On its silver anniversary, the brightest shine at the Motor City Comic Con came from a communicator who used to wear a Star Fleet uniform as William Shatner was the guest of honor. Shatner spoke, had pictures taken with fans and signed autographs for fans, in front of lines so long he couldn’t be seen from outside the roped off area. This trend did not die down, as long as he was signing the line kept Captain Kirk out of sight.
Michigan’s own Ernie Hudson had his own special place in the show. He was nuzzled into a corner with artifacts his best known role … Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters. His booth sat right next to Ecto 1 (the Ghostbusters car), a recreation of the marshmallow man and Slimer the green ghost. He even sang along with the notorious theme song in front of thrilled fans. While Hudson’s lines for signatures and photos never really matched Shatner, the line was still longer than most at the show.
Of course, it isn’t called “pop culture con,” it’s called Comic Con, and as such there were a good share of professionals from the medium that started it all.
One of these comic pros was Gerry Conway, who is probably best known for creating the Punisher and killing off Spider-man’s girlfriend during his ’70s Amazing Spider-man run. He also happened to be the man who brought the Justice League of America to Detroit in the ’80s.
The initial decision to bring the JLA to Detroit was to focus on the characters and bring them more down to earth. Motown was chosen specifically because Conway wanted to examine what was going on in America at the time, the post-industrial landscape that was growing at the time and what life was like in it. Detroit seemed the perfect fit for that.
Some mistakes were made during this run. For instance, the comic said Detroit was on Lake Michigan, a fact Conway admits to being simply ignorant of our state at the time. Still, there was a fair share of truth in his work even if he had never been to Detroit until this show. His work pointed out things like factories beginning to be emptied, scars from the ’67 riots and a rise in gang culture that every city was seeing. There was also the people of Detroit being welcoming and friendly to the League with real human kindness.
Another comic name that carries some weight was J.M. Dematteis. He has written almost every major character for Marvel and DC as well as making a name for himself in smaller press books. It was his first time in Michigan as well.
Dematteis only makes it to a handful of conventions a year so they tend to be in his own words a “shock to the system” since he spend all of his time “in a room alone playing with (his) imaginary friends.” However, he does enjoy meeting fans who appreciate his work. Although in many ways he is just as much a fan in these situations as those who pay admission.
Dematteis sat right next to his long-time collaborator, Kevin Maguire. While the two have been working together on projects since the ’80s and sometimes still do, they do not see each other very much. Despite the chemistry Dematteis describes as being a relationship that is “just there,” they are rarely in the same room. Conventions give him a chance to play catch up with fellow pros in the field and meet people whose work he respects, not unlike the fans waiting in line to do the same with him.
As he looked around Dematteris noted that cons like this become less about comics than they once were because things like movies, TV and video games allow people to be fans of the iconic characters without ever cracking the spine on a comic book. He laments a lack of diversity in story telling in mainstream books, especially when it comes to comics for kids.
The long-time writer would love to see more worlds created for kids in comics. Dematteis himself has written kid-oriented comics like Abadazad and Stardust Kid.
Kids may not be as forgotten as Mr. Dematteis thinks. Ken Wheaton, a long-time attendee of the show, first as a fan then as a professional, said he has seen a “revival of all-ages comics” in recent years and there is “work to recruit future generations.”
One example of this is Art Baltazar, a comic creator from Chicago. He founded Oh Yeah Comics and wrote and drew DC Comics Tiny Titans and Dark Horse’s Itty Bitty Hellboy, all of which are gear to kids.
“My job is to make comics that kids could read otherwise the industry will fail,” he says.
There was also a fair share of the less conventional comic show setups on the floor. One of these is Dan Frazier. At first glance small gallery of comic book art seems perfectly normal. However, Frasier did not draw the art himself. He collected it.
Over 25 years Frazier has collected art from many of the biggest names in comic book art. He was also never about sharing his sketches with other people by showing the book where they are housed.
This is the second year he decided to display his art in a type of miniature gallery. These sketches are not the run of the mill type. Many are specially done, including a full color one of Darth Vader fighting Dr. Doom.
Day Dreams and Giggles a small art studio from L.A. made the trek to Detroit for the show. The studio is small. It consists of two people, Mark Dos Santos and Autumn Fredrickson.
Both of them had been told they were better than average artists and moved to L.A. to work in animation. Problems in that goal eventually led to them forming of the studio and traveling to shows selling art.
Meeting the heads of Motor City Comic Con in Baltimore at another show led them to this year’s show. Conventions are usually a great place for them to network, and Motor City is no exception.
The Motor City Comic Con can also mean the start of a career for budding filmmakers. The Motion Picture Institute (MPI) does some recruiting at the show. MPI is the oldest film school in the Midwest, and one of the oldest in the country. It offers a two-week program, a wide variety of courses and instructors who have actually worked in the field. They also help build resumes by getting students working on films so they are ready when they leave.
Each year varies, but usually 5-10 people will enroll. As of 2:30 on the second day of the show they had spoken to 25-50 interested people.
The Con had something for everyone.