Monday, November 14, 2016


This year’s Akron Comicon marked the event’s move to the John S. Knight Convention Center. It’s a larger venue the show’s previous location at the getting-less-desirable-every-year Quaker Station. The Comicon, which was held on Saturday and Sunday, November 5-6, occupied roughly half the available space of the Center. In 2017, when the Akron Comicon absorbs Monsterfest Mania, it will fill the entire place. Man, am I looking forward to that!

The Comicon was a first for the Knight Center. The Center workers, from the guys at the loading dock to the concessions staff to the security people, were all friendly. They were honestly excited to be hosting the Comicon.

Loading into the con was pretty simple. It was the first convention where I set up the stylish display stand my son Eddie gave me for Father’s Day. It showcased the Black Lightning trade paperback and my remaining copies of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read beautifully, and drew compliments from other guests.

On the table itself, I had a box of Isabella-written comics, a box of dollar comics, the Garfield books I worked on for PaperCutz and the double-sided Superman poster I helped designed for Cleveland’s International Superman Exposition in 1988. I also brought all the leftover Halloween candy from our house. The candy was free to all. I consider this self-defense because you know I would have eaten it all myself if it had stayed at my house.
Before the convention opened, I made sure to stop by the booth set up by my friends at WBNX-TV, Cleveland’s CW station. If you visited their table, you could spin a wheel and win a CW-related prize of some sort. Over the course of the con, I scored an Agents of SHIELD backpack, a Supernatural poster, an iZombie magnet, and a WBNX-TV drink container. Great station, great swag.

Saturday was a whirlwind of activity for me. The show ran from 10 am to 6 pm with the hours just flying by. My booth was behind the table shared by Alan Davis and Mike W. Barr, which was across the aisle from Alan Grant’s table. Those three fine creators commanded the most attention and the longest lines. I think my proximity to them is one of the reasons I had better sales at this show than at any of my other 2016 appearances.

Next to me was Tom Orzechowski, my friend of almost half a century and one of the best letterers in comics. There were lots of other old pals at the convention and I’ll be telling you about them as I write about the event.

Warning...I was so busy at the con I didn’t have time to take any notes. Expect my report to be all over the place.

Over the two days, I signed as many and possible more comic books than I have at any other event this year. The most frequent things I signed were Black Lightning (of course), The Champions, Hawkman, Marvel Premiere (Iron Fist), Justice Machine, the Captain America prose novel I wrote with Bob Ingersoll, 1000 Comic Books You Must Read and various DC and Marvel history books. My wrist was actually sore by Sunday night.

My “Tony’s Tips” panel was scheduled for 1 pm and drew an excellent crowd. I told a bunch of stories about my life and comics career, spoke about how important diversity in comics is to me and to our art form, recommended some comics and graphic novel to the audience and made an impertinent joke about John Byrne. I felt a little bad about that, but only for a couple seconds. I mean, you know, John Byrne. ‘Nuff said.

Before I could grab lunch, I was asked to appear on the live radio show that was broadcasting from the Knight Center. There was only one thing wrong with the broadcast. I can’t remember the station’s name or where to go online to listen to the interview. As soon as someone who was at the convention sends me that information, I’ll post here and on my Facebook page. There are times when I think I need a helper human to come to these things with me.

One of my complaints about this year’s Monsterfest Mania was that there was no easily-available food at the con. That was definitely wasn’t a problem at the Knight Center. The two concessions stands had a decent selection and, judging from the slice of pizza I had, tasty offerings. I liked the pizza so much that I got another slice on Sunday. The concession workers were friendly and very efficient. That’s a winning combination for any exhibitor, fan or guest with a limited amount of time to eat.

I did one more interview on Saturday. Amanda Garrett of the Akron Beacon Journal spoke to me for about a half-hour or so. Her article on the show ran in Sunday’s edition.

It was around four o’clock when I realized I had not yet been able to say “hi” to and chat with a bunch of cool people. I did exchange hugs with the wondrous Allen Bellman, who drew Captain America and other features back in the 1940s. I never got a chance to meet the two super-hero Captains who were at the show: Reb Brown, who played Captain America in the 1970s TV movies Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon; and Jackson Bostwick, Captain Marvel in the first season of the Shazam! series in 1974-75. I hope to meet them at some future event.

I did spend some time talking with Craig Yoe, who creates all those wildly wondrous reprint comic books and hardcover collections over at IDW. My only actual purchase at the convention was Yoe’s Super Weird Heroes, which I’ve been recommending to every comics reader whose path crosses mine.

More dear pals at the show. Ohio’s own Thom Zahler (Love and Capes, Long Distance, My Little Pony) and Michigan’s own Paul Storrie (Gotham Girls, Robin Hood) were set up next to one another. I see Thom regularly, but it’s been ages since I’ve had a chance to talk with Paul at length. Seeing Paul reminded me that DC is leaving a chunk of money on the table by not collecting Gotham Girls in trade paperback or hardcover. It’s a terrific story starring some of the company’s most popular characters. I know I’d buy a copy...unless I could sweet-talk my friends at DC into having me write the intro for it and thus get one for free. Oh, heck, I’d still buy a copy of two. Them’s really good comics.

By the time the show closed, I was running on fumes. I drove over to the official Akron Comicon hotel: the Marriott Courtyard, about a mile from the Knight Center. It’s a very modern and comfortable hotel within line of sight of the famous Luigi’s Pizza, the model for Montoni’s Pizza in Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean.

Various dinner plans fell through. A Mexican restaurant that we’d heard of was closed. Luigi’s had its usual long line of customers waiting to get in. A nice little bar next to Luigi’s didn’t have a big enough menu to satisfy one of our party. The snooty restaurant next to the hotel was, well, snooty with the host speaking to us as if we were hicks:

“It is Saturday night, after all. You can’t possibly expect us to seat you [in one of our many empty tables] without a reservation. We could maybe squeeze you sometime after 9.” 

Squeeze this, Nasal Whine Boy.

Tired as I was, I took my leave of my intended dinner companions. The Marriott didn’t have a proper restaurant or room service. What it did have, in its lobby, was The Bistro, which served appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, cocktails, beer, wine and soft drinks. I ordered a turkey BLT to go with cole slaw and fresh fruit sides. The service time was longer than it should have been, but the meal itself was good.

While I ate, I watched The Ohio State Buckeyes clobber the Nebraska Huskies 62-3. The team would repeat that score a week later against the Maryland Terrapins. I didn’t watch the entire game because the outcome was pretty clear early on. I watched long enough to finish my meal and get ready for the second day of the convention. I did a little more channel-surfing without finding anything that grabbed my interest. Then I called it a night.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the conclusion of my Akron Comicon 2016 report. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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