Friday, April 3, 2015


Last October and November, I attended five conventions in just six weeks...and then never got around to writing about them. This was a disservice to these events, which I’ll be correcting throughout the month of April. By the time I catch up to writing about this year’s February appearance, I’ll be adding two ongoing features to this bloggy thing of mine. I’m excited about them.

I wrote about the one-day Cleveland Comic Con back in November. You can read my report here. For today, we move on to the Wizard World Ohio Comic Con, held October 31-November 2 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Wizard World has an undeserved reputation for not being much of a comic-book convention. While it’s true their conventions have much more than comic books, I look at this as being good for the comics community. At least that part of the community that doesn’t relish the old days when comics fans were figuratively and actually shoved into school lockers.

I see the fans who come to Wizard World for the celebrities or the cosplay or the gaming or the amazing fantasy and science-fiction crafts and doodads as having the potential to be new customers for our comic books and graphic novels. Comic-book guests and retailers have the chance to interact with thousands of potential new comics readers. Those possibilities excite me.

There was plenty of comics content at this show. Danny Fingeroth, comics historian and a former editor and writer for Marvel Comics, put together a terrific schedule of comics-oriented panels. I was on three of Danny’s panels with him and enjoyed the heck out of the experience. He’s really good at this sort of thing.

My first panel was “How to Write Comics” with Danny and Thom Zahler of Love and Capes fame. It was so entertaining and informative that I even learned something from it, albeit a marketing tip I picked up from Zahler. During the panel, Zahler had copies of some of his L&C collections on little stands. They were a constant reminder to the audience of what was for sale at my friend’s Artist Alley table. I thought that was a great idea. Who says you can’t teach an old dog the occasional new trick?

I also appeared on Danny’s “1939: Batman’s Beginning and the Year That Changed Everything” panel, which was a great presentation of the era in which Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s legendary creation was introduced to the world. To accompany the panel, Danny had prepared

a slideshow of the year’s key events and people.  Because Danny had given me time to prepare, I was able to do my own research on 1939. The audience learned a lot from this panel.

So did I. I had a copy of my award-deserving 1000 Comic Books You Must Read on a display stand throughout the panel. When I got back to my Artist Alley table, there was a run on the book. I ended up selling every copy I had brought to the convention.

“From, Cap’s Shield to Agents of SHIELD to Groot: Marvel Comics at 75" was the third panel I did with Danny. With less than an hour to cover three-quarters-of-a-century worth of Marvel history, it was a rapid-fire panel. Danny had another slideshow and the two of us traded facts and quips as we sped along. Of my quips, my favorite was “The Blonde Phantom could do everything the male heroes could do, but backwards and in heels.”

The Greater Columbus Convention Center is an excellent facility for events. Unlike the steaming dump that is NYC’s Javitz Center, it is a clean and well-maintained facility with ample room for conventions. The Center is located in the heart of the Arena District, noted for its entertainment and fine dining. It is connected to two hotels - the Hyatt Regency and the Drury Inn - with a convenient food court located on a lower level between those two establishments. I had tasty and reasonably priced meals at Chicken and Eggs, Fame’s Diner and the Siam Express. There are over a dozen other eateries in the court. There’s even a comic-book shop next to the food court. I like this venue so much that I rarely pass on an opportunity to attend a convention or event held there.

Back to the convention. The Wizard World promoters and workers are efficient, friendly and always treat me right. My table was across from Nathan Szerdy Art. Szerdy had a magnificent display of prints done in the style of 1940s pin-ups and posters. His work is clever and striking. I bought three prints towards that distant day when I can frame and hang them on my office wall.

Lots of great creators were in Artist Alley as well. With apologies to those I will inevitably leave out, these included Andrew Shaffer (author of How to Survive a Sharknado), Dace Acosta, David Aikins, Dirk Manning, Patrick and Shelly Block, Sandy Plunkett, Sean Forney and Victor Dandridge.

Some random notes from the convention:

Hipster idiots smoking their E-cigarettes look even dumber than the just plain idiots smoking real cigarettes. You can take the cancer out of the cigarettes but you can’t take out the stupid.

It was a great joy to see some of my old Cosmic Comics customers at the convention. It was am even greater joy to introduce a group of young black men to Black Lightning, my proudest comics creation. I had a great time talking with these guys and we continued our talk when they came to the Akron Comic Con a week later.

It was not great to see a creepy fan we threw out of Mid-Ohio-Con back in the day. He carries around a sketchbook filled with awful drawings of super-villainesses and, if given the opportunity, goes on and on about his sexual and violent fantasies about them.  When I first met this guy a decade or so ago, he thanks me profusely for bringing back the Marvel Comics villainess Nightshade. Then he told me he’d do anything for Nightshade, including murdering a pregnant woman for her. He creeped out other Mid-Ohio-Con guests, fans and volunteers before he was barred from the convention. I’d hoped this guy would have been put away in the years between Mid-Ohio-Con and today’s conventions, but, alas, he’s still out there. He has been warned to stay well away from me at future conventions.

Back to the pleasant stuff...

Wizard World has free bags for fans at the entrance to its shows. They’ve probably had these for a while, but this is the first time I noticed it.

I had a very brief conversation with Nicholas Brandon, who played Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I told him how much I liked him in the SyFy movie Fire Serpent (2007) and remarked that I hoped he would do more films like that. He is perfect for the slightly geeky but capable hero of such films. He thanked me for the compliment.

Addendum. I know Brandon is going through some rough times at the present and I wish him all the best. He seemed like a nice guy to me and the fans seem to like him a lot.

The cosplay was enormous fun at the convention. My favorite was the guy dressed in an amazing Groot costume who never broke character save for a private chat he had with me. If someone asked permission to take his picture, the response was “I am Groot!” Who would have through a 1960s Marvel monster would end up becoming a cinematic and comics superstar?

Other wondrous cosplay: the 1960s Batman with a bomb he was trying to get rid of...a cute Zatanna or two...and a sensational Dazzler from the disco era. After Groot, my favorite was the young lad who was cosplaying as Star-Lord. However, when someone called him Star-Lord he corrected them and said he was “the legendary Star-Lord!” Even when I don’t recognize the characters - as in any character from video games - I enjoy watching the cosplay at conventions. Well done, ladies and gents!

If I had to pick a favorite moment of the show, it would be when I overheard two young boys. They had just come from a Lego exhibit, making their way to Artist Alley for the first time since arriving at the convention. When they realized where they were, one of them exclaimed to the other:

Look! They have comic books, too!

I found that ironic, delightful and exciting. Ironic because comic books is where the fan festivals known as Wizard World make their entrance into the world. Delightful because the kids were just so darned pleased by their discovery. Exciting because this is what I think events like Wizard World can be. Though comic books may only make up part of the convention, they can still bring new readers to our part of that world. I like that a lot.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

No comments:

Post a Comment