Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Indy Pop Con 2016 would be open to the press and media on Friday, June 17, at 11 am, to the fans who purchased VIP tickets at 12:30 and to every one else at 1 pm. Since my son Eddie are both used to rising early, that gave us plenty of time to have breakfast and set up my Artist Alley table in a leisurely manner.

For breakfast, we went to the Steak and Shake that was a short walk from our hotel. On last year’s visit, I ate breakfast there every day. Open all day every day, the restaurant offers good food at the most reasonable prices in downtown Indianapolis. But those were only my second and third reasons for going there.

My main reason for eating at Steak N Shake every morning was Donna, the happiest woman in all of Indianapolis. She’s like this ball of sunshine in human form. Her smile lights up the place. Seeing her and being waited on by her is a great way to start your convention day. Which is what Eddie and I would do every day of the convention..

After breakfast, we went to our car, which we had parked in a lot about two blocks from our hotel. We drove to the Indiana Convention Center where we were greeting by the same asshole who gave me grief last year. Here’s what I wrote about him then:

Digression. Almost everybody in Indianapolis was great to me, but there was one major asshole. He was the attendant for the parking lot behind the convention hall. He decided it would be hilarious to tell the guy from Ohio that there was no convention at the center. Because you know the guy who’s been on the road for five hours is going to think that’s a hoot and a half. When I suggested he call his supervisor, he finally admitted he was having me on. I smiled, more out of exhaustion than anything else, and was directed to the unloading area. Ha. Ha. Ha.

This year, the man wasn’t working alone and I’m guessing the other guy was his supervisor. We were given a pass allowing us to park at the loading docks for 30 minutes, which was barely sufficient time for us to check in to the convention, unload the seven boxes we’d brought to the show, get them to our table in Artist Alley and then return our car to our parking garage. I suspect the exhibitors with more elaborate setups took two or three times as long to get their stuff onto the event floor.

Don’t mistake my comments as any kind of slam against Indy Pop Con, which is one of the best and best-run conventions I’ve attended in the past decade. It’s a slam against a convention center staffed by minor functionaries who either don’t understand the needs of those exhibiting at an event or don’t care or simply like throwing their little bit of power around. We’d run into this again on Sunday, but I’ll talk about that in a couple days. For now, let’s get back to Indy Pop Con, which was a delight from start to finish.

Indy Pop Con was huge. The main exhibit hall included Artists Alley as well areas for free autographs, photo ops, indie games, virtual reality demos, robot battles, open board gaming, a cosplay alley, the Internet. There were many vendors of new and old comics, anime, manga, clothing and more. Eddie and I bought quite a bit of stuff, though I managed to confine my purchases to comics by creators who were on the “Making Comics That Get Read” panel with me. That and the occasional convention hot dog (tasty) or slice of pizza (not so much). Don’t worry. We had terrific meals Friday night and Saturday night. Expensive but terrific.

Beyond the main hall, there was an Invasion Wrestling Hall and the FlixFling Main Stage. The latter was were certain large attendance panels were held. I assume the latter was where fans wrestled alien warriors. Dibs on Gamora.

Also beyond the main hall, there were panel rooms, workshop rooms, film rooms, a cosplay lounge, a cosplay workshop, a cosplay garden for photo shoots and a press room that doubled as an “after hours” gaming room. The press room was comfortable and quiet. It came in handy for me as I interviewed at least three times by podcasters and others. As these go online, I’ll link to them.

For example...Ryan Walsh of Comic Carnival interviewed myself, Joe Rubinstein and Mark Waid, asking each of us more or less the same questions at different times. I think it’s a pretty good piece and you can read it here.

Outside the convention center, other gaming and movie events were held at GFUEL Esports Pavilion, located across the street from the convention center. It was a large and loud facility. I didn’t visit for a long, but the gamers and other fans there were have a great time. Indy Pop Con truly rocks its “big tent” concept.

My Artist Alley table was next to my old friend Scott Shaw’s table, so we got to talk frequently when Scott wasn’t busy with his well-deserved legion of fans. Across from me were special effects wizard Lynette Eklund, season 7 Face Off finalist Cig Neutron and Punch It Graphics, which creates sci-fi and fantasy wall art. Down that row a bit was comics artist Scott Rosema, another old pal who I hope to work with in the future.

Artist Steve Rude and writer Mike Baron were elsewhere in the hall. I love chatting with Steve, who is insatiable in his lust for tales of the Marvel Bullpen of the 1970s. Steve is currently producing a big beautiful edition of Nexus that has to be seen to be believed. I’m devoting an entire bloggy thing to it in the near future. The edition is almost bigger than me and a hundred times more stunning. While you’re waiting for my article on it, visit Steve’s website. You will be amazed.

