It’s been a hectic but yet incredibly exciting month of June for me so far. A little over two weeks ago, I returned to Niagara Falls in Canada to relax, unwind, and of course, enjoy the beautiful ambiance of one of the world’s most attractive destination spots. Coincidently, that was also the same weekend the Niagara Falls Comic Con was taking place. I didn’t plan on attending that comic book convention (I swear); nevertheless, I simply wasn’t strong enough to resist the temptation of thousands of comic books conveniently located under the roof of the Scotiabank Convention Centre. In a nutshell, it was a good comic book convention that included plenty of vendors, artists and a multitude of celebrities, such as Ted White (Jason Voorhees), Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead), Jason Priestly (Beverly Hills 90210), Cassandra Peterson (Elvira) and David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider/Baywatch) among others.
The following weekend, I drove to New Jersey and met up with one of my childhood friends, and together, we checked out the Clifton Comic Book Expo that was being held in a community recreation center. There were very few comic book vendors there, but this tiny event is known to host comic book auctions with no minimum starting bids. Pretty neat, wouldn’t you say?
So what constitutes a great and truly remarkable Comic Con? The answer is quite simple. It comes down to comic book fans of all ages attaining a positive experience with all aspects of the comic book culture, and most importantly, sharing that experience enthusiastically with others. What’s the first question anyone asks you after attending an event? More often than not it’s “How was it?” If you hesitate to answer that simple question, then something’s not right. When a Comic Con is unforgettable, your response turns into one very long-winded account of all the fun things you did, bought, and saw at a Con, and it most likely ends with a closing statement of “I can’t wait for the next show”.
In all honesty, over the last several years, after attending numerous Comic Cons and/or events, I have found myself struggling to achieve an “I can’t wait for the next show” reaction. It’s been very difficult for me to eagerly answer the “how was it” question. Why is that so? Most likely it’s because of a variety of reasons. I’ll list 13 examples (of course) of things I detest in regards to any comic book event…in random order:
- Deficient crowd control skills, knowledge and awareness of event personnel.
- Not suitable for young children.
- Poor accessibility and/or available assistance for handicapped individuals.
- Overpriced admissions, overpriced parking fees, overpriced vendors, overpriced artwork – overpriced anything!!
- Hostile atmosphere for cosplayers.
- Not enough restrooms and/or a small and filthy lavatory.
- Lack of food vendors.
- Too many non-comic book affiliated celebrities scheduled for the event.
- Limited amount of creator-owned tables or booths.
- Unorganized vendors; you know, the ones that advertise great deals but your guess is as good as theirs as to what they have in stock.
- Nowhere for the fans to sit down and take a break from standing up for hours upon end.
- Not enough vendors carrying indie books!!
- Artists, vendors and especially celebrities with attitude problems.
This past weekend, I attended the Summer Northeast Comic Con and Collectibles Extravaganza, located 20 miles north of Boston, at the Shriners Auditorium in Wilmington, Massachusetts.
So, the question now is “how was it”?
As soon as I walked in to the Shriners Auditorium, I turned to my right and saw my favorite vehicle of all-time – The 1966 Batmobile!
Fans of all ages didn’t waste any time gathering around this fabulous piece of machinery. Of course, I took full advantage of this opportunity to take as many pictures as I could of this timeless car.
A photographer was on hand for any fans that wanted a photo opportunity with the Batmobile done professionally, all for a fairly reasonable price. This included several chances for those fans to take pictures up close of the classic car with their smart phones. The Batmobile wasn’t the only attraction present at the show. The Batcycle, the Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine, as well as the Supernatural 1967 Chevy Impala, were also on display.
The schedule of activities and attractions for the Northeast Comic Con was impressive and it was loaded with a variety of things to see and do for fans of all ages. Their “Kidz Area” offered coloring, face painting, caricatures, mask making, a Learn How to Make Comics session, story time and more. A cosplay stage was assembled and utilized at different time slots for mask presentations, puppets, and separate pose off’s for Anime, Disney, Doctor Who, Video Game, Marvel Universe and DC Comics cosplayers. My favorite was the Cosplay Death Match.
