There's only one more week until the inaugural Derby City Comic Con! If you're a fan of comics and geekdom in general, don't miss out on the chance to visit Louisville's very own major comic book convention on July 16th!
I got a chance to ask Eric Banister, Director for DCCC, a few questions about what to expect, and his thoughts on comics today.
CC: Eric, first of all, thank you for taking time to answer a few questions. I know this is a very busy time for you! So tell us all a little about who you are and what you do.
EB: Well, I am a parent, a lifelong comic reader, a collector and all around pop culture fan. In
my day job I’m an art director at a monument company.
CC: Why the need for a comic convention in Louisville?
EB: Louisville has a lot of great conventions of all kinds – big car shows, modeling shows, horror shows, video game shows – but nothing that centered on comics. To get to a decent show you have to go to Cincinnati, Columbus, Ohio or Chicago. Louisville has a great art scene and it supports 7 comic shops. Couple that with the mainstream interest brought on by movies like Thor and TV shows like Walking Dead, I thought now would be the best time to give it a try.
CC: When did you first start planning this huge undertaking and how did it come to life?
EB: I’ve read comics off and on since I was 7 years old. The last break I took was in the mid-2000s. A few years ago my first son was on his way and I lobbied my wife to let me decorate his room. I had these great prints by an artist named Alex Ross and they were just sitting in the closet. I got those out, framed them and put them up on the wall, but I wanted some old comics to frame and put up, too. I found a comic show in Indianapolis
that is held every other month and went up there to get some vintage comics. Being in that atmosphere kind of re-sparked that love for the medium.
A couple of months later I started taking a friend of mine with me. On one of our trips home we started discussing how there wasn’t anything in Louisville, or even very close. In August, 2010, I was waiting for my wife so we could meet my friend and his wife for
dinner and I sat down on my porch with a yellow pad. I love logistics and figuring out how things would work, so I started thinking, “What if I did put on a show?” I just started writing. We went to dinner and as we were leaving my friend says to me, “You know, you really should put on a show.” I just held up the notebook and said, “I think I’ve started.”
From there it was finding a venue, finding sponsors, artist, etc. Almost everyone I talked to was excited and onboard from the beginning.
CC: What can we expect at the convention this year?
EB: This year we’ve got over 100 creators that will be there. We’ve got guys like Bob Hall, who did a lot of work for DC and Marvel in the ‘80s and ‘90s and contemporary artists like Tony Moore, who currently draws Venom for Marvel and was integral in the look of the Walking Dead series. There are going to be a lot of local and regional independent creators who do fantastic work and hopefully people will be able to find something new that they haven’t seen before.
We will also have almost 30 vendors there with everything from vintage comics and toys to local music and Star Wars collectibles.
Something that is unique for our show is the Kids Activities area. There kids can learn to create their own character and then using the pages we’ve provided, draw a story. There will be coloring sheets for the younger kids and I think it will be a lot of fun. Across from that area is a row of great creators who have kid’s or all-ages characters so the kids and their parents can hopefully be introduced to something new.
CC: How big do you see this getting? Can Louisville become home to the next San Diego Comic Con sized convention?
EB: That would be a tough order simply because San Diego has become very focused on other forms of media other than comics, namely movies and television. Their location enables them to be a great launch pad for things like that. Bringing the same level of
talent to Louisville would require some very deep pockets! Having said that, I do want to see the show grow while still remaining comic-focused. If the public supports the show
as they have been, it will be around for a long time and it will continue to evolve and grow.
CC: What are you most excited about for the convention?
EB: I don’t think I can pinpoint just one thing I’m most excited about. Seeing the whole thing come to fruition and seeing people come through the doors and enjoy themselves will be very exciting to me.
CC: Any guests you’re particularly looking forward to meeting?
EB: Again, I don’t think I can pinpoint just one. That’s the fun part about putting something like this together – you can get a lot of people that you like to read! I’ve enjoyed Tony Moore’s work, so I’m looking forward to meeting him. I loved “Return of the Dapper Men,” which came out last year, so I’m really looking forward to meeting Janet K. Lee.
CC: Tell us about the charity auction that’ll be going on.
EB: The charity auction is something that I felt was important to do. It is a way to give back to the community that has shown so much support. When I say community, I’m talking about two communities – the physical community that is supporting the show and the comics community, both local and worldwide.
Proceeds from the auction will be split between two causes. The first is The Library Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that works in conjunction with the Louisville Free Public Library system. The money will be earmarked to buy graphic novels and comic-related materials for the Library system. The second half of the money will go to the medical bills of a gentleman named Jamie D. Jamie is a co-host of a popular comics podcast, Comic Geek Speak. A couple of years ago he found he was in the 1% of males diagnosed with breast cancer. They thought they had it taken care of, but it came back with a vengeance. I’m happy to say that Jamie is improving and it seems he is winning this battle, but, even so, he still has a lot of medical debt, so this money will
go towards that.
There are some great items up for auction. We have collectibles donated by some of our sponsors, original art from many of the creators attending, a set of prints signed by Tony Moore and a lot more to come.
CC: What comics are you reading on a regular basis?
EB: When I came back to comics a few years ago I felt a little lost. As a result, I jumped into trades. I like to pick up a lot of the old stuff they are reprinting like in the Chronicle series that DC puts out. They have Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman and it starts with their first story and reprints them in chronological order. Those are fun to read. I also keep up with Captain America in trades. Lately, I’ve picked up a few single issues here and there, like SHIELD, the Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier mini and some of the Oz books. The DC relaunch has me rethinking it a little and I have a small list of titles I will probably give a try in the single issue format. If they could bring the price of digital comics down, I would probably give more a try.
CC: Comic books are becoming much more accepted and mainstream these days with more and more movies and tv shows, good and bad, coming out based on comics lately. Why do you think this is happening now and where do you see it going?
EB: I think there are a number of reasons for it. The biggest, possibly most obvious, is that the two big comic companies are owned by large mainstream companies who look and see that they have a built in audience for characters that they own. They’re in business to make money, so why not use those properties?
Something that I think goes hand-in-hand with that is that the people in positions of power or influence in both media companies and comics are of an age to where they were fans of comics as they grew up. These are people who have spent time at school fantasy casting a movie of their favorite character and now they are in a position to help make that a reality.
We are also at a time when the technology of filmmaking and effects can, at least to some extent, duplicate what we’ve always seen on the page. That opens up a new world of storytelling. A movie like Green Lantern couldn’t have been made 10 or 20 years ago, the tech just wasn’t there.
Finally, I think we’ve come to a place where the stories are compelling enough to warrant presentation in another medium. Walking Dead was made a television show because it is
a great story, not because it was about zombies.
CC: Ok, remind us again when and where we can get tickets to Derby City Comic Con.
EB: The show is July 16, from 10 am to 5 pm at the Kentucky International Convention Center. Tickets are $7 and kids 12 and under get in free with a paid adult admission. They can be purchased online at www.derbycitycomiccon.com or at one of our ticket outlets (ear X-tacy, The Great Escape, The Zone Comic Shop, Comic Book World or Role of the Die) or they can be purchased at the door.
Eric, thanks again for your time, I hope I get the chance to meet you at the convention and on behalf of all Kentuckiana geeks young and old, thanks for bringing us a convention here at home!