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Age of the comic con: Buffalo Comic Con swells in popularity

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Though still nowhere near the size of the convention that takes place in San Diego, California each July, Buffalo’s very own Comic Con is certainly gaining traction. In previous years the convention was held for an afternoon in a gymnasium-sized ballroom at the Buffalo Marriott Niagara, but this year the Buffalo Comic Con made the leap to the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center as a two-day affair with readings, panels and appearances from different comics.

“The way it was growing, we had to move it here,” said Emil J. Novak, proprietor of Queen City Bookstore on Main Street and founder of Buffalo Comic Con.

Novak, whose father opened Queen City Bookstore in 1969, said he attributes the precipitous rise in the public interest in comics to the seemingly inescapable presence of comic books in the media.

Comic-based television shows such as AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and CW’s “Arrow,” Marvel’s ever expanding Cinematic Universe on film and the rise of the digital format are making comic books more accessible than ever to the general population.

These fans came out in droves to express their interest in comic culture through video game tournaments, purchasing collectables in the dealer’s room and dressing up as their favorite characters.

Cosplayers, or people who dress in costume as their favorite characters, outnumbered the attendees who came in everyday garb.

One group of cosplayers consisting of a Joker, a Harley Quinn and a Captain Jack Sparrow – either very deep into his character or very deep into his rum rations – exemplified Novak’s theory of comics’ multimedia presence bolstering interest in the source material.

The two Joker and Harley cosplayers, who refused to act out of character, said they spent nearly $200 in the dealer’s room on comic purchases inspired by DC Comic’s upcoming films “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” Originally introduced to these characters through Warner Bros.’ “Batman: The Animated Series,” the duo made the leap between multiple entertainment mediums and are now bona fide comic book fans.

Featuring numerous guests from pop culture spheres such as comic book industry legend Jim Steranko – sporting his signature turtleneck and double breasted blazer complete with silvered bouffant – and professional wrestling superstar “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Buffalo Comic Con drew in some big names from around the country.

Steranko, named the fifth most influential comic book artist in history by Wizard magazine, spoke to fans about his adventure-fueled reputation as the “toughest man in comics,” and the beginnings of his distinguished career in the office of Marvel mastermind Stan Lee.

He said he turned around the then-backwards Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. series and continued to become one of the most respected cover artists in the industry.

As a young child, Steranko learned to read through comic books.

“That’s what makes us part of the same brotherhood,” he said. “Comics are in your blood, comics are in my blood.”

On the future of the comic book industry, Novak is optimistic.

“I don’t think it’s ever slowing down. Lately it’s been out of control. It’s been really big,” he said.

Considering the success of this year’s event, Novak’s projection of the hobby’s continued growth may just be accurate.

In five years, Buffalo Comic Con could outgrow the Convention Center, as it did the Marriott before it, and move further down the road to the First Niagara Center, giving San Diego’s convention a run for its money.

Luke Heuskin contributed reporting to this story.

David Tunis-Garcia is a contributing writer and can be reached at arts@ubspectrum.com


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