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
Along with today’s wallpaper, I wanted take a little bit to mention our current Kickstarter project to promote the documentary film we are trying to make. We are trying to raise $7250 to cover the cost of filming equipment and travel costs. Our plan is to attend four convention events this year, C2E2, HeroesCon, DragonCon and New York Comic Con. We will be interviewing attendees and some staff to try to shed some light on what makes these events so popular and to dispel the stereotypes that surround these events and the people who so loyally attend.
This film will be about fans, made by fans. When planning this project we discussed in great detail how we wanted to approach it to make sure it was made in a positive light and not to poke fun at or belittle anyone we interview. Our intention is to show that we as fans are just like any other fan of anything, whether it be sports or what have you. Rabid fans are everywhere and comic book, sci-fi, fantasy or horror fans are no different. We love and are passionate about these events and showing our support is what we do.
As of today, we have 18 days left to help raise the $7250 we need to make this possible. This is where YOU can help us. You can go to our Kickstarter page, and if you aren’t signed up, sign up and donate. Everyone who contributes will receive a special prize based on your level of contribution, but everyone will get something to thank you for your support.
So if you are a fan of Word of the Nerd or a ‘con fan and attendee, we would love your support with our project. If you’re a cosplayer, artist, writer or have anything to do with the comic book, sci-fi, fantasy, video games or horror genres, we’d love to talk to you about being interviewed during one of the events we’re attending. But first we need to make our fund raising goal. Help us make our film and show that we fans are not weirdos who dress-up as superheroes and live in our parents basements.
Today’s wallpaper is courtesy of Wallbase
View and download this wallpaper here
Be sure to check back daily for more great comic wallpaper here at Word of the Nerd!
Have you hugged your nerd today?
Along with old friend and recent Geek of the Week, Dieter Zimmerman, I spent the weekend of February 17th, 2012 in Chattanooga, TN, attending the quirky and intense multi-fandom convention known as Con Nooga. The event organizers describe the con as such:
A Convention for Fans of Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Gaming, Anime, Paranormal, Costuming, Films, Artists, Celebrities, Comics, Haunting…so much more!
Con Nooga… Where all the fandoms come to play!
And play, they do. Con Nooga offers three days of gaming, panels, competitions and cosplay that cover a wide breadth of interests, as well as a vendors hall with impressive inventory.
My first and enduring impression of this con is that it is not for casual fans, so much as for the hard-core. Unlike an event such as DragonCon, there are no big celebrities at Con Nooga. Those looking for autographs and pictures and panels in which they get to interact with their favorite actors, writers and creators would be advised to skip this particular Con. What it does offer, however, is a place for people who thoroughly enjoy discussing the entertainment and activities they love with other like-minded folks a chance to do so. Be ready to geek out. Be ready for others to geek out, and vehemently.
Panels at Con Nooga are mostly run by fans and have a relatively laid-back vibe. I attended a Whedonverse panel headed up by two fans who were experts, to say the least. Not only were they able to field questions about all Whedon shows, they had also read the comics, watched all commentary on the DVDs, and kept up with various websites providing all the news you’d ever want to know about Joss Whedon and his projects. They were also clearly there to have fun, to state their opinions, and to lead a sometimes rousing debate. It was a good time.
There were similar fan-run panels for shows like Supernatural, Game of Thrones (also covering the books), American Horror Story and a few others. There were also panels for writers, make-up artists and those interested in anything from “religion in horror” to “getting started in webcomics.”
The “closest to a celebrity” panel I attended consisted of several zombie extras from The Walking Dead. I was pleasantly surprised by this panel, as most of the questions from the audience were about the lives of the extras themselves, rather than “what’s it like to work with Andrew Lincoln” and “can you get me on set?” As someone far more interested in behind the scenes details like “who caters” than “is so and so a nice guy” myself, I was glad to be around others of a similar mindset.
By far the most fun panel was one I only caught briefly – the Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate. While not as much mad-cap fun as the infamous scene in Fan Boys, this was clearly a good-natured, but still high stakes debate. Make no mistake – both sides wanted to win, both sides had fans in the crowd, and both sides knew their stuff. Dieter and I came in toward the end, when the question on the floor was apparently something about which universe would be most suited for the Firefly team as headed by Captain Mal – I know this super nerdy, nerdier than I usually am even, but come on…that’s a lot of fun right there.
