By Shawn Perry
Greetings True Bleeders!
The passion Mitch Hallock has for comics truly shined this past weekend as the seventh Annual Connecticut Comic-Conn drew an estimated 13,000 fans to the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport which is over twice the numbers of fans it drew during last year’s record-setting edition. In short, Comic-Conn 2014 was a three-day celebration of peace, love and comic books that truly was bleeding cool from the Bat-Pack lounge to the Cosplay-infused Irish Pub to the needlessly-epic Artist Alley that included the likes of David Finch, Tom Raney, Neal Adams, Joe Rubinstein and George Perez. Literally everyone I spoke to had only positive things to say about the event, including Perez:
This was a wonderful event they did a great job and kept me very, very busy but I had a whole line of slave-drivers which is just the way I like it. The fans were friendly and I can’t expect more than that – it was wonderful!
This was the first comic convention I have been to that was held in a hockey arena but the staff made the venue work really well for them. All of the arena’s amenities were utilized in creative ways, most notably, the closed-circuit cable system featuring in-depth video coverage of all the major events transmitted throughout the arena so no matter where fans were they never missed a thing. All the exhibitors and artists received ample space and despite the strong gate that uncomfortable sardine sensation and molasses-per-hour foot traffic you often find at other conventions was noticeably absent.
The laid-back atmosphere of this medium-sized con suited the tastes of Rubinstein (Wolverine) who also appreciated the events’ comics-first approach:
This has been a great event, I enjoy these smaller conventions because you can really talk to people…in San Diego and New York things are unwieldy. There’s a sea of people coming at you and you can’t get anywhere and if you run into somebody you know and yell ‘I’ll see you later’ you never see them again.
The big shows are getting bigger but I don’t think its because comics books are getting bigger, but based on the anecdotal conversations I’ve had its because of the movies. Families that have seen the latest X-Men or Wolverine movies come on Sundays but they really don’t understand the society with all the sketches and autographs so they kind of wander around being amused by this fun thing and when it comes to San Diego comic books are being shoved out of the way. This is a comic book convention.
While Comic-Conn did feature diverse exhibitors and celebrity guests like Ray Park (Star Wars and GI: Joe) and Brian O’Halloran (Clerks) this convention was about comics and as wonderful as gaming, film, television, cos-play and all other strains of the geek genome are it was refreshing to attend a con that truly put comic fans first. This sentiment was echoed by many of the people I spoke to, including guest Ming Chen of AMC’s Comic Book Men who credited Hallock for giving Comic-Conn its heart.
This con has a lot of heart…Mitch [Hallock] is a friend of mine so I can tell you he lives, eats and breathes comics. A lot of shows out there you can tell they like comics but they’re looking at dollar signs but not Mitch…this one you can tell, yeah they want to make a little profit but they’re in it for the love of the fans out there and that’s why I love being here.
A brief history of Comic-Conn illuminates how this event became such an anticipated and well-known cultural event here in Connecticut. Hallock, the self-proclaimed “Johnny Appleseed” of comic books in Connecticut, has been a fixture at every major comic book event in the state for years spreading the news about Comic-Conn. As he mentioned during our interview last week, what began as the little con that could exceed the capacity of Holiday Inn to the point where cops had to be called evolved into an annual tradition that even a stage four hurricane could not keep fans away from back when Irene hit Southern Connecticut in 2012.
That alone is a testament to how popular Comic-Conn has become over the years, as George O’Connor of Homeless Comics explains:
This is our fourth Comic-Conn and its one of our favorite shows. The year with the hurricane was actually a great event and one of my favorite con experiences ever. Each year this one gets a little bigger…last year we were at the Marriot with 6000 people and now we find ourselves in the middle of a hockey rink and it still can barely contain the show. It’s fantastic! Mitch [Hallock] and his team just keep making this show better and better while keeping it focused on artists and still making it a good show for exhibitors as well as fans – it just blows me away every time!!!
While this years’ Comic-Conn thankfully did not blow fans away to the degree that the one during Hurricane Irene did it is clear by the huge growth in attendance year-over-year that the roof on this event has yet to be reached. On that note, back during Hurricane Irene the Webster Bank Arena was open to provide shelter for anyone caught in the storm and now it seems only fitting that the venue has become home to an annual event that provides an oasis to fans of this culture from across the state and beyond. With Mitch Hallock as its helm I am confident that the best days of Comic-Conn are still ahead which is music to the ears of fans like Kevin Borchardt of Poughkeepsie, New York:
First time here and it’s been a great way to celebrate my birthday weekend! It’s a nice smaller con with lots to do where you can get good exposure with lots of creators and artists. I will definitely be here next year!
Borchardt not only provided a great quote to wrap this up but he also was a great sport when I played dumb about his Green Arrow costume as part of a little prank my friend Victor De Leon played on some of the Cosplayers at Comic-Conn…enjoy.
Shawn Perry is a proud geek striving to be here now. He currently resides in East Hartford, Connecticut. Tweet him @thesperry and email him at Shawn.Perry88@gmail.com.
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