Ann Harkey writes for Bleeding Cool;
Known as the "preferred con of the pros", HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC is a different kind of comic book experience.
Let me preface this article by stating I have only been to a handful of conventions: DragonCon in Atlanta, Wizard World in Chicago, and random anime gatherings. I know how to expect the good with the bad ( the good being able to meet favorite actors, artists, and writers…the bad being long lines, sloppy cosplay, and that BO that only crops up during conventions that smells like a mix of armpit and social awkwardness), but I digress.
HeroesCon was started 30 years ago by Shelton Drumm. He started the con while working at the local comic book shop, Heroes Aren't Hard to Find (the sponsor of the convention). I was able to snag a minute with Drumm and get his input on how a local con of 400 people, max, has grown to fill a convention center to the brim.
"It makes me feel great, how else can I feel? It is real unexpected how big it has gotten. I'm real surprised at the amount of people here this year," Drumm said. He informed me that this year's con had almost twice the number of goers compared to last year. We are talking several thousands of people flooding the con floor at any given time.
Despite fighting the crowds, getting tousled around by people's backpacks full of comics to get signed, and bulky cosplay (if you carry anything larger than a book as part of your costume, you are a jerk and need to realize this fact ASAP) I found the crowds to be more manageable than normal due to the well-organized con staff who directed the flow of traffic amazingly.
That being said, I was able to walk up to most tables and have a chat with the artists (that is when they don't have a line or working on commissions…common courtesy goes a long way, people.)
Brian Stelfreeze was doing free sketches (I got a bitchin' Poison Ivy sketched) all while giving a free art lesson, joking with fans and voicing his opinion on what movies he can't stand. Someone brought up the topic of Hellboy, to which he responded, "I know Del Toro is our little brother…but he's retarded." I was curious on what he thought about other conventions he has been to, in particular, anime conventions.
"The problem with anime shows…let me preface this by saying I'm a racist and misogynistic…they're really bitchy! At this show, we just bitch about other stuff." Stelfreeze went on to explain how comic and pro-oriented HeroesCon really was. He said he loved this show, and was easily, one of his favorites to attend.
The longest line I stood in was for George Perez (who has done art for Avengers and Teen Titans).He was one of the few artist there who attended the first ever HeroesCon 30 years prior. He was also in the best mood of any person there. He would gladly get up for pictures with fans, sign stacks of comics, and was just over-all loud and…bouncy? Yeah… Bouncy. After waiting forever, shuffling my backpack on the ground, and listening to people in line behind me going totally fanboy over Perez, I was able to get to talk with him for a few. He also gushed how much he loved being at HeroesCon. "It's gotten bigger and bigger. It's so much a comic show. It is so much fun because the comic artists get to be the stars!" he said.
Paul Levitz (former president and publisher of DC comics) elaborated Perez's point. "I think the percentage of artists are the highest here than any other convention I've been to."
Walt Simonson handled his lines by telling everyone to forge his signature, he would later approve them. Surprisingly, no one moved.
How does HeroesCon keep the ticket cost so low ($30 for a weekend pass) compared to other cons, but still able to have tons…I mean TONS….of well-known artists attend? The Art Auction.
The auction goes like this. Artists either donate original art, signed prints, or whatever they create during their stay to be sold off in an auction open to the public. The proceeds go towards their travel cost. The money raised also helps older artists with their insurance bills. How cool is that? They take care of their own, for sure, at HeroesCon.
I was lucky enough to get a seat at the very front of the auction room, where I was in prime position for the excitement that would later ensue over Phil Noto's painting of Gwen Stacey and Spider-Man. In the middle of the auction, Stan Lee appears, walks up to the lectern, and announces he would be signing Noto's art. The crowd, at the appearance of the legend, goes insane. The art sells for $7,500, the second highest selling piece of art. The highest selling piece would be Mark Brooks' Phoenix for $9,500. The auction raised approximately $78,000 total, but my figures may be off because I got distracted by Stan Lee and enjoyed a beer.
While an auction is a great way to raise a huge amount of money, artists have turned to kickstarter.com to raise money for their own endeavors. Let me share what I found out about some secret projects by talented artists.
Ben Templesmith told me he would be launching a Kickstarter (yesterday, in fact) to fund a huge graphic novel called 44 Flood. He didn't know how much Kickstarter would help, however. "We're just waving our dicks in the wind. If it fails, I'm moving back to Australia to be a convict," he said.
Jim Calafiore will also be launching a Kickstarter for his upcoming comic, Leaving Megalopolis. He will be reteaming up with Gail Simone (both worked on Secret Six) for the project. He said there would be cool incentives, such as being drawn into the comic itself, for those who pledge a certain amount of money. Ben Caldwell will also be launching a kickstarter to hire a new inker for his The Dare Detectives in July.
Colleen Coover's Gingerbread Girl caught my eye, so much in fact, It was the only book I bought while there. She will be announcing a secret teen adventure strip July 4.
What did I think of HeroesCon? I loved it. Everyone should attend this con at least once in their life. It is a great opportunity to meet idols and new artists, buy artwork, and find out about what's coming up in the world of nerdom.