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for Monday, December 6, 2004

Mid-Ohio-Con 25th 2004

MID-OHIO-CON 25, which was held on November 27 and 28 in the Columbus Hilton at Easton Town Center, was NOT the 25th anniversary of the event. However, it was the 25th Mid-Ohio-Con, counting the time promoter Roger Price did two shows in one year. Next year is the actual 25th anniversary and Roger will get to reuse the spiffy logo designed by Thom Zahler.

I hope I got that right. If I didn't, I fear Zahler will draw a cartoon mocking me and not be nearly as kind as he was to Roger and con crew chief Wes Aten in the one leading today's TOT. Have I mentioned lately what a swell person Thom is?

Mid-Ohio-Con represents my last burst of sanity before the new year. From here until sometime in January, things are going to be crazy for me and mine. Christmas is coming with all the "joyful" tasks that entails. Sainted Wife Barb is still shy one pharmacist in her department and working way too hard. Eddie and Kelly have their end of semester activities and projects. As per usual, the month of December has also brought some welcome writing gigs that will need to be completed before the holidays. It's a good kind of busy, which will be my story up until the moment the police drag my crazed self off the roof of my house.

Admit it. You don't trust those reindeer either.

Got off track there, didn't I? Sorry.

How do I love Mid-Ohio-Con? Let me count the ways.

That Roger Price is the heart and soul of the event cannot be stressed enough. He inspires the friendly atmosphere which makes the show so special. The fans are among the most enthusiastic and polite as any in the world. The guests join in the fun and mingle freely with the fans. The retailers and exhibitors are courteous and helpful. If someone doesn't have a good time at Mid-Ohio-Con, then they didn't try even a little.

One of Mid-Ohio-Con's greatest assets is its volunteer crew, starting with Roger's family and in-laws. We lost Charles, Roger's dad, recently, but his spirit was with us from the moment the first trucks full of comics pulled up to the hotel.

Jane, Roger's wife, could barely speak during the show due to a bronchial infection, but that didn't stop her from captaining the ticket booth when the crowd of excited attendees stretched all the way to the end of the hotel. If the line gets away longer, they'll have to add a new wing to the place.

So many other volunteers. We've watched crew chief Wes Aten grow up with the show; I'm honored to know this fine man. The same can be said of Gary Herrmann, who gets extra points for recruiting his lovely wife Amanda to the crew. If I start naming other names, I'm afraid I'll leave someone out - they all work so hard for this event - so I'll just mention Katie from my own hometown of Medina on account of she knows where I live.

Before this starts sounding like an award-acceptance speech, I should just start my convention report already and let the thanks fall where they will...

I was surprisingly well-prepared for this show. I was packed and ready to go hours before my planned rendezvous with Thom Zahler and Bob Ingersoll, who were coming in from parts north. They were meeting me in Medina so Bob could drive me and my van to Columbus. Yes, I'm a total wuss when it comes to busy freeways and roads full of holiday shoppers. I bow my head in shame.

Mid-Ohio-Con Program Book

Through no fault of Mid-Ohio-Con, this weekend turned out to be our pal Thom's worse weekend ever. You can read the details at his own website [], but the bit of bad luck impacting the con was that the lovingly-crafted-by-Thom-his-own-talented-self program book was - in effect - being held hostage by United Parcel Service. The books had been shipped in plenty of time for the con, but UPS had made a change from previous years and wasn't working on Friday. The books wouldn't be delivered to the hotel until Monday and UPS wouldn't budge from that.

Thom knew the program books - with the spiffy Adam Hughes art shown above - were already in Ohio, which meant that, wherever they were, they were no more than two hours away from Columbus. As Thom spoke via cell phone to his printer, UPS, and us, we were prepared to pick up the books ourselves. But, as Thom described it, UPS was as helpful as David Spade in those Capital One ads. They would do nothing until Monday.

Throughout the weekend, people at Mid-Ohio-Con who worked for UPS tried to help. The books were twenty minutes from the hotel. A supervisor was ready to go to work and get the packages, but he couldn't get authorization or the help he would have needed to find out which truck they were on. By Saturday evening, it was time to accept the inevitable.

There would be no program books for you. Or me. Or the fans who attended the show. Or the advertisers who bought space in the book. Or poor Thom Zahler. Sigh.


Digression. If you'd like to try to cheer Thom up and you're not a gorgeous actress with a hankering for handsome young artists, you could visit his website...or your local comics shop...or Barnes and Noble...or buy his two RAIDER graphic novels. I reviewed the first one favorably a couple years back and will be reviewing the new one soon. I taught the lad everything he knows and then, fortunately, he was smart enough to unlearn it and figure out this stuff on his own. End digression.

Location, location, location.

You couldn't ask for a better location for a convention than the Columbus Hilton. The relatively new hotel is beautiful and its staff works hard to take care of Mid-Ohio-Con and those who attend the event. The rooms are comfortable and large...and equipped with high-speed online service for under ten bucks per day. During the con, the hotel sells reasonably-priced box lunches, just the ticket for busy exhibitors, fans, and guests.

Don't want to spend all your time at the hotel? Easton Town Center, right across the street from Mid-Ohio-Con, has restaurants for every budget as well as some of the finest shopping to be found in Ohio. Every year, I notice more fans and guests bringing their spouses and families to the show, knowing that, even if they aren't into comics, said spouses and kids will be able to enjoy themselves at Easton. It's a win-win least until you get those Christmas credit-card bills.

