By John Bultena
If someone told me that there would be a successful multi-day comic book convention in California's Central Valley back in 2012, I would have scoffed. But then I met Mike Millerick at the local comic book shop that May. He was promoting a convention a little ways north of my hometown of Merced, California. The dude was excited about his convention, StocktonCon. It was very grassroots and he was just trying to bring in a few vendors from around the area along with some local talent.
The flyers he had were impressive. There was a very good drawing of Batman fighting the Thing. I inquired about the flyer, both its significance and who did it. Millerick informed me that it was drawn by his friend and local Stockton artist, Ramon Villalobos (What If? Age of Ultron, Secret Wars: E is for Extinction) and that the Fantastic Four are substantial because it was Stockton, California where they crashed on Earth after being bombarded by cosmic rays. This was a real fan, someone invested in comic lore and providing a venue for artists to showcase their work.
I asked him what sort of turn out he was expecting. He told me about 1000, but would be happy with 800. That first year StocktonCon had about 4,000 attendees.
I sat down with Mike Millerick and asked him some questions about his convention and its success over the last three years.
John Bultena (JB): Tell us a little history about Stockton-Con; where it began, why it began, who has been involved.
Mike Millerick (MM): After being a fan of pop culture all my life, StocktonCon grew out of that love along with a desire to help some local charities and to give fans in this area a fun event. Late in 2011, I contacted a great friend and the President of the United Way of San Joaquin County, Andy Prokop, to see if we could do a pop culture event as a fundraiser and give the community an event to call their own. He immediate said "yes," and that led to just a tremendous relationship not only with the United Way of San Joaquin, but with Saint Mary's Dining Room as well.
JB: Could you share how you got together with Ramon Villalobos to do the awesome Fantastic Four vs. Justice League posters for StocktonCon?
MM: I randomly came across a sketch cover on eBay, with art by "Stockton Artist Ramon Villalobos." I thought he was a great artist, so I asked if he'd have any interest in working with StocktonCon. From there we talked about the idea of doing four Fantastic Four posters, as a tribute to Stockton being the home of the Fantastic Four.
MM: I think the fans really make StocktonCon what it is and what it has grown into. Everyone from artists, exhibitors, cosplayers, pop culture fans and sponsors all play a role in this event. The Stockton community along with fans from surrounding cities have just been amazing. The growth has been great, from 4,200 the first year on one day, to 13,500 over two days in 2014. It's just been an amazing experience so far, and I am so grateful to everyone that has come out and been a part of our events.
JB: Tell us about your special guests/events this year.
MM: We have a lot of fun and cool guests this year. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Jerry "The King" Lawler are both pro-wrestling legends, but they also are multi-talented. Piper was the star of one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, They Live, while Lawler is an outstanding artist. We also have horror stars Tyler Mane (Halloween, X-Men) and Derek Mears (Friday the 13th, The Hills Have Eyes, Predators). Some amazing voice actors will also be attendance, including Bob Bergen (Porky Pig) and William Salyers of Regular Show. From comic books Chris Burnham (Batman Incorporated), Tim Seeley (Gotham, Revival), Mike Norton (Revival, Battlepug), Joe Eisma (Morning Glories) and Sara Richard (Jem and the Holograms, My Little Pony). There are plenty more guests that will be attendance as we are continually updating our guests that will be attendance.
We are also excited to have an exclusive Northern California screening of Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman's The Fantastic Four, featuring Q&A with Jay Underwood (who played Johnny Storm in it). The Geek Fashion Show will highlight our Sunday activities, with a wide variety of designers showing off their wares. We are also hosting StocktonCon Rocks, with Adam West, The Bat and Darealwordsound, a free show for the entire community at the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel as part of their Summer Concert Series.
MM: There have been so many, but opening the doors the first year and expecting a crowd of around 1,000 fans and getting 4,200 really blew us away. The first StocktonCon started at 10 am and I thought there would be a nice group of fans lined up outside, but when I went out just before 10 am, the line went all the way down the street and out to Pershing Avenue – it was something I'll never forget.
JB: What separates your convention from others?
MM: I think there are so many great conventions in California – we are really lucky to have so many fun events to attend. We really incorporate a lot of what we have seen at other events, but to be able to pull it all together makes it really fun. From live wrestling events to live music, offsite movies, there is a little of something for everyone. The artists, exhibitors, and celebrities really add to that as well. We try to have something for everyone.
JB: You have fun out of Fantastic Four characters for posters. Where do you go from here?
MM: Our lead artist, Ramon Villalobos, has been amazing in these first four years. We have talked briefly about next year, so hopefully it will be something amazing for our fifth anniversary show.
StocktonCon is Saturday, August 8th till Sunday, August 9th at Stockton Arena in Stockton, California. Doors open at 10 am both days. Tickets are available both online and at various ticket sale locations. You can find out more at StocktonCon's website, their Facebook page, and their Twitter account.