I have never been to a comic convention. I have been going to GenCon for many years so I am no stranger to attending geek conventions. I’ve just never had either the time or the inclination to go to a comic convention until recently. I have only recently returned to comics after a long hiatus. I was enticed back into the fold with the Flash Point event in DC comics and began reading again in earnest with the launch of DC’s New 52.
I became aware of the Cincinnati Comic Expo through Comic Book World, my local comic shop, and my friend Edgar. After some minor prodding, I agreed to attend the convention and see what it was like. I knew that it would not be like what I see on YouTube in regards to SDCC or C2E2 but it was certainly something that I was looking forward to experiencing. I picked up my two day pass at my comic shop and made plans for the first day of the expo. As things are wont to do around me, things went a little bit pear shaped. The plan, of course, was to attend the show with Edgar as he is a veteran of comic conventions having recently attended C2E2 and was in the midst of planning to go to New York Comic Con in October. I ended up not hearing from him right before the show and the plan fell apart. I was determined not to miss it though.
So, that morning I got out a map, donned my badge, and headed down to the grand metropolis of Cincinnati. The convention center was easy to find and there was plenty of parking at 10 in the morning. I arrived a little before the doors opened to those of us without a VIP badge but didn’t have to wait for very long as the line was for those waiting to purchase entrance and I just breezed in when the doors opened. The Expo itself was very reminiscent of the vendor hall at GenCon. The one major difference was there no booths on scale with the things that Wizards did at the recent iteration of GenCon. I believe that I had expected to see all kinds of different comic dioramas and such and was a little disappointed when there were none to be found. I was a little spoiled by GenCon. Outside of not seeing anything like that, the setup was not very intimidating. My local comic shop was right there by the entrance, so I stopped by to say hello and then began the trek through the aisles.
The thing I noticed first was the large variety of back issues and trades available for sale. All the comic shops in the area were represented as well as shops from points north and south. It was interesting to see such a large collection of long boxes with a stunning variety of books to peruse. As I mentioned earlier, I have just gotten back into comics. I was very intimidated by the vast array of back issues and only made cursory forays into them. I was on much firmer ground when I was browsing the trades. I didn’t have to worry as much about which issue I was looking for or was it silver age or bronze age. I only had to remember the story line that I was looking for and which company had produced it. One of the books I was looking for was a copy of the New Avengers: Illuminati. I had picked up a copy of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game Civil War event book and it mentioned the Illuminati. I was intrigued by the idea and wanted to read their story. I was happy to be able to find a copy of the trade for only $6.
Another thing I noticed on my first pass through the hall was a large variety of toys and collectibles as well. It was pretty cool to see the all the action figures that were available. I saw several Green Lantern figures that I certainly think I may pick up the next time I go to a convention. One of the local shops had a statue which displayed Snake-eyes fighting with two ninja which was just beautiful. There were even vendors that had various pieces of action figures from the past which were seeing a large amount of business as well. I later learned that this was how you could acquire a rarer figure without having to spend the exorbitant prices that near mint copies of the figure would fetch. You just had to piece it together in the fashion of Dr. Frankenstein.
The artist section was the most intimidating portion of the con for me. In a manner similar to music, I have a limited vocabulary in which to communicate about art. I know what I appreciate and found several artists throughout the section that had a style that matched my taste. I have more of a penchant for seeing certain characters in different styles than just appreciating one style. I was lucky to stumble across Edgar as I began my second circuit of the convention. He is a graphic designer and very much into the art side of comics. It was through his conversations with several of the artists that I learned of the practice of background artist. This is where a company would pay the big name artist to do the character pieces for a book and then have a younger talented individual come in and fill in the blanks on the book. These artists were largely not credited and paid in product from the companies. This is also where I discovered the art of Sara Richard. Edgar had stopped to look through her prints and I noticed a framed piece featuring Dex-Starr from the Red Lantern corp done in the style of the Hang in There kitten motivational poster. She had me at Dex-Starr as I love that damn cat despite just being a minor character in the Red Lantern Story line. In addition to being one of my favorite character, her style used a mix of inks, pastels, and water colors that was just gorgeous. I waited patiently as my friend put in his commission request and then quickly asked for a full color sketch of Dex-Starr. My second purchase of the convention was made and I had to come back the next day to pick my new favorite thing.
You may notice that I am not really speaking about the various panels that were held at the convention. They had several but none that really intrigued me. I am not a Brony and was not really a fan of The Green Power Ranger. The expo also had the co-creator of the walking dead, Tony Moore and a reunion of the artists from Swamp Thing. I am sure these things were interesting it was just that they were not my thing. It was nice to see all the different cosplayers that milled about the expo while waiting for the various panels and contests.
I attended the second day of the expo as well with the exact same results of my attempts at making plans. Once again alone on my last trek through the hall, I came across the booth of David Petersen of Mouse Guard fame. I had the good fortune to play the role playing game while I was at GenCon and was very interested in reading the comic. Sadly, I had found his booth to late to be able to pick up any of the hard back copies of the books and the individual issues that he had left were not in enough sequence for me to pick them up. I was fortunate though that he did have a copy of the boxed set of the game as well as a pretty cool T-shirt. I quickly acquired these treasures and Mr. Petersen was kind enough to autograph the box and the main rule book as well as doing a quick little sketch. With my newly acquired booty and my completed commission in hand, I left the expo with a very postive feeling. It was a fun experience. The problems that I had faced in attendance were all personal issues. The Expo itself was well organized and staffed. Everyone that I spoke with was friendly and encouraging which made for an overwhelmingly positive experience for me as first-time convention attendee. I am looking forward to going to another one as well as attending this expo again.