Heroes Con 2018

I go to a fair number of cons (about 5-6 large ones and another 3-5 smaller) a year. Absolutely none of them compare to Heroes Con. There is just something in the air at that convention that just doesn’t exist elsewhere.  You hear the same sentiment from dealers, convention goers, and creators alike.

This year I again attended as a representative of CBSI at the courtesy of the show’s promoter Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find and Creative Director (and Colorist on Spider gwen, Squirrel Girl, Quicksilver, and more) Rico Renzi.  This year I had my two brothers (both in spec and in real life) Mark and Scott by my side.

Mark does a lot of my photography, editing, and groundwork and is a longtime CBSI lurker and Scott is a 23 recent college graduate who is new to the spec game but hit it big with the Black Panther movie and is now in it to win it and a new CBSI member.  Together we hit this three day con hard and are here to bring the experience to you CBSI Nation.

 

(Jason Latour with my daughters Taylor and Brianna)

 

Attending The Con

 

The con is three days spanning from Friday to Sunday.  The crowd is immense but luckily they have the perfect venue in the Charlotte Convention Center.  Its spacious main room allows for plenty of room for dealer booths, artist alley, and many other fun attractions. When attending, plan to budget about $30 for the three days for parking.  

The convention is in the heart of downtown Charlotte. It shares the grounds with the NASCAR Hall of Fame and is within eyeshot of the Carolina Panther’s Bank of America Stadium. You have three parking options as I see it. The first is to park at a garage spot close to the venue.  Those will cost a bit more and fill up quickly.

Next there are a few lots close to the venue but those fill up super quick. You would need to be there at least an hour before opening to snag one of those spots. Your next bet (and the option I always choose) is to walk two blocks in any direction from the convention. There you will find lots that are $12 on Friday and $7 each weekend day.

One major key (DJ Khaled voice) is to get your tickets online.  One trip to the CBSI IG page and you can see video proof of how nuts the line is on Saturday.  You would spend a quarter of the day in line. Heroes also offers bonuses (usually exclusive prints) for those who pre order tickets.  

The show crowds this year were pretty standard with Friday being slow, Saturday being slammed, and Sunday being in between. Artist Alley was again filled with legendary names like Claremount, Weeks, Mccloud, and Steranko as well as up in comers like Joelle Jones and Ed Piskor,  local heroes Jason Latour, Rico Renzi and Babs Tarr, and Indy favorites such as Jody Leheup and Tini Howard.

Another great thing about Heroes Con is that it is so family friendly.  There are tons of things for kids to do from seeing popular movie cars, to playing in a free arcade, to seeing elaborate movie props and setups.   And the best part is, kids under 12 are free.

It is important to the hobby and the business that we all foster an environment that welcomes the next generation of collectors and speculators and no show I attend does that more than Heroes.  Today, the kid buying the $10 Deadpool Pop with be buying your 9.8 New Mutants 98 with his graduation money in 10 years if he keeps seeing the fun side of this industry.

I took advantage of the fact that Father’s Day almost always falls on Heroes Sunday and took my girls.  They had a ball. This show truly has something for everyone no matter your age, budget, or tastes.

 

(New Force Collectables)

 

The Dealers

 

I talked earlier about traffic at the con, and no one was focused on that more than the dealers on the convention floor. Friday was slow but the big money buyers where in the building so the dealers I talked to where happy.  Big money spenders know that Saturday at Heroes (and it goes for most cons) is a madhouse of hustling bustling people.

It becomes tough to get to tables and see what’s what and what prices are. Also, any great deals will get snagged fast on Saturday so buyers know if they want to grab some major books, Friday is the day to do it.  Saturday, as predicted was nuts. I already described the crazy line but inside the floor was no different.

The place was flooded and dealers I spoke to were happy with sales. The only ones who didn’t seem satisfied where those who had clear merchandising issues. Sunday was a little slower than most dealers expected. Truth is though I feel like I hear that every year.  

