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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1462 (11/16/01)

Mid-Ohio-Con 2001 Program Book Cover THE HOST: My psychic friend told me I had to come back here. I didn't believe her. Then I realized I did have to come back here because I really always thought I had to come back here, deep down inside, ya know. I had to come back here to find out I didn't have to come back here. I don't belong here. I hate it here. You know where I belong? LA. You know why? Nobody belongs there. It's the perfect place for guys like us.

ANGEL: That's kinda beautiful.

(from ANGEL: "There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb")

******

I don't need a psychic friend, don't need a Dionne Warwick or even Miss Cleo, to tell me when Mid-Ohio-Con is coming around once again. It's Saturday and Sunday, November 24 and 25, in the Hilton Columbus at Easton Town Center.

Not only is Mid-Ohio my favorite comics convention, not only have I been a part of the event for two decades, but I've also been privileged to be involved with the con's panel programming for many years. While less fortunate folks are counting down the days until Christmas or their chosen winter holiday, I'm marking off the days until I can drive to Columbus and spend the weekend with thousands of my dearest friends.

Forgetting Mid-Ohio-Con would be like forgetting my birthday, except that I actually try to forget about my birthday. Birthdays stopped being fun for me when I realized I was never going to get that jet-pack; Mid-Ohio-Con continues to be more fun than a barrel of flying monkeys.

Roger Price created Mid-Ohio-Con as a fundraiser for the March of Dimes, even though dimes hadn't yet been invented way back then. Still, he raised sacks full of poultry and pretty stones for a good cause, and, even after he left his position at the March of Dimes, my pal Roger continued to hold the convention, delighting legions of comics fans and professionals and collecting more hens, stones, and even real money for a variety of good causes.

Every year about this time, my CBG editors ask me to write a column previewing Mid-Ohio-Con. Every year, I'm overwhelmed by how much I could write about the event if it weren't for all that other stuff they insist on including in their newspaper. So, as always, what you're going to get here are a bunch of quick notes about the guests and special things Roger and his crew have planned for you this year. Hang on.

Mid-Ohio-Con, while keeping its main focus on comics creators, has expanded its guest list in recent years by adding celebrities from other entertainment fields. This year, I'm especially looking forward to meeting Andy Hallett and Mark Lutz from ANGEL, one of my favorite television series.

Hallett plays "The Host," the owner, operator, and master of ceremonies of Caritas, a karaoke bar with a clientele encompassing humans, demons, and other dangerous individuals. When Hallett is on screen, he makes any scene that much more humorous and profound. It's a neat trick and it takes a terrific actor to pull it off week after week. I'm looking forward to interviewing Hallett during the convention and, though I make no promises here, seeing if we can't arrange to get Hallett and a karaoke machine next to one another during the event. If we do, I figure on singing my personal theme song, "If I Only Had a Brain..."

ANGEL, like you didn't already know this, is a spin-off from Joss Whedon's equally spiffy BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER series. The "Buffy-verse" will be well-represented at the con. In addition to Hallett, Lutz, whose appearances in last season's multi-part Angel finale has fans clamoring for his return, will be there, along with Buffy comic-book writer and novelist Christopher Golden (his first Mid-Ohio-Con appearance), Buffy/Angel inker Will Conrad (his first U.S. appearance), and representatives of the popular BRONZE SHELTER and CITY OF ANGEL websites. I must confess; sometimes these panels just flat-out plan themselves.

Mid-Ohio-Con has always enjoyed a mix of great new guests and returning favorites, but I don't think any guest has done more for the show than comics legend John Byrne. He has attended darn near every Mid-Ohio-Con since the second one; it's now the only comic-book show at which he appears. He has acted as auctioneer for the charity auctions, contributed incredible items to those auctions, and signed about a zillion comic books for his fans.

For this year's event, Byrne has created something special, a limited edition "mini-poster" featuring the Fantastic Four battling Doc Doom. The posters will sell for $5 each with profits going to the American Cancer Society for breast cancer research.

