Beloved illustrator Charles Vess will discuss his latest collaboration with fantasy author Charles de Lint, Seven Wild Sisters: A Modern Fairy Tale at the Malaprop’s Bookstore on Wednesday May 14th at 7:00 pm. Known for his collaborations with de Lint (Cats of Tanglewood Forest, Medicine Road) and Neil Gaiman (Stardust, Blueberry Girl) Vess is a prolific artist and has won three World Fantasy Awards for his work. Of Seven Wild Sisters, Kirkus Reviews says, “Beautiful bookmaking, lovely storytelling and wondrous illustrations make for a splendid sequel-of-sorts to The Cats of Tanglewood Forest.”
The evening continues with an art opening at our used bookstore, Downtown Books and News at 67 N. Lexington Ave where Vess’s work is on display.
55 Haywood Street, Asheville, NC 28801
For 12 years, Rick Fortenberry and Dave Hinson (of Dave’s Comics in Fort Mill, SC) have been delighting Charlotte area comic book collectors with their Charlotte Comicon. The show is held three times a year–in April, August and December–and never fails to entertain. I suppose this would be a good time to mention that I have been involved with this show in both a volunteer and working capacity for a couple of years now. But, I promise not to let personal feelings get in the way of an honest convention report.
The Charlotte Comicon averages between 1,100-2,000 visitors per show, with ages ranging from toddler to senior citizen. Most of them are die hard comic collectors, as this show is predominantly a ‘trade show’. With 35 vendors and 24 special guests (artists, authors, and so forth) at their April 13, 2014 show, there were plenty of treasures to be found. I have seen this show grow exponentially in recent years, even causing them to change venues to their current home at the Crown Plaza Executive Park Hotel.
One aspect of the show that has continued to expand is the Cosplay participation. Years ago, the number of attendees in costume was less than 100. Now, hundreds show up at Charlotte Comicon dressed not only as their favorite comic book characters, but recognizable characters from movies, television, novels, anime, manga, and more. This year’s spring show had 164 contestants just for their costume contest! I do not envy the job of the judges, whatsoever. There were multiple age divisions for competition and Honorable Mention awards given out as well. Winners from each division were given cash prizes that they could spend in the dealer room. The costume contest is one of the bigger draws for the younger crowd that attends each show.
Seeking to connect with their cosplay fan base, Fortenberry and Hinson arranged for a special Secrets of Cosplay panel. The hour-long panel featured professional cosplayers DJ Spider, Amberle Linnea, Todd Lacey, Eve Madison and ‘The Clown Prince of Charlotte’ Victor Goldberg. Each panelist addressed specific topics such as the politics of cosplay, construction tips, and staying in character. It was standing room only in the ballroom that housed the panel, as the audience hung on their every word. Some went so far as to take notes during the panel and many hands went up when it was time for the Q & A segment. I know a lot of the familiar faces who attend the Charlotte Comicon regularly came away from that session eager to put their knowledge to use. The level of costumes at the summer show should be extraordinary.
Another new addition to the spring show was the Tribute to Charlton Comics panel, featuring Michael Eury (Editor-in-Chief Back Issue Magazine), Dan Johnson (Comics Historian) and Fester Faceplant (Artist, Writer). This hour-long panel with Q & A gave a unique history of Charlton Comics, 1946-1985, and the original characters that ended up being acquired and re-imagined by the likes of DC Comics. I admit, I knew nothing going into this panel, but by the end was fascinated with the industry and the backstory of the likes of The Watchmen. The Charlton Arrow #1 was being sold in limited quantities after the panel. Charlton Arrow is a limited edition collection of stories by Charlton veterans as well as contributors from DC Comics, Marvel and Archie. This historical look at the world of comics was enough to make me hungry for more. I hope that Charlotte Comicon will continue to include such panels.
All in all, Charlotte Comicon is exactly what they claim to be: a family-friendly show. For six hours and $5.00 (free if you are in costume or under the age of 12) you can enjoy a day meeting authors, watching artists paint and draw bringing characters to life before your eyes, and take in one of the wackiest costume parades I have ever seen. Here’s where my honesty kicks in…if you have trouble with tight spaces, you might want to consider that when attending one of their shows. They get more and more crowded each time and maneuverability in the dealer room can be daunting at times, especially if you are wearing a costume. Beyond the tight quarters, I have never had a bad experience at a Charlotte Comicon.