I think Saturday is such a boom for dealers that Sunday can only feel like a let down in comparison. So if your planning on doing some buying at Heroes, be prepared to buy Friday and look to do bundle deals on Sunday. Those two methods have proved successful.

This show has one of the largest selection of dealers you will find.  Since the show puts the focus on the dealers (also being promoted by a dealer) there are tons of buying options. Having said that, I still notice a well talked about CBSI trend at this show.

Dealers all seem to have the same walls.  When your at a show like this, it can become redundant to see the same books. I counted a good 20+ ASM 129’s and more New Mutants 98’s.  I would like to see dealers vary up what they carry a bit. It seems like a lot of the wall books remain the same from Friday to Sunday.

I have no doubt sales are made, and I understand the desire to sell high dollar items in prime real estate. But the fact remains at this type of a show, unless you’re the cheapest, what’s your hook?  I still never see these rare variants we all chase in the wild at shows.

Also, I think you could move more copies of cheaper in demand books that often times get lost in long boxes. It makes me appreciate the dealers who try something new. My challenge to any CBSI member who sets up at a con is to ask yourself why you? Why should I buy from you?  Make sure you have a booth that sets you apart.

Another thing that was cool was seeing some of the nations most prominent dealers from outside of the South in the building.  Both Conquest Comics and Unknown Comics set up this year. They were both the victims of tough booth placement but that is what’s great about Heroes, no special treatment.  

It’s a seniority thing. I hope those dealers stick it out because no matter how you feel about Unknown, they still were a welcome change from the offerings of the majority of dealers and Conquest Comics had a great booth and the owner Dan was a great guy and CBSI reader.  

I hope we can work on some things together in the future. He also had the best Funko Pop selection I saw. One thing of note that I saw that changed from year to year was the POP selection. Last year there had to be a good dozen plus booths of exclusive Funko product. This year there were almost none.  

Is this just a response to slow sales last year or an industry wide trend? I’m not sure.

The ever controversial Frankie’s Comics where in the building and along with Trinity Convention Services brought Clayton Crain to the convention.  Their booth was small set up to sell their store variants exclusively.

Kevin is great to deal with at cons. He is a super nice guy. Their con deals are great with trade dress variants going 3 for $20 and virgin covers 3 for $40.  Crain stayed busy all weekend with demand for his signature at $5 a pop and the release of Frankies Venom #2 Crain Virgin Convention variant.

 

(Frankie’s Comics)  

 

(Clayton Crain)

 

The other variant in the building was from artist Andrew Robinson.  He did the art on The Weatherman #1 variant sold at Jody Leheup and Nathan Fox’s table.  Another CBSI pro tip is to check out artist alley for artists selling their own product. Often artist’s will have exclusives from other shows or previously sold out issues for sale and for sale cheap.

 

(Robbi Rodriguez)

 

Artist Alley

 

So that brings us to Artist Alley.   If you plan on doing signatures or CGC submissions you may want to think about what day you do that as well.  Creators in Artist Alley are by far the busiest on Saturday. Another CBSI key is being prepared.

Make sure your books are ready to be signed when coming to the table.  Do your research on who charges and who doesn’t. This show caters to the creators. There are no famous actors or voice over characters. This is about the comics.

 

(Dan Panosian)

 

Last year was dominated by Donny Cates. Awww This year’s buzz came from the team of Jody Leheup and Nathan Fox.  Last year Jody led a team of guys cold sold me on Shirtless Bearfighter when I had never even heard of it. They had a video game and prints of future variants at their booth before the book ever came out.  

This year Jody and Nathan were promoting their book The Weatherman. The book had just been released and was already receiving buzz. The 1:25 variant was days away from landing on Ben Stein’s Hot 10 list.

But these guys were still on the floor selling.  Their work ethic, reach to their fans, and ability to pitch and sell a book has me convinced I will buy any book Jody Leheup puts out. This industry is as much about who you are and if people like you as it is your talent and he has both in spades.

