Its like grandma used to say: If theres one thing better than a giant comic book convention, its a giant comic book convention with a film festival.
Now in its fourth year, the comic book convention N.C. Comicon returns to the Durham Convention Center this weekend with twice the exhibition space and a brand-new film festival at the adjacent Carolina Theatre. This years event will also feature a special appearance by comedian and nerd culture icon Chris Hardwick on Friday night.
More than 100 publishers, dealers, artists and retailers will occupy the main exhibition hall at this years N.C. Comicon, along with the usual array of panel discussions, art classes, costume contests and other special events.
ComiQuest Film Festival
New this year is the inaugural ComiQuest Film Festival, which will feature comics-themed films from as far back as 1966. Eleven films will screen from Friday night through Sunday.
Jim Carl, film director with the Carolina Theatre, collaborated with N.C. Comicon organizers to program the film festival lineup. Carl said he advocated for films that were in line with the Carolinas popular Retro series, so the festival features an eclectic mix of older films rather than the big-budget summer popcorn movies of recent years.
The idea was we wanted to focus on films that were fun, Carl said. We wanted mostly family-friendly films so that people could bring their kids and a lot of people bring their kids to Comicon.
Two special screenings will feature artists in attendance who are affiliated with particular films. British special effects artist Robert Keen will exhibit original movie props at the screenings of Hardware (1990). And artist and writer Bob Burden will be on hand for the screenings of Mystery Men (1999), based on his earlier comic books.
As with the Carolina Theatres other Retro series, each film will be preceded by era-specific previews and shorts. Among the other films screening at ComiQuest: Superman II (1981); Batman: The Movie (1966), starring the original TV dynamic duo of Adam West and Burt Ward; the Italian comic-book movie Danger: Diabolik (1968); and a rare 35-mm print of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1978).
Its great because if people get tired and want to duck out of the convention for a couple of hours, they can go see a movie, said Alan Gill, owner of Durhams Ultimate Comics, which produces N.C. Comicon.
Bigger, better guests
The convention got another shot in the arm this year with the addition of renowned industry artist and Pittsboro resident Tommy Lee Edwards as senior director and partner of N.C. Comicon.
Hes always helped us out before in an unofficial capacity, but now hes an actual partner in the show, Gill said. Its allowed us to get even bigger and better guests.
The Guest of Honor at this years Comicon is artist Neal Adams, known for his groundbreaking work with DC Comics superhero titles including Batman, Superman and Green Arrow. Hes been one of the top guys in comics since the 1970s, Gill said. Every time they do a documentary on comics they bring up his work.
Another big name is writer Gail Simone, one of the most popular female writers in the industry. There arent that many female creators in comics, so the ones that are there get a lot of support, Gill said. People are going to travel to see her.
N.C. Comicon will also host its first Ultimate Pre-Party 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday at the Durham Armory, across from the convention center. The event is free and open to public.
Quite a few of the comics guests will be coming to hang out and well have two live bands and a magician MC, Gill said.
Ready for crowds
Gill said that the conventions expanded offerings this year are in response to overwhelming attendance at last years event, the first to be held at the Durham Convention Center.
The space was an issue last year, because we didnt have the whole convention center, Gill said. It was a little bit tricky with the turnout that we had.
Attendees at last years event may remember some weirdness when the jammed Comicon event bumped up against a wedding in the other half of the convention center. When the numbers were tallied, it turned out the convention drew about three times as many people as previous years. Nice problem to have, right?
Yeah, well, I said that too until it actually happened, Gill said. Then I was like, uh-oh.
In addition to the extra space, the convention will also be utilizing the Carolina Theatre box office for all ticket sales. Were going to be a lot better prepared this year, Gill said.