I, along with a few friends and the wife, made the yearly pilgrimage to HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC over the weekend. Started by Shelton Drum in 1982, the convention has become one of the premier comic events in the U.S. This year is my tenth time attending overall, and I have been 9 out of the last ten years (2007 being my only miss). What strikes me most about the convention is the varying degrees it has/hasn’t changed since 1995, the first year I ever attended.
The fact that my first trip to HeroesCon can legally drink now makes me feel a bit older than I think I am — it is such an interesting time capsule to reflect on. Though reflection might be a fool’s errand due to the inability to change the past, it can certainly shed light on the present, and perhaps lead to a brighter future. It is with this in mind that I look back on my own experience with HeroesCon and the comics world in general.
In 1995, the comics world was still experiencing/suffering through the speculator’s boom that would almost ruin the industry. Marvel was less than two years away from bankruptcy, DC wasn’t doing much better, and Image Comics was already starting a precipitous decline due to missed deadlines and lackluster books. The self-publishing and indie scene was picking up steam with more avenues available for creators, and it felt as if the comics industry was at some form of an impasse. But I was fifteen so I just wanted some autographs.
The biggest draws for me that year were Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti. The pair had been on a hot streak after Sword of Azrael and were doing a self-published book called Ash, about a firefighting superhero. I remember very little about the book now besides the artwork, but I liked it enough. I also got to meet William Messner Loebs who was the writer for one of my favorite books, The Maxx. It was a comic put out by Image that went very much against the grain of everything else they published. Strangely enough, the part about the convention I remember most is getting a bootleg Japanese copy of Pulp Fiction. Back in the VHS days it took the better part of a year for movies to reach video, so getting this a few months before it was released in the states, and in a letterbox format to boot, was just too good to pass up.
I was only at the convention on Saturday. I was on a family vacation and my parents were nice enough to make Charlotte one of the stops so that I could attend the convention. They had also taken me to DragonCon in Atlanta, GA the previous year, and they were relieved that HeroesCon wasn’t quite as fantasy based. Less goblins walking around. I also remember going to watch Batman Forever the day after and being thoroughly disappointed in it. I still cringe whenever someone says it’s not as bad as Batman and Robin. They are right of course; it’s worse.
So what has changed in the 21 years since Todd McFarlane signed 2000 autographs on a single Sunday in Charlotte? As far as the convention goes, not a lot. It’s still a lot of fun and one of the only true comic conventions left. Yeah, I know there are more cons now than ever before, but most of them are just concerned with getting actors who charge fifty dollars a pop for an autograph. Sorry, I don’t want your signature that badly Traci Lords. HeroesCon is still a convention put on by comics fans for comics fans.
The biggest difference that I have noticed, and that’s really been in the last five years, is the spike in attendance. There are a lot more people going now than there were before. Geek culture is definitely at some form of peak currently so I’m sure that has something to do with it, but I am hopeful that a lot of these people stick around after Captain America’s 80th movie and after The Big Bang Theory is put out of everyone’s misery. I doubt that many people involved in the industry were very excited about its future in 1995, but I get the feeling that the mood might be a little more positive these days.
I will always have a soft spot for comics, even if I don’t follow as many of them as I did in my younger years. HeroesCon lets me feel like I’m fifteen years old again, even if it’s just for a weekend, and that’s something I don’t get from many things. So here’s hoping that the convention never changes its focus to anything other than comics. There is a Wizard World seemingly every weekend; HeroesCon only happens once a year. So pack your bags for 2017, it will be here before you know it.
Until next time…