Tagged: Joe Orsak

Ed Catto: It’s a Small World, After All

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.

It was nice to see ComiXology’s Chip Mosher make an appearance at the local show. Catching up with him was filled with a lot of smiles and laughs, as always.

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.”





Ed Catto: Think Globally, Geek Locally


ww-craft-at-rocconThe madness that is San Diego Comic-Con gave way to the easy fun of Baltimore Comic-Con. Now Geek Culture gets ready for the last big comic convention of the year, New York Comic Con, with anxiety and anticipation.

But it’s not really as simple as that. There have been plenty of really good conventions each and every week. And there’s more being planned.

So even though I was still a little “space happy” (as Mr. Sulu once said) from the Star Trek: Mission New York Convention, I put on my favorite convention shoes and made my way to the Rochester Comic Con – which they call RocCon.

A little background: I grew up in the rolling countryside of the Finger Lakes. But these last few years – it simultaneously seems like both a lifetime and the blink of an eye – I lived in the metro NYC area. There I did become a little snooty and jaded. I almost went into RocCon with a chip on my shoulder and ready to peer down my nose, in classic “city mouse” fashion, to be amongst the “country mice” of Rochester.

But, you know what? It was a lot of fun. Everybody seemed to be enjoying it.

“It was the best one yet!” said Josie Walsh, a three year RocCon veteran who’s just 16 years old.

The vendors seemed to be doing well. The artists and authors seemed to do well. The fans seemed really happy. The food trucks enjoyed brisk business. And unlike other cons, I didn’t find any long lines that would discourage fans.

img_0244Guest Who?

There were some fun guests there. Talented comic artists like Mark Texiera, Mark Sparacio and Joe Orsak are fun for a fan like me, but it went beyond that. For example:

  • Julie Millillo is a cosplayer and author, and was promoting both skills at her booth. She also has a lovely singing voice, and thrilled fans by singing in an auditorium presentation.
  • Lou Ferrigno was there. In any given year, I think I see him more than I see my own brothers. But evidently, the fans haven’t tired of him. They loved him and couldn’t get enough.
  • Vic Mignogna is an actor who appears in Star Trek Fan-Films. That’s a fascinating geek subgenre. I was looking forward to speaking to him and learning more about how it all works. But I didn’t get the chance. As a vocal talent of many anime series, fans mobbed him throughout the show.

The Craft of Crafts

There were quite a few booths with entrepreneurs looking to create something in geek space and get a “seat at the table”. Their enthusiasm was infectious and I couldn’t help but root for them to succeed.

“Speaking with the artist/creators selling geek culture wares was inspirational. They are a welcoming community that I am proud to support,” Lisa Walsh, a sixth grade math and ELA teacher at Jamesville DeWitt Middle School near Syracuse.

julie-millillio-rocconBut local Geek Culture didn’t stop at the Rochester city limits, or come to a halt on that Sunday night.

Buffalo Comic Con

The following week, the nearby city of Buffalo hosted its own comic convention. It’s been going on for 17 years, run by Queen City Bookstore’s Emil Novak. He’s a great guy and I love this description of him from Art Voice, a Buffalo mewspaper:

“Seriously? There’s another Comicon? Who’s organizing it? Has to be, should be, and is Emil Novak Sr., Owner of Queen City Books in Buffalo, and the most logical person in this city to do something like this…. And Novak has comic book ink running through his veins. (Seriously, Dracula took a bite of him once and spit out a mouthful of black India Ink.)”

Clearly, they respect Emil and they revel in the homegrown aspect of this convention. And in the article, Emil talked about how he works to make the Buffalo Comic Con an easy, affordable alternative to the bigger shows.

young-fans-at-rocconThink Globally, Geek Locally

That’s the big idea here. There’s enough Geek Culture to go around for everyone. And there’s enough fun, excitement and revenue to make it all work in these “secondary markets.”

That sounds pretty snobby, doesn’t it? “Secondary Markets” is something a big city guy says. I think we need a better adjective to describe all these fantastic mid-size and small comic conventions. There’s your homework assignment – come up with a good phrase before the experts do.

In the meantime, support your friendly neighborhood comic con.