Important information.

Something else I noticed this year was the number of non-Mid-Ohio-Con guests who spent Friday and Saturday night at the Hilton. They were area residents making a shopper's holiday of the weekend. It's a great idea, but it does make for fewer available hotel rooms for thee and me.

My advice for 2005 is to make your reservations as soon as you can. There are good hotels near the convention, but the Hilton is where it's really happening.

After checking into my room on Friday afternoon, I headed to the convention floor to see if Roger needed any help with the con set-up. Everything was well in hand, so I chatted with some of the dealers and guests. If I start trying to name them all - though I will be naming two of them in a bit - I'll just be repeating myself in the later sections of this report. So, for now, let's leave it at that I enjoyed seeing them again and everyone was enthusiastic about being at the show.

Noel and Larry

Of all the guests coming to Mid-Ohio-Con, I was most excited about seeing Noel Neill again. As I'm sure you all know, Noel was TV's original Lois Lane. I had first met her during my involvement with an ill-fated organization formed to honor Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in Cleveland, the city where their creator - Superman - was born. That's a sad story best left for another day.

I hadn't seen Noel since 1988's International Superman Expo in Cleveland and hadn't spoken to her since shortly after that stellar event. Back then, it had fallen on me to give her the bad news of the organization's demise. The modest check for her appearance at the Expo had bounced and she was far from the only person to suffer loss due to the malfeasance of two of the organization's officers. Again, a tale best left for another time.

I confess I was nervous about seeing Noel again, but the grand lady was every bit as gracious as she had been during that long-ago phone call. It was a delightful reunion.

Noel had come to the show with Larry Thomas Ward, the handsome gent seen in the photo above. He's the author of TRUTH, JUSTICE, & THE AMERICAN WAY [Nicholas Lawrence Books; $24.95], the biography of the radiant Ms. Neill. I had a chance to chat with Larry during the show and took an immediate liking to him. He is, as they used to say and still should, a good egg.

Look for a review of TRUTH, JUSTICE, & THE AMERICAN WAY in a near-future installment of this column. I don't want to slow down this report with reviews of the goodies I acquired during Mid-Ohio-Con - mostly because I'm just starting to read them - but they will be coming your way before the end of the year.


The Great Ogre Gathering is the official pre-convention party of Mid-Ohio-Con. It's held by THE LAUGHING OGRE, one of the finest comics shops in the country. The Ogre gang provides food, drink, and live entertainment, giving their customers and the out-of-town fans and guests a chance to have fun and meet one another outside of the usual convention mania.

It should be noted the Ogre's largesse to Mid-Ohio-Con merely begins with the pre-show bash. They generally sponsor a guest or two and, for the past two years, they've admirably filled my former role as the panel programming coordinators. If I may be allowed a slight irreverence...we most definitely have a friend in the Ogre. They always come through for the show.

Yet another digression.

This isn't exactly breaking news, but Gib Bickel, co-owner of the Ogre, has been selected as one of the judges for the 2005 Will Eisner Awards. The press release announcing the judges noted that Gib is a regular participant in the Comic Book Industry Association website and on the Free Comic Book Day committee.

Having served as an Eisner judge many years ago, I can offer the following insights to Gib:

Though being an Eisner judge is a most satisfying experience, there are three pitfalls you probably can't avoid.

1. Some comic book, comics creator, or related item you love will not make the cut. There is a lot of great stuff out there and only some of it can make it to the final ballot.

2. The nominating weekend in San Diego is intense! You'll be reading all the stuff you didn't read before making the trip and be debating its merits with judges every bit as opinionated and smart as yourself. It's better than the smell of napalm in the morn, but you may not want to read comics for weeks afterwards.

3. Within hours of the nominations being announced, someone, usually multiple someones, will start complaining about the choices and the judges who made them. You're a mainstream flunky. You're an indy acolyte. People like you are *exactly* what's wrong with these awards. Wear your online scars with pride; only your fellow judges know how hard you worked to earn them.

End of digression.

Back to my convention report...

Even though the Ogre lays out a great spread, my usual routine is to have a quiet meal at one of the Easton restaurants and then head over to the show. The Ogre provides a shuttle to and from the party, which is held in the store.

I didn't make it to THE GOG this year. The reason was a piece of salmon that tasted delicious on the way down and then pummeled the heck out of me the rest of the weekend. If I ever seemed more out of it than usual at the convention, that was why.

In a sort of metaphorical repeat of that evening's gastronomic discomfort, I've now written two thousand words without getting to Mid-Ohio-Con itself. Come back tomorrow and I promise we will not speak of said sinister salmon again.



This week's TONY POLLS questions continue the holiday theme of last week's ballot. Once again, you'll be asked to vote on whether a selection of comic-book characters, creators, and executives are "naughty" or "nice." Ho ho ho!

You can vote on this week's questions here:

Disappointed your favorite or least favorites haven't yet been subjected to this madness? Feel free to make recommendations for next week's questions. I plan on milking this theme all the way to Christmas. E-mail me at:

The results of last week's polling will be available as soon as I make sure all the bribe-checks have cleared.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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