Lantern. he did an amazing job and we're going to commission him for a family picture soon. His artwork and turn-around time is downright amazing. We thank you again, with all we have, for your awesome sketch (see following post).