Cincinnati Comic Expo Sept 22-23

The Cincinnati Comic Expo began its 3rd annual show planning with a big goal....becoming a two day show, with more guests, more stuff, more to do....They added Star Wars Jedi Light Saber training with the Stuntman who trained the actors in the last three films.  They added more exhibits like a Batmobile, legos, and other things.  They added celebrity guests, including the original green power ranger, as well as a guest from Walking Dead and someone from a Christmas Story.  But most of all, they had awesome comics guests.

The headliners were a reunion of Swamp Thing artists, but no Bernie Wrightson.  This confused me, as I associate Bernie with the Swamp Thing, even though I was never a big fan.  I, however, was not interested in the Swamp thing Reunion....I was there to see Mike Royer, Steve Englehart, George Perez, P. Craig Russell, Darryl Banks, Whicle Portacio, as well as the legend himself, Allen Bellman.

Mike Royer was the inking partner of Jack Kirby for many, many years.  They collaborated on the New Gods, the creation of Darkseid, the Eternals, the underrated 1970s Sandman character, as well as Kamandi, kid commando.  Royer also did work for Disney drawing Winnie the Pooh and other treasured characters.  However, he is known a great deal for being one of the best inkers of the Silver Age, and Kirby's frequent artistic collaborator.  He had many amazing and quite colorful stories of his days with Kirby, as well as his bachelorhood between marriages.  He loved to talk to fans, and it was great hearing these yarns and feeling like you had a peek behind the creative curtain.  Mr. Royer was using his appearance to raise money for cancer, as his current wife is a cancer survivor.  He was friendly, and loved to talk about just about anything.

Steve Englehart is a legendary writer who has worked for everybody--DC, Marvel, you name it.  He helped create the West Coast Avengers, was a stalwart as a writer on Captain America.  He helped revive the Silver Surfer comic in the 1980s, as well as working on the Avengers, Secret Origins, and many, many more.  He was also friendly, but also very candid.  He did not really like what many in the comics world are doing today, including to some of his own creations.  He also did not have much good to say about John Bryne and others who destroyed the relationship between Scarlet Witch and the Vision, something he helped bring together working on the Avengers as well as the 2nd limited series Vision and Scarlet Witch.  He enjoyed seeing his work brought back to him to sign, and was able to talk at length about the difference between his time and today.  Very knowledgable, gracious, and kind with his time.  I enjoyed discussing with him the issue of Ed Brubaker "sampling" alot of Mr. Englehart's work in Captain America, and he said I was not the first person to tell him this.  Steve is a great writer, and has given us fabulous characters and stories.  He is right in that today's artists and writers should show more respect to these beings in print that Steve and others have created.  I really loved talking to his great man.

George Perez was on everybody's get list.  He had a huge line both days of the show.  Mr. Perez is both an artist and a writer.  He, like Englehart and Royer, has literally worked for everyone.  He has worked on JLA, Avengers, THUNDER Agents, Wonder Woman, Superman, etc.  He is known as one of the best artists on any age.  His writing is also well received as well.  Mr. Perez was doing head sketches as well as signing books.  I received one of the Silver age Hawkman.  It was fantastic.  Didn't have a great deal of time to talk to Mr. Perez, as his line was huge and he was very busy.  However, he was gracious with every fan and looked them in the eye and thanked them for coming.  He was engaging and kind.

In fact, most of the artists were great.  None raised any issues about signing multiple books or talking about most subjects.  I especially liked hanging out with Mr. Darryl Banks, best known for his run on Green Lantern where he helped create Kyle Rayner, during the Emerald Twilight/Parallax Saga.  Banks also has worked on Captain America and other books as well, but he is best known for Kyle Rayner to many fans.  He is a great afficionado of comics, and like me, he LOVES Captain America.  We had a great time discussing the movie and other things.  Even if you don't have stuff to sign or he can't do a sketch, visiting with Mr. Banks is always a treat.

Allen Bellman is a legend.  He worked at Timely Comics, Marvel's predecessor.  He worked on Captain America in his infancy, shortly after being created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.  He worked with all the giants, and is still drawing today.  Last year, he made an awesome convention exclusive poster with the Breitweisers, Mitch and the fetching Bettie, of Captain America.  He also made the first Cincy Expo convention poster of the Invaders protecting the Roebling Bridge.  A great and genial man who always has time to talk to fans and remember the old days, as well as pose for pictures.  I love seeing Mr. Bellman!

The aisles were well spaced, and the show had a great layout.  The artists were for the most part the central focus, with the celebs and the cars and exhibits off to one side, and the dealers framing a U around the artists.  This is much better than other, bigger, and more northerly cons which seem to like to squeeze everyone into a cattle area and bombard you with being bumped into.  The layout was excellent, as was the programming and the way that the promoters tried to keep everyone informed.  Unlike some bigger cons to the north, they didn't jerk you around on who was showing up or not put out cancellation notices til the last second.  No, the Cincy folks were honest and up front, and eager to help.  They did not spend their time bragging about where they had been or who they had met, while not answering your questions like at a certain convention up north.

The volunteers were well behaved.  The cosplay people were excellent.  I think attendance was pretty good, although some dealers who brought mostly comics were a little miffed because a great deal of people were more into action figures and collectibles and clothing, rather than the books.  However, this is the unfortunate trend, and it is sad so many people miss out on getting to know the literary heroes of our time in favor of just getting a bobblehead of them.

Hopefully, Cincy will continue to progress, while not becoming "big time," like the convention up north.  In Cincy, it is still about comics fans, not just celeb autograph seekers.  It is still about the artists and writers and their creations, not about getting Lou Ferigno's autograph.  Cincy has what most comic and even pop culture conventions have lost:  the dedication to why they are there.  Sci fi conventions and comic conventions have just become autograph shows for dealers and people who sell stuff on ebay.  Cincinnati Comic Expo is still about promoting the literature and the art form, as well as honoring legends like Allen Bellman.  And for that, I will always rate them high.  Excelsior!

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