There were 29 panels scheduled for Friday, 14 fan films scheduled to be screened and events at the GFUEL Esports Pavilion, including a midnight screening of Return to Nuke ‘Em High. The Pavilion is a converted ice hockey rink with over 200 PCs and gaming consoles for the fans. As I’ve said, gaming isn’t my thing, but I was mightily impressed by its presence at Indy Pop Con.

The “Making Comics That Get Read” panel roster was Mark Waid (who you must know and, if you don’t, you don’t know one of the finest comics writers of the past few decades), Lee Cherolis (artist and creator of Little Guardians), Jackie Crofts (artist of Nutmeg) and Brian Wyrick (co-creator and publisher of Henchmen). Prior to the panel, Wyrick had provided several questions:

In general, what goes into making a comic book - how big are your teams, and what are their roles?

Retailers - how many new titles come across your desk as a buyer each month? How many of those do you stock and how do you decide?

As creators & retailers, where has technology had an impact on your work & your business? Has it changed your own reading habits?

What is the most exciting development you’ve seen in comics technology recently?

We have a wide range of creators on the panel - how do you promote your work, and how is it promoted by your publishers? Retailers how does that promotion impact you. What works and what does not?    

I wish I had a transcript of this panel because really smart stuff was said by everyone other than me.  Trying to remember my answers as best I can:

A singular vision is vital to making a great comic book. A creative team should be as big as necessary and no bigger. Multiple editors are not, to my mind, a good thing.

I praised Godzilla that I am no longer a comics retailer. I would go mad and out of business in two months if I had to go through the 600-plus-page Previews catalog and try to figure out what to carry in my store. My friend Mark took this as my gloating because I was no longer a retailer. Which is absurd. No. Not really. Na na na boo boo, Waid!

Technology has made it easier to send my work to the editors, the publishers and others. It has allowed me to do research easier and faster. It has allowed me to connect with my readers to a greater extent than ever before and involves less danger than showing up at their homes without warning.

Technology has only changed my reading habits in that it’s easier for me to order stuff I want. I do have a Kindle and am dabbling in reading books on that device, but I haven’t really started reading comics on it. That will surely come.

Greater access to material and communication with creators and fans is the most exciting technological developments for me. Facebook is my jam.

If you’ve been reading this bloggy thing of mine and following my Facebook page, you know how I promote my work. Publishers promoting my work is a mixed bag, but some of the publisher-driven promotion of my work has been excellent. I think a creator needs both. I also think promotion is a crap shoot. Sometimes it resonates with fans, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it blows up in your face.

My panel equivalents of my above comments were almost certainly not as well-spoken. Someone should follow me around conventions just to transcribe my panels.

After the convention closed on Friday, Eddie and I headed back to the hotel. We had dinner plans with Scott Shaw. While we waited for Scott, I got to sit down for a bit with Bill Dever of the B Movie Nation website and say “hi” to the legendary Lloyd Kaufman of Troma  Studios fame. Lloyd is a great guy - we met through our mutual pal Jim Salicrup - and I always enjoying talking with him. Alas, I kept missing him throughout the rest of the convention.

Scott, Eddie and I ate at the hotel’s 1913 Restaurant, though our meals came from the menu of the hotel’s Severin Bar. The food was good and as expensive as you would expect from a four-star hotel. But the conversation was a bargain as Scott and I talked about so many people and events from our careers and Eddie, trooper that he always is, pretty much managed to keep up with us.

Our hostess was a beautiful young woman who looked a lot like the young Shari Belafonte. Scott knew Ms. Belafonte when she worked as the receptionist at Hanna-Barbera Productions before launching her own show business career. When he mentioned the resemblance to our hostess, the young lady didn’t know who Belafonte was. But, after she did a search for the singer and actress on her phone, she came back to our table to tell Scott she was flattered. 

On that future trivia question answer, we all decided to call it a night. Saturday would be the busiest day of the convention. A good night’s sleep seemed mandatory.

I’ll be back tomorrow to continue this Indy Pop Con report. I hope you’ll be back, too.

© 2016 Tony Isabella


  1. A great read! I was actually interested in trying the Artist Alley at PopCon and found your blog while doing a Google search for the booth pricing, and I'm not disappointed to find this instead.

    That said, do you recall the booth pricing? I'm looking practically everywhere and, short of emailing a con who I'm unsure as to the speed of their response is, you're the only active person I've found writing any kind of review of 2016's.

  2. Since I was an invited guest of the convention, I never knew what they were charging for Artist Alley tables. Contacting the show directly is your best bet.