John Ostrander: It’s always Halloween at the Con

Before I was a professional comic book writer, I was a fan. I still am. I was going to comic cons long before I turned pro. Some are good, some are not so good, and some are the San Diego Comic Con which is too large to fit into any category. For me these days, cons are mostly working weekends where I meet with fans and fellow pros, sign some autographs, maybe sell a few of my trade paperbacks.

Last weekend, I and My Mary were at the Motor City Comic Con in Novi, Michigan, and we had a great time. It’s close enough to where we live so that we could just drive there and the Con gave us a hotel room so we didn’t have to drive back and forth. The cats weren’t pleased that we were gone but they survived and, once we fed them, forgave us our absence.

Last time I had been to Motor City was maybe a decade ago and it has really grown. My understanding is that they had over 50K attendance over the three days this year. It was large but not too large and, while it had a nice selection of media guests, it was still a con focused on comics.

I managed to make contact with some old friends such as Jim Calafiore (we worked on Magnus, Robot Fighter together) and current ones such as Chris Scalf (we have a new project we’re working on). I also met Mike McCone, with whom I had done one of my favorite Batman stories (a three-parter in Detective) but whom I had never actually met. (Comics are often like that; you work with someone but you may not actually meet them in the process.) Arvell Jones was at the table next to mine along with his family; really nice folks and a pleasure to meet them.

One of the media guests was Michael Rowe, who played Deadshot on Arrow when the Suicide Squad appeared there. I thought it would be interesting to go up to his table, introduce myself, tell him I had defined Floyd Lawton in the comic. Surprise! He showed up at my table first. He knew exactly who I was and told me he had read everything I had written on Deadshot and used that as the basis for the character he played.

I knew there was a reason I liked his version.

He was really nice and actually had me sign some of his comics. That can make your head spin around. I remembered the movie Stranger Than Fiction in which a writer discovers a character she is writing is real and they meet face to face. I’m not sure I would want to do that, given what I’ve done to a lot of my characters – especially Deadshot – so meeting Michael was a little surreal but very pleasant. He didn’t hurt me at all!

There were a couple of things that really struck me about the Con. One was not only the number of cosplayers present but the overall quality of their costumes. I know some folks are not all that keen on cosplayers at cons; some actually want them banned. For me, I really like what they add visually to a convention. It becomes like a great Halloween party.

The 501st Legion was well in evidence and they always have great costumes. I got to meet and chat with Thomas John Spanos who I first met when he was cosplaying Ganner Krieg, an Imperial Knight that Jan Duursema and I had created for Star Wars: Legacy. This time out Thomas was in his Clone Emperor incarnation. Really nice guy. I’ve been struck by his artistry and talent and attention to detail, something I find in all of the 501st members and the cosplayers in general that I saw last weekend. For example, I saw a really well done Groot posing for pictures, especially with kids who were thrilled.

Which brings me to another thing that really struck me about the Con – the number of kids I saw there, from very small to teens. About ten years ago, I saw a drop in kids at Cons and that worried me. It seemed they were all going to video games. I felt that wasn’t good for the Comics Industry. The kids are where the next generation of readers would come from and I was afraid we had lost them. I personally think that unless you start reading comics by a certain age as a kid, you don’t get into them and they’re never going to be a part of your life.

What’s changing that? Less the comics themselves with all their relaunches, new directions, and crossover events than the movies and TV shows based on comics. (They may also be more coherent and accessible than the comics.) In any case, there were a lot more kids at the show than in the past and it’s amazing how many of them were cosplaying as well.

One last thing about a Con the size of Motor City; while I was pretty busy autographing books and doing interviews, I still had time to chat with those who came to my table and I really like that. I managed to tell a lot them about the new project Tom Mandrake and I are getting ready to launch and don’t worry, I’ll be telling all of you as well when the time comes. The fans and I talked about what I’ve done in the past and hope to do in the future. I am so appreciative of the support that the fans have given me and my work over the years. Thank you.

So it was a good time and more than just a “working weekend.” I hope to do more Cons in the future and, if I do, come by and say “hi.” I give good blather, I think you’ll find.