In addition to the panels, there were a number of events that allowed for direct, active fan participation. Perhaps my favorite was the Sci-Fi Jeopardy competition. With three rounds, each with different contestants and categories like Tolkien, Theme Songs and Game of Thrones, what’s not to love? Dieter and I had great fun speculating about how we would have totally won if we had been one of the participants…yet we never did raise our hands to try to compete.
Other events included a Star Wars wedding, a Harry Potter showdown, and a costume contest. Dieter was at the Con to lead an RPG, so he and I also spent a fair amount of time in the gaming room, playing Fluxx, RoboRally, and…more Fluxx. While hanging out, waiting for players, we met Dave (seen below) who turned out to be what I like to call a niche-celebrity. Dave designs games and was well enough known at the Con for the person in charge of the gaming room to come over and ask for his autograph at one point.
Thanks to Randy Chertkow, an old college friend who celebrates his birthday every year by inviting his friends to Chicago to play games and spread much joy all weekend, I have a place in my heart and my life for geeky-gaming, so this room was among my favorites at the Con.
If there is something on which Con Nooga can rival even the great DragonCon, it is costumes. While there were probably better made, more expensive costumes at DragonCon, there was most certainly not a higher percentage of folks wearing them or more love put into them. Con Nooga attendees come to play, remember. CosPlay is a big part of that. This might be my imagination, but my impression was that 50% of those in attendance had on a costume – far higher than the percentage at DragonCon. It was neat to see. Here’s a small sample.
Other points worth mentioning:
Con Nooga is held at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel and Convention Center in downtown Chattanooga. It is a nice enough hotel, with plenty of eating options and a display of real railroad cars along the main pathway between buildings. There is also a brewery right next door that has decent food and above average ale for those so inclined. Compared to DragonCon and Supernatural Convention rates (my other two cons to date), this hotel is a steal. The Con rate on rooms was under 100$ and the buffet for breakfast was only 11$. Very reasonable.
Con Nooga is not the only fandom convention in Chattanooga. A similar con called Chattacon is also held in the city. According to word on the street, Con Nooga came about because there was a desire for a more family-friendly convention. There were a lot of kids at this con, many of whom were dressed up as super heroes and entirely adorable, and a number of activities that were kid safe (although, certainly there were adults only events as well). The con organizers found a way to work with the hotel to keep all the adult party-people in one building, leaving the rest of the hotel peaceful at night. This was
wise, as I visited the party building and was happy to go back to the nice, quiet, boring building when 2AM roiled around and I was ready for some sleep.
My primary motives for attending the con were to 1) get to hang out with Dieter and 2) research for A Con-Voluted story, the
project Bex and I are working on with our colleagues at The New Normal Productions and Word of the Nerd. There were times I felt a bit out of my element, totally out-geeked and a little intimidated by the intensity of some of the attendees, but there was no time at which I was bored. Con Nooga is an affordable way to spend a weekend geeking out with other geeks. For those close enough to drive, in particular, it is certainly worth checking out.
Have you checked out the Kickstarter page for “A CON-voluted Story”? Our very own Word of the Nerd team is involved with this awesome project! Show them some love!
Okay, we’ve been keeping this project under wraps for a while now. We were getting everything lined up and ready before revealing it to the public. As of this morning it was officially announced that Word of the Nerd and Good Girls Gone Geek are partnered in a venture to make a documentary film about the comic/sci-fi/fantasy convention experience title A CONvoluted Story. The goal of our new production company, The New Normal Productions, is to interview and feature attendees to get their input on why they find these events so special, while also chronicling our own journey.
The film will cover us traveling to four different events this year, C2E2 in Chicago, Dragon*Con in Atlanta, HeroesCon in Charlotte and NYCC in New York. Along the way we will be doing interviews, podcasts, webisodes and social media postings documenting the entire process. The entire film will be produced on nothing but Apple products like iPads and iPhones. We feel it will keep the film making process a little more personal and at the same time giving us a unique take on the filming experience.
In order to cover our expenses for travel, lodging, admission and filming equipment, we have launched a Kickstarter project to help raise money to make our film a reality. We sincerely hope you will help us get our project off the ground and ask for your support. If you’re a fan of Word of the Nerd or Good Girls Gone Geek, share this with your friends and family. We only have 60 days to raise enough money to be able me our deadline, so time is extremely short. In the coming weeks we’ll be pushing our project across social media so please bare with us while we pander.
Please go visit our Kickstarter page here, watch the video and please donate.