Heroes Con Charlotte – Part 1 – Introduction

Heroes Convention Charlotte
Best comic book convention ever!

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and actively worked on writing. I used to really enjoy the rigor of keeping on a pretty consistent schedule of blogging and writing. It felt cathartic and it was just something that I really enjoyed. So I took the opportunity of the last couple of weeks to “get back on the horse” so to speak and start to try and write with a little more consistency and regularity.

A couple of weekends ago (Father’s Day to be more accurate) I got the chance to finally spend the weekend at Heroes Con in Charlotte. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Heroes Con is the annual comic book convention put on by Shelton Drum and the team at “Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find”, a really terrific comic book shop that’s been around since I was a kid, up in Charlotte. Shelton’s been putting this convention on for the last 33 years or so, and it’s grown into what I believe is one of the best (if not THE best) comic book convention in America. It’s certainly the ONLY comic book convention that’s singularly focused on comic books and a quick anecdotal survey of the creators who attend reinforces that it’s the most well-thought of, most enjoyed convention of the convention season. I’m sure when a lot of people think of “comic book convention” they think of Comic-Con in San Diego, but I’m here to tell you, there are few conventions annually that stack up against Heroes Con. It’s three days of pure comics, comic art, writing, sessions, cosplay and fun.

Growing up and during college I was a regular Heroes Con attendee, but recent years have been difficult to find a way to go and for probably the last several years I’ve marked it on my calendar as a, “this-year-I-promise-I’m-gonna-go” event, but sure enough, something always came up and I was always vowing to attend, “next year for sure”. Well last year I put my foot down and told myself that come hell or high water I was attending this year and began making plans back in late summer. My somewhat underwhelming experience at Dragon Con and Wizard World (two okay, but lackluster conventions if you’re a comic book fan) last year only steeled my resolve to make sure not another year passed without my ass being squarely in the thick of Heroes Con in 2015. To that end, I began setting aside a nest egg starting back in September and contributing weekly to my “Heroes Con Fund” to ensure that a lack of convention funds was not going to be an issue. I booked my hotel room last fall, bought my wife and I three day passes (kids under 10 are free!) as soon as they were available to buy, and put in for the only personal time off I had on the books for this year. I was set.

As the convention drew closer, I became almost apoplectic with excitement as the guest list was updated. At first the updates were coming in regularly every 30 days or so, but as it got closer and closer to the date, the updates increased and the names being added were bigger and bigger. Bernie Wrightson, Arthur Adams, Klaus Janson, Ed Piskor, Evan Dorkin, Kris Anka, Wilfredo Torres, Evan “Doc” Shaner… it just became a who’s who of artists, writers, colorist. I began to worry if I was going to literally have enough time over the course of three days to get an audience with the growing list of creators. I began to prioritize, plot, email (never underestimate the value of emailing a creator or artist to get on their radar and try to nail down arrangements before the convention) and scheme. I even bought a second sketchbook in a stroke of genius that I can’t take credit for. One evening I was lamenting to my wife that I didn’t think I’d be able to coordinate all the convention sketches I wanted and she casually mentioned, “why don’t you buy a second sketchbook and that way you can halve your effort, doubling your chances?” I sat there for a moment, dumbstruck at the brilliance of her idea and immediately jumped on Amazon to order a second book identical to the one I carry around.

Then, as if it wasn’t possible for me to anticipate something any more, two weeks before the convention the update to end all updates went out. Appearing Saturday only was the founding father of Marvel Comics himself, Stan “The Man” Lee. Special packages were made available at various price points with the highest end, a “VIP Meet ‘n Greet” with Stan being limited to an audience of 25. I was blown away. Sure, it was steep, way pricey… but I had been saving up since last year. I had the cheddar. I gave it a thought, slept on it, asked a couple of friends what they thought (“what, are you crazy? Of course you should do it, there’s no question!) and decided to plunk down the cash and go for the full Stan Lee Experience.

Stan Lee Max Pass 2015
Excelsior! Meeting Stan “The Man” Lee!

So there I was. I had a VIP Meet ‘n Greet on Friday evening and Saturday with Stan Lee, I had more than enough money squirreled away to guarantee a brilliant time, and had commitments for sketches from several of the most sought-after guests on my “must meet” list and a family that was looking forward to driving up to Charlotte and spending Father’s Day weekend in Marriott.

I couldn’t wait. It was going to be epic.

NEXT: Part 2 – Friday, the first day of the convention and I meet Stan Lee!

Heroes Con Saturday Evening Art Auction

Of course, I have a LOT MORE to write about Heroes Con last weekend, including shots of some of the sketches I got, some of the sketches my daughter got, and some of the comics I scored. But first I wanted to post these cool shots of the Annual Heroes Con Art Auction that I was able to shoot walking around Saturday night. The room was crowded and by the time I was able to make my way up to the front walls, art was already flying off the walls, so this is just a sampling of what was left.

