Driving into Charlotte today for my third year in a row of attending HeroesCon, I had a feeling it was only a matter of time before it was going to be “discovered”. In the midst of the much more crowded multi-media shows that I’ve been to in the past like SDCC and Dragon Con, Heroes has always been the quiet haven where I could sit down with my favorite creators, have an extended chat, and not feel like I was in the way of every person that walked by. It was even a show where I could go through the hallowed tradition of digging through long boxes for good deals without having to do a dosey-doe with anyone else doing the same.
I can still do all of that, but attendance is definitely ratcheting up. And for the best comics show in the Southeast, that’s a wonderful thing.
When I arrived, lines for those that pre-registered for three day badges snaked throughout the main lobby of the Charlotte Convention Center, and some were experiencing waits that ranged from 30 minutes to an hour based on some of the discussion that I heard murmured among my fellow attendees. In comparison, last year most attendees were generally only in line for about 10 minutes or less.
While there are a few reasons that could be attributed to today’s line situation, it’s clear that a new glut of attendees have descended upon Charlotte for this year’s show. I sought out show founder Shelton Drum, of Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find, to see if he had any official numbers that could be reported, and while they haven’t counted the turnstiles quite yet, the increase is big and when the final numbers are announced, don’t be surprised to see an increase that ranges from a third to double from last year’s (if I had to predict, and it’s not even Saturday yet).
While I spent much of the rest of the show arranging interviews that should surface sometime next week, I took the time to peruse the various wares on display from creators like Matt Fraction, Babs Tarr, Robbi Rodriguez, Jonathan Hickman, Klaus Janson, Stuart Immonen, and a giant mix of new talent and established veterans that puts most shows put on throughout the country to shame.
For my part, I commissioned a piece from Michel Fiffe and got his take on Hopey from Jaime Hernandez‘s side of Love & Rockets:
I also got a chance to purchase a beautiful Mad Max: Fury Road print from Ryan Bodenheim as well as this very cool Ghibli piece from Chrissie Zullo:
After grabbing a quick bite to eat, I found myself in a very fun panel moderated by Dean Trippe (Project: Rooftop) that featured Tarr, Rodriguez, Erica Henderson, and Kristafer Anka where they discussed their work in costume design.
Given the panel’s pedigree (Tarr redesigned Batgirl with Cameron Stewart, Henderson did the same for Squirrel Girl, Rodriguez created the Spider-Gwen costume, and Kris Anka has been a driving force in many new Marvel costumes), it was a fascinating chat. One of my favorite tid-bits that came from the panel was Tarr elaborating on the creation of the new Batgirl costume and how in Cameron Stewart‘s initial sketches, it rather resembled the Yvonne Craig version of the character, to which Tarr added much of the stylistic flourishes, including the now famous Doc Martens. Those same yellow boots were apparently so highly in demand post-costume reveal, according to Tarr, fans crashed the store’s website in order to get them.
After chatting with a few more creators like Charles Forsman, whose first two issues of Revenger I picked up on many a friends’ recommendation. I then made my way to the “Iconic Heroes” panel, which was terrifically moderated by Tom Heintjes (Hogan’s Alley), where he discussed the topic of working on well-known comic characters with famed artists Tim Sale, David A. Williams, Evan Shaner and Wilfredo Torres. It was unfortunately fairly sparsely attended, which is a shame, as it was great discussion between well-traveled and fairly new to the scene artists speaking to the benefits and drawbacks of working with corporate IP’s.
At one particularly revealing moment, Sale mentioned that Spider-Man: Blue was one of his bigger disappointments as a creator, in that he felt as though he tried too hard to pay tribute to the style of John Romita rather than make the work his own. Williams was quick to disagree with Sale’s statement, but it was a fascinating moment of self-reflection that you can only get at an intimate show like Heroes.
Afterward, each artist addressed which character they most want to tackle, both Williams and Torres answered “Batman and Superman” and “Superman” respectively, while Sale said “The Shadow”, Shaner’s response I found especially interesting, as he said he would like to draw The Fantastic Four, specifically The Thing. Given Shaner’s very clean, Alex Toth-like line, I’d love to see how he would tackle a character as detail oriented as Ben Grimm.
And of course, when the day comes to a close, it isn’t HeroesCon without a visit to Mert’s Heart and Soul for some very good fried chicken where I got a chance to run elbows with comics luminaries like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Chip Zdarsky, and Christian Ward. I only had to gain about ten pounds in the process, a small price to pay indeed.
Day 1 of HeroesCon is done, and with a Day 2 that includes the upcoming tenth anniversary of the Center for Cartoon Studies Mega-Panel, this will surely be a Saturday for the books!
Entertainment Editor for The Beat covering film, television and the occasional comic book. His work can also be found at GeekRex.com and can be heard on the GeekRex podcast. Also, your go-to Grant Morrison/Love & Rockets/Hellboy/Legion of Super-Heroes expert.