Tini Howard is another up in comer who continues to impress me at conventions and at panels.  She continues to grow her following while branching from cartoon work like Rick and Morty, to license properties like WWE, to creator owned work like Assasianistas, and soon will be penning Captain America Annual #1. She is another one who is well liked and wins people over.

I have no doubt she is a name to keep an eye on. And that’s what is always great about Heroes, the stars of tomorrow.  Yes it’s cool meeting a Chris Claremont but I talked and interviewed Matthew Rosenberg, Donny Cates, Jason Latour, and Tom King before they became the household names they are today.

Networking with creators and spreading the good name of CBSI throughout the industry is my favorite thing to do. I have developed more contacts from this convention than any other.

 

(Joelle Jones, Ben Caldwell, Cully Hamner, and Lee Weeks at The Batman Family Panel)

 

Panels

 

My favorite thing to do at Heroes on Saturday is attend panels.  As I laid out earlier, it isn’t the best day to buy or to do Artist Alley activities. But, the panel schedule was full.  I saw two great panels and will have some follow up article touching on each one individually.

I saw a Batman Family Panel starring Lee Weeks, Ben Caldwell, Joelle Jones, and Cully Hamner which touched on the Batman’s supporting cast.  Joelle Jones actually dropped bread crumbs to the result of Batman #50 by stating that Catwoman’s solo series would take place in a city she crafted.

No Gotham should have alerted me to no Batman. It didn’t. At the time.

Secondly,  I saw the creators of Spider Gwen Robbi Rodriguez, Rico Renzi, and Jason Latour talk about ending their epic 4t0 some issue run on Spider Gwen.  It was a somber closing to a chapter of a book that I have had a front row seat to the writing of.

These guys created something with staying power that has caused dozens of copycats. Gwen is here to stay and it was great to hear these guys talk about a character they describe as “our girl” like proud uncles. I look forward to bringing you more details on these panels soon.

 

 

What I Would Change

 

I really love this con (can you tell) so there is not much I would change.  The one major thing (and I could say this about all cons) is to include the media in the event.  We get apply to cover the event, get accepted, and then on our own.

It isn’t always easy to go from creator to creator and explain who we are and what we are looking for.  Many say no to requests even though we are credentialed. It is easier for the cosplay photographers to get people to stop and pose then it ever is for me to get 5 minutes with an artist.  

A Lot of artists are promoting work and the relationship could be and has been symbiotic. I would love to see media outlets included in the program or at least let the artists and dealers know that media will be in the building and that anyone with a media badge is Heroes approved.  

It would make my job easier and allow me to increase my content tenfold.

 

 

Final Takeaway

 

I feel like I say this every year but Heroes Con needs to be on your convention bucket list. It is so unlike any other show I attend. It feels truly by comics people for comics people. I had a blast and look forward to bringing you more content over the next week.  

Also I would like to thank all of you who followed our Instagram account and followed my journey to Heroes Con. The momentum we built that weekend has caused me to take on Social Media duties within CBSI on a regular basis and that would not have happened without those of you following vicariously.  

Finally, I want to thank our gracious guests Rico Renzi and Sheldon Drum. Thank you for including CBSI in your media guests. We hope to be back next year!

 

2 comments

  • Love heroes. Go every year and get a good deal on some big books. This year SC 4 was the big one for me. Most of the dealers are fairly nice to work with also

  • CountZeroInterrupt

    Great write-up John. This is my must-attend con every year. The attention paid to the creators is what makes it special. It wouldn’t be possible without the hard working volunteers & organizers. Also, THE ART AUCTION! For those that don’t know, Saturday night at the Westin Hotel the con puts on a benefit auction. The proceeds from the donated original art go towards the funding of the con. This allows Heroes to avoid heavy corporate sponsorship and keep the focus on comics and comic creators. People really go all-out at these auctions. I’ve seen pieces go for thousands of dollars (whereas they would normally command a fraction of that) but there are always good pieces you can get for a decent price. People like Brian Stelfreeze and Robbi Rodriguez are in attendance every year and always manage to find time to do a piece for the auction. It can run late (8-midnight?) but it’s worth it!

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