Great stuff by Skottie Young, Wilfredo Torres, Joseph Michael Linsner, Bernie Wrightson, Joe Eisma, Sandy Jarrell, David Petersen, Francis Manapul, Joe Pekar, and a host of artists!.

Enjoy!

Dragon*Con 2014 – Part 3: Final Thoughts

I have to just state right up front. I had a blast at DragonCon. More so than any convention in recent memory and FAR more fun than I had at Wizard World this summer (a decision that I’ll always regret making over HeroesCon and a mistake I won’t make again). I had such a great time this year, that without hesitation I purchased my next year tickets the moment they were announced and booked two nights in the W (a decision I’ll explain further down) for Friday and Saturday night of NEXT year’s DragonCon.

First off, this was my first Dragon*Con. I had avoided going to the past couple of years because frankly I wasn’t convinced that Dragon*Con was my bag. If you take even a cursory look at the program it’s obviously not a comic book convention, my normal summer haunts. It’s billed as a “Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention” and there are a fair number of comic book related sessions, but it’s by no means a “Comic-Con” so you go in with the understanding that you’re a fraction of the audience, and so my expectations were that I would probably enjoy a proportional amount of the activity.

Boy was I wrong.

The sessions, the crowds, the Cosplayers, the Parade, the location, the activities, the people… it’s simply the best experience I’ve had at a convention in probably a decade. Comic-Con in Dallas, Wizard World… the only convention I think that even comes remotely close is HeroesCon in Charlotte, but that’s exclusively a Comic Book Convention so I think it’s an apples to oranges comparison. The truth is, I’m not sure there really IS anything that compares to Dragon*Con. It really is pure fandom. Much more pure and sincere in its execution than ComicCon in San Diego which is just a clusterfuck of Hollywood douchery and overcrowding. I have zero desire to attend ComicCon, but don’t take my word for it. Take a few minutes and see what Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics, one of the founders and original attendees who’s been to every one, had to say about this year’s convention. He wrote about it here, here, and here. It just sounds like a horrible experience.

But I had a blast. I mean, it was hands down one of the highlights of 2014 and was such a marvelous time that on Tuesday, when tickets went on sale, I snapped up 3 tickets for next year without so much as a moment of hesitation. I tried to get us into the host hotels for next year as well, but those hotel rooms sold out within minutes. I’ve never seen anything like it. Fortunately I was able to use my Starwood Preferred membership and snag a room at the W just before it sold out and it’s not even a host hotel!

If you like/appreciate/are a fan of Comics, Fantasy, Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Science Fiction, Comic Book movies, Tolkien, Ghostbusters, Horror, Zombies, and/or video games, and either live in the SouthEast, or have an interest in visiting Atlanta, then you owe it to yourself to attend. I promise, you won’t regret it.

See you next year!

Dragon*Con 2014 – Part 2: Collecting Sketches

For some time now, I’ve been using my time at Conventions to collect sketches from my favorite creative professionals. This has proven to be an immensely rewarding experience and I’m proud of the book I’ve been able to put together in just a year. This year’s DragonCon featured Tim Sale, George Perez, Dave Bullock, Dave Johnson, Mark Bagley, and numerous other comic artists, animators, and illustrators. I mean, we’re talking Bob Camp, legendary co-founder of Spumco Animation Studio and co-creator of Ren & Stimpy! How often do you think you get the chance to have an opportunity to engage these guys? So I spend a lot of my time at conventions collecting sketches. In fact, I basically plan my whole convention around collecting as many sketches as I can. They’re one-of-a-kind mementos of my appreciation and fandom, and taken collectively represent my love of sequential art. I use a bound, 8 1/2″ X 11″ Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Sketchbook. A terrific book with excellent paper. It takes ink very well and provides a great surface for sketches.

This year, I was lucky enough to start right off with a bang when I walked into Artists Alley and walked right past George Perez, who had a relatively small line. I jumped right into line and and asked George to sketch one of my all time favorite Perez superheroes, Firestorm the Nuclear Man. He was gracious and spent time chatting while sketching. I particularly love the use of the silver/gray sharpie for Dr. Stein. Classic stuff.

The most sought-after artists, of course, was Tim Sale. Without a doubt, one of my favorite comic artists, and high on the list of “most desirable” sketch. Tim has a method for getting sketches that requires a little effort. He has what are called “Fast Passes” that he holds starting first thing in the morning. You get there early enough, before the spots are filled up, and you can get 20 minutes of Tim’s time. His prices vary for what you want, but it’s worth the effort, as you can see below with his amazing “Daredevil Yellow” that I had commissioned. He also opens up the first and last hour of the day for quickies, and as you can see below, I was able to get him to draw me a quick Joker sketch as well. Two of my most prized sketches so far.