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.

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.

Flash, Superman, and Captain Marvel. Photo by Henry Barajas.
Flash, Superman, and Captain Marvel. Photo by Henry Barajas.

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.

Deadpool aka Rob Liefeld Panel. Photo by Henry Barajas
Deadpool aka Rob Liefeld Panel. Photo by Henry Barajas.

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.

Wasp. Photo by Henry Barajas.
Wasp/Sara Moni. Photo by Henry Barajas.

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.

Harley Quinn. Photo by Henry Barajas.
Harley Quinn/Icy. Photo by Henry Barajas.

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.

Bruce Timm art printed on a canvas with a $200 price tag.
Bruce Timm art printed on a canvas with 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.

Here's some fan art that was for sale at the HeroicFineArt.com  #816 booth.
Here’s some fan art that was for sale at the HeroicFineArt.com #816 booth.

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.

13 COMMENTS

  1. If someone says ‘off the record’ you should not quote them, even if you leave off their name. off the record means… off the record, as in NOT TO BE IN THE ARTICLE. Poorly written.

  2. Wayne thank you for the link, as a person who is often interviewed by Press this is my understanding when I tell them off the record (straight from the article you linked!):

    Shirley Skeel, a journalist for more than 20 years who reported finance news for papers such as the Daily Mail and The Telegraph in London, explains how this term was similarly understood by journalists in London. “’Off the record’ meant you could not use the information given to you in print,” she said. “However, it might lead you to other sources or a better understanding.”

    Yeah this ‘article’ feels much more like a personal blog post, while the story is interesting it really isnt written as a news blog just a personal story.

  3. I don’t understand what is the big deal of reprinting art and selling it. I mean we pirate movies and television shows. I say it’s the same thing. Those artist just work for those blood sucking corporations. Forget those losers they already got there stinking money.

  4. Jerry Marks – so you feel its ok to profit off someone else because you pirate movies and music?
    Something you had no involvement in, something that you didn’t create and, if anything, copied if not completely reprinted… just ‘cus they “made their money”? No, they didn’t. If you pirate a movie, you didn’t pay for it which means they didn’t make that money.
    SOME “of us” pirate. I also feel this is just a troll comment you make to spark this kind of response.

    Maybe the artist in the article painted that piece with his/her own brushes and paints, but it’s clearly Bruce Timm which means, although probably referenced, the “artist” didn’t do anything more than “trace” and color-match the original just to make an easy $200. Although he may or may not “own the original” or a print, that doesn’t give him the right, or a transfer of copyright, without Bruce Timm’s permission.
    This “artist” would need a signed document, from Timm, saying he can use the piece as he would like, including selling or reproducing.

    But, I’m probably wasting my time ‘cus you feel it’s all fair game.

  5. I am not surprised to read about Luevanos on this article. He was quite a rude person to us at his con when we had a table there last year. He was making excuses to not give contest winners their prize money after winning the kevin eastman art contest. He was absolutely unprofessional and rude to his staff and volunteers right in front us, yelling and cussing them out over something he himself had done. We said we’d never go back to his show…but art thievery did surprise me. And people commenting that its ok to steal someone else’s work to sell it is even worse to me.buying an art piece is just that..buying an art piece. To sell it you must have a signed document where the original artist has signed and agreed that it can be used for reprint and disbursement…if no document is available then it is illegal to sell in any reprinted manor. You can only sell ,if it is the owner of the pieces choice, the original piece bought.

  6. I must say that I don’t ‘get’ how someone can think it’s okay to reproduce someone else’s art and sell it. Nor can I get how someone can sell prints of their sketches of Batman or other characters at cons. Is there a ‘turn a blind eye’ clause?

  7. Dear Henry,

    I just want to make it perfectly clear the MY company (HEROIC FINE ART) was NOT IN ATTENDANCE at this convention. I am the owner and the only one authorized to speak for the company. I think you did a great job at naming the individuals involved in selling this type of unlicensed product. I just want to make sure that everyone knows that I wasn’t in attendance and I don’t even know these people!

    I was originally going to try to do this show, but my health (recent knee surgery) prevented me from attending. Apparently these guys took my booth space and didn’t bother to take MY company name down. I have been in business since 1999 and have always taken pride in selling amazing licensed products, as well as working DIRECTLY with amazing artists.

    I would like my website name taken off at your convenience, or add a note stating that it was NOT me or my company present, so people don’t associate my reputable business with these jerk-offs.

    Thank you for your consideration, and for your work exposing these losers.

    Best,
    James Fletcher
    sales@heroicfineart.com

  8. Kudos to Henry Barajas for writing this. Swipers should be exposed. Piracy is wrong, illegal, and unethical. Additionally, Luevanos sounds uncooperative and unethical as well. I respect other fellow content creators. I’ll proudly put my money into products and providers that I believe in. Thieves and freeloaders ruin the market for everyone. Artists don’t need a corporation to distribute private commissions at cons or wherever. You are taking opportunities directly from these artists when you overpay for pirated work.

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