The 24th annual Motor City Comic Con has come and gone. Judging by the massive crowds on Saturday making moving around a chore and that the line stretched behind the massive complex with over an hour wait just to get tickets, it’s fair to say it was a success.
Local Marvel Comics artist Ryan Stegman, who has been there as both a patron and guest, said, “It’s the busiest that I’ve ever seen it.”
The big draw this year was Stan “The Man” Lee, a name well known by comic book veterans and newcomers alike. Heck, with the mass of Marvel movies hitting theaters in the past few years even many who have never read a comic book know about this co-creator of Marvel Universe greats like Spider-man, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four and the X-men.
Aside from just signing autographs, for which the line was understandably massive, there was also a special VIP experience set up by the Comic Con. Along with an autograph, holders of this pricey ticket also got a photo opportunity and a special meet and greet.
The meet and greet was by all accounts a rousing success despite the $150 VIP ticket accompanied by a cash bar.
Mike Wheeler, who bought his ticket a full month in advance and was “pumped” beforehand and afterwards, said it was a “great experience” and well worth the money.
Those lucky enough to be part of the meet and greet were not disappointed. Lee held the crowd in his hands in a way that even a man in his twenties would be hard pressed to do, let alone a man in his nineties. After allowing the female moderator to sit, he stood and answered a plethora of questions and revealed many things, including that he found the animal kingdom a good source of villains for Spider-man. He also said he will shoot his cameo for the next Spider-man movie the week following the Comic Con.
The answers were not only good-natured, but also witty, and reflected the personality of the icon so many comic book fans know. He often used his trademark turn-of-phrase in response and jokingly claimed his cameo was why Avengers did so well.
The meet and greet lived up to its name. It was a friendly, relaxing evening with a real life comic book hero that assured many fans of his work, myself included, why Stan Lee is the face of comic books.
Of course, Stan Lee was not the only celebrity or comic book creator at the show.
The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus drew a massive crowd with line longer than any other movie or TV star. At one point it looked like it might rival Stan Lee’s line.
Other celebrity guests included:
- Cary Elwes star of Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Princess Bride
- Walter Koening, aka Chekov from Star Trek
- Eddie McClintock of Warehouse 13
- Meghan Rath of Being Human
- Margot Kidder who starred as Lois Lane
- Lou Ferrigno, who starred as The Hulk in the 1970s
However, for all the big names in attendance perhaps it was Curtis Armstrong who had the most interesting view of the area. Armstrong, who is from Detroit, is the voice of the title character on Dan vs. He has appeared on such popular shows as Bones and CSI and a multitude of movies and is best known for playing Booger in Revenge of the Nerds.
He comes home about four times a year, and aside from just visiting his friends and parents has often taken his daughter and shown her “his Detroit.”
“To me it is still a place of … (a thoughtful pause here) … it’s my home town, I like coming back. I love it,” Armstrong said.
Other comic book creators at the show were Chris Yambar and Ken Wheaton, both of whom have been coming to the Comic Con for years.
Yambar, a modern-age beatnik, best known for his work on The Simpsons comics, has been coming to the show since 1996. The Motor City Comic Con was even one of the, if not the, first place he premiered the ashcan (rough draft) of his self-created character “Mr. Beat.”
He was especially pleased to talk about the relationships he had made over the years with the regulars he sees every year as well as the friendships among those also there as celebrity guests. It is possible he feels a connection to this place because he is from Youngstown, Ohio, another industrial area plagued by negative stereotypes.
“There is a reason why they call (Detroit) rock city,” Yambar said. “The people here have the right attitude and they get the joke.”
Wheaton, another largely small press comic book artist, said the Motor City Comic Con is his favorite show. He has worked on The Simpsons comics, the Phantom and, most recently, Popeye. He also shared the joy in the friendships made with other guests at the show and with Detroit-area fans.
Wheaton, who came to the show for several years as an attendee before becoming a regular guest, said Michiganians are some of “the nicest people” and praised the area’s down-to-earth qualities.
For all of his praise of the show, however, he did lament the decrease in self-published comics in favor of pop-culture inspired prints that replaced many of them in Artist Alley in recent years.
Artist Alley did have a few people trying to get their small press comic out in the world including Christina Marin, creator of “Ball and Chain.” She’s a native of Windsor who came to the show to promote her comic after Comic Con was recommended by Border City Comics. Writer Robert Hoxey and artist Richard Bugbee from Jackson created a comic called “Aftermath Detroit.” In just a day and a half they sold out of the original cover of their comic book.
Lorenzo Ross, who hails from Chicago, has been to the show four times but this time decided to sell his comics here. In fact this was the first time he sold his comics at a show at all. Ross was stunned by the size, and complementary about the people calling Detroiters “very nice.”
There’s more to the Motor City Comic Con than celebrities, autographs and comics.
The 501st Legion Great Lakes Garrison returned this year. All volunteers, this group of cosplayers dress up like Star Wars fearsome Stormtroopers. However, unlike the fearsome figures in the films this group collects money for many charities including the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
As you might guess there were many other cosplayers at the show dressed as characters from MTV’s Daria to Aquaman to the Muppets.
There were prints by local artist of pop culture icons available as well as merchandise related to genre-specific pop culture like sci-fi and horror that one would surely be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
The gaming section included board games, Dungeons & Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering. One of the people acting as authority over the gaming area was James Hooker who had been playing Magic: The Gathering for 17 of the 20 years and has become a certified judge. At one point he had to break up a fist fight over the game. These people are serious players … maybe a little too serious.
Over the last few years the advent of “geek chic,” increased forms of media and more and more comic book movies have brought more people to the show. That’s good news for comic bookstore retailers. The proprietor of Brad’s Comics and Collectibles says over the last two years he has seen a steady 30% increase in sales at the show.
Then there are the countless volunteers who act as not only the backbone, but the entire skeleton of the show. They help with setup, check wristbands, clean up, aid with special events and guests and a whole host of other things. They get free admission as payment for their services. “I love it,” said frequent volunteer Doug Zawisza.
Yes, for another year the Motor City’s major pop culture event has come to a close. It drew in lots of people and dollars and was certainly more than your friendly neighborhood comic show. See you next year.
Photo Gallery by Damon Trestain
Brad’s Comics hoping for another profitable year.
Curtis Armstrong speaking fondly of his hometown.
Even a Ninja Turtle needs a break from time to time.
Giant Srarscream Costume.
Independent Comic Creators from Jackson.
Lifesize Tuntaun from Star Wars.
Motor City regular Chris Yambar and his creation, Mr. Beat.
Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.
Saturday’s line wrapped around the back of the building.
Some of the more pricey comics for sale.
Special wrestling event on Saturday.
Stan Lee’s animated responses thrill a room full of fans.
The king of the Seven Seas… Aquaman.
The line to get into the Stan Lee VIP meet and greet.
The Muppets have joined the Dark Side!
The VIP crowd listens to Stan Lee with adoration.
Though dressed like villains these storm troopers collect for charity.
Volunteer Doug helps to make the show run.