Thousand Faced: It’s On At Planet Comicon

Arriving on Saturday at Planet Comicon I see two five year old boys, one costumed as Batman and the other trailing him as Superman. Up ahead at the door is an adult Heath Ledger-type Joker smoking a cigarette. I point the boys out to Angie, my wife and smile at the parents walking behind them and nod at the boys. “World’s Finest.” Angie says to the boy dressed as Batman. “Look, The Joker’s right there. Are you going to kick his butt?” Batman squares his little shoulders and snarls”Yeah!” and goes racing toward the door with Superman close behind for backup. Oh this is gonna be some fun.

Never have I been so crowded and so at ease at the same time. Geeks, Dorks. Nerds and a whole bunch of dreamers mill around at the various stalls for a plethora of comics, action figures and other goodies right at the door. This is Kansas City’s Planet Comicon and as these things are rated not one of the major events in the comic convention world, it is however ours and I’m here with my wife to enjoy it with some chinkle chankle in pocket to spend and to meet some personal heroes of my own.

The deal maker was two of my favorite talents from DC Comics are here. Gail Simone the gifted writer of Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey and one of my favorite titles, Secret Six. On that book she writes like Quentin Tarantino on a mescaline bender with a nitrous oxide chaser and I told her so. She liked that. After all the gut-punching amusement she’s given me I could at least do that much. There was quite a line to get books signed. I had purchased Cat’s In the Cradle the newest graphic novel collection and devoured it within an hour sitting in the parking lot of the bookstore. I never could wait with the really good stuff. She was gracious enough to sign the book and may very well grant me an interview some time so we may enjoy her insights. She started by rocking the comics world by writing articles about how women as characters are depicted in the world of comics and proved she could deliver as good or better than she could talk about it. She also has written for one of my favorite animated series, The Brave and the Bold. She’s far from hitting her high point my friends. Wait for it.

The other reason that drew me here is Tony Harris. I’ve admired his work since his run on Star Man. Recently he finished a second stellar title Ex Machina. His artwork is one of my most sustaining experiences in the DC universe and I stopped by to chat him up a bit. He was selling original artwork and my pockets were just not that deep but I needed to tell him how much his work meant to me because well, I just had to. I would think for all the brilliant work there would be some kind of sizable display with Star Man and Ex Machina posters abounding. Instead I ran into him almost accidentally because his table was next to Lindsay Wagner’s table (The Bionic Woman) who was a childhood hero of my wife’s.

I guess this is where I take over – Mrs. H. – I’ve never been to comic convention and only have a passing interest in the titles I like.  Wonder Woman ( yes, that’s my comment a little further down), JLA and of course being a child in the 1970’s I was awed by all things Star Wars and of course the Bionic Woman.  I had to meet Lindsay Wagner.  That was personal.  Growing up on a farm in mid Missouri long before video games we had make believe.  My best friend and I spent many hours pretending to be Jaime bounding around hay bales complete with our own sound effects.  We even had our dog, my dog Frosty also a shepherd, to play Max.  There was something else I wanted to tell her, from the mom of a soldier, that show she made all those years ago is now a cult hit with the soldiers.  What was science fiction in the mid ’70’s is now nearly fact.  The new limbs our soldiers get are very similar – no they don’t get super strength or speed, but they work amazingly well.  And now the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman have a following on bases all over.  Thought it might be nice for her to hear that from someone who knows.  She smiled when I told her.

This is the year I finally put away my self-imposed snobbery and decided to immerse myself in the experience. I’ve been to a handful of conventions and always found it a sobering experience. One too many four hundred pound Rykers in skin tight Star Fleet uniforms that go pocketa-pocketa every time it’s stretched across voluminous ass cheeks have kept me thinking, “There but for the grace of at least some self consciousness go I.” Yes there were some Wonder Woman costumes in desperate need of Wonder Bras and a Hit Girl who was actually a mammoth Hit Woman but there were also the Iron Man and War Machine guys who spent thousands on their suits for no other reason than to see the gawps of amazement from kids and adults alike. The most excellent and gracious Robinsons and their entire Bat clan who obviously poured fan love and family love into their costumes and had the best Wonder Woman of the Con with them. Want to see what Diana should look like?  Check this out!  No porn star leather boots, or the now supposed improved Star Wars pants –  Diana is Princess of the Amazons and will tear you apart if need be.  Thank you for reminding the world of what she should look like.

The most darling little Bat Girl you’d ever want to see. Yes she’s got a picture in here.  Jack Sparrow showed up looking for what else? Rum boogie! Green Lantern, Kid Flash, a tiny Rebel Fighter ( you thought Anakin could fly at a young age), Kick-Ass, Hit Girl, Moon Knight, Black Canary, Zatanna, Cyclops, Captain America, Super Girl, Spider-Man, Nacho Libre (props man for coming out shirtless on a day when the windchill was 20 degrees), legions of Storm Troopers, Bounty Hunters, Princess Leah, Obi Wan, Rebel Fighters in various forms…….notice anything?  I’m not leaving out the villains, there were very few.  Granted, Storm Troopers, Clone Troopers, Bounty Hunters and Boba Fett are bad guys – other villains – 2 Jokers, Two Face, Scarecrow and a Minion.  That was it really.  There is the magic.  For a day you are the good guy that can fix the world’s ills.  Even if that ill from a five year old’s perspective is neighbor’s dog you don’t like leaving you alone.  You have the magic wand, magic lasso, utility belt, super strength, lantern ring etc. etc. etc. and can fix it all.  Catch the bad guy.  Stop the bullet.  Or simply do the right thing at the right time.  The JLA, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Avengers, Star Wars, the heroes and the villains are our modern mythology.  We know it isn’t real.  It’s just a story in a book.  But more often than not – the good guys win.  And when the world around us seems to have no justice at all we need to have the good guys win.  Just like the western  movies that were made in the 1940’s during the darkest days of WWII, same thing, the guys in the white hats always won because we, the public, needed to see the good guys winning.  And for today while in that costume, you are the good guy.

