From July 14th to the 16th, Raleigh, North Carolina held its first SuperCon. For me, the experience was my third comic book convention. Despite the fact that I was only in attendance for a single day, SuperCon is my favorite con thus far. It was a dynamic experience, comprised of little interactions with complete and utter strangers. Of course, these strangers never felt unfamiliar since we were all gathered at the Raleigh Convention Center for the same purpose. I walked and talked with these strangers for hours, obtaining their experience at the convention as my own. So, upon driving home on the final day of SuperCon, I couldn’t help but think about those little interactions and the ways those moments keep comic books alive today.

A work by Allen Bellman

The Day I Went Back to the Golden Age

Upon arriving at the Raleigh Convention Center, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed. I always think I have outgrown the kind of excitement I felt when I was seven, waiting to watch the newest superhero film. That excitement has yet to fade. So here I was, waiting to enter this convention filled with people just like me, my heart racing. When I finally made my way to the exhibition floor, I made so many rounds throughout the place that I lost count. I wanted to be sure that I didn’t miss a thing. After an undetermined amount of time, I thought it was best that I actually interact with someone.

I found a booth that caught my eye. Its sign stated that the man on the other side of the table was a Comic Book Golden Age legend. His name is Allen Bellman. He is 92, and he is known for his work at Marvel when the company was known as Timely Comics. His impressive portfolio contains work on CAPTAIN AMERICA, SUB-MARINER, and THE HUMAN TORCH comics; heroes readers continue to admire today. During my time at Bellman’s booth, I interacted with another man, discussing Bellman’s significance in the comic book world. It wasn’t until I looked at this man’s name tag that I realized who I was talking to: Jim Shooter, Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief from 1978 to 1987. Suddenly, I was incapable of speaking.

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This interaction made me realize the undying admiration people continue to have for these notable figures. The Golden Age of Comic Books has passed, but the era continues to fascinate fans. Perhaps it is the era’s sense of idealism, or perhaps it is the sensational depiction of these heroes that enchants people. Either way, the impact of Allen Bellman’s contributions to Marvel Comics history persists. For this reason, a multitude of people approached his booth with the hopes of obtaining a little history for themselves through the simple keepsake of an autograph. As he signed a drawing of his I had purchased, I noticed a ring on his right hand. It depicted Captain America’s classic, triangular shield adorned with a diamond in the center.

Allen Bellman isn’t just an artist responsible for various Golden Age works. He’s also a fan, just like you and I.

Allen Bellman in the mid-1940s

The Day I Returned to the Modern Age

After my unexpected interaction with two historical figures in comic book history, I came across an artist’s booth with a familiar name. In the moment, I was again so overwhelmed that I could not remember how I knew this person’s name. Then it hit me: I had just reviewed this artist’s work in X-MEN BLUE #7. His name is Cory Smith, and he may be one of the most down-to-earth individuals I have ever met. As I looked through his collection of illustrations, he quietly worked on another. After a few moments, he asked me my opinion on his latest issue. We ended up discussing the refreshing tone of the series that has, in general, strayed from being gritty.

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My interaction with Cory Smith stood out to me; it took place immediately after my conversation with Allen Bellman. Smith is an artist currently making an impact on the ongoing era of comic books, even if he doesn’t really realize it. His innovative, light-hearted take on the X-Men is refreshing and representative of the younger comic book readers of this time. Because of this, he contributes to what will ultimately define this era for future generations.

An excerpt from X-MEN BLUE #7, illustrated by Cory Smith. Courtesy of Marvel Comics

The Day My Wallet Cried

Going into the convention, I told myself I would only buy a few comic books and nothing more. This did not happen. As soon as I realized John Wesley Shipp and Tara Strong were guests at Raleigh’s SuperCon, I immediately purchased a photo-op and autograph. I regret nothing. Along with that, as I walked around the exhibit floor, I couldn’t help but purchase works from some really awesome artists. I love the opportunity conventions such as SuperCon provide upcoming writers and artists to showcase their talent.

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One of the artists who stood out to me was Al Abazzia. He specializes in designing retro posters for beloved films, characters, and television shows. When I asked him for his business card, he told me he had given them all out because so many people adored his work. The way Abazzia combines nostalgia with modern characters is certainly the primary appeal. My favorite piece of his is depicted below: it features Marvel Comics’ Black Widow. His inspiration to design this particular piece was his personal wish for a Black Widow solo film. He would want the film to embody elements of a 60’s spy thriller, an element that resonates in his Bond-esque poster. With this, Abazzia clearly maintains an admiration for the artistic elements of the mid-2oth century.

So, because of Abazzia’s talent, along with the talent of many of the artists present at SuperCon, I purchased two of his works, despite the fact that I had set a budget for myself. These works will proudly hang in my dorm room next year. So, I can say with confidence that I have no regrets on any of the purchases I made at the convention.

Some of the many wonderful works of Al Abazzia

The Day I Met The Riddler

While I was standing in line to get my photo-op with John Wesley Shipp, I met a fascinating attendee. His name is Conner, 16. He cosplayed as The Riddler, implementing an impressive cane he designed when he was only 11. He is an artistic individual who has always felt that his future in the arts was inevitable. The iconic work of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES inspired him to pursue his dream of voice acting. Because of this, he maintains an admiration for less modern television shows and comic books.

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He was the youngest individual I interacted with that day, an individual that will bridge the gap between the current age of comics and the future. Despite his age, he was incredibly knowledgeable of DC Comics history because it is a history that fascinates him. My little interaction with Conner let me understand his commitment to his passions. The stories that exist within the comic books we read are transcendent. It is because of this transcendence that these conventions attract people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s why we see parents introducing their young children to cast members of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, even though these children may not understand who they’re meeting.

One of the many comic book vendors at the 2017 SuperCon

Until Next Year, SuperCon

Nostalgia is integral in captivating new generations with comic books and their related material. It allows new generations to appreciate what has come before their time and has made a mark on history. Nostalgia serves as an inspiration for imaginative natures. It allows those in the next generation to build on the past and create something innovative. Raleigh’s first ever SuperCon embodied this nostalgia. Because of this, its success can be attributed to the little interactions that reminded me why I, along with the thousands of other individuals, came to the convention in the first place.

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