by Daniel Frazier
When I first left the mountains of Eastern Kentucky to attend college at Northern Kentucky University in 1993, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the area and the city of Cincinnati on the other side of the Ohio River. This is not a case of “country boy goes to the city,” but I was a little green when it came to knowing what all living next to a city had to offer. From the get go, I fell in love with Cincinnati. I wasn’t a sports fan but I took full advantage of attending Reds games (sorry, Bengals—I just don’t get into football) and partaking in some of the downtown eateries and music clubs. But, at heart, I am a geek and what really attracted my attention my first semester was a Star Trek convention that was being held in Cincinnati. It was only my second con to date but it was one of the more memorable. This was the first convention where I saw attendees in full costume and speaking in alien tongues (yup, Klingons). I loaded up on your typical con merch like videos, models and posters and loved every moment of my time there. I knew the convention scene would be one of the best parts of having my college years next to Cincinnati.
When I graduated three years later, I was still waiting for another one to come.
I truly don’t know what happened. The economy was good at the time, geekdom was still an underground lifestyle that cons thrived on (remember, kiddies, this is pre-internet years) and it was freakin’ Cincinnati. Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton still had cons. What happened to Cincy?
So, you can imagine my joy and surprise when earlier this year I read that Cincinnati was to be host to a brand-new comic con. Double that joy when I was accepted to have a table with my cohort at Old World Comics Todd Goodman. Triple that when I was listed by the organizers as a featured artist on the website.
In case you aren’t yet aware, I am the writer/artist/co-creator of The Adventures of Nightclaw & Prowler, an all-ages superhero comic book featuring my niece and nephew as superheroes. My niece Jessica even came up with the cat motif of their costumes and their superhero names at the age of eight-years-old. Since the beginning they have been credited as the co-creators of the book. Todd Goodman was inspired by all the fun I was having with making comics and started his company Old World Comics with the satirical superhero series The Powers That Be! and the quirky slice-of-life comic The Book on Me. I moved my title over to his company and we have been touting the Old World line of books ever since.
Since this was my first time behind the table at a comic con, I wasn’t sure what kind of reception our line of independent comics would receive. We weren’t based on an established property and we had no famous names attached to the books as talent. It was just two fans making comics for fans. As we finished setting up our table a man approached and began looking at our books. I told the individual that he looked very familiar, thinking that he was the owner of a local comic book store. It was immediately after the words came out that I realized I was looking at Michael Uslan, producer of the Batman movies and the special guest of the Expo. After pulling the foot from my mouth, Todd and Igreeted Mr. Uslan and chatted briefly. In hindsight, this event should have prepared me for the next few hours to come and the resounding success Todd and I would find at the Expo.
You see, the other comic cons I have attended in other cities have been what I can only describe as a “mash-up” of geekdom. Besides comics, you usually have your movie stars, TV actors, wrestlers, and so on. Sometimes the focus stays on comics, sometimes it doesn’t. The fact that Mr. Uslan was wandering the floor as a comic fan was an indicator that the Cincinnati Comic Expo was about comics first and foremost. Combine that with a comic con drought that had been in the area for well over a decade and the fans came out in droves. Costumers frequented the halls, serious collectors bought some serious merch and photos a-plenty were taken. There was also an element neither Todd nor I expected. Many parents and their kids attended the expo (and sometimes just the parents) because they wanted to actually learn more about what comics offered kids. I know this because, being the creator of a kid-friendly series, I spoke with many parents who were glad that there were independent publishers that were creating content for their children. It was many of these people I sold copies of my book to.
As the day ended and I packed my remaining books, I realized that I had become more energized and enthusiastic about the form of art and entertainment that I had chosen to work in. Kids, adults, men, women, geeks, non-geeks, everyone seemed genuinely interested and delighted in comics that day. In an area starved for geeky entertainment, the Cincinnati Comic Expo focused like a laser on comic fans by showcasing the independent talent from the area and hosting guests who had strong ties to the comic world. The bonus was that by doing this, the CCE showed newcomers to the world of comics just what passion and creativity drives the art form and without doubt made new comic fans as a result. I doubt San Diego can boast such a result.
Photos used with permission by Daniel Frazier, Old World Comics. Copyright 2010.
Thought Balloons is a column by Daniel Frazier regarding the art and business of comic books and anything comic book related (movies, TV shows, toys, artwork, etc.). Comments and discussions are very welcome.