I like crowds. I like big noisy events. State fairs? Love ‘em. Black Friday shopping days? I’m there. Live music with tiny crowded dance floors? Sounds good to me. San Diego Comic Con? Yeah, baby. Ditto The New York Comic Con.
But on the other hand, when I’m thinking about Geek Culture and comic conventions, I find that I also enjoy small comic conventions. There’s a certain charm, an aura of creativity and a sense of community that embraces you in a unique way that you won’t find at NYC’s Javits Center.
I had to cancel out of this past weekend’s WonderCon in Anaheim, California. That was a drag as I was looking forward to being a panelist on Rik Offenberger’s Marketing/PR panel. But I haven’t been on a convention hiatus; lately, I have been busy finding and attending them. For consecutive weekends, I attended conventions in two Central New York – The Liverpool Comic Show and The Ithacon. Both were ‘small’ cons, but they both had a lot of charm.
Vanguard’s J. David Spurlock was in rare form at the Liverpool Comic Show, but isn’t he always? And after drooling over a couple of the books he publishes, The Frazetta Sketchbook and Wally Wood: Strange Worlds of Science Fiction, I broke down and snagged them both. He also shared a Wally Wood story with my wife Kathe and I. Who knew Wally Wood lived in the Syracuse area for part of his creative life?
In fact, Kathe was charmed by Jack Robinson, who was friends with Wood. Robinson was exhibiting right next to Vanguard. He’s a strong artist in his own right, and Kathe bought a couple of Bettie Page prints from him.
Ithacon hosted some impressive guests. But they always have. Over the years, fans have had the pleasure of meeting so many fantastic creators at this show: Walt Simonson, Murphy Anderson, Frank Miller, John Byrne, Al Milgrom, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman and so many more.
Tom Peyer’s always been a favorite creator and I was so glad he was at Ithacon this year. I appreciate the unique way he mashes up his strong devotion to Silver Age comics with his subversively hilarious wit. His current comic, Aftershock’s Captain Kid is a winner and if you’re not reading it, you’re missing out.
There was another amazing part of Ithacon. Jim Shooter and Roger Stern, longtime pros and longtime pals, hosted a unique panel, where they reminisced about the days when Shooter first came to Marvel, joining Stern who was already on staff. It was a wildly entertaining hour full of great stories and behind the scene insights, all wrapped up in good natured fun. Fans deep into Bronze Age history loved this, but, due to the charisma of these two gents, even casual fans enjoyed it. The room was SRO the whole time.
It’s always cool to see the local talent. Joe Orsak, who created the long-running Captain ‘Cuse, (a local Sunday newspaper superhero who fought villains each week, like his foe Lake Effect), was at the Powercon. The always enthusiastic Jim Brenneman, from nearby Marcellus, also displayed his upbeat and friendly artwork at Ithacon.
Pulp Nouveau Comix is a great comic shop in downtown Canandaigua, NY, and the owner, Mark, was at the Liverpool show. I love his store and it has that Joe Dirt/mullet strategy: “All Business Up Front, Party in the Back.” The back room of this “Curiosity Shoppe”-style store is filled with fantastic treasures.
And like all comic conventions, there were quite a few treasures to be found including:
- Hulk vs. Superman by Roger Stern and Steve Rude. I have my copy of this prestige format comic/graphic novel ‘around here somewhere’ but I was so happy to find this at Ithacon. You see, my nephew Alexander recently asked, “Who’s stronger, Superman or the Hulk?” And when I send this to him, he’ll see!
- Somerset Holmes: The Graphic Novel by Bruce Jones, April Campbell and Brent Anderson. What a wonderful adventure this one is. I enjoyed the comics long ago, and the story-behind-the-story is one of those cautionary Hollywood tales that has always stuck with me.
- The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. I discovered the 1946 New York City Board of Education version of this publication, where they used illustrations from students of NYC’s famous School of Industrial Arts. So this book has what I believe to be Alex Toth’s and Joe Orlando’s first professionally published illustrations!
Many of you know that I’m hard at work on this summer’s Syracuse Salt City Comic-Con. It’s a midsize show that will be punching above its weight class. We’re planning some very cool things and have an amazing guest roster. More on this in the months to come, but I think come June, I might have to walk back “It’s a Small World After All.” I might be saying “Bigger is Better.”