Virginia Comicon: holding out for a hero

Mark Robinson
Staff Writer

Comic book collectors all over Virginia had their calendars marked for months in advance for this past weekend’s two-day Comicon event. The comics culture convention, hosted at the Ramada Plaza West on Broad Street, featured both small and large publishers as well as a costume contest, charity art auction, and a Magic the Gathering Tournament.

The convention has grown in size and popularity over its 24-year lifetime. “I’ve came the last three years and this is by far the biggest and fanciest it’s been – its good,” VCU senior Morris Reese said. The convention layout designated areas for small publishers, anime, artists and vendors.

“I’m pretty impressed,” Chrissie Boeson, a VCU student, said. “My sister went to the Comicon in New York and told me about it, so I was excited to come here.”

Hundreds of collectors streamed through the vendor hall where they would stop and peruse through thousands of comics. Batman, Spider-man, Superman, X-men, Green Lantern, Iron Man, Hulk, Wolverine – every comic book imaginable, and many unimaginable, were available in mint condition.

Prices ranged from bargain bin $1 comics to $150 first editions; convention attendees haggled with vendors to purchase the last comic book to complete their collection.

Freshman Theresa Furbish grinned as she succeeded in talking a vendor down to half price on a Wolverine comic book. “This is my first Comicon, and I already can’t wait until next year,” she said, as she showed off her purchase to her friends.

A sizable crowd gathered for Saturday afternoon’s costume contest, which featured a variety of both children and adult costumes. They ranged from famous superheroes like Spider-man and Superwoman – in the form of a 6-year-old girl – to a charismatic White Spy from Mad magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy” and a cohort of Star Wars characters that fashioned their costumes out of PVC pipe.

The prize for Best Overall went to a 7-foot-tall Zombie Incredible Hulk that stomped around the convention all day crushing weaklings and occasionally posing for pictures.

On Saturday night, over 100 original art pieces were up for auction at the Charity Art Auction. Proceeds from the sales went to offset artist travel costs, as well as charity causes like The Wieringo Scholarship and The Hero Initiative.

The Wieringo Scholarship, which raises funds at comic conventions across the country, was created in honor of “The Fantastic Four” creator Mike Wieringo, who died in 2007.  The winner, selected by portfolio review, receives a year’s paid tuition (about $30,000) at Savannah College of Art and Design, “One of the most impressive programs in the world to focus on the medium of comics,” according to comic artist Jeff Parker, who worked with Wieringo in his lifetime.

The Hero Initiative strives to provide a “financial safety net” for working comic artists and their families – for example, in emergency medical costs, or in basic living support during a transition between paying work in the field.

Victory Comics of Falls Church, VA hosted a “Magic: The Gathering” tournament on Sunday morning; the event required a buy-in fee but attracted many card collectors to test their skills and prized collections. Attendees, ranging from the teenaged to the collegiate, competed for glory and the promised first place prize of eight new packs of “Magic: The Gathering” cards.

If the Virginia Comicon has made an impact on convention goers in its 24th year, next year’s 25th –the silver anniversary edition – will look to be even bigger and better than ever. CT

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