Fans assemble for Akron Comicon

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal staff writer

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Andrew Fenske (center), dressed as Harvey Birdman, talks to Marse Ratliff about his costume at the Akron Comic Convention Saturday at Quaker Square. Fenske was a runner-up in the men's costume contest. (Coty Giannelli/Special to the Beacon Journal)

On Saturday morning, Quaker Square was filled with heroes, villains, monsters, shadowy figures and folks letting their geek flags fly at the The University of Akron’s Second Annual Comic Book Convention — better known as Akron Comicon.

Fans found a packed floor full of fellow enthusiasts, comic, toy and clothing vendors, independent artists and panel presentations.

Before the doors opened, Ginny Maher of Akron waited in line with 12-year-old son Matt, a lover of all things Star Wars and Spider-Man, and 16-year-old daughter Alli, an acolyte of Batgirl. It was the second event for both comic book fans.

“Last year we were blown away,” Maher said. “We came here with no expectations and it blew us away that they had these great authors. We got some autographs, there was some great fan art, [Alli] got T-shirts. We just had a blast walking around.”

Though Mamma Maher said she goes mostly for her kids, she also has fond memories of her father reading Superman comics to her at bedtime, giving her family another common bond spanning generations.

Activities at the event included a Costume Contest for Charity, with folks modeling their mostly homemade work for a panel of three judges and appreciative onlookers. Akron Comicon donated $2 for every costume worn to the convention, with proceeds split between Hero Initiative and Help For Heroes.

Among the contestants in adult and children categories were several Dr. Whos of various ages and genders, a Captain Jack Sparrow who minced casually down the ersatz catwalk, a Joker and his psychotic sidekick Harley Quinn, an elementary school-aged Boba Fett, a stiletto-heeled Catwoman and a gasp-inducing version of Batman’s nemesis Scarecrow.

One Star Wars-themed family included Princess Leia, Han Solo and contest-winning toddler Chewbacca riding in a stroller transformed into the Millennium Falcon.

“We’re regular comics people, and when we heard about this, and it was being so close to home we had to do it,” said Han Solo, aka Ryan Finley of Cleveland.

“I think it’s good because it brings a lot of people here from all over,” Princess Leia, aka Krystle Finley, said while tiny Chewbacca (Keira Finley) marveled at the heroes and villains surrounding her.

Meanwhile on the packed convention floor, Wonder Woman talked with Marvel Girl, a tiny Snow White in ruby red Chuck Taylors ruled from the top of her un-costumed daddy’s shoulders, and morally ambiguous X-Men character Deadpool perused X-Men back issues.

Even Death apparently enjoys spending time with a good graphic novel. Standing well over 6 feet tall and carrying a fearsome scythe in his oversized skeletal fingers, the reaper roamed the floor taking pictures and somehow providing his own recorded theme music from under his flowing black robe.

The event — created by lifelong comic readers and collectors Michael Savene and Robert Jenkins — was inspired by the supposed death of a smaller “flea market-style” comic convention. Though the other convention decided to continue, Jenkins and Savene had already invested plenty of time and energy and wanted to complete their mission.

“The art form has taken a big hit over the years. Comics aren’t really respected by mainstream people and it’s an art form that is unique to America,” Savene said.

“Comics were created in America and this is our hobby so why don’t we put a big show on where we showcase this and promote it and try to bring it to children so they can learn to tell their own stories in drawings,” he said.

Though only in its second year, Akron’s Comicon has already outgrown both venues. The inaugural edition was held on the university’s campus and drew 1,000 folks. This year, Quaker Square was packed and Savene said the event will likely have to move to a larger venue next year.

The Akron Comicon will probably never rival in size or reputation bigger events such as those in San Diego, Chicago and New York, but it’s more affordable for independent writers and artists who couldn’t afford a table at one of the major events.

Dustin Carson of Lancaster, an independent who “writes all my books in my basement,” had a table with his six-part “No Gods” series on display and a spiel ready for anyone willing to listen. A convention the size of Akron’s is a perfect way to be seen and get his work directly to potential readers while pointing them to his web site dustincarson.com, he said.

For Savene, seeing so many young people roaming the floor gives him hope for the future of comics.

“It’s promoting literacy,” Savene said. “It’s words and pictures. How can you go wrong with that?”

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758


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