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Our Cartoon Crossroads Columbus 2017 Photos

CXC Comics!

So you say you like comic books? Not just like them, but LIKE-like them? Have we got a show for you!

Last Saturday my wife Anne and I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, an enlightening expo in the heart of Ohio for hardcore fans of comic books, graphic novels, the Graphic Storytelling Medium, and whatever other labels my fellow fans slap on their favorite hobby. You’d think Anne and I had our fill of cons after all the shows we’ve been doing this year. We can honestly say we’ve officially reached burnout, but CXC isn’t your ordinary average “comic con”. CXC has no Hollywood actors. No celebrities. No cosplay. No photo-op booths. No gaming. No eBay toy dealers. No Funco Pops. No comic shops selling Marvel Ultimate trades by the pound as horse feed. No lengthy list of famous guest cancellations due to filming or showrunner malfeasance. And no sugar gliders.

What does that leave, you may ask before you close your browser tab in disappointment? Comics. CXC puts the “comic” back in “comic con” and then runs the “con” part through an intense filtration process to produce the purest possible form of the original sense of the phrase. CXC is the perfect show for the comics fan who’s disappointed by the increasingly mixed bag that the average Artists Alley has become at many large-scale shows. CXC is a bountiful bazaar for the collector who wants to buy something besides prints or self-published novels. CXC is a happy haven for readers who know there’s more to comics than Marvel and DC. CXC is a knowledgeable nexus for the artistic literati above my station, sneering at any comics retailer who thinks stocking some Image Comics by former Marvel writers is all the “diversity” they can handle.

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Cincinnati Comic Expo 2017 Photos, Part 2 of 2: Who We Met and What We Did

Me Falling!

Lesson learned: sometimes we all have to be reminded that we are in fact not Batman.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Saturday morning my wife Anne and I drove two hours southeast of Indianapolis to attend the eighth annual Cincinnati Comic Expo in the heart of their downtown that’s not so different from ours. The guest list seemed a little thinner, particularly in the comics department, but we had such a great time last year that we agreed an encore was in order.

“Boy, you guys sure do a lot of cons!” is a thing we keep hearing lately from family and friends who’ve noticed how our 2017 has been going. The tone and implication vary by speaker.

We keep expecting the Midwest convention boom that ignited for us in 2015 will eventually fizzle out, but it hasn’t happened yet. Anne and I agree and keep telling each other we need to cut back on conventions, if for no other reason than to have more time for all the other aspects and responsibilities in our lives. But the temptation is hard to resist when so many cons keep popping up within a manageable driving distance for us, based on the road-trip skill set we’ve developed over the past nineteen years. It’s harder to resist when showrunners actually invite guests we’re excited to meet. And it’s hardest when we’re talking about shows we’ve done and loved before.

That’s how Cincinnati Comic Expo, having passed all three qualifiers with flying colors, beckoned to us for a second year.

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“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”: Big in China!

Valerian!

The Green Goblin and the Enchantress compare notes on the misery of comic-book movies gone horribly wrong.

One of the biggest flops at the American box office this summer may have itself a happy ending after all. Despite US receipts of $40 million against a reported budget of $177 million, the nearly forgotten sci-fi hodgepodge Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is now finding more receptive audiences overseas, where their audiences apparently have different popcorn-flick standards from ours. Or maybe their trailers were cooler. Or maybe their voices were dubbed into other languages by superior actors. Maybe you haven’t really seen director Luc Besson’s eye-popping fiasco unless you’ve watched it in Cantonese bombastically recited by Hong Kong’s greatest Shakespearean thespians.

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Wizard World Chicago 2017 Photos, Part 1: Comics Cosplay!

Tick!

