Get a snack ready and maybe a drink. This one is a long one. I have no remorse. But there are pictures to entertain you along the way.
2014-09-19 Cincinnati Comic Expo
There is something about standing in a convention hall full of people that would be considered batshit crazy out on the street. These freaks, these crazies, these people who are looked at from the peripheral and never taken seriously, this band of brothers – they will generally accept you, no matter how “different” you may seem to the rest of the world. It’s nice to stand among them and feel right at home.
The first comic book convention I attended was in NYC, on a whim and with no real direction (for that blog click: here). Eight years later, the second comic book convention I attended was in Cincy, planned for and with a handful of goals in mind. My media favorite in NYC was Adam West (THE Batman) so it should not be surprising that my media favorite of Cincy was Julie Newmar (THE Catwoman). In NYC I picked up the Pope John Paul II comic book. In Cincy, a guy convinced me to purchase his graphic novel by letting me read a passage where the character was someone pregnant with an “alien” and she was desperately trying to get an abortion. In NYC I had a photo op with a Storm Trooper. From Cincy, I have a photo of me with Predator. Some things change, but even with those changes; most things seem to remain the same.
Hello, I am Michelle, I am a 45 year old woman and I collect comics. Ok, I collect a ton of things. If I am being truly honest with myself, I am a hoarder. Realistically, I prefer to take a more romantic approach and consider my vast inventory: the tangible evidence of my favorite memories. From my early childhood, I collected figurines, action figures, comic books, books, pictures, etc. Unfortunately, a huge ape that likes to think he looks like Hulk Hogan stole about 90% of my collectibles and though I took the deputy to where he hid them, nothing was ever retrieved. For a long time, I had nightmares of greasy handed children at a yard sale, pawing through pristine pages. ((sigh)) So, to walk through all of the vendors in Cincy, seeing things I once had in my personal collection… well, it was a little like torture for me. Poor Ben had to hear me say; “It breaks my heart.” more times than I am sure he can count. However, at the same time, the vendors also brought me an immeasurable amount of joy. Seeing the characters, stories and movies that were an indelible part of my childhood there in action figure/comic book/toy form… well, to say I was “12 years old” all over again would be an understatement. Oddly enough, the only “action figures” I brought home from this adventure were the Super Best Friends Forever set of Wonder Girl, Batgirl and Supergirl (they were on sale for $2.18 each) and I picked those up at Walgreens. Ha! (I am impervious to your judgey eyes right now…) I did pick up a short comic book series of Matt Wagner’s Grendel.
Row after row of artists fascinated me. You had Neal Adams sitting in a booth just across from a new and upcoming artist whose name is so new that I cannot bring it to mind. There were watercolors, color sketches, penciled art – all in various sizes from cards to 11×14. I loved seeing young people with sketchbooks. They made their way from artist to artist who would sketch a small piece of art for them. If I am able to return next year, I believe that is something I will consider. A popular way to get the artist’s work into the hands of their fans was through signed prints. They ranged in price from $5 to $50 (depending on the level of celebrity). I picked up a handful of prints mostly in the $5-10 range. Some artists were pretentious (I will not name names but going forward I will not pay particular attention to their work if ever I am making a decision to buy a graphic novel or read an article that might involve their work). I believe if I am considering buying a print from you (now, mind you, a print is a reproduced copy that took little effort vs. putting the time and effort into an actual sketch – if produced correctly, these prints would be complete profit with no actual man hours), the least you could do is appear to be appreciative. These geeks and nerds you are dismissing own the wallets which pay you. Remove yourself from the lofty ledge of the elite and mingle with us common fold, TYVM. For a number of artists, I would leaf through their collection of sample art and I asked the same thing of each of them: “Any Cloak and Dagger?” “No.” And that was the end of the conversation. I would occasionally ask where they hailed from. But I always continued on my way. Until at one booth where I leafed through the artwork of a young man while (out of the corner of my eye) I watched him sketching Flash. I liked his faces. I asked: “Any Cloak and Dagger?” He responded: “No, but I can sketch it for you.” He was the first artist to actually engage me in conversation regarding my favorite comic books. He was the first artist to offer to do it without requiring me to ask. He was the artist I decided to commission to do the one piece of original art I intended on purchasing that weekend. His name is Shawn Langley. I agreed to come back later that day to pick up his creation. I was pleasantly surprised to see that even though he had never sketched Cloak and Dagger before, he did a beautiful job. I asked him where he hailed from, Gallipolis, OH. REALLY?!? I live across the river from him! How’s that for a small world?!? I now follow him on his various social media outlets and will be reaching out to him for a few gifts for family and friends in the near future.
Artist Alley was somewhat of a sensory overload for me. There were so many prints that I wanted and so many talented human beings. The thing that separated one from the other (IMHO) was their attitude, personal presentation and demeanor in regards to the fankids. I bought a handful of prints from various artists and enjoyed conversations with each of the artist whose work will now hang on my library wall. That brings me to the one booth, to the one “younger” artist, who captured my heart. Meet Isaiah:
While picking up my print of batman’s laundry faux-pas, I noticed a young boy feverishly finishing up his rendition of the Hulk. As I was completing my purchase, I noticed he pinned Hulk up with a number of other original artworks he must have finished earlier in the day. I caught his attention and asked him if the prints of that artist (pointing at his Hulk) were available for purchase. The expression on his face brings happiness to my heart even now as I type this blog. Why, yes they were for sale. Which one would I like? (Hulk, of course). I completed the transaction and then asked him what I asked of every other artist from whom I purchased their wares, “Would you please sign your artwork for me?” To say he lit up is an understatement. He retrieved his professional pen and signed his name to the lower corner (as all established artists do) and then asked his dad to put it in protective plastic for me. Aside from my original art, this was my second favorite purchase. On Sunday we made our way back to the booth so Mander could purchase some obese superheroes. Isaiah immediately called out, “Hey! I remember you!!” I was watching him count out his dollar bills. He made “a LOT” of money by that point. Fourteen dollars in sales of his artwork! Hulk now resides on my Artists Wall in my library. Congratulations to artistic parents who encourage their children to find their own color in the world!
