Say what you want about Charlotte's often lackluster cultural scene, but one thing's for sure: When it comes to comic books, the Queen City is the place to be — especially this weekend. That's because the annual comic-oriented convention HeroesCon (held at the Charlotte Convention Center from June 4-6) is back, and it's bigger than ever.
HeroesCon, as many Charlotteans know, is the brainchild of Shelton Drum -- owner of the popular local comic shop Heroes Aren't Hard to Find. Drum and his staff have been organizing the event, recognized as one of the best conventions in the nation, since the early 1980s. This year promises to be a thrill-packed edition; here are our picks for the top people and things to check out at the three-day extravaganza for 2010.
Mike Mignola: A legion of non-comic fans are familiar with Mike Mignola and don't even know it. He is, after all, the creator of Hellboy -- the character who was later adapted into two successful films (among other products). Well, if you love his comics (which include a lot more, by the way, than just Hellboy) -- or were just a fan of the films -- you should definitely go down and see the man in action; he'll be the star of a Saturday panel, talking about his past, present and future in comics. Mignola's partner-in-crime, artist Guy Davis, will also be in the building, so keep your eyes peeled for him, too.
Cool Learning opportunities: If you're interested in learning about the nuts-and-bolts of comic creation, you'll be pleased to know that there are more educational opportunities available this year. Folks from the Savannah College of Art and Design (aka SCAD) will be hosting workshops on making mini-comics, creating comic strips, storyboarding, inking and more. "That's a new wrinkle that's come into the con the last couple of years; it's become an educational thing, as well as an entertainment thing." says Drum. "I mean, aspiring artists can go to these workshops ... and get a taste of what it's like to go to SCAD or an art school like that -- and get to work with professionals who've done it."
Hometown Heroes: Be sure to search the convention floor for local artists and writers. The guys from the art collective God City are on tap to be in attendance, and artist John Hairston will also be churning out funky drawings and paintings at his booth. On top of that, comic creator Bridgit Scheide will be on hand selling copies of her cool fantasy-esque title Kindle. (Buy a few copies of her book. It's good.) And there'll be lots more Charlotte-based folks on hand.
DC and Marvel: Let's face it: Superhero comics are the most highly consumed in the industry. Don't fight it. Embrace it. And then check out the cool presentations from the "Big Two" about upcoming projects. Creators like writer Christos Gage, writer Jonathan Hickman, artist Mike McKone, editor Ian Sattler, art director Mark Chiarello and more will be in the house talking about Daredevil, Green Lantern, Fantastic Four and Brightest Day, among many other comics.
Indie Island: Take a break from the spandex for a second and go hang with a bunch of creators who stretch the boundaries of comics every time they put pen to paper. Standout guests scheduled to appear in the indie-flavored area of HeroesCon include Van Jensen, the dude behind Pinocchio Vampire Slayer; Evan Dorkin, writer of Beasts of Burden (one of my favorite books of 2009); Jim Rugg, who produced the groundbreaking Afrodisiac comic; artist Ming Doyle, who draws a bunch of stuff (including Creative Loafing covers); and lots more talented people. Take a trip to the Island and see some cutting-edge work in action.
Costume Design: You've seen that unique breed of folks who attend comic conventions dressed as their favorite characters, right? Well, this year there's a panel designed to examine how costumes are designed on comic pages -- and how to bring them to the real world. The proceedings are hosted by artistic heavyweights Brian Stelfreeze and Adam Hughes and famed costumers Riki LeCotey ("Riddle") and Chris Donio.
Up-and-Comers: Two comic companies on the rise -- Boom! Studios and IDW -- will be making a bigger splash this year. Boom! is reportedly expanding its booth space, bringing a gang of writers and artists, and offering a ton of exclusive comics that you can only find at HeroesCon. "They're bringing maybe eight creators; [writer] Mark Waid and [artist] Peter Krause are coming for sure. And Roger Langridge [writer/artist on The Muppet Show comic] ... loves us and the show, so he'll be here again," Drum says. IDW, on the other hand, will be hosting several panel discussions -- covering topics like digital comics and more -- and coordinating appearances of comic stars like writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), legendary artist Bernie Wrightson and more.
Closing Reception for Super!: Last month, Drum teamed with the Plaza Midwood-based gallery/lounge Twenty-Two to launch the comic-themed art show Super! The Fine Art of Comics. Well, to coincide with HeroesCon, Twenty-Two will play host to the show's closing reception -- and it promises to be bigger than the opening. According to Drum, every living artist whose work is being displayed at the show (with the exception of Steve Ditko) will be in attendance at the closing event on June 4.
And everything I just listed is only the tip of the iceberg. For all the details about HeroesCon, including a full guest list, a full schedule of events and ticket information, visit the Heroes Aren't Hard to Find website at www.heroesonline.com. And for live coverage of the convention, click over to Creative Loafing's Comic Proportions blog at CLCLT.COM/ARTS June 4-6.