My wife couldn’t have had more fun if she had been in costume.  She got to play along and watch.  R2D2 rolled out and the little kids went nuts including my wife.  It’s R2!  She reacted, by her own admission, just like she would have in 1978 after seeing  Star Wars at the ripe old age of nine.  Couldn’t help it.  Then we watched these little 5, 6, 7, 8, year old kids react to him.  They knew who he was and understood R2  speak well enough to  know when an adult stepped in front of him and he went pppffftt beeep (you know the noise) the  kids went ‘Oommm R2 cussed!”  followed by giggles.  Amazing the reach that stretch that series of movies has had.  It is so much a part of our culture that the kids get it.  Luke, Leah, Obi Wan, Darth Vader/Anakin, Yoda have always been around for them just like Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman have always been there for my generation and are now a part of the entire superhero/comic lexicon.  My wife took the pictures and had a blast!  Thank you to all of the parents that let us take pictures of their little superheroes.  We have many more pictures than space.  To see them all visit Mrs. H’s Facebook page – Angelique Hilburn.  A ton of personal magic gets mixed into an event like this and I’m glad I have the perspective to see that now. Despite the machinations of uber corporations it’s the fans that keep this alive. I also want to mention The 5820 organization that uses comics as a means of teaching reading in Denver Colorado. They were handing comics for free to kids who came up to the table and you could see kids threading their way through the crowds with heads buried in a comic letting the magic work its way into them. I want to encourage all the clever and gifted independents who are trying to get interest in their own titles because sooner or later a few of you will hit if you persist and have the right idea and look at the right time. I like to consider myself one of them and even bored the crap out of a few with regaling them about my 1931 book and the brilliant artist I have befriended who is currently breathing life into Richard III. It is no shame to have to take a back seat to a paying gig drawing Shakespeare.

New comics we saw.  Godzilla! He’s back!  He’s Mad!  It came out Wednesday, March 30th.  Yes, Mrs. H. noticed and there will be Godzilla in the house.  If we can’t have new movies, comics will do the trick nicely.

Where the Hell was Marvel? I spent two days at that convention and can’t say I saw anything of that company’s people. I’ve had dealing with Disney before and since it’s become a “property” of  The Mouse I suspect Marvel has become decidedly cold and distant to fans. If you want to stand in line to throw money into it’s pockets, The Mouse is happy to oblige you but don’t ever expect a shred of humanity from it because it interferes too much with the bottom line that it’s primarily concerned with. You would think with Kansas City being one of the major markets in the Midwest some kind of effort would have been made. Having dealt with them recently though I’m fairly certain the goons at Marvel’s corporate offices told the Planet Comicon organizers to piss off and come back when they have millions to spend and are worthy of notice. Go ahead and concede leadership in this field to DC. All of my childhood favorites dwell there anyway. When important ground is broken it’s usually done by some visionary working on a DC title. But what do I know I’m just a fan.

Where were the t-shirt vendors?  Seriously?  Mrs. H again.  I honestly thought the merchandising end would be in full force.  The one vendor that was there had shirts that I could buy at various department stores or online for less and not much selection.  And batteries!  Really, someone could make a killing selling double AA batteries.  I will say that had I had the money to do so I would have gone Star Wars collectible nuts for my boys two of whom are adults now.  But $200 for an 18 inch Godzilla?  It didn’t roar, didn’t move, just stood there.  My eyes lit up when I saw my favorite atomic lizard standing there, but not for that much.  We did buy some art.  Again a person can spend hundreds on art if you wanted to do so and much of it is worth the cash.  We bought some from a local artist and another piece we had to have because of our love for the Bat.  Pinky and the Brain as Batman and Robin.  It fits our sense of humor.  That is my suggestion to those who attend comic conventions – take some cash and buy what suits you and your budget.  Some of the fun things are way over priced even in the collector’s market – like Arnold’s head as Mr. Freeze.  Very cool (pun intended) but over priced.

Positivity. Let’s wallow some more in that. Kudos to The Damsels of Dorkington who provide laughs and innuendo out the ass aplenty. They kneed The Bard of Avon in the yarbles while cutting it up in front of a packed room. Their Midsummer Night’s Wet Dream Gone Hack-n-Slash had the lot of us rolling on the floor. It was pants-wetting fun and even family friendly and that takes some doing. I ran into a local artist who can make people into their very own action figures. I got to accuse Hourman of doing Miraclo out of a bong while he hung with one of The Monarch’s minions from The Venture Brothers. I talked to writers and artists about this art form we have vast love for and felt truly at home Later in my hotel lobby I ran into Darth Maul complete with red contacts. He told us he was on his way to Power Play to play Laser Tag with the Boba Fett from the Star Wars films. Righteous!

by Bill and Angie Hilburn

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