This past weekend my pal Syd and I traveled to Charlotte, NC, to visit HeroesCon at the Charlotte Convention Center. Due to the impromptu nature of our trip, we arrived at around 3pm on Sunday, which gave us a few hours to explore this year’s convention.
HeroesCon functions as a two-in-one experience – the central Indie Island acts as a mini small press festival and is flanked on both sides by the rest of the Artists Alley; in front of the entire Artists Alley are sponsors, a stage, an eating area, toys, t-shirts, backpacks, costumes, art supplies, and comics dealers. The diversity of the event lends itself to incredible sights – such as an entire family dressed as Doctor Who characters standing elbow to elbow with some crust punks while they all await the delicious reprieve of a convention center corndog.
After walking the entire convention center to get a first look at everything we finally stopped to visit Ryan Cecil Smith, where I grabbed a copy of Shed & Frontlawn Zine. Comprised of contributions from three artists – Graeme McNee, An Nguyen, and Ryan Cecil Smith – and printed via four-color “fauk CMYK” risograph printing, this zine is bursting with illustrations and articles ranging from “What’s Trending” to “Drawing with Copic Markers.” (My personal favorite is “Suburban Fashion” in Charlotte, North Carolina.)
Next we visited Jim Rugg, who was kind enough to pose for a photo. I picked up Rambo 3.5 and the Street Angel Xmas Special, and as we chatted we learned that he had recently launched a new Street Angel story in webcomic form – Alcatraz, Jr. – which began on June 16 and features weekly updates on Mondays and Thursdays.
Around this point I got severely lost because honestly, this was my third convention ever and between all the costumed folks, crowded artist tables, and big, beautiful, banners I felt like I was in the middle of a comics fever dream.
I’m sweaty, confused, and kind of annoyed because “I have walked by this baby stroller at least three times and I don’t understand how that’s even possible” when I come upon Ben Sears’ table (pictured above). He also took a photo for me with his offerings (thanks!) and I bought a copy of The Sweeper, a two color risograph comic about “a trash cleanup robot, a cat, and a bird [trying] to find food in the middle of the night.” The pairing of cool blue ink, warm cream-colored paper, and delicate linework perfectly evoke the feeling of nighttime wandering.
I got lost again and at this point conceded to Syd that I actually needed one of those guidebooks – and with one in hand finally found my way to Richie Pope’s table where I got a copy of the second (and final) edition of Newdini (pictured above), described by the author as “a mini faux-documentary comic about the life of a mysterious man named Clarence who could “disappear,” featuring brief interviews with the people who knew him, a little space travel, and a nice appreciation for houseplants.”
Around 5:30 – about two and a half hours later – we were exhausted and decided it was time to head home. This was good, as I had made a few more purchases than I had anticipated, my feet were killing me from walking in circles, and I needed a shower more than anything in the world. Because we came on the last day, we missed some artists who had packed up early – but for an hour and a half drive from Greensboro and a $15 Sunday ticket, it was definitely worth it!
HeroesCon is a beast, centering what is essentially a zinefest in the middle of a mainstream comics convention, but it works. At my first HeroesCon in 2014, I was buying a copy of Youth is Wasted from Noah Van Sciver when an announcement came over the speakers for a massive cosplay contest – a moment that successfully encapsulates my HeroesCon experience. It’s a funny coexistence.
- I wish more folks would bring cheap xeroxed zines with them to sell – I’d feel better buying a $2 zine on copy paper from somebody than merely asking them, “Do you have a card?” I try to split my money up between as many artists as possible.
- You truly have to walk the floor a few times to avoid missing artists – it was on my final pass that I found the tables of Enzo Garza and Poison Press, respectively. Maybe it’s because I’m still new to conventions, but I always worry about missing hidden gems.
- This was the first year I had the guts to bring my zines without a table, and everybody was very kind that I shared them with. These nice people included Richie Pope, Coleman Engle, Chris Schweizer, and Chris Pitzer, publisher of AdHouse Books (“That’s what you do at conventions!”) Kyle Starks even let me trade him a zine for a sticker. Bartering at its best!
Audra Stang is a cartoonist from Greensboro, NC. Keep an eye out for Star Valley – a webcomic launching around the end of summer – and meanwhile find her other work HERE.