I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into a separate room in the Shriners Auditorium where they had a full bar with plenty of tables and space for people to rest, drink, eat and enjoy their food while being entertained by a number of Stand-Up comedians. The comedians drew plenty of laughs from the crowd, but most importantly, the comedic material was not vulgar. Remember, the Northeast Comic Con was hosting fans of all ages. Additionally, there was a live musical performance as well, and that was phenomenal.
Plenty of exhibitors were located throughout the building. Some of the comic book vendors there I have visited before while on my many travels, but there were some vendors I wasn’t all too familiar with. Nooooo problem! I visited all of them anyways!
When it comes to comic books at any convention, I always adhere to the following points (some of which may sound obvious to you, but I feel that it’s important to mention anyways):
- Figure out how much you can realistically spend. Set a budget for yourself and stick to it.
- Make a list of comic books you really want and figure out if they fall within your budget. How do you do that? See the next bullet…
- DO YOUR RESEARCH!!! Once you know what you can spend and what you’re looking for, get a feel for what the average selling price is for all types of conditions the particular book you want may be in. There’s plenty of ways to do this, whether it be by looking up books using a price guide (preferably an Overstreet Price Guide), online research and/or gathering prices from local shops. The point here is learning what the average market price is for any book, in any condition, at the current time. Be extra careful with the pricing on graded books.
- Don’t make purchases at a convention with the first comic book vendor you see. Observe your environment completely, study it and when something grabs your attention, check it out but stick to your budget and list.
- Don’t be afraid to say no to any vendor at any time. You are the customer, you know what you want and you have a list that you’re going to stick to, right? Good.
Some of the vendors had plenty of books available, but typical of most conventions, what was offered for sale was predominantly Marvel and DC titles. What I’m seeing done by vendors, perhaps more than ever before, is the labeling of comic books to highlight a character’s first appearance. This is great…but only if the character’s 1st appearance really is in the book that was labeled. Learn the difference between shadow, mentioned, voice, cameo, full appearances, etc. It can make a difference for your wallet. Again, do your research; don’t let someone else do it for you.
Artwork was abundant at this show and some artists were open to commissioned requests. That’s always a plus so long as it’s reasonably priced – which it was.
Artist Amanda Dufresne working on a commissioned art piece
Artist Amanda Dufresne’s artwork immediately caught my attention. I went through her portfolio and it was spectacular. She does an absolutely fantastic job of capturing pure emotion and conveying it through her artwork. If you see her at a convention, I highly recommend that you check out her work. You won’t regret it.
I had the pleasure of meeting and sharing a few laughs with writer/artist Joe St. Pierre. He made his debut as a penciler for Rai during the first incarnation of Valiant Comics. He’s also worked for Marvel, DC, Image, IDW and Dynamite. He has his own publishing company, Astronaut Ink, which features his creator-owned properties. His most recent work is his series, The New Zodiax.
Ninjak art piece drawn by Joe St. Pierre Bloodshot commission drawn by Joe St. Pierre
The guest of honor at the Northeast Comic Con was none other than Batman himself – Mr. Adam West. I’m not going to go into detail highlighting his celebrated career, but I will say that it was an honor to have met him and also obtain his autograph! So, what was the interaction like between the legendary Caped-Crusader and the 13th Crusader? Let’s just say it ended with a fist bump.
What made this show extra special, were the fans. Everyone I met was in a great mood and enjoying themselves at this event. This is a great testament to the wonderful job the show’s promoters did with putting it all together, keeping everyone’s best interests at heart and making sure that their experience at this Con was fruitful and memorable. That’s why I can’t wait for the next show at the Shriners Auditorium in Wilmington, MA.
Until next time Crusaders!