Just two weekends ago, I had the pleasure of once again attending Roger Price's wonderful Mid-Ohio-Con. Held each year in Columbus, Ohio on the weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday, Mid-Ohio-Con has become a holiday tradition for me. Typically, I spend a joyful Thanksgiving each year with my family in Boulder, and then hop a flight early the next morning to Columbus. While that was the case this year, my dedication to attending Mid-Ohio-Con is such that last year (when our entire family celebrated Thanksgiving in York, England), I traveled 16 hours by train (to London), transatlantic plane (Air India to JFK), bus (from JFK to La Guardia), and then yet another plane to Columbus (at midnight) in order to make the show.
So what makes Mid-Ohio-Con so special? In some regards, not as much as my sometimes herculean efforts to attend might seem to indicate. While Mid-Ohio-Con certainly places among my nationwide favorites (along with Baltimore, Charlotte, Kansas City, and Orlando), with an incredible guest line-up, and a promoter who keeps everything running smoothly and professionally, the bottom line is still that it is just a comics show. That word "just" is a bit misleading, however, as comics shows for me are a passionate addiction that seems to growing with time. Not only can I purchase back issues at these shows for my comics website, but (and this is far more important, really), I can also see those fellow members of our nationwide comics community who seldom appear elsewhere. In effect, going to Mid-Ohio-Con is akin to celebrating Thanksgiving with my second "family" of people whom I genuinely care about, and whom I see far too seldom.
As a case in point, when I was walking into the still half-lit Mid-Ohio-Con dealer's room during the early stages of set up, I immediately ran into Maggie Thompson and Tony Isabella, two of my favorite people in the entire world! Now to be perfectly clear, I do see occasionally see Maggie and Tony, at other shows, and during those moments we do engage in more than a few passing conversations. That having been said, there were more than a few times during my recent battle with West Nile encephalitis when I wondered if I would ever regain enough mental acuity and physical stamina to once again be able to travel to shows. There's nothing like being hooked up to an IV in a hospital room to give you a sense of perspective about what is important in life. The epiphany that I reached while staring out the window at Boulder Community is that I really needed to get out more among those people in the comics community whom I genuinely love.
If my previous statement sounds perhaps a bit overly maudlin, please forgive me. But as a child who came from a not-so-pleasant upbringing, who found not only a lifetime career, but also redemption and succor in the world of comics, I take this whole notion of there being a nationwide comics community quite seriously. If you think about it, there really are not that many of us who do this for a living. Perhaps a thousand active creators, maybe a thousand bonafide dealers, and only a few hundred remaining in the publishing and distributing end of the business. Barely a larger population than what you would find in a typical large high school. Even on the fan front, the best selling comics sell fewer than 150,000 copies per month these days, which is miniscule compared to the massive print runs of the past several past decades. While the overall comics fan base may still be pushing a million thanks to today's incredible diversity of titles, that's still tiny compared with how many people attend most new movie releases, or purchase the newest electronic gaming system. It doesn't take a lot of thought to realize that we genuinely are a social microcosm within American society.
Returning to the topic of my love affair with Mid-Ohio-Con, as far as I am concerned, those of us who continue in comics are among the blessed few. Not only do we get to read great stories and view wonderful art on a regular basis, but we also get to interact with some of the nicest people in the entire world. If you doubt me, spend just five minutes with Sergio Aragones, Maggie Thompson, Tony Isabella, Roger Price, Tim Kupin, or any one of the hundreds of other comics creators and dealers who attend Mid-Ohio-Con. Not only do these folks have world-class intellects, but they are also genuinely nice people. Aside from having to face the potential prospect of losing my family and co-workers at Mile High Comics, the thought of never again being able to seem my friends in the comics world was what caused me the greatest anguish while I was ill. So is it any wonder that my heart filled with such joy at that first sight of Tony and Maggie? For me it was a sensation not quite like being reborn, but certainly one of having been granted a second chance at life. Seeing the two of them together made me fell really, really good!
Before I close out this column I did want to make quick mention of a couple of other things about Mid-Ohio-Con. First, I cannot write about this show without mentioning the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of back issue comics available in the dealer's room. As much as I love being in the same room as the people of the comics community, I am equally passionate about being able to go through boxes of old comics. I am frequently asked by other (younger) dealers how I can spend 12-15 hours per day during a show sifting through boxes for issues that we need for our website. The answer is pretty simple: I love it! I would rather root through boxes of old comics than darn near any other thing in the world. I will get up at 5:30 AM to be in the dealer's room by 7 AM, if possible, and then work until 10 PM if they'll let me, eating while standing up. Even stopping to pee is hard to schedule, as I just don't want to stop going through books. Madness? Perhaps... But I'm 52 years old, and I've found a way to make a living that makes me really, really happy. Just try and stop me...
My final thought for today concerns a little frail lady of approximately 70 years of age. On one of my rapid jaunts to the bathroom at Mid-Ohio-Con, I saw her proudly walking in the back of the hall, sporting a full Star trek uniform! Now in 99.999% of the places in this world she might have seemed insane to everyone around her, but Mid-Ohio-Con is above all a refuge for iconoclasts. Compare her courage and dedication to what she believes in with those women who claim bravery, and flaunt their "nonconformity" in their old age by wearing red hats. Patooie! Let's see just one of them have the courage to go out in public at the age of 70 in a Star Trek uniform! That having been said, what really warmed my heart about this wonderful woman is that she is one of US. Those of us attending comics conventions come from all kinds of differing perspectives and passions, but the underlying premise that draws us together is a resistance to living only in the bland conformist world that surrounds us. More than anything, being among those who have the courage to resist American cultural totalitarianism is what draws me to comics shows. As that little gray-haired lady so eloquently illustrated, we may be the tiny minority, but at least we all have the guts to stay unique! It is only thanks to wonderful people like Roger Price, Marc Nathan, Shelton Drum, Beth Widera, Fae Desmond, John Rogers, and Michael Carbonaro (to name just a very few...), however, who put out the effort to keep the great comics conventions going, that we can still gather together in safety, and without universal scorn. I thank them one and all for providing our community with their precious places of refuge and joyful interaction. And I most fervently hope that they keep up their good work for our community, at least through the end of my days on this earth.
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