I’m so old, I remember when the Tick wasn’t an Amazon Prime superstar, and creator Ben Edlund was still writing and drawing his adventures.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time once more! This weekend my wife and I made another journey up to Wizard World Chicago in scenic Rosemont, IL, where we found much enjoyment and new purchases alongside peers and aficionados of comics and genre entertainment. Friday night left us near death by the end of our day, after a few miles’ worth of walking up and down the aisles and hallways, with breaks to go stand in lines of varying lengths and value. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

…and what we nearly always do is lead off a new convention miniseries with the mandatory cosplay galleries. We captured whoever we could while wandering the show floor Friday and Saturday in between the long lines and longer waits. (For a few reasons we skipped Sunday this year.) I have no idea how many chapters this particular experience will run, but the first three will represent a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the costumes that were in the house. Because I always feel the need to divide cosplayers into arbitrary categories, our first set spotlights the stars of screen and page from the world of Marvel, DC Comics, and other publishers out there, as well as from their movie and TV adaptations. Gentle reminder: there are more than two comics publishers out there. Enjoy!

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Thoughts on Netflix’s Marvel’s “The Defenders”

Defenders!

That magical moment when Our Heroes meet but aren’t sure they can take orders from the Stupendous Scarfman.

Let the record show The Defenders is an exceedingly rare event, by which I mean it’s a Netflix series I finished watching within a week of release. Normally it takes me six to eight weeks to catch up with the cool kids. Don’t ask which of my work days suffered most from accomplishing that.

It helps that season 1 is only eight episodes, much more tightly edited, averaging 45-50 minutes each — a more concise spectacle than the padding and plodding that frequently dragged the other series to the 60- to 65-minute mark for indulgent purposes. I hadn’t planned to bulldoze my way through like this, but we have a convention this weekend where we know fans will be chatting about this brand new show to pass the time in the long lines. I’d rather not have to keep cutting them off with yelps of “AHHH! SPOILERS!” while stuffing my head into my carryall so I can’t hear them.

Additional motivation struck me when episode 3 — the one where all four main characters have their first rendezvous — turned out to be such an addictive, headlong rush of comic-book excitement in the mighty Marvel manner, despite the mandatory but middling Hallway Fight. Differently impressive was part 4, directed by ace TV veteran Phil Abraham (The Sopranos, Mad Men), basically a bottle episode in which Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist finally share moments, snipe, posture, threaten to walk, connect, and subtly weave all the threads and tones from their respective, disparate corners of the Marvel Netflix Universe into a coherent tapestry over a sumptuous if mostly ignored Chinese dinner. The characters’ flaws were laid bare with self-aware candor, the overlaps between their shows were extricated, dumplings were shared, and both humor and personal drama each found their entry points.

Results after those episodes were, uh, a bit more varied. The short version: generally a wild ride, but not without its sudden bumps and occasional missing pieces of track.

Fair warning: major spoilers lie beyond not only for The Defenders but for the preceding shows as well. If you haven’t watched those other five seasons first, parts of this show will be incomprehensible. That’s a disappointment to anyone who prefers self-contained stories to these interlocking continuities that marketing departments love to pieces nowadays, but that’s how the super-hero game is played on screens nowadays, for better or worse.

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Superman Celebration 2017 Photos, Part 4 of 4: Super Times!

Superman + Military!

Superman posing with local military at the conclusion of a special ceremony inducting “honorary citizens” of Metropolis.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on June 9th and 10th my wife Anne and I attended the 39th annual Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL, a grand bash in honor of the Man of Steel in particular and all the super-heroes who owe their existence and livelihoods to him in general.

Our sixth visit to the town that adopted Superman once again felt like a sort of homecoming. Illinois even extended us the courtesy of raising their interstate speed limits and clearing out nearly all their road construction projects for the occasion so we somehow managed a record-setting four-hour drive time from Indianapolis. Numerous entrepreneurs brought fine wares and skills for the occasion, including a bevy of new businesses that took over previously abandoned storefronts and boosted occupancy rates along the main straightaway. Best of all, we enjoyed several mini-reunions with fellow fans we recognized (and vice versa) from past years’ autograph lines. The Celebration is like no other convention, and Metropolis is no mere sterile convention center.

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