Saturday, November 11, 2017

AKRON COMICON 2017 (Part One of Two)

Bloggy Tony is way behind on writing about the comics conventions and other events he attended this year. There are seven all told, though he’s not allowed to blog about the most recent event until sometime next month. He’s going to try to write about all of them before the end of the year, starting, inexplicably, with the second most recent event. Go figure.

The Akron Comicon was held Saturday/Sunday, November 4 & 5 at the John S. Knight Convention Center. The center is a decent facility with an extremely helpful loading dock staff and an above-average concessions operation. It could use another rest room or two, but that’s a minor complaint. It’s a mid-size center with a large area for guests and retailers and a large auditorium for panels and the always popular cosplay competition.

Inspired by Roger Price’s classic Mid-Ohio-Con conventions, Akron Comicon promoters Robert Jenkins, Michael Savene and Jesse Vance always put on an event that is comics-driven and fan-friendly. It is a show about comics past, present and future that serves comics fans first and foremost.

This year, the convention was celebrating Black Lightning’s forty years in comics. The headline guests were yours truly, Trevor von Eeden (the original series artist), Jack C. Harris (original series editor) and Eddy Newell, who draw my second Black Lightning run in the 1990s. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, Eddy wasn’t able to attend the convention. He was missed.

This was the first convention Trevor, Jack and I had ever been at a convention together. Trevor and I were next to each other in the guests/vendors room with Jack sitting directly behind me. Leave it to an editor to be on my back constantly.

This reunion was everything I had hoped for. I love those guys and we got to spend a lot of time together. The three of us did a Black Lightning panel on Saturday afternoon and, though we didn’t fill the large auditorium, we had a pretty good crowd who learned a lot about Black Lightning and the three of us.

WBNX-TV, the area CW affiliate, was also on hand with their prize and swag booth. The WBNX crew are some of the best people I know. They love the shows they are airing, especially those featuring the DC Comics heroes. They are almost as excited as I am when it comes to the Black Lightning series debuting in the mid-season. They had free Black Lightning posters for the convention fans. If you spun their prize wheel and landed on Black Lightning, you could also get a Black Lightning umbrella. Pretty cool, huh?

Throughout Akron Comicon, I was selling and signing Black Lightning Volume One (reprinting the original run of the character), Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 (both the main cover and the variant cover) and back issues of Black Lightning and my other writings. I signed hundreds of the above and almost as many of the posters from WBNX-TV. I answered questions and posed for photographs with Jack, Trevor and the fans.

Trevor was kept busy doing all of the above and drawing commissions for the art collectors in the audience. He’s a fascinating speaker with an amazing personal story and insights on a range of subjects. We hope to work together again in the near future.

Jack was also doing the signing thing while answering questions on his long and varied career. He worked closely with legends such as Steve Ditko, Kurt Schaffenberger, Murray Boltinoff, Dick Ayers and many others. When Trevor and I find that project we want to do, we intend to bring the entire band back together by asking Jack to be our editor.

It was breathtakingly cool to be reunited with Jack and Trevor, and to introduce them to my Sainted Wife Barb. She liked them both and there’s no better judge of character.

Don’t think Akron Comicon was entirely about Black Lightning. We shared the event with almost three dozen featured guests and just as many great retailers, artist alley creators and some very fine cosplayers. I hope to have photos of the cosplayers for you in the second part of this report.

On the reverse side of the convention program book was Adventures in Comics #0 featuring a trio of previews from convention guests. For the first time in color, Robert A. Kraus presented his first Chakan story, “Chakan Vs. Dracula.” The second preview was The Tap Dance Killer by writers Ted Sikora and Milo Miller. Finally, there was a one-page introduction of Sean and Stephanie Forney’s Scarlet Huntress. All three previews were fun.

Sidebar. A special bloggy thank you to Sean and Stephanie Forney. They brought me one of the ginormous Black Lightning bags from the San Diego Comic-Con International. I almost have enough of them for my entire family.

On Saturday, the convention presented six special events. Benjamin Hammer hosted an open panel on cosplay. Jack, Trevor and I did out Black Lightning panel. Dirk Manning, who has raised over $102,000 on a number of Kickstarter graphic novel campaigns, was happy to share his hard-earned experience. Mike Sangiacomo of the Cleveland Plain Dealer interviewed Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz, Mike Gustovich and others. Vernon McWain-Moore and Ken Rose presented a live edition of their DC Superpowers Podcast. The Saturday events schedule ended with the Rubber City Cosplayers hosting the Akron Comicon costume contest.

After the convention closed on Saturday, the show promoters had a shuttle waiting for the guests. We were driven to Belgrade Gardens in nearby Barberton for a scrumptious dinner. The speciality of the house is chicken in myriad varieties, lots of side dishes, great bread and delicious deserts. What a meal!

Barb and I sat at a long table with Jack C. Harris, Mike W. Barr, Ron Frenz, Tom DeFalco and others. Trevor von Eeden, as incredibly industrious as he always is, had opted to go straight to our hotel so that we could finish a batch of commissions he had accepted at the convention. I don’t know if Trevor works with an agent or not, but I do know you art collectors can count on him to deliver great pieces in a timely fashion. I’m hoping to get a couple of special pieces from him before the end of the year.

This was more than a dinner. It was an awards dinner. To celebrate Black Lightning’s 40-year career, the Akron Comicon presented Jack, myself, the absent Eddy Newell and Trevor with lifetime achievement awards for our work on the character.
Black Lightning. 1977-2017. Helping to save the world for 40 years. And, it is certainly hoped, many more years to come.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the second and final part of this year’s Akron Comicon report. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

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