The full-color 3-D computer generated art is exclusive to this print. Only 1000 copies of the mini-poster will be printed with each being signed and numbered by John at the convention, in front of each purchaser. These posters will ONLY be available to fans in attendance at this year's Mid-Ohio-Con.

Mid-Ohio-Con has been a pioneer in teaming convention fun with philanthropic awareness. However, this year, though there will be many opportunities for attendees to contribute to worthwhile causes at the event, the show is not sponsoring an official auction. This was decided in the wake of the tremendous outpouring of charitable support from comicdom following the September 11 tragedies. With so much generosity shown to date, and so much need still out there, it was felt that con attendees shouldn't have the additional burden of supporting our annual auction. It'll be back next year and, in the meantime, Con Daddy Roger and the rest of the con crew want you to know we are very proud of how magnificently comics people, pros and fans, have opened their hearts and their wallets in this time of great challenges.

David Carradine My personal challenge is finding a way to squeeze all of the panels I'd like to schedule into just two days. David Carradine, whose KUNG FU and KUNG FU: THE LEGEND CONTINUES TV series are just as much fun now as they were when they first aired, is appearing at Mid-Ohio-Con for the first time, and I would be sorely remiss in my programming duties if I didn't attempt to snatch a few pebbles of wisdom from him.

My head literally begins to spin when I look at all the great comics industry guests Roger has signed up for this year's event: Dave Gibbons, James Warren, Dwayne McDuffie, Lee Weeks, Bob Smith, Alex Simmons, Kim Demulder, Patricia Mulvihill, Scott Beatty, Brian Azzarello, Tom Mandrake, Jan Durasema, and those are just some of our first-timers. I could fill the panel programming schedule just from these folks.

Returning guests? Don't get me started. Oh, wait, it's too late. That list includes: Darryl Banks, Brian Michael Bendis, Pam Bliss, Mike Deodato, Ron Garney, Gene Gonzales, Kyle Hotz, Leonard Kirk, Andy Lee, Steve Lieber, David Mack, Dan Mishkin, Eddy Newell, Mike Avon Oeming, Scott Roberts, Beau Smith, Roger Stern, Paul D. Storrie, Don Rosa, and dozens more. Do we even have enough chairs for all of them?

Arrrgggghhhhh!

Excuse the panic attack. Sooner or later, the panel schedule does come together. The fans will have opportunities to hear their favorite writers and artists talk about their work, and even meet some of them in close-up, limited-seating sessions.

We'll talk about some fun things and some serious things with our guests. This year's MID-OHIO-CON ROAST honoree is writer Paul Jenkins, and his "friends" are already lining up to turn that spit until he's well-done. As always, our official roastmaster will be Thom Zahler, whose boyishly handsome good looks disguise the evil within. Naturally, women love him.

I'm also planning a series of panels on diversity in comics. We'll talk about who's coming to dinner, the new voices in comics, the many kind of comics being published today, and what comic books will be created in a world where great good and horrific evil are manifesting themselves so openly.

Fans of DRAGON BALL Z should get a kick out of the Saturday-only appearance of Sonny Strait. The voice of Krillin and Bardock on the popular cartoon series, Strait will be signing autographs, putting the smack down on anyone foolish enough to challenge him at the Dragon Ball Z Collectible Card Game, and displaying the awesome Dragon Ball Z CCG Hummer. This is part of a national tour, so, for news on when Sonny is appearing in your area, check out

http://www.dbzcardgame.com

Hal Foster I wrote about this in a previous column, but here's a reminder that Mid-Ohio-Con will be hosting the first public showing of THIS IS YOUR LIFE: HAL FOSTER for the first time in almost five decades. The 30-minute show, which includes period commercials, was found by Foster biographer Brian M. Kane while researching his recent book on the creator of Prince Valiant. Kane will introduce the program and, afterwards, answer audience questions about the life and works of one of comicdom's greatest illustrators.

