Awards & Events

Thousands Pack Covelli Centre for Comic Con

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Zach Schenk of Lowellville says he has been a fan of comic books since he was a kid, when his father started taking him to movies based on characters.

“Ever since I found out that these existed I have always been interested,” he said as he searched though a box at a dealer’s table during this year’s Youngstown Comic Con.

Schenk was among thousands of fans searching for back issues, shopping for related merchandise, dressing as their favorite characters or lining up to get comics and prints signed by the writers and artists who were guests at the two-day convention.

All American Cards and Comics in Warren and Boardman hosted the convention. Formerly known as All Americon, All American owner Greg Bartholomew rebranded the convention following last year’s show, its first at the Covelli Centre following eight previous shows at venues in Warren.

The show featured 85 vendors on the Covelli Centre’s main floor, plus about 20 nonprofit organizations and sponsors in the concourse.

Featured guests at this year’s show included writer Jim Shooter and artists Mike Zeck and John Beatty, the main creative team that produced the Marvel Secret Wars miniseries for Marvel Comics, as well as former DC Comics artist Darryl Banks. Jim Steranko, a writer, artist and comics historian, was a late cancellation due to airline issues.

Other than the cancellation, the show so far had gone “really well,” Bartholomew said Sunday morning. Lines for the Secret Wars team were steady throughout Saturday and in the evening all the guests said they were “ecstatic,” Bartholomew reported. Paid admission for the day was about 2,200, but that figure didn’t include the children age six and under who were admitted for free or tickets that were distributed through sponsors.

“I’m hoping we can hit 2,200 to 2,300,” he said. “If we can do the same as last year, which was about 1,900 on Sunday, I’ll be happy.”

Among those searching the back-issue boxes were Justin Hocevar and Ali Bader of Strongsville, dressed as Superman and Wonder Woman, respectively. The two fans also portray the DC Entertainment characters as part of Super Heroes to Kids in Ohio, which sends costumed characters to visit children in hospitals.

Bader, who has attended conventions for about a decade, purchased a matching Wonder Woman bracelet and necklace Sunday. The character embodies strength, courage and compassion. “She’s just one of my favorite super heroes,” she said.

Booths at the show featured an array of merchandise, from toys, statues and other collectibles to jewelry and T-shirts. One vendor offered an oven mitt based on the Infinity Gauntlet, the artifact that played a key role in this spring’s Avengers: Infinity War movie.

Of course, there were comics. Lots of them. Collectors could find issues of Captain America, All-Star Comics and Superman from the 1940s – referred to as the Golden Age of Comics – as well as more recent first appearances for Supergirl in the 1950s, the Hulk, the Avengers, Ant Man and the Wasp in the 1960s and modern characters like Harley Quinn and Deadpool.

Many guests were looking for key books, dealers said. These included such as Amazing Spider-Man No. 300, featuring the first appearance of the villain Venom, who is appearing in a movie starring Tom Hardy later this year, as well as first appearances of the Lizard, the Vulture and Sandman, plus “anything Harley Quinn-related,” said Adam Sabol, owner of Adam’s Action Figures & Comics, Edinburg. Customers also are on the hunt for Funko Pop figures, a popular line of collectible figures.

Sabol, who has operated his storefront location for about a year and a half, said he sold merchandise as a dealer at each of Bartholomew’s prior to opening his shop. Sales this year were “very good so far,” with Saturday’s total up about 25% from the show’s first day last year.

In addition to sales, Sabol said he benefits from the exposure being at the Youngstown show brings to his own store. “It can bring people to the shop and let them know how close I am,” he said.

“Any time I can let people know about our shop and where it’s at and what we offer, I considerate a good thing,” agreed Eric Walker, owner of Watchtower Heroes, Columbiana.

Saturday’s sales were “exponentially better,” than those of the first day a year ago, Walker reported. Beyond booth sales, he also said he benefits from making connections to purchase new stock for his store, he said. “It brings a lot of people together with the same interests, which is always nice to see,” he added.

Cleveland-area dealer John Haines, owner of John Haines Rare Comics specializes in older books and also hosts the Lake Effect Comic Con in Mentor. His stock Sunday included several books from the 1940s as well as the first issues of Avengers, Fantastic Four and Incredible Hulk.

Haines, who said about a third of his annual sales come from comic conventions, praised Youngstown Comic Con. “Greg gests good people to the show. He gets people who like comics,” he said.

John Haines of John Haines Rare Comics with a copy of Avengers No. 1 at Youngstown Comic ConJohn Haines of John Haines Rare Comics with a copy of Avengers No. 1.

Another vendor from Bartholomew’s first show, Todd McDevitt, owner of New Dimension Comics, reported that he did more business on Saturday than during the entire weekend last year.

“Maybe it’s the crowd. Maybe it’s the right stuff. Sometimes it’s a matter of connecting with the right people,” McDevitt said. In addition to sales, McDevitt also said he benefits from connections he makes at shows to purchase new inventory. “A collection lead I had from two years ago sold me some nice books yesterday,” he said.

New Dimension has six locations in the Pittsburgh area and hosts its own convention, which McDevitt uses other conventions to make connections for and promote, he said.

Elise Petras of Campbell, an art teacher and artist, had a booth to sell original artwork and to draw attention to MakeshiftComics.com, the web comic she does with her sister, Brigitte. The comic features characters based on the siblings and often offers reactions to events in their lives and topics in popular culture.

“A lot of people are coming by” to either look at her renderings of popular characters or check out the web comic, Petras said.

One of the more unconventional vendors was April Yurkovich, a massage therapist affiliated with Massage Café, Canfield. Dressed in a Wonder Woman costume, she offered five-, 10- and 15-minute massages.

Yurkovich had offered massage services in more conventional clothing at an earlier show. This is Yurkovich’s second year offering massage services in costume, following a suggestion by Bartholomew, a client of hers.

She initially dismissed the suggestion as inappropriate, given the skimpy nature of the Wonder Woman outfit. “I don’t want people to get the wrong idea,” she said, but ultimately reconsidered.

“Last year was pretty busy,” she said. “Everybody seems to be really excited and thinks that it’s a good idea. And it’s fun.”

Among the nonprofits were Animal Charity Humane Society, which has sites in Boardman and Canfield, and Hero Initiative, which raises money for comics professionals who have fallen on hard times.

This year is the second for Animal Charity at the convention. In addition to receiving monetary donations, the nonprofit also benefited last year from volunteers who became involved after the event.

“It’s a different group than we normally get in front of,” said interim director Chary Hively. “It’s generally a generous group of individuals, individuals who are looking to give back to their community.”

Hero Initiative, which was formed to help creators from the early days of comics and now provides help for medical emergencies and other circumstances for more recent individuals involved in the industry, was selling benefit books and framed prints to raise money.

This was the organization’s first appearance at Youngstown Comic Con, volunteer Craig Wetterman said. According to its most recent audit, just over 90 cents of ever dollar raised goes “to do what people are giving their money to do,” he said.

“It’s all about coming out a little farther ahead at the end of the day,” he said. “If we can take a couple weekends out of the year and talk about comic books and raise a little money, it’s all good.”

Pictured: Elise Petras of Campbell was among the vendors at Youngstown Comic Con. She and her sister run the webcomic Makeshift Comics.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.