The Valentines State’s first comic con of the year wrapped up over the romantic weekend. Jimmy Jay, Amazing Arizona Comic Con organizer, didn’t let a hallmark holiday get in the way of putting on his three-day annual comic book convention on Friday, Feb. 13 through Sunday, Feb. 15. The event kicked off with an intimate panel with Spawn Creator Todd McFarlane and the New York Times best selling Batman artist, Greg Capullo. They signed someone’s baby.
— Greg Capullo (@GregCapullo) February 14, 2015
Capullo was a selfie machine and gave the fans what they wanted. God bless him.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend the event until the last day because I was under the weather. Sunday was not uneventful to say the least. The line of eager con goers to buy their tickets around noon on the last day is always a good sign. The con was located at the south Phoenix Convention Center building.
The event hosted approximately 89 exhibitors and 144 creatives in artist alley. Jay expects that he beat last year’s attendance record of 25,000, but didn’t have the final numbers.There was a laundry list of legends like Steve McNiven, George Perez, Adam Kubert, Mark Bagley, Kevin Eastman, Herb Trimpe, and Steve Epting. Sadly, there weren’t any female guests of honor except Nei Raffino. I hope there’s a little more diversity in next year’s line-up. All the guests seemed to have done well and appreciated the hospitality. One of the guests said he was amazed by the talent that were invited, and the response from the fans was overwhelming. The only “Hollywood” characters that had a big presence were the Power Ranger actors, but they seemed like real sweethearts and approachable folks. None of them seemed like cold-blooded-killers.
With recent Deadpool news, you could have nicknamed his con “Deadpool Con” with all the prints and cosplayers at AACC. Deadpool creator, Rob Liefeld, was on cloud nine and loving all the support from the fans. His Sunday panel was standing room only. Liefeld jumped off the stage, broke the fourth wall, and started taking questions from the audience by handing them the microphone individually. This is Rob’s fifth AACC appearance and doesn’t intend on missing a single show as long as it doesn’t land on a government holiday.
Some of the lower level, lesser known comic book creators might have been a little overshadowed, according to some of the folks behind their booths. A majority of the unknown creators I spoke with didn’t make the profit they were hoping for, but networking with some of their favorite creators made up for the loss. Some of the creators that exhibited at the Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest that that took place in December were glad they did both shows. It seems that Fan Fest was strategically planned to compete with the AACC, but Jay says it didn’t affect him. There’s a silent con war going on and both sides are pretty classy about it.
Another complaint that I heard from the artists was how loud the announcements were echoing through the intercom. It was hard to have a conversation while panel reminders were being announced.
Still, there were a few bumps at the event. I have never had a negative experience at this show until now. Mike Olivares, Tucson Comic –Con director, was assisting Travis Hanson at his booth, so I went over to talk to Olivares about the upcoming Tucson Con and small press expo he’s organizing in the spring. While we were discussing the good old days, I noticed a large canvas with Bruce Timm’s artwork on it; obviously, it was not an original, and there was a $200 price tag.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Instead of going the traditional route, take some pictures and post it on Bleeding Cool, I decided to question the people at the booth about this canvas. There were four guys sitting at the table selling prints that featured everyone’s favorite super heroes (Batman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America, ect.) by various artists in the Philippines, according to Aaron Luevanos. The table was labeled HeroicFineArt.com #816. I asked them if that Timm piece was an original. One of them said no. The next logical question was: Does Bruce Timm know you’re printing his art on a canvas and charging $200? Luevanos and the group said that it was taken from a Timm original (apparently, they owned the original art) that was back in Texas. I asked how does that give them the right to print his art on a canvas and sell it for $200 just because they have the original. I couldn’t get a clear answer, so I had to walk away because I didn’t want to cause a scene.
Eventually, I came back (after letting off some steam) to get some names. Luevanos handed me his phone so I can talk to his attorney, Cesar Garcia, read on the iPhone screen, about the matter. The counselor asked me what was going on so I told him I was merely asking his client why is he selling art at his table that isn’t his, the lawyer said he had nothing to say, so I handed the phone back to Luevanos.
Yes. The same Aaron Luevanos that owns Capital City Comic Con. The same Capital City Comic Con that had that “Everything’s bigger in Austin!” Powergirl campaign everyone loved so much. Not.
Luevanos said he wasn’t selling the piece and it was his friend, Mark William. William took the blame and said he owned the art. Apparently, Luevanos had no idea it was there because he left his booth for five hours. I was baffled because I now know this guy runs a con and he was all of a sudden unaware the piece was at HIS booth. Some spectators said I was too hard on the guy and I was being a “hard ass.” I disagreed and pointed out that an artist the next row over caught a colorist that swiped his art and was selling the piece —recolored— in the same row when the con started, according to Olivares and Jay. Luevanos decided to remove Timm’s artwork from display to shut me up, and to avoid getting his lawyer involved.
We shook hands, eventually.
I left to thank Jay for the press pass and explain what happened. Jay asked one of his managers to escort me to the booth and point out where this happened so they can take care of it. Luevanos was more upset at this point and said I was harassing him. But I was just trying to make sure I did my due diligence so this wasn’t a complete shock to Jay and his con staff. I couldn’t take much more of Luevanos, so I left the con and headed back to Tucson. I’m confident that Jay and his staff resolved the matter, and I’m sure I’ll be hearing from Luevanos’ “legal counsel.”
I won’t let this altercation define my AACC experience. Phoenix is a big city and could use the con war/competition. Gives everyone another reason to cosplay visit Phoenix in the winter. The high was 85 degrees for crying out loud.
UPDATE — James Fletcher contacted me via email to help clarify that his company, HEROIC FINE ART, had nothing to do with the parties involved. Fletcher stated that he couldn’t attend the show due to medical reasons. Someone from the Phoenix Comicon connected us.
From the email:
The guys you talked to are not associated with me in any way. I don’t know them. I was originally trying to book at booth at the show, but I was unable to attend. These guys apparently took over the booth space that was being held for me, and left MY company name up.
Fletcher says he will follow up with AACC regarding the incident.
Henry Barajas is the co-creator, writer and letterer for El Loco and Captain Unikorn. He has also written and lettered short stories for two successful Kickstarter SpazDog Press projects: Unite and Take Over: Stories inspired by The Smiths and Break The Walls: Comic Stories inspired by The Pixies. He is the Newsroom Research Assistant for The Arizona Daily Star and was nominated for the Shel Dorf Blogger of the Year award for his work at The Beat. You can follow him on Twitter @HenryBarajas and Google+.