When Gem City Comic Con started in Wright State University’s Student Union a decade ago, it was a one-day show with regional guests, gaming tournaments and a respectable number of comic book dealers. When the 10th annual convention returns to the Nutter Center on Saturday and Sunday, March 28 and 29, it will have national guests, a larger number of vendors and more activities.
“We’ve stayed true to our original goal to promote reading and collecting comic books,” organizer Jesse Noble said. “We didn’t have a lot of space for it at the Student Union. Moving to the Nutter Center three years ago gave us more room for different kinds of programming like cosplay, which is hugely popular.
“I couldn’t imagine being here for 10 years when we started,” Noble said. “It feels like we’ve only been doing this about six years but it’s definitely our 10th annual show. The math doesn’t lie.”
Special guests this year include comic book creators Peter Bagge, Greg Land and Herb Trimpe.
“The hardest part each year is making all the reservations for the flights and hotel rooms for the guests,” Noble said. “The big wrinkle this year was our headlining guest, Rob Liefeld, canceled. That’s only the third time that’s happened since we started.
“In the 10 years the biggest problem we’ve ever had is somebody canceling that close to the event,” Noble continued. “Rob wasn’t a pain or anything but he had an unavoidable situation come up. He was very gracious and apologetic to fans.”
Another big guest is Arlen Schumer, the author of “The Silver Age of Comic Book Art.”
“Arlen is an illustrator and commercial artist but he’s also a historian,” Noble said. “He literally wrote the book on Silver Age art. It’s really beautiful and really informative. His panel was one of the hottest tickets at San Diego (Comic Con) a few years ago. He got rave reviews. He’s very outspoken. He’s a trip to listen to. If he doesn’t make you angry he’ll make you think.”
Special guests are only a part of the convention. There are also rows and rows of dealers selling vintage comics and new titles, plus creator panels, a cosplay contest, gaming tournaments and the annual auction for the Hero Initiative charity.
“Some shows do media guests and we don’t do that,” Noble said. “We don’t get the big door returns of some of those shows, but we can stay true to our focus, and that’s what’s important to us. We’ve gotten good at what we do, and we’re sticking to it. We’re not changing the recipe for Coke.”
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