There was a big announcement made at the spring show, however, that should alleviate some of the traffic. Fortenberry and Hinson will be adding a third ballroom for the remainder of the 2014 shows. This additional room will house a Toy Show, with vendors and collectibles as far as the eye can see. With comics in one room, toys and collectibles in another, and cosplay/panels in yet another room, even if their attendance doubles as a result, it shouldn’t feel crowded and will remain a fun and affordable outing for families. I’m looking forward to watching this little show grow and grow. Who knows? Perhaps in the near future it could end up being a full weekend? Until then, I don’t think Charlotte Comicon or its fans have anything to worry about.
The next show will be held from 10am to 4pm on August 3, 2014. Information can be found at charlottecomicon.com
• TOMMY LEE EDWARDS, WRITER: VANDROID ARTIST: MARVEL 1985, TURF, STAR WARS, DISNEY
• RICHARD CASE, ARTIST: DOOM PATROL
• JEREMY WHITLEY, WRITER: PRINCLESS, MY LITTLE PONY, ORDER OF DAGONET, NFL RUSH ZONE
• DALE METTAM, INSPECTOR GADGET, JOHNNY TEST, BATTLE SMASH
• CHRIS WARTON WRITER/ARTIST, GIANT
• LOST STORY STUDIOS, WRITERS/ ARTISTS, EHMM THEORY, DEATH CURSE
• LYLE POLLARD, ARTIST
• BANSON RAGAN, ARTIST: DILEMMA COMICS
• JOE MENO, EDITOR, LEGO MASTER: BRICK JOURNAL MAGAZINE
THEE DIRTY BEATS
AWESOME ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING…
• Live Music!!!
ALL FREE COMIC BOOK EVENTS EVENTS WILL BE HELD AT ULTIMATE COMICS FARRINGTON RD LOCATION BEGINNING AT 10AM, SATURDAY MAY 3.
6120 Farrington Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27517
Artist Dan Dos Santos appears at Acme Comics on Wednesday April 16th for a signing from 5:00-7:00 pm! Dan is the award winning cover artist on the standard edition Serenity Leaves on the Wind cover, the current Tomb Raider series, Fables #136, and even some Magic the Gathering cards!
2150 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro, NC 27408
Rob Zombie appears at Barnes & Noble to sign The Lords of Salem on Saturday May 3, 2014 at noon!
We are very excited to host Rob Zombie who will be signing his book, The Lords of Salem. You must have a copy of The Lords of Salem from Barnes & Noble and a ticket to get in line. Tickets are first come, first served and will be handed out beginning at 9:00 am. Please call our store at 704.341.9365 for more information about this event.
Barnes & Noble – The Arboretum
3327 Pineville-Matthews Road, Charlotte, NC 28226
Joe Quinones, Maris Wicks, Yale Stewart, Jacob Chabot, Erica Henderson, and many more sign at Acme Comics on Saturday May 3, 2014 for Free Comic Book Day!
The countdown is on as Acme steps into the next age of the Triad’s oldest & largest comic book store, consolidating their creative power back into the Lawndale Shopping Center and strengthening it’s partnership with Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema to bring you the best Free Comic Book Day ever!
–57 different comic offerings, up from last year’s 52, PLUS whatever other promo books we find around the shop to add to the mix! The first 50 people in line are guaranteed a copy of each book, an offer so appealing it pushes the physical boundaries of the official Free Comic Book Day bags!
–The air-conditioned and waterproofed Sketch Pavilion in Acme Comics Presents will be streamlined to get you through the line faster than ever before while ensuring all attendees that would like to have the opportunity to get their books signed and get a one of kind commission can do so for FREE!
–Geeksboro’s main floor will also play host to even more artists with which to visit!
–Discover more about one of our favorite publishers as we screen Sequart’s Image Revolution featuring length documentary in the 48 seat theatre downstairs in Geeksboro!
–Get to know renowned local cosplayers like Ed “Static Shock” Newsome, Caitlin “Robin” Rhyne, Ian “War Machine” Raulston, and many, MANY more on the sidewalks of the Lawndale Shopping Center!
–FREE face-painting by Munchie & Me!