(I have too much stuff to write about. I must resist the urge to conquer other columnists and seize their pages.)

Models and pin-up art have a legitimate role in comics and pop culture. This year's Mid-Ohio-Con will debut "The Glamour Zone," a special access area which will provide a showcase for those guests and artists displaying collectible items of a more mature nature. The area will be in a room of its own and open only to convention-goers age 18 and older, which I think is a fine way to respond to concerns expressed by some attendees and parents without excluding an entire area of collector interest.

Mid-Ohio-Con has always prided itself on being both inclusive and a family-oriented event. Comic Library International is going above and beyond the call of duty to make the convention special for kids. Publisher George Broderick is giving away free copies of Jamie Cosley's BIG HONKING BUGNUT to the first 200 children age 10 and younger accompanied by an adult at this year's show. This 152-page book, which normally sells for $12.95, will introduce younger readers to the wonderful world of comics with its hip hop humor and graffiti art style. But, remember, to get a free copy, you have to be a child age 10 or under and not just act like one. Life can be so unfair sometimes.

Broderick is involved in another special Mid-Ohio-Con event as well. With Airwave Comics creators Chris Yambar and Ken Wheaton, and publisher Rich Maurizio, he'll be signing and foil-stamping the all-new SANTO adventure comic, the start of a new series featuring the legendary masked wrestler beloved around the world. The stamp is a "First Day/Team Santo 2001" seal which will never be available anywhere else. In fact, the foil-embossing unit used for the event will be destroyed at the end of Mid-Ohio-Con and never used again, making the comic a very cool show exclusive.

I did it again, didn't I? I spent the whole column gushing about Mid-Ohio-Con and almost forgot to mention the main reasons I attend and work on this show every year. There are as many of them as there are fans and professionals attending the show.

Roger Price, Jane, his wife, daughter Gary Herrmann, and their boy Wes Aten have brought together the best crew of volunteers for which any convention could ask. They are dedicated, friendly, and Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to doing anything they can do to make the convention that much better for the fans and professionals who come to Columbus each year. On my end, I'm especially grateful to Dave Barrington, Don Hilliard, Bob Ingersoll, and the ladies of the SEQUENTIAL TART website for all the help they give me in making our three tiers of panel programming work so well.

Then there's the celebrities from the comics and entertainment industries. I don't know if it's an amazing precognitive ability or sheer dumb luck, but Roger manages, year after year, to get some of the just plain nicest people on his guest list. The guests seem to go out of their way, time and time again, to make sure the fans are enjoying themselves. I've seen egos unleashed at any number of shows, but I don't even need all the fingers on one of my hands to count the times I've seen that sort of boorishness in over 20 years of attending Mid-Ohio-Con.

Saving the best for last, I don't think it's possible to find more decent, polite, and supportive fans than those attending Mid-Ohio-Con. Not a year goes by without one of them doing or saying something that becomes an unforgettable memory for our guests and for those of us who work on the show and, every year, it makes us try that much harder to make the show even better.

You know, next year, someone, my CBG editors, Roger, someone, should stop me before I devolve into the mass of gooey sentiment I have once again become in writing about Mid-Ohio-Con. I'm really not this warm-and-fuzzy.

Mid-Ohio-Con just brings out the best in me.

******

ADDENDUM

I'm reprinting this week's Mid-Ohio-Con column out of sequence because it made more sense to me to run it a week before the event rather than one day. It's not too late to make plans to attend the convention, though, at present, you won't be able to get a room at the Hilton Columbus. Response to this year's show has been so huge that *every* room in the place is booked...and that also holds true for Artists Alley and the exhibitor areas. This could be the most successful Mid-Ohio-Con of them all.

