Pioneered in 1982 by Shelton Drum, owner of Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find comics in Charlotte, North Carolina, HeroesCon has become one of the premier Comic-oriented fandom cons in the nation. Correction: in the world. The three-day convention draws in comic writers, artists, publishers and vendors by the 100s, yet the feel is decidedly personal, like a really big gathering of friends in a really big house….with a car show being held in the garage next door, but that’s another story. This is the story of how The Nerd himself (AKA Bryan), co-founder JP, and lil’ ol’ me, met in person for the first time and explored everything this Con has to offer – which is quite a lot. This is an overview/semi-review. Stay tuned for more information/news gathered from specific panels and folks we met.
The convention floor is divided into sections. Some, such as “Indie Island” and “Artist Alley,” are primarily focused on offering fans a way to interact with the artists and writers they love, and the artists and writers they may very well come to love. These areas also offer writers, artists and publishers a chance to reach new audience members, network with each other, and generally have a smashing good time. Much like the Walk of Fame at DragonCon, the people in the room seem truly interested in talking to fans, and the prices are much, much better. Autographs are almost always free, and one can purchase issues of comics or original art for fair, reasonable prices. Some creators, the comic-rock-star Scott Snyder included, are willing to sign as many items as fans can carry (an especially generous task on the part of Mr. Snyder, given that he was clearly sick as a dog during much of the convention) and others have a limit of one or two items. There may be a way to know who is who in advance, but some good general advice would be to be considerate of others who are waiting in line and the artists themselves and only bring a few items with you to have signed. Some artists have specific times they will be signing (this is particularly true for those who are also speaking on panels during the convention) and others are catch as catch can, but there is a good chance they will be at their tables (which are assigned on a fairly easy to read map given out at registration) most of the day. This is what they are there for – to meet fans, to geek out with them, to build on their base and build up their work.
My experience on the floor was exceptional. I purchased the first three issues of Fanboys Vs. Zombies for 5$ each, signed by the writer, artist and colorist for each and I had a choice of covers to choose from. While I had yet to read the title, the price was so reasonable, I was willing to buy them based on the positively glowing reviews of every single member of Word of the Nerd to do a review. As a bonus, artist Jerry Gaylord offered to draw a sketch of “any character” I wanted. After a long discussion of how to represent Jon Snow (I know, I know, he’s not a comic character) I decided to keep it simple and go with Cap. I was not disappointed – see the pic below. I also purchased an interesting looking book called Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer, also signed, also for a reasonable cost. Again, just looked interesting. Why not try it? My favorite purchases by far were two prints from artist Chris Uminga, one of which (the baby Hulk) is included in the picture below. They were the most expensive purchases, at 20$ each, but I fell in love with them, so I have no regrets.
I should also mention that by far the biggest name at the convention was Stan Lee. In order to be part of his panel or have him sign items, however, you had to buy separate tickets. I did not elect to do this, but WOTN staff writer and first time Con-goer Mike Turner did and he reported that Mr. Lee did not disappoint – he apparently put on a great discussion at his panel and was generous and gracious with his time at the signings. It would be hard to imagine a better story than Stan Lee’s. It’s nice to see him enjoying the fruits of his labor at the age of 89.
Toward the front of the massive space, vendors set up, often selling truly impressive and daunting collections of vintage comics. If you have been looking for “that one” issue of “that one” series to complete your collection, HereosCon may offer a solution. In addition to comics, attendees will find gadgets, movie posters, strange toys, and memorabilia by the tons. Some of it is offered at discounted prices, some of it is decidedly over-priced, so give negotiating a try when purchasing. There was a beautiful, framed Captain America poster for 100$ that I felt too shy to negotiate for and now I’ll never know if it could have been mine. Someone else snagged it by mid-day, Saturday. *sigh*
In some cases, folks must be invited to the con in order to get a table, in others, tables can be purchased with enough advanced notice – for all the details on which is which (something I know my colleagues at Word of the Nerd ,where I also serve as Editor in Chief, had some frustrations with) click here.
From my experience, the panels are relatively laid-back discussions, usually including a moderator, that are equally divided between questions from said moderator and questions from those in the crowd. I imagine the exact logistics vary slightly from panel to panel.
I attended the Vertigo Visions panel, featuring Scott Synder, Bill Willingham (Fables) and moderator Jimmy Aquino from Comic News Insider (who also has a recap of the con here), the DC’s New 52 panel featuring Cully Hamner (Blue Beetle), Ivan Reis (Aquaman), Scott Snyder, Joe Prado (Green Lantern) and Jeff Lemire, with moderator Doug Merkle, and the Womanthology panel featuring Rachel Pandich (Aspire), Janet Lee (The Return of the Dapper Men), Jennifer Mercer, Vanessa Stone, Anya Martin, Brenda Kirk and Rachel Deering, all of whom had work included in the Womanthology collection.
By far my favorite panel was the New 52 discussion. Every participant was funny, smart, and happy to be there. The crowd asked thoughtful questions directed at each of the writers and artists in a fairly even way, so the awkward “one guy gets all the questions” thing was avoided. Best of all (or worst, for my pocket-book) they each recommended titles they love and I walked away with a much longer pull-list than I went in with.
Several of the women on the Womanthology panel graciously agreed to dedicate some time to us and participated in a Word of the Nerd podcast after already answering questions for an hour, so a special thanks goes out to Rachel Pandich, Janet Lee, Brenda Kirk (Geektress on Twitter), and Vanessa Satone for that. They were inspiring, charming, and also full of amazing ideas about all the things I should add to my pull-list. Titan Comics in Atlanta also thanks you, ladies.
While I was to some extent at the convention to network with others in the geek-world, my primary purpose in all of this – both GGGG and WOTN included – is to have fun. Bex and I write what we love. We post what makes us happy. We want to feel connected to folks who are inspiring, funny, talented and who, above all else, get what the hell we’re talking about. HeroesCon has this same, non-cynical feel. Sure, there are plenty of business cards passed out, but it’s almost always with a, “Woah, you’re super cool. Let’s stay in touch,” vibe attached. While I am far from an expert on comics, I know enough to have been deeply excited by much of what I saw, participated in, and purchased at HeroesCon. It is a con that offers something for novice and expert alike.
Tickets are only 30$ for all three days, folks. I call that a bargain. If you live in the area, or are up for a trip south in June, I highly recommend putting it on your schedule for next year. Check out the website for all the details.
This article was originally published on Good Girl Gone Geek, June 26th, 2012