Editor’s note: Aron Head, whose own blog you can check out here, was on the scene at Zeus Comics’ CAPE event this weekend in Dallas, Texas.
It is true that every thing’s bigger in Texas. We’ve got bigger hair (see Governor Rick Perry), bigger marriages (see Texas Polygamy), and bigger morons (see Governor Rick Perry). One shouldn’t be surprised then to find “The World’s Largest Free Comic Book Day Event” right here in Dallas. Saturday, May 3rd, was a beautiful, uncharacteristically cool spring day in Dallas. It was perfect weather for Cape, Zeus Toys and Comics’ fourth annual comic and pop culture expo. Cape is a free event, which is truly remarkable in that it packs more value than many expensive comic conventions I’ve attended.
Recently, Zeus moved to a lovely new site minus the expansive parking area the old store provided. In the three previous years, Cape has been held in the parking lot at the store’s former location. No problem for Cape, though. Craddock Park is just two blocks up the street.
Flat-footed, old comic fanboy that I am, I can tell you my feet and knees greatly valued the grassy surface over the harsh, unforgiving asphalt of earlier years.
One of Cape’s biggest draws, for me anyway, is the quarter comic sale. Table after table was filled with long boxes stuffed with four color goodness. Zeus offered up thousands of quality comics for two-bits. I was able to snag the last two dozen issues of Teen Titans and a like quantity of Ultimate Fantastic Four. Something I truly cherish about Cape’s quarter bins is the opportunity to pick up titles that I’ve never tried. I picked up a lot of those. I’ve got a lot of reading to do.
Robert Kirkman was in the hizzouse, or tent rather, signing stack after freaking stack of his Walking Dead. Guys brought their pile of floppies from home for the writer’s signature. This is one of those things that’s a little foreign to me. I observed that there was not a lot of conversation going on between fans and the K-man, just a lot of signing. I’d much rather chat with the guy than look at the top of his head.
Additionally, I spend a lot of my time safeguarding my books from The Wife’s drippy iced tea glass. I’m not about to let some guy write on them! I don’t care if he wrote the thing or not. Go get your own damned book!
I know, I’m a minority here.
Other notables include the always smiling Andy Kuhn, Mark Waid, Gail Simone, Marc Andreyko and Jamie S. Rich, among a host of others.
Beyond bringing in national talent, Cape also provides a showcase for local folks to show off their stuff. One such fella is Jake Ekiss. Jake’s an extraordinarily talented painter whose work I first saw at Wizard World Texas last year. I fell in love with his Beta Ray Bill. He debuted a new Iron Man piece at this year’s Cape, the inks for which he donated to the Hero Foundry auction.
I picked up a recent mini-comic Jake worked on written by David Hopkins titled Mine All Mine. Hopkins wrote one-page stories about stealing and a different local artist inked them. It’s a fun read.
Writers Gail Simone (Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey), Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, 52), Marc Andreyko (Manhunter), and Jamie S. Rich (Cut My Hair) participated in a writers panel. On the subject of writer’s block, the panel largely agreed that it is a luxury the working writer cannot afford. Only guys like Stephen King can afford to romanticize it, Andreyko said.
Mark Waid pointed out that writer’s block is actually a good thing in that it tells the creator where the story has gone off track.
Describing their work days, Gail Simone stated that she rarely out of her pajamas. Mark Waid informed us in the crowd that we were fortunate that he was wearing pants. All were in agreement that having worked as professional writers, there is no way they could go back to 9-to-5 jobs.
Each confessed to being regularly distracted by the internet.
Fans lauded Waid’s work on last year’s 52. Waid stated that it was a rewarding endeavor, thoroughly enjoying the collaboration he had with the other writers. He went on to say that it is the collaborative nature of comics, between writer, artist, and editor that makes the medium so rewarding.
Andreyko also thanked Waid for 52. The success of books like 52, he said, is what keeps Manhunter in print.
Waid was happy to accept the praise and thanks for 52. Nobody was on deck to accept the blame for Countdown.
Another panel on the subject of web comics was coordinated with Scott Kurtz (PVP) and Kris Straub (Starship Crisis). That’s what we were told, anyway. It turned out to be a big surprise part for Kurtz on the occasion of his 10th anniversary doing the comic. His brother made a lovely seven-layer cake with all but one of the PVP characters represented in three dimensional sugary goodness. Kurtz was also presented with a new toy for Rock Band as well as a drool worthy Wacom Cintiq.
I hated him just a little.
Okay, a lot.
Cape is a three-day event, of which I only attended Saturday. Friday night was the Live Art Show in which talents such as David Mack, James O’Barr, Andy Kuhn and others create works in front of the crowd while deejays spin some thumpin’ tunes. Proceeds from the auctioned works benefit the Ronald McDonald House. I have always wanted to attend the art show, but it’s not ever worked out for my schedule.
Sunday morning is the Big Gay Brunch in which show guests all gather together for a meal and conversation. While I am not gay, I am awfully big. So I think I’m probably welcome there.
Lest I forget, there were free comics. Lots of them. And Zeus doesn’t just dole out one or two for each fan. Each customer has her pick of the goodies taking as many titles as she likes.
I have often said that Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailing Award-winning Zeus is the best comic shop in north Texas. Yesterday’s event proves it. In contrast, I was at the flagship store of the region’s largest comic retailer picking up long boxes on Friday. A large banner was stretched across the store reading “Comic Book Day.” Note the curious absence of the word “Free.”
I asked the cashier, “What are ya’ll doing for Free Comic Book Day?”
“I dunno,” He said.
Some retailers fail to capitalize on the opportunities presented by FCBD. Such is not the case at Zeus.
Store owner Richard Neal coordinated a massive comic convention with top-of-their-craft professionals. Vendors and funny books were in abundance. Old fans like me wandered about, blissfully happy in the festival atmosphere. New folks, curious about the hobby and the event were there, too.
Neal’s success, I think, is that he doesn’t just run a shop. He’s not just marketing his business. He’s building a community. And doing a wonderful job of it, too.
Neal separated his Achilles Tendon in an accident working out on Thursday. Thus, the crutches. He’s a bit frustrated by the injury. He really wanted to be walking about the tents and visiting with folks, yet his infirmity kept him from doing so. I wonder… were he to strike his crutch against the ground would we find that he wields the power of the Mighty Thor?!?!?
This year’s event makes my third Cape experience. Each year it has gotten better and better. Thank you, Mr. Neal, for putting on a terrific show.