******

How about the Dave Gibbons cover at the start of today's TIPS presentation? This touching tribute to freedom, unity and heroism, with colors by Trish Mulvihill, was created, with the full support of DC Comics, EXCLUSIVELY for Mid-Ohio-Con. Produced in a limited quantity, each attendee will receive a complimentary program book while supplies last. These program books will only be available at Mid-Ohio-Con and will not be reprinted.

******

Andy Hallett


Mid-Ohio-Con hadn't confirmed all the details when I wrote my column, but there's good news on the karaoke front, as announced in this press release

It's "Caritas" at the Con! Saturday night, from 8 to 10, join us in the Hilton's Jazz Club when "Caritas" comes to Mid-Ohio-Con! Fans of the hit WB series ANGEL know that Caritas is the night club owned and operated by "The Host." It's where karaoke reigns and everyone comes to have fun. And that's what we have for you, as our special guest, Andy Hallett, hosts...Caritas at the Con.

Get ready to belt out your favorite songs! Admission is free with your Mid-Ohio-Con wristband, so don't take it off until AFTER the party!

And be sure to stick around when the karaoke ends because the Hilton will present a live jazz band starting at 10.

Is that wicked cool or what?

******

Fantastic Four Print On the bad news front, you'll have to content yourself with a virtual look at the John Byrne print mentioned in my column. After CBG #1462 went to press, I received the following news release from Mid-Ohio-Con's own Roger Price

Due to unexpected circumstances well beyond his control, John Byrne has announced that the Fantastic Four print promised for Mid-Ohio-Con will not be made available. In a statement, Byrne has said that all copies of the print will be destroyed. Both John Byrne and the event regret any disappointment this may cause fans attending the show.

Byrne's sole intent for creating and offering the poster was to raise funds to support breast cancer research. To that end, he will be making a personal donation, equivalent to the total amount he had hoped to raise, to the American Cancer Society for breast cancer research.

Byrne said, "Even though the fans have lost an opportunity to own this poster, breast cancer research will not lose the financial support that was promised."

Here's my personal take on this

I've received varying reports on the above and, while we may never know the entirety of the actions surrounding this sad turn of events, its genesis clearly lies with yet another online "fan" who went out of his way to go after a pro and stir up trouble. In this particular case, when the participants involved the volatile Byrne, who seems to attract more grief--much of it undeserved--than most of his fellows, and, to a lesser extent, the uncivil Bill Jemas and various Jemas sycophants, it went badly.

This is a shame on many levels. I don't understand why Jemas and company have dumped on Byrne almost from the moment they took their current positions. In Byrne, they had a comics creator with a long and successful history with the company, a creator who has a loyal fan base, and, for unknown reasons, they did everything in their power to drive him screaming from Marvel Comics.

There being two sides to almost everything, Byrne is not the most diplomatic creator in comics. Yet, whatever went down between him and the current Marvel management, it's inappropriate for Jemas to play to the cheap seats with his continued insults at a creator who has sold a lot of books for Marvel over the past three decades. Even for Jemas, it's incredibly bad form.

Over the years, I have written both favorable and unfavorable reviews of Byrne's work. We don't always agree on what makes good comics and, on occasion, I think his ego has gotten in the way of his amazing talents. But no matter how much I have disagreed with John or disliked some work of his, I have always considered him to be a stand-up guy. I think he proved that again with his solution to this poster situation.

He ate the cost of producing these prints, destroyed them, and then wrote a check to the American Cancer Society equivalent to the amount the sale of the prints would have generated. He went over and above to keep his word to the charity. Jemas and his boys will probably keep sniping at Byrne--it's their nature-but, at the end of this particular day, John has risen above their accusations and insults. Point to Byrne.

******

I'm definitely in Mid-Ohio-Con mode these days, doing my best to get it all together before I depart for Columbus. For those of you wanting more information on the show, you'll find the latest news, including alternative lodging options and the panel program schedule, on the convention website

http://www.midohiocon.com

I'll be back next Friday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 11/09/2001 | 11/16/2001 | 11/23/2001 >>

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