Tuesday, November 12, 2013


The second annual Akron Comicon took place on Saturday, November 9,
at the University of Akron’s Quaker Station.  If I were a gambling
man, I’d wager with confidence that the two things promoters Robert
Jenkins and Michael Savene most heard were:

“What an awesome convention!”


“You’re gonna need a bigger boat!”

The convention was jumping from start to finish.  Before the doors
opened at 10 am, there was a line of fans waiting to get into the
con.  Indeed, as fans bought their tickets and entered the event,
more fans arrived.  The line didn’t disappear until around two in
the afternoon.

Inside the convention, fans found lots of comics industry guests,
lots of dealers and lots of terrific cosplayers.  I was one of the
guests and I had a great convention, so great it’ll probably take
me two days to tell you about the one-day event.

There were around two dozen guests.  Many of them were old friends.
Some were new friends.  One was a friend of about a decade who I’d
never met face-to-face.  I’ll start with him.

Adam Beechen writes for animation and comic books.  His animation
credits include the legendary - well, to me, anyway - “Blast from
the Past” episode of Static Shock.  He’s also written for X-Men:
Evolution, Teen Titans, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Scooby-Doo!
Mystery Incorporated, The Adventures of Chuck & Friends
and more.
His comics credits include Justice League Unlimited, Robin, Teen
Titans, Batman Beyond
and, until recently, Batman Beyond Unlimited.

Adam and I “met” when I reviewed Hench, his first comics work and
a wonderful graphic novel about a super-villain henchman.  I liked
Hench so much I included it in my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read.
We’ve exchanged e-mails and Facebook messages for years, but this
was the first time we could talk face-to-face.

We chatted for 30-40 minutes about comics, mutual friends and more.
I was already assumed hanging out with Adam would be the high point
of my convention.  But, while I was sitting at his table deciding
that one more bite of the delicious Comicon-provided lunch would be
dangerous - it was a huge hot dog piled high with barbequed pulled
pork and bacon bits - the real high point of the convention walked
up and introduced himself to me.  I was thrilled Adam was there to
share it with me and I wish all my friends and bloggy thing readers
could have been there as well.

I have to preface this story with the admission I have no memory of
my meeting with a 12-year-old Dru Woodward, who has since become a
very accomplished artist.  I know the date is off because I wasn’t
living in Fairlawn 35 years ago.  Barb and I were married in 1984
and I moved into what would become our apartment sometime in 1983.
After the story, I’ll try to explain why I have no memory of that
long-ago meeting with Dru.

Here’s Dru’s story...

He’s a twelve-year-old kid who wants to draw comic books.  From a
letters page, he finds out Tony Isabella lives in the Akron area.
He goes to the phone book and finds out this Isabella guy lives a
few blocks away.  He grabs his drawings and he heads to the address
in the phone book.

A very groggy me answers the door.  I was working ridiculous hours
back then, heading into Cleveland at 5 am every morning to get my
Cosmic Comics store ready for the day, working there until 2 pm or
so, then driving back to write and occasionally sleep.  According
to Dru, I shook off my grogginess, figured out what he was asking
and let him into the house.

Dru tells me I spent something like an hour-and-a-half going over
his artwork, discussing it with him, answering his questions about
working in comics and the like.  Other than his parents, I was the
first person to encourage him to follow his dreams.

I was thrilled to talk to Dru at the convention and check out his
more recent work, though I couldn’t resist telling him that he was
better when he was 12.  We exchanged contact information.  I spent
the rest of the convention hovering a foot or so above the ground.
It’s both humbling and wonderful to find out that a simple and long
forgotten kindness turned out so well.

Dru sent me an e-mail the next day:

It was great seeing you after 35 years. You were just as gracious,
and funny, as you were when I was 12 standing on your doorstep with
my pathetic drawings in hand. You made me feel like a million bucks
then, and you were the first 'real person' to encourage me to
follow my dream in the world other than my parents.

I built my career only with what my head, and my hands, could do.
To me that means a lot. I didn't take an easy road. Not the best
decision financially perhaps, but my spirit's never regretted it.

It’s hard for even me to believe I could forget my encounter with
the young Dru.  My only possible explanations are these:

In recent years, I have noticed gaps in my memory which I attribute
to the beating I took when I walked in on two men robbing my New
York apartment in the 1970s.  Those gaps are why I work so hard
checking facts whenever I write about my comics career, why I often
contact other comics creators to verify my memory.  I suppose I could
go the Jim Shooter route and just make up shit that makes me look like
a hero, but I think accuracy and honesty are virtues.

The second reason sounds so self-serving I didn’t want to mention
it and only do so in the name of accuracy and honesty.  The “sad”
fact is...I do and have done many nice things like the above and I
have never consciously kept track of them.  Keeping a scorecard of
good deeds, to me, at least, seems to miss the point of doing those
good deeds.

In the name of the same accuracy and honesty, I will now admit to
a darkness in my character.

There was an individual at the Akron Comicon - not a comics creator
- who I don’t like.  Many years ago, he worked for a man who I’ve
called "the worst person it’s ever been my misfortune to have been
associated with."  This guy at the Comicon was a shit to me way back
then and has been a shit to me on the few occasions when our paths
have crossed since.  He’s even an outside suspect for the anonymous
troll who sends hate-mail to me every month or so.

This guy is at least ten and maybe fifteen years younger than me.
When I saw him at the convention - Godzilla forgive me - I took an
uncharacteristic delight in how bad he looked.  He didn’t look as
terrible as the one-thin-wafer-away-from-exploding DC Comics editor
I saw in San Diego, but he looked unhappy and unhealthy.  Monster
that I am, I went back to take a second look at him and again felt
delight.  I can be a dark dark man.

Yes...now I feel bad about my delight over this individual’s sickly
appearance.  But, at the convention, I relished it.  Which makes my
next convention story even stranger.

Another old friend was at the convention.  We go back a really long
time and worked together on the 1988 International Superman Expo in
Cleveland.  Among the things he does these days is train counselors
to work with drug addicts.

Remember that “worst person it’s ever been my misfortune to have
been associated with”?  A while back, I had been told he’d cleaned
up his act after decades of drug abuse and wrongdoing.  I did some
checking and found this might actually be the case.  While it would
have been nice if he tried to make amends for what he did to me and
others, I was honestly glad he’d seemingly turned his life around.

It turns out that “worst person it’s ever been my misfortune to
have been associated with” was trained by my friend.  Apparently,
the “worst person” has, indeed, turned his life around.  Maybe not
to the extent of making amends to everyone he wronged before this,
but to the extent that he’s helping fellow addicts.  My reaction to
this confirmation of the earlier report was, once again, gladness.
I’m a sucker for even an imperfect redemption story.

The Akron Comicon was big fun with its guests and its fans and its
cosplayers.  It definitely has the potential to grow into the next
Mid-Ohio-Con, the Roger Price event which set the standard for all
comics conventions in this neck of the woods.  I have much more to
tell you about the Akron convention, but you’ll have to come back
tomorrow to read it.  See you then.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

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