–Once again, hang out all night and all day and all night again at Geeksboro as our pals down the sidewalk will be open straight through on Friday for the food, beverages, and facility conveniences for anyone camping out over night, all day Saturday to provide refreshments and entertainment to event-goers, and until 2 AM Saturday night for the after-party to beat all after-parties!
–Pub-style Superhero Trivia on Saturday night complete with cash & comic prizes!
–Have small children and want to avoid some of the crowds? Stop by to pick up a bag of books and visit with creators at the Greensboro Children’s Museum (6 books, 3 artists) and the Windsor Recreation Center (4 books, 4 artists) from 10 AM – 1 PM!
Creators Appearing at Acme Comics & Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema:
–Thomas Boatwright – Orc Girl, Cemetery Blues, Halloween Legion, Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo
–Jacob Chabot – Mighty Skullboy Army, Hello Kitty, Voltron Force, SpongeBob
–Casey Coller – Transformers Robots in Disguise, Transformers More than Meets the Eye
–Chris Giarrusso – G-Man, Aw Yeah Comics, Mini Marvels, Bullpen Bits
–Erica Henderson – Subatomic Party Girls, Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures
–Sandy Jarrell - Batman ’66, Meteor Men, Wasteland
–Tracy Lee Quinn – freelance illustrator, Free Comic Book Day poster
–Joe Quinones – Ultimate Comics Survive, FF, Batman Black & White, Batman ’66
–Amanda Rachels – Flesh of White, Arcana’s the Book, Clown Town
–Gregg Schigiel – Pix Teenage American Fairy, SpongeBob Comics, X-Babies
–Brian Smith – Stuff of Legend, Intrepid EscapeGoat, Uncle Ant
–Yale Stewart – JL8 (Little League), Nova
–Randall Trang – Roller Girl & the Flying Sidekick
–Michael Watkins – Sonic the Hedgehog, Transformers
–Maris Wicks – Primates, Yes, Let’s, Batman Black & White
–Kelly Yates – MonstHer, Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time, Doctor Who: Fairytale
2150 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro, NC 27408
Cartoonist Stephan Pastis, creator of Pearls Before Swine, goes on a signing tour across the United States!
Monday, 3/24 Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA – 7:00pm
Tuesday, 3/25 Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM – 7:00pm
Brian Stelfreeze, Jeremy Dale, Jason Latour, Andy Runton, and many more appear at Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find on Saturday May 3, 2014 for Free Comic Book Day!
Free Comic Book Day 2014 at Heroes is going to be our best yet! Come out on May 3rd to meet great comic artists, get free comics and have a great time with your pals at Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find! Check out our awesome guest list below and please save the date!
Creators will be signing from 1PM to 5PM (or longer at the creators’ discretion)
NATALIE ANDREWSON – Artist: Mamuna, Meanwhile
CHRIS BRUNNER – Artist: Loose Ends, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, The Ride
SHAWN CRYSTAL – Artist: Deadpool, Fantomex, Archer & Armstrong
JEREMY DALE – Writer/Artist: Skyward
SANFORD GREENE – Artist: Rotten Apple, Deadpool, Wonder Girl, Methodman GN
JOHN HAIRSTON JR – Painter
JASON LATOUR – Writer: Wolverine & The X-Men, Winter Soldier, Loose Ends Artist: Southern Bastards, B.P.R.D., Django Unchained
JACKIE LEWIS – Artist: Play Ball
JAY POTTS – Writer/Artist: World of Hurt, Atomech
BUDD ROOT – Writer/Artist: Cavewoman
ANDY RUNTON – Writer/Artist: Owly
HOYT SILVA – Artist: Quatermain: Ghosts of the Nzadi
BRIAN STELFREEZE – Artist: Day Men, Domino, Matador, Batman: Shadow of the Bat
NOTE: Free sketches are at the discretion of the artists, and are not guaranteed.
Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find
1957 E. 7th Street, Charlotte, NC 28204
The Mad Monster Party returned to Charlotte this weekend, March 21-23, 2014, by far their biggest effort yet. This was the third year for the convention that celebrates everything from old school Twilight Zone to A House of 1,000 Corpses, and everything in between. In fact, where else could you find Leatherface himself, RA Mihailoff reciting the Bard with Shakespeare Carolina, while music legends The Misfits looked on? It was truly a bizarre weekend.
