John S. Knight Center
November 5, 2016
The Akron Comicon is one of my favorite events to attend each fall. Chock full of industry heavyweights, vendors, and cosplayers; it rarely disappoints.
This year the con fell on a particularly busy weekend for me, so I was only able to attend for a few hours on Saturday. Below are my thoughts and observations.
12:19 PM- My buddy Wayne and I park and make our way into the venue. We take the escalator up to the second floor and purchase tickets. We enter the main hall. The place is packed. I quickly scan the room and make the executive decision to go downstairs to check out a panel or two.
12:42 PM– We slip into a panel about cosplay. The panel consists of three men in costume seated at a long table in the front of the room. The gentleman in the center is speaking. He is dressed like The Tick. He is doling out advice to current and prospective cosplayers about how to deal with unwanted, erm, “touching” at conventions. It seems that curious people tend to get touchy with intricate costumes.
To his left, a fellow is dressed in a green blazer and derby. He has clearly put his own spin on a version of The Riddler. He reveals that he based his interpretation of the character on the Batman universe of Christopher Nolan. He reminds cosplayers that when they are out on the floor they should play the character to the best of their ability because at that time they are some fans “icon.” Hmm.
The third panelist is mostly quiet. As the other two talk, he slowly puts the finishing touches on his outfit: Jack Sparrow. He looks the part, too. The fact that he is still dressing is distracting, but interesting to observe.
The lecture continues. I that “cosplay” is an amalgam of “costume” and “roleplay.” (Who knew?) I also learn that there is a difference between “cosplayers” and “costumers.” (Costumers dress up but don’t go into character while doing so.) They trio points out that younger fans tend to fashion their outfits after movie, video game, or tech characters. Older players generally stick to heroes and villains from comic books.
Around this time, they asked for questions from the audience. My hand popped up.
“Comic book conventions have been around since at least the 70s, why the recent explosion of cosplay at events?”
The panel explained that it is a convergence of technology and nerd culture. The culprit seems to be Facebook. People post pictures online. Others see it and think it’s cool, so they cook up their own costume. People crave the attention.
The discussion turns to the participation of females in the genre. One fun aspect is when a female plays a traditionally male character. “Jack Sparrow” pointed out that females traditionally make the best Sparrows. Their cheekbones and the way they carry their bodies tend to suit the character.
I’ve always felt that karaoke is to singing, as cosplay is to acting– in that I don’t like it when it is TOO good or TOO polished. I can’t qualify why, but it’s less fun when those things are perfect. I mentioned this to The Tick and he agreed. Sort of.
The panel was of the opinion that one either “gets” cosplay or they don’t. Most people don’t. They are often teased or made fun of for being adults who dress up. However, the people who do understand speak their language and they often become close friends. The Tick warned that the most brutal critics are children. They give zero Fs when it comes to pointing out the flaws of one’s outfit.
Other fun facts: anime cosplayers like to hug, don’t lie about making your own costume, and not everyone wants to be “cosfamous,” which was probably the most grating bit of jargon used that afternoon.
Eventually, the lecture came to a close. This one felt a bit long. It probably would have been a homerun at 30 minutes. That being said, it was fun and informative. The three presenters were very nice and obviously passionate about their hobby.
1:35 PM– We made out way back into the lobby. I notice a sign posted in front of the room next to the one we left, Tony Isabella was speaking! Isabella is a bit of a local comic book legend. Most notable for creating Black Lightning, he is talented, funny, and certainly not afraid to speak his mind. (Full disclosure: Mr. Isabella was the subject of a recent interview for Super No Bueno. You can read it here.)
While I entered the room, Mr. Isabella revealed that he is currently working on a book of monster movie reviews. He said he would love to do a project with acclaimed b-movie kingpins, The Asylum. (They are the masterminds behind the wildly popular Sharknado film series.)
Over the next 20 minutes, Mr. Isabella spoke about his father, vacationing with his family, and early comic books that he loved.
When asked by an audience member who has a better pantheon of characters, DC or Marvel, Isabella replied that Marvel has a better handle on using and popularizing their B- and C-level characters.
Another fan asked what he thought about the old Batman television series. He replied that he was 15 when the show originally aired. He was utterly embarrassed by it. Now that he is older, he owns the collector’s edition DVD set because he adores it.
“What did you think of Black Lightning on Saturday Night Live?”
“If you can’t take a joke, you turn into John Byrne…!”
2:15 PM– There was a bit of confusion at the start of the Alan Grant, Mike Barr, and Alan Davis panel. They were short a microphone and a moderator. After a few minutes, this was straightened out and the discussion began.
Barr detailed how he took over Batman and the Outsiders as a freelancer. He worked on the hardcover/softcover model of publishing books. He said that the workload substantial.
Alan Grant recounted how he had been writing Judge Dredd when he got a call from Denny O’Neil to do a trial run on a Batman title. He ended up working quite a bit with John Wagoner.
Alan Davis remembered first working on Batman before moving to Marvel to work on Excalibur.
Around this time I noticed that it had been quite a while since I’d last touched base with my friend, so I decided to go upstairs to the vendors’ room to track him down.
“By the power of Grayskuuuull!”
As with any con, this main floor is where all the action is. There were vendors, cosplayers, and nerd culture celebrities everywhere.
First stop: Rubber City Comics booth. RCC is a shop that opened in downtown Akron about a year ago. They have a nice selection of books and a killer selection of toys. They were well-represented at the show. I was drooling over the Star Trek and Universal Monsters lines of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles they had for sale.
Next: I almost bit on a WCW Wrestling Big Bubba action figure (MOC, natch). They seller marked it at $15 but said he would take $10. I could have gotten him down to $8.
Then I run into some friends. My buddy Ron and his son were there. His son Rob was the proud new owner of a copy of Giant-Size Man-Thing #3.
I wandered around some more. It turns out my buddy Steve Selnik was manning a booth. He and a friend are in the early stages of producing a book called NecroNancy. It was really cool seeing him on the other side of the table. When the time is right, I’m gonna get an exclusive from Steve just for Super No Bueno readers.
I then went to visit spooky and vivacious horror host, Janet Decay. Her table was MOBBED, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to her. (However, to read an exclusive interview with the Yummy Mummy, click here.)
The vendor table that gave me the most sweats was stocked with Masters of the Universe figures. Mosquitor. Stinkor. Mer-Man. All off of the card but complete with weapons and accessories. I had to talk myself down from buying his entire stock.
While going back to meet my pals, I bought a pristine reprint copy of an original Tales from the Crypt comic book.
On the way out, I spotted a guy in a terrific homemade “Man-at-Arms” costume. It wasn’t perfect, but it was close and it was clearly made with love. What more can ya ask for?
Until next year, True Believers…