Monday, May 16, 2016

Cheyenne Comic Con leads to jam-up at Little America parking lot

You'd think that the sprawling parking lot at the Little America Conference Center would be spacious enough for all of the comic book geeks and gamers and cosplayers in Cheyenne.

Think again.

About noon on a gray May Saturday, Little America's lots were overflowing. As Chris and I left for lunch, a Cheyenne traffic cop blocked the entrance, sending Comic Con fans to the overflow lot at the events center on Lincolnway. As we drove away, we saw people parking at the old pancake house on the east side of I-25. Ghostbusters and star troopers and anime girls trudged through the rain for their date with destiny or at least their date with stars in the sci-fi/fantasy universe.

I'm a newbie (noob) to comic cons of all stripes. So, when I use a term such as "cosplay" or "anime," I may not know what I'm talking about. My kids do, but they're away in their own universes. But one thing was clear to me -- the first Cheyenne Comic Con was off to a good start. And I had to wonder -- how come we've never had this kind of parking crush at a poetry reading?

Chris, a long-time Star Trek fan, bought tickets for Cheyenne Comic Con (hereafter known as C3) when news first broke about the event. In the ensuing months, I had retired, collected Social Security, used my Medicare card several times and went under the knife for knee replacement surgery. Not your usual geek pastimes. However, it gave me a leg up (so to speak) at a Comic Con as I was one of the few attendees who was part robot. Not only do I have bionic knees but also an implantable cardioverter device (ICD) that beams signals about my heart condition to a telemetry lab and can shock me back to life should I descend into a fatal arrhythmia. Fatal Arrhythmia -- sounds like a comic book character's name, a villain, I would think.

Fatal Arrhythmia: Die, Captain Cardiac!

Captain Cardiac: Fie on you, Fatal Arrhythmia. I live many lives thanks to modern medical marvels.

F.A.: But I am a super-villain.

C.C.: And I am on Medicare!

Look for more adventures coming soon from You Kids Get Off My Lawn Comics.

At the Comic Con vendor fair, I bought a number of comics. I was curious about this industry which is gobbling up shelf space at all of my local bookstores. We also have several comic book stores in downtown Cheyenne. One of them, The Loft, was the impetus behind C3.

It's no news that comics are big. But I usually read books, such as the kind you find at the library. They are printed (usually without illustrations), bound and finished off with a nice cover. Some of them are several hundred thousand words long, which seems big unless you've read War and Peace.

But writers still write the stories featured in comics and graphic novels. Bob Salley is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh M.F.A. program and studied with a novelist I admire, Lewis "Buddy" Nordan. He was a fan of comic books and entered that world in an attempt to make a living as a creative person, much as other MFAers such as yours truly got into  the world of arts administration, while others enter education, cab driving and the lucrative food service industry.

Salley writes a series called The Salvagers. His is a collaborative process, unlike the act of writing your average literary novel. Illustrator at his Think Alike Productions is George Acevedo, colourist is DeSike and HdE does the lettering. They even designed a special giveaway comic for C3 which features The Salvagers in "The Wreck Raiders." If you bought one of the press's graphic novels, you received a signed copy of the comic. So that's what I did after a lively conversation with Salley. He saw my composition book and pulled his notebook out of a backpack. It was filled with ideas for new stories. I showed him some pages from my journal. They included everything from rough drafts of stories to to-do lists to notes from meetings and events such as C3. This is the kind of geeky stuff that writers do.

Salley and I talked about trading stories and staying in touch. I am fascinated by graphic novels. To belittle them is to negate the life experiences of a big chunk of America. Million read comics. Millions more watch sci-fi/fantasy.superhero movies. Others like to dress and act like Sailor Moon or Iron Man. Creative writing. Filmmaking. Theatre. All creative pursuits being practiced by the people attending any comic con.

I bring this up because the arts funding world has been slow to recognize what's happening all around us. All of these creatives are selling their wares and attempting to make a living. To that end, they travel the Comic Con circuit like bands of gypsies. Do any of them make a living? Some vendor booths are more crowded than others. Some, such as Cheyenne's Warehouse 21 and Winged Brew ("We make tea cool") sell products and services. Others, such as actors on popular cable shows and films, get paid to hobnob with the hoi polloi and charge for autographs and photos. Chris and I paid $60 for an autograph and photo with Ernie Hudson, best known as Winston Zeddimore in the first two "Ghostbusters" movies. He's a nice guy. We like him in the Netflix series "Grace and Frankie" where he plays Frankie's (Lily Tomlin's) love interest. They may have to kill him off as he's slated to be in a new futuristic cop drama called "APB." Hudson let slip later in a Q&A that he attended Yale Drama School with Sigourney Weaver and played boxer Jack Johnson on stage in "The Great White Hope." I was impressed. I am also impressed that Hudson was a Ghostbuster and has a cameo in the upcoming "Ghostbusters" sequel.

Mike and Chris at Cheyenne Comic Con with Ernie Hudson. 
What impressed me most at C3? The size of the crowds. "This is better than the Fort Collins Con," said one vendor. This is especially impressive because Cheytown has an inferiority complex when it comes to out neighbor FoCo across the border, where everything is bigger and better and hipper. Except for Comic Con, it seems -- lots of those cars parked higgledy-piggledy in the parking lot bore Colorado plates.

Also, people had fun. Think about that next time you're at an arts event or a poetry reading or even one of my prose readings. Are you enjoying yourself? If the answer is "no," you may want to plan for C3 Part Deux set for May 2017. Or you can check out a con near you. Find out what floats your boat (or steers your starship) and get after it.


RobertP said...


Sam really enjoyed your post. He is a big Comic Con fan and it is headed to KC next week. He has several signed sketches from past events. He knew who Ernie Hudson is without even seeing the name. Good stuff. And I get a nice picture of you and Chris. By the way, this is the first week of Debbie's retirement.

Looks like you are doing good for a bionic man. Take care,


Michael Shay said...

Happy retirement, Debbie. Enjoy.