I had the great fortune to be invited by local independent film makers, Long Walk Productions, to hang with them at their vendor booth for the convention. This meant that my time was split between working the Con and also enjoying it from a visitor’s perspective. It’s interesting to see things from both sides of the house, especially if you want a clear impression of what is really going on around you. It’s always a good thing, unless of course you are reviewing a restaurant. In that case, I assure you…stay out of the kitchen.
The Mad Monster Party (MMP) was set up between two large ballrooms at the University Place Hilton in Charlotte. The hotel is situated by a small lake, amongst many shops and restaurants all connected by small footbridge. Parking was a little tricky, but almost always is at events such as these. MMP utilized every bit of space that they could, lining the hallways of the hotel with various vendor booths and installing a gala tent in the parking lot. Everywhere you turned, strange collectibles and stars of the macabre awaited. Upon set up Friday, it seemed as though everything was planned to perfection. Little did I know how busy things were in the lobby with people trying to get through Will Call with their pre-paid ticket receipts.
And then, of course, came Saturday. Saturdays are notorious for being the busiest convention day because that’s when most people are able to attend. It became evident quickly that the volunteer staff was not prepared to handle the situation. Social media began to explode with posts citing excessively long lines and ticketing issues among other things. Television and film star John Schneider, who was there to do a special screening of his new film Smothered, remained positive as he told me, “We had a good turnout [for the screening] but I wouldn’t do it on a Friday night again, because I’ve had a bunch of people say that they couldn’t get in last night because in order to see Smothered, they had to get in here first. And the line was too long, so by the time they got their ticket, Smothered was either already started or over.” Aside from that snafu, Schneider seemed rather pleased with the rest of MMP.
That seemed to be the consensus all around. Nightmare on Elm Street’s Heather Langenkamp, commenting on the amount of people waiting in line to meet her, “It’s something like I have never experienced.” For the most part, vendors and celebrities were easily accessible, with no more than a 10 minute wait at any given time. But as Saturday progressed, maneuverability waned. Table lines grew wildly, specifically for William Shatner, Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson, and Corey Feldman. Traffic flow to the tables was not designated prior, so fans were coming at them from all sides. It was a complete cluster. Finally, someone had the sense to put some silver duct tape on the floor in front of Elvira’s table to split the flow of traffic in either direction. Feldman told me, “I think it’s [MMP] great, you know. It’s probably the biggest one I’ve seen outside of [San Diego] Comic Con, that would be my guess.”
Joe Moe, one of the three event organizers, was on hand throughout the weekend, talking to vendors, guests, and overseeing things first hand. I witnessed him assess a pedestrian traffic jam and quickly remedy the situation by addressing volunteer staff and guests. Having been on the working side of conventions before, I know how overwhelming things can become. Moe, always with a smile on his face, took it all in stride. “We’re having some growing pains, yes. Ballpark, it looks like we’re on track with 4-5,ooo in attendance, which is what we had hoped for.” Moe also made sure to respond to comments on social media outlets throughout the weekend, which were not always positive, and address concerns in the best way that he could. “We’re really responsive to fans.”
Many of those fans had some downright horrible things to say in their posts. This is the first time that I have seen that level of response to a convention. Sure, I had issues with the event. For starters, the power went off twice in the ballroom leaving everyone in the dark for a few moments. The A/C was all but non-existent. There wasn’t enough signage or a proper map laid out in their pamphlets to let guests know which celebs were in which ballroom, or to provide the location of any special panels (the tent in the parking lot, in case you were wondering). One of the actors, I won’t name names, bumped into me at a water cooler. “I ain’t seen a staff member in hours.” He’d had to abandon his autograph table in order to get a drink of water because volunteers all but disappeared the more chaotic the crowd became. There were so many things that I witnessed–again, as both vendor and guest–that I would have done differently.
Certainly, there were cases where the venting was called for. If I’d pre-purchased tickets and still been subjected to a 3.5hr line to hand in the receipt, I would have been pissed! If my car had been lost by the valet (yes, that happened) the whole world would have known about it. But, the majority of the complaints were, in my opinion, blown out of proportion. I don’t know anything about this Joe Moe or his colleagues. But what I do know, is that someone who is a fanboy at heart, got the idea to start a convention. A party by the fans for the fans. For everything that was wrong, so much of the weekend was right. Even Disney World gave me a headache (fast-pass my behind). But it was still one of the greatest vacations of my life.
