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NC Comicon unites fans and artists

(From Left) Talia Lombardo and Carina Lombardo dress up for the Comic-Con hosted by the Durham Convention Center on Sunday.

(From Left) Talia Lombardo and Carina Lombardo dress up for the Comic-Con hosted by the Durham Convention Center on Sunday.


Eugene Drezner, dressed as Clark Kent turning into Superman, said he couldn’t go to larger conventions as a full-time family man and sales director for Chapel Hill publisher Journalistic. He brought his three sons — also DC and Marvel fans — with more on his to-do list than geeking out over his childhood heroes.

“Given that the timing is just before the holidays, I can get some shopping done for my kids, and there’s just enough of a crowd here that they’ll not know what I’m doing,” he said.

Celebrity guests included My Chemical Romance’s lead singer Gerard Way, who also writes comics.

N.C. Comicon creator Alan Gill said Way’s visit was a friendly gesture to convention co-owner Tommy Lee Edwards, with whom Way is pitching a creative project to a major publisher.

“He normally does not do a signing like this. This is a super rare opportunity,” Gill said. “And I don’t think he really realized how many people were going to come out for this one.”

All proceeds from celebrity guests went to Duke Children’s Hospital, he said.

The convention’s non-celebrity guests included Michigan-based artist Jeremy Bastian, who as a child had a voracious appetite for picture books such as “The Ship’s Cat,” by Richard Adams and Alan Aldridge.

“The story is about a cat who gets captured by the Spanish and then he escapes, and it was really gorgeous and really ornate, and ever since then I was drawing little skulls and bones and mythological creatures,” Bastian said.

Nine years after self-publishing “Cursed Pirate Girl,” Bastian has 12,000 followers on Instagram, and French and Spanish editions of his book. But he relies on trips to N.C. Comicon and other conventions to boost sales in between book releases.

Virginia guest artist Joseph Bayer attends a convention every weekend and will be in Australia in a month, but this was his first time at N.C. Comicon.

“There’s something about the people here — they’re not afraid to engage in conversation about, if they like, you know, Goku better than Superman, Superman better than Goku, who would win in a fight — and it’s still a friendly conversation,” Bayer said.

“It feels really inviting, there’s a family aspect to it, and I love it.”

When Gill isn’t patrolling Comicon with his walkie-talkie, he owns Ultimate Comics, with locations in Durham and Raleigh. He said he wants N.C. Comicon to stay rooted in town.

“Lots of comic book conventions go to those big, giant convention centers, and it’s just a big box,” he said. “I like the ambiance we have with the Carolina Theater and the 21c.”

N.C. Comicon has finally yielded profits in the past two years, but Gill said his satisfaction comes from something else.

“My favorite part was that last night we did the party, the Guardians of the Gala. The Armory was completely filled with people just dancing and having fun, people shaking my hand, stopping me in the street back and forth, telling me what a great event it was,” he said.

“Even if it didn’t make any money, I would keep doing it just for that.”

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Man on the street


Jeremy Young, Comicon Volunteer Staff

Jeremy Young, originally from Louisiana, volunteered as a staff member at Comicon. He’s a freelance graphic designer starting his master’s degree at Full Sail University.

“I actually just enjoy helping out,” said Young. “I don’t mind seeing the costumes and stuff, but it’s really just I enjoy helping people out.”

Scott, LEGO Builder

Scott, a retired Marine Corps Officer from New Bern, N.C., attended Comicon as part of the North Carolina LEGO Users Group.

“I built Wally and this gigantic AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport) model designed by Pete Brookdale, which seems to be very popular out here at the show. Probably took me about four months — probably about three months to get all the pieces gathered together and about a month to build it.

“Even adults and kids are amazed by it because it’s so big. It’s very fragile so it doesn’t stay up at home,” he said.

Mike Granados and James Heister

Granados (left) of Mexico City and Heister (right) of Raleigh are dressed as the Green Arrow and Nightwing. Granados manages his stepdad’s construction company and does filming on the side. Heister works in sales and electrical engineering. This is their second year at N.C. Comicon.

“I’m really into comics. We just love the stories that they have. They always go through a struggle at some point in their life,” Granados said. “In the TV show they kind of told me the background of what the Green Arrow went through. That’s why I like the idea.”

“To be honest I was doing it for Halloween,” Heister said. “And my buddy told me about Comicon, and I said ‘sure why not.’” 

Joseph Bayer, artist

Guest artist Joseph Bayer traveled to N.C. Comicon from Virginia to promote his “splatter grunge art,” a mix of impressionism and Pollock-style brushwork. He make original as well as fan art. Bayer attends a convention every weekend and will be in Australia in a month, but this was his first time at N.C. Comicon.

“There’s something about the people here — They’re not afraid to engage in conversation about, if they like, you know, Goku better than Superman, Superman better than Goku, who would win in a fight — and it’s still a friendly conversation,” he said. “The staff here is phenomenal, one of the best staff I’ve ever had a convention. It feels really inviting, there’s a family aspect to it, and I love it.”

Justin and Lisa Franklin

The Franklins, dressed as a Star Wars stormtrooper and an X-Wing pilot, are from Apex.

Justin: “I love comics. I have been going to Animazement for 16 years. This is our first time at N.C. Comicon.”

Lisa: “He’s the one that kind of got me into it, seven years ago. I love Anime too now.”