Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
For the last few years, my wife and I have spent our respective birthdays together finding some new place or attraction to visit as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on this most wondrous day, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. My 2015 birthday destination of choice: the city of Fort Wayne, some 100+ miles northeast of here. It’s home to several manufacturing concerns, one major insurance company, a selection of buildings with historical importance to the locals, and a small comic book convention I’d never heard of before this year. We checked out the area, we found ways to enjoy ourselves, we got some much-needed exercise, and we took photos.
Fort Wayne’s fourth annual Appleseed Comic Con happened to fall on the same weekend as my 43rd birthday. With this lucky timing, this unknown con rose quickly to the top of my birthday-weekend brainstorming list and easily won out over clothes shopping, Netflix marathon, and “go someplace my wife wants to see”.
The name “Appleseed” is taken from one of Fort Wayne’s biggest claims to fame, the burial site of the real Johnny Appleseed. His ostensible grave marker is located in Johnny Appleseed Park, where the Johnny Appleseed Festival is a big deal every September. It’s not named after Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed, but it would be an impressive manga-geek victory if it were. Their third annual shindig was made possible by a successful Kickstarter campaign, but they seemed on solid ground without crowdfunding this time around.
Appleseed is small yet proud of its focus on the comics medium, no actors, celebs, or YouTube users are invited as guests. The biggest names in the program were strictly writers, artists, and creators in the realm of the illustrated printed page. I don’t think I’d been to that kind of comics show since high school. I could feel a tinge of nostalgia in a few moments as we wandered from booth to booth.
Even before we entered the exhibit hall, its location was a sightseeing treat in itself. Convention centers aren’t all that common in our state outside Indianapolis (we saw one in Muncie last year), but Fort Wayne’s Grand Wayne Convention Center is ideally located for northern Indiana companies and our neighbors in Michigan and Ohio. Judging by its appearance, I’m guessing they attract decent business.
I’m sure we passed several Appleseed banners on our way into town from I-69, but somehow I didn’t notice them till later while we wandered downtown for fun. The con is a big deal to many locals, one of whom told us it’s been getting bigger every year.
Anyway: the con! There were writers, artists, cartoonists, webcomics creators, and enthusiasts in a few different modes. People we met and paid for reading matter included:
* Christopher Mitten, illustrator/co-creator of Image Comics’ Umbral, which I’m looking forward to delving into even though I’m sadly late for the party.
* Writer Ben Avery, who helped adapt George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones prequel novella “The Hedge Knight” into comics for Marvel, teams up frequently with artist/writer Mike S. Miller (Image’s The Imaginaries), and has works available through a few Christian comics publishers. I picked up one, The Book of God, illustrated by ’90s Ghost Rider artist Javier Saltares.
* Brian Bradley of Kingdom Comics, another Christian publisher we’ve seen at Chicago cons.
* Artist Hilary Barta, whom I’ve met twice before at C2E2 (including last year’s), but I’m more than happy to hand him my money whenever I can. My excuse this time was also the overall niftiest thing I picked up at Appleseed: original art from Power Pack #43 — inks by Barta, pencils by Sal Velluto. I have the first fifty-five issues of the team’s original series, but until I set eyes on this page, I’d totally forgotten they had an enemy called the Boogeyman. Oh, the sweet, faded memories.
Two comics dealers lined the rear of the hall with back issues and discount graphic novels. A handful of others alternated with toy vendors on the right side. I limited my browsing of their wares because I still have a backlog of reading matter from our last few cons, but I couldn’t resist picking up two items of note: a ten-dollar copy of DC’s thirty-dollar compilation of the obscure series Chase, which featured art by a then-unknown JH Williams III who later became a contemporary powerhouse; and a worn copy of X-Men Annual #5 (1981), one of the few vintage Chris Claremont X-stories I’d never read way back when, and never knew existed. I don’t recall ever seeing a reprint of its contents, a double-length team-up with the Fantastic Four against the alien invaders known as the Badoon, illustrated by Astro City‘s Brent Anderson and New Mutants co-creator Bob McLeod. This to me was like finding a lost treasure, despite the odd romantic subplot between Storm and Arkon the Imperion.
Also in the exhibit hall: this booth! For some reason!
Best non-food items on display were found at the table of Sweets So Geek, local purveyors of chocolate candies shaped like famous icons and objects of geek culture.
The foil wrappers ruin part of the magic, so here’s the Dalek freed from its prison as an example of the handiwork involved.
(Reviews so far: we had a hard time detecting the bacon in the Bat-Symbol, but it was yummy anyway. My sriracha-tinged Dalek was rich, creamy, and burning. We haven’t gotten to the other two yet.)
Officially the guy at the Sweets So Geek table couldn’t sell food without a vending license or else invite the convention center’s wrath. However, he had an accomplice representing for the company at the pop-up boutique I mentioned in the last entry. She was willing and able to hook us up, and had a few of the guy’s geek cakes on display. They also do super-hero cookies.
…and that’s pretty much the sum of our ninety-minute Appleseed Comic Con experience. The exhibit hall was three aisles total, plus one room hosting panels all day about toys, Jack Kirby, gender in comics, comics how-to tutorials, and so on. The show’s biggest headliner was Jaime Hernandez, co-creator of the groundbreaking Love and Rockets, some of which I’d read from library copies during high school. Unfortunately, the first time we passed his table, I overlooked him and my wife didn’t mention it till I said something and we were further down the next aisle. The second time, he was AWOL. During his 2:00 Q&A we were several blocks away touring another Fort Wayne establishment. When we returned late in the afternoon for one last pass through the three aisles, he appeared to be packing up for the day, and that’s not something I feel right about interrupting. My loss, I know.
I’d love to share a vast selection of cosplay pics, but this wasn’t that kind of turnout. We saw one Harley Quinn, two Batmen, and four or five Star Wars baddies who were probably all 501st Legion reps. End of cosplayer list. As a token of our remorse for this lack of photographic results, please instead accept this photo of my wife with R2D2 in front of a Death Star backdrop.
The important takeaway here: we met new people and bought cool stuff. Primary objectives were largely met, and pleasingly so.
That’s not all we saw while we were in Fort Wayne, though. To be continued!