In recent days I was with client “Downtown Dearborn” recounting an initiative we had successfully promoted that saw the Dearborn Symphony and the city’s Green Brain Comics join forces for a pop concert of “comic book” music. One of the participants in the meeting said she had no idea people still read comics. With a smile I informed her, ‘you have no idea.”
In reality and after this weekend it appears I had no true idea just how much the comic book industry had grown in recent years. On Saturday I attempted to attend the 2017 Motor City Comic Con at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi only to make a hasty exit upon realizing there was no parking left for miles and there was a line of eager convention goers virtually wrapped around the outside of the building.
It really is no surprise when one considers what the industry is today. Fueled by mega-budget super hero movies, TV shows, merchandise and video games, the industry has never been hotter. The last time I attended a comic convention (I believe some 20 years ago), the lot was half full and I walked right in. By Sunday I had learned my lesson, purchasing advance tickets online and arriving 30 minutes before doors opened. This time, there was a small line inside the venue, which moved quickly toward securing a wristband and program.
As the industry has grown, so have the comic conventions, including the annual event here in Detroit. That has meant an even greater caliber of guest celebrities and artists. Among those I was able to meet for the first time was Neal Adams. Most likely you have never heard the name, but in the early 1970s he would turn comic book art on its ear – bringing grim reality and emotion to the ink-filled pages like no one had ever done before. You’ve heard of Stan Lee? As an artist, he couldn’t hold Adams’ pen. Adams’ turns on Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow in fact ensured the ‘funny paper’s were no longer called that as his books began tackling far-ranging social issues – including racism and drug addiction – comics code be damned.
I will always remember fondly and nostalgically evenings where my dad came home from Skelton’s Pharmacy in Champaign, Illinois bearing gifts. For me, it was a Batman comic. For my younger brother John, typically Richie Rich or Donald Duck. The story telling joy those books brought then are even better today (if not sometimes a bit too violent) with Neal Adams (at 76) still at the top of his game. I can tick another item off the bucket list. Next time, I just need to do a little better job planning ahead and remembering: I’m no longer the only comic book geek in the room.