That being said, let’s consider the rest of MMP, shall we? One minute I’m discussing special effects make-up with the great Tom Savini, and the next, I’m cracking jokes with the likes of Richard Kiel and Dick Miller. There was a panel between WWF (yeah…I said it) legends Rowdy Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan. Henry “the Fonz” Winkler was showing off children’s books. Cherie Currie was chatting me up on the history of rock legends the Runaways. Corey Feldman used my cell phone. Megan Grant, a licensed cosmetologist and entrepreneur, was set up with her Get Dead Crew, providing air-brush and prosthetics to people, literally turning them into monsters on site. There was karaoke in the hotel bar Saturday night. I laid down the boogie and played that funky music til they died. Or at least until the Misfits’ Dr. Chud cracked up laughing at me. The highlight of my weekend at MMP was Saturday night at midnight, when an estimated 1,000 guests piled into the gala tent to watch a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, featuring a spectacular shadow-cast troupe called That Type from Charlotte’s Cinebarre, and featuring the film’s stars Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn and “Little” Nell Campbell. RHPS historian, Larry Vizel was on hand to film and conduct interviews for the upcoming 40th anniversary documentary Rocky Horror Saved My Life. It was an historical evening. In her second year attending with her family, Roseana Matthews found a “Golden Ticket” in the “Monsta Bar” she had purchased. The chocolates were a monster mock up of the famous Wonka Bar, with 6 lucky winners being upgraded to RIP status.
I guess the point that I’m trying to make, is that people need to lighten up. Unless something truly horrible happened to you or someone you care about as a direct result of something at a convention, you’re problem isn’t as big as you’re making it out to be. MMP is, as Moe said, experiencing growing pains. In 3 short years, the event has grown exponentially. Given their celebrity guest list, perhaps they should have considered a different venue. This is an event that is convention center worthy, crammed into a hotel. In order to make up for the overcrowding (which, according to local news, had the attention of the Fire Marshall), organizers will need to carefully consider where they set up next year. Or at least, reconsider the amount of vendors in the halls (many in wheelchairs had difficulties navigating) or alter the layout. Volunteer staff could be better trained. But this is how it is done, honestly, trial and error. As an event organizer, you try to prepare for every possible scenario you can imagine and you train your staff based on that. Without fail, something unexpected will always crop up; being short handed, celebs that cancel, ticketing issues, photo-op issues, and so forth. Conventions should be looked at as viable organisms, growing and changing and evolving. They will never be able to please all fans all the time. But they will certainly try. Year to year, they’ll try.
And it’s important for MMP to learn from their mistakes and move forward a little more prepared next year. For every celebrity guest I interviewed raved about how much fun they were having and how they couldn’t wait to come back. Celebrating all that scares us excites our film heroes, too. “Your first scare is the most important one you have,” said Langenkamp, admitting that the Flying Monkeys from the Wizard of Oz is what started it all for her. Dick Miller laughed, “I’ve very rarely been scared by movies…except for something Shirley Temple did.” Barry Bostwick had other ideas, “You wanna know why I do this? I do this to talk to lovely people like you and to oogle the girls. I just sit here and watch the girls go by.” Thanks, Barry.
All in all, in spite of a few hiccups–some preventable, some not–I think Mad Monster Party was a huge success. It is a relaxed environment where you get to hang out with the celebrities, rather than being separated from them like at some other conventions. Between the few panels that they had, the movie screenings, and the Rocky Horror reunion, it was definitely worth the ticket price for anyone who attended. Even though I did my fair share of mumbling and complaining throughout the weekend, I will admit, as a fan I am grateful an event such as this has been put together. I hope that, in time, other fans will learn to appreciate what all goes into putting on an event of this size and what they got to experience over all. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2015 brings for the Mad Monster Party!
Photos courtesy of Garrett Marks and Walker Bait Productions, unless otherwise noted.
Chris Giarrusso signs at Ultimate Comics on Saturday April 12th from 10:30 am till 4:00 pm!!
6120 Farrington Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27517