In addition to Isaiah, there were the Cosplay kids. The little people made me smile EVERY time. These are the next generation geeks. I wonder what they will bring to the table, what will they remember from their childhood that will encourage them to be their own unique self in this world of grey conformity? My children were with me for this adventure but they are 23 and 26. They have their own flavor of geek that they bring to the arena. I like seeing things through their eyes. Their perspectives are different, yet somewhat similar, to mine.
Speaking of Cosplay… Let me just say, I am utterly amazed at the amount of time and creativity that these people put into their costumes. The Angel from Hellboy… Holy. Crap. Upon closer inspection, he made the mask using a bike helmet as a base. Thumbs up dude! I loved Aunty Entity!!! I wanted to scream-sing, “We don’t need another heroooooo!” I told my friend Jim that I wanted to take pictures with those who attempted a cool costume but fell short. When you said “nice costume” to them, they lit up. There were the girls that had some kind of whistle/flute thing in their mouths and spoke with beeps and meeps. I think they were some kind of anime. They made my ears hurt.
And what is better than Cosplay? The actual individuals! I had a few “must sees” on my list. My first meet and greet was Ms. Julie Newmar. She is still, to this day, the epitome of a “lady”. She is gracious and welcoming. I walked around the table to have my picture taken with her. She took my hands and told me “place them this way, lean forward, it will give you the appearance of being thinner”. Wait, what? Did Julie just fat-shame me? Yet, I placed my hands there and leaned forward. When speaking with her I actually teared up. She was a part of my childhood – watching the old Batman and Robin reruns when I could catch them. Aside from having a body-image-complex as I walked away, I adored our interaction. Alex stood in line for Henry Winkler. I wanted to wait until the next day because I had purchased a T-shirt I wanted to wear to pay tribute to Robin Williams’ character Mork. Henry ran Arrested Development lines with Alex and posed for the picture. It was great. One thing that was worrisome: Henry did not let someone from your party take the picture, his handler asked for Mander’s camera and HE took the picture. But the resulting happiness provided to Alex was worth a little camera-hogging. I had picked up a green T-shirt with the shadow of the Hulk and the tagline “I’m Always Angry”. I hurriedly put it on and went to see Lou Ferrigno. He stood and made his way in front of the table for my photo op. He puts his arm around me and (I like to think) because of his huge stature, suddenly was cupping my side boob. Amanda looks over the camera with a “REALLY?” face. He asks me, “Is that your sister? Would she like in the picture too?” I tell him that it is my daughter. He looks at my boobs, lingers there and then back at my face and says, “Really?” Sigh. Fine. Hardy har har. Move along now. On Saturday I returned, Mork T-shirt on and went directly to Henry Winkler’s booth. I made my way to the front of the line and he looks at me (head to toe) and says, “Ooooh aren’t YOU cute?!” (take THAT Newmar!) He proceeds to grab my by the back of the neck, pull me in close (heads touching) and says, “AND your comfortable too!” as we are pressed tightly together (hand still holding me in place by the scruff of my neck). Being violated by The Hulk AND The Fonz was not on the “to-do” list for this adventure! The BIGGEST media disappointment of our group came at the expense of Alex. John-Rhys Davies. Alex was very excited to catch a picture with him until his handler met us in line and informed us: “You cannot take a picture of yourself with Mr. Davies. All photos are taken with the convention’s professional photographer and purchased through them. You can, however, take a picture of him autographing an item you purchase at his table but you are not allowed to be in that photo as it is taken…” That is when Alex stepped out of line and said thanks but no thanks. I am a little flabbergasted to think that as much money as the geeks spend on you and your trademark, you can’t be a little more receptive of them when you meet them? Later we would hear that he is known as a douchebag on the con-tours.
I need to take a moment to recognize a delectably amazing food group known as the donut-grilled cheese. Tom-Chee was the vendor of this amazing discovery. And it looked like this:
To top off an amazing weekend, Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest was being held simultaneously. We were able to walk out the front door, down one block and right into the middle of the World’s Largest Chicken Dance. It was hosted by Nick Lashay and we stood among a throng of people and waddled our way into pop culture history. We partook of some German food and then headed home to watch Godzilla at Jim’s.
I am curious about how much money was actually dropped there by the geek-nation. It was not a cheap experience, though you can find good deals if you take the time to look. There is a fortune to be had. And to all of you out there who love The Avengers, Thor, Batman, Superman, Gotham, Arrow and all the other shows based on graphic novels and comic books – you should thank a geek. It is because of their sheer numbers and a profit to be made in the love that they have for seeing their favorite characters come to life that has allowed you to now find it chic to be geek. So, hug a nerd and tell them thanks!
All-in-all an amazing weekend filled with fun, silliness, groping, famous peeps, great art and sensory overload. I believe this will have to be a yearly trek! Next year I want to take more pictures of the Cosplay pros.
I leave you with a quote from the founder of Apple: ““Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
A few extra pictures including the Lego world….