Tuesday, October 4, 2016

NEO COMIC CON (August 14, 2016)

NEO Comic Con was a single-day event held on Sunday, August 14, at the Holiday Inn in Strongsville, Ohio. I was very familiar with the venue because it was where Sainted Wife Barb and I held our wedding reception on June 16, 1984. Due to the extensive hotel renovations since then, I couldn’t be certain if the convention was in the same physical space as our reception.

Promoter Shawn Belles put together a nice convention. There were a number of guests and a great many vendors. I saw some old friends. I sold some books and posters. I discussed business with two of the artists who will be creating prints for me to sell at future cons. I admired some terrific cosplayers. It was a fun day with only one unpleasant incident that went on too long, mostly because I failed to end it as quickly as I should have. Since I don’t want to be distracted from sharing my very favorable impressions of NEO Comic Con, I’ll talk about that incident later this week.

Loading into the show was easy with Shawn providing volunteers to help guests navigate the sometimes odd setup and assisting with our setups. Though there were a great many tables in a relatively small space, the convention never felt at all claustrophobic. Despite a large attendance, walking around the space was always comfortable. There was room to chat and room to shop.

I started my day with breakfast at the Holiday Inn restaurant. It was good food at a reasonable price, served quickly enough to allow time to spare before the convention opened its doors to the general public. I was busy throughout the day, but I was able to enjoy the chatting with fans and friends...and the looking for old comic. In no particular order...

Artists and close friends of the bloggy thing Dan Gorman and Jay E. Fife were at the event. These talented guys are the first artists I’ve signed up to do prints for me. Sometime in 2017, you will see what they’ve created and, if you see me at a convention, be able to purchase same. For contractual reasons, these prints will only be sold at my public appearances.

Marvel writer (and former editor) Marc Sumerak was on hand. Marc’s a wonderful writer and always a pleasure to talk with at an event. He should list “good guy” on his business card.

Filmmaker and comic-book maker Ted Sikora (Hero Tomorrow, Apama: The Undiscovered Animal) was there. My connection to Ted goes way back to the early 1970s when I used to work with his mom Lorraine at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She was my favorite person during my three years with the newspaper.  Apama is a fantastic and fantastically funny comic book. Some of my Facebook friends have said they feel it’s inspired by the classic comics works of the late Steve Gerber. I’ve never asked Ted about this, but, yeah, I could see it.

The multi-talented Don Simpson was at the convention. He’s an old friend and we made a few attempts at working on projects together back in the day. Having earned his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in History of Art and Architecture in 2013, he’s now Dr. Don Simpson. He’s teaching these days, but also planning a return to comics. That can’t come soon enough for me.

Fanboy frenzy! I found four of the Rawhide Kid comic books I needed at NEO Comic Con. These purchases put me a mere four issues away from  completing my collection of the Johnny Clay issues of the series. I completed the collection last month.

A question for my bloggy thing readers who purchase prints at cons. What would you consider an acceptable price for a magazine-cover size full-color print? Or for an original art page size full-color print? I need your input on this.

“Artist Alley” was in the back of the convention, but it never felt like a “ghetto” to me. Fan traffic was steady throughout the show. I sold a bunch of stuff. It was convenient for me to visit with my friends. I approve this placement.

Speaking of old pals, mostly retired comics retailer Dave Kapelka had tables at the convention. Though we were competitors back when I owned a comic shop, I always thought Dave was a straight shooter and the smartest businessman among the frequently laughable motley crew that was the Cleveland comics retailer community of the 1970s and 1980s.

There were several cool cosplayers at the convention. My favorites were three young ladies: Zatanna, Raven and female Loki. Very nice costumes. Alas, no Black Lightning, Misty Knight or Tigra. Maybe I can come up with a special certificate for any cosplayers who come to my convention table dressed as characters I created.

When I do conventions, I think about how I can improve the look of my display area. Maybe a banner showing characters I created or are known for writing?

There were lots of nice surprises at the convention. Michael Savene,  one of the Akron Comicon promoters, stopped by for a quick visit. Joe Hovorka of Canton Street Press stopped by to tell me he’s now living in the general area and to give me a copy of his reprint of Is This Tomorrow?, the anti-Communism comic book published by the Cathedral Guild in the late 1940s. Roman Macharoni of the Cleveland State University Comic Book Club was also in the house. It was cool to see so many familiar faces at the event.

Perhaps the biggest thrill was seeing my old friends Gary and Laura Dumm. Gary is best known for his work with Harvey Pekar, but he was also the main artist on the Everett True feature I used to do for Comics Buyer’s Guide. Though Gary now speaks via a throat box, his eyes and smile have the same sparkle they always did. As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mike Sangiacomo, my friends have an art show coming up soon:

“Cleveland artists Gary and Laura Dumm will incorporate famous monsters into their show, "Here There Be Monsters." The show runs from Oct. 7 through 30 at BAYarts - Diane Boldman Gallery, 28795 Lake Road, Bay Village. The art exhibit features creations made using classic monsters of film in a pop-surrealist background. The exhibit is free. Call BAYarts at 440-871-6543 for more info.”

The bottom line...I had a very nice time at NEO Comic Con. The show will be back next year in a new and bigger venue. “NEO 3" will take place on Sunday, August 20, 2017, at the Soccer Sportsplex, 31515 Lorain Road, North Olmsted, OH.

The new venue will allow for panel discussions and some interactive events. I’ve been invited to return, but, for reasons that should not be too hard for my friends and readers to figure out, I can’t commit to an appearance yet. I’d like to return, but it depends on the schedule of my other professional commitments. For more info on the show, check out its website or its Facebook page.

The other bottom line...I highly recommend NEO Comic Con. It’s fun and well-run. You should check it out.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with the next exciting installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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