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
Author, historian and former comic book editor Michael Eury brings Captain Action to Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (GEM) in Baltimore’s historic Camden Yards sports complex for a signing on Saturday, August 15, 2009, from noon to 3:00 PM.
The event will mark the debut of the brand new edition of Eury’s critically acclaimed Captain Action: The Original Super-Hero Action Figure. In addition to the author, Ed Catto and Joe Ahearn, the owners of Captain Action Enterprises, will be in attendance for the signing.
The event will also kick off a special exhibit covering the history of Captain Action, from the first action figures in the 1960s to the latest merchandise (and everything in between). The exhibit will run from August 15 through October 13, 2009.
Published by TwoMorrows Publishing, Captain Action: The Original Super-Hero Action Figure chronicles the history of this quick-changing champion, including photos of virtually every Captain Action product ever released. This new, full-color, hardcover edition is due in stores on or about August 10.
The original superhero action figure first arrived on the scene in 1966 with the ability to change into a fantastic range of other incredible heroes, including Superman, Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man, the Lone Ranger, Buck Rogers, and the Green Hornet. He took on their costumes and personas and fought the forces of evil in their places. Produced by the Ideal Toy Company and developed by Stan Weston, who had been involved in the genesis of Hasbro’s G.I. Joe just two years before, Captain Action enjoyed a fairly brief shelf life. The last of Ideal’s original production runs ended in 1968.
In that short time, though, the 12-inch action figure had also doubled for Aquaman, Flash Gordon, the Phantom, Steve Canyon, Sgt. Fury, and Tonto. He had a sidekick, Action Boy (who became Superboy, Aqualad and Robin the Boy Wonder) and a blue-skinned, bug-eyed alien arch foe named Dr. Evil (obviously years before Austin Powers fought another Dr. Evil). There were playsets, vehicles, a headquarters, flicker rings, playing cards, a Ben Cooper Halloween costume, and a fondly remembered five-issue series from DC Comics that included contributions from such legends as Wally Wood, Jim Shooter, and Gil Kane.
As the years followed, Captain Action became the purview of the collecting community. A thriving secondary market developed and kept interest in the character alive within its ranks. In 1998, thirty years after the original production run ended, Playing Mantis brought Captain Action back to the world of new toys. Although their tenure with the toy line would also end after two years, it greatly fanned the flames of interest in the character and the original collectibles, and led eventually to the formation of Captain Action Enterprises, the present day owners of the intellectual property.
Geppi’s Entertainment Museum Address, 301 W Camden St, Baltimore, MD 21201