Marvel and DC Comics are drawing superhuman box office receipts and TV ratings, so it’s no coincidence that Motor City Comic Con expects its biggest crowds ever this weekend.
The multimedia convention is expected to draw a record 50,000 guests to the Suburban Showplace Collection in Novi, beginning Friday through Sunday. The first Comic Con in 1990 drew only around 2,000 fans to the 15,000-square-foot exhibit hall at the Dearborn Civic Center. “We have speaker rooms that are bigger than that now,” laughs Michael Goldman, Comic Con’s founder.
Even as recently as 2011, the convention drew just 15,000 people. “The whole market has grown for pop culture,” Goldman says. “It seems like every month there’s a new comic related movie coming out.”
The convention’s expanding attendance is also due to its ever-stellar guest list, which this year includes the final convention appearances of Adam West and Burt Ward from the original “Batman” TV series, along with cast members of TV’s “Game of Thrones,” “The Walking Dead” and “Daredevil.” Fans can also shake hands with Monty Python’s Terry Jones and Lea Thompson from “Back to the Future,” as well as famous comic artists like Phil Jimenez (“Wonder Woman,” “The Invisibles”) and David Finch (“New Avengers,” “Ultimate X-Men”).
Comic Con is also a haven for local artists, both the famous and the unknown.
Detroit native Arvell Jones, who has written for Marvel and DC Comics since the mid-1970s, is one of more than 300 featured artists at this year’s convention. Jones has penciled everything from “The Avengers” to “Iron Man,” and he co-created the Marvel superhero Misty Knight, who will appear in Netflix’s “Luke Cage” in September.
Jones also mentors local comic writers and illustrators in his summer Comic Arts Workshops. He says young artists should come to the convention ready to network, ask questions and pitch ideas to their favorite comic creators.
“A lot of people come out and dress up in the costumes and socialize, but if you’re interested in the professionals, we’re selling original artwork, we’re doing sketches on demand for people right there on the floor,” he says, adding “people are welcome to come up and show me their work.”
Brighton native Katie Cook also will present her work at the convention. Cook has worked as a writer and illustrator on licensed properties for DC, Marvel Comics and the Jim Henson Company, as well as the best-selling children’s comic series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” and various children’s “Star Wars” books.
Cook has been attending Comic Con since middle school, and she has been a featured guest at conventions around the country for 10 years. She says the Motor City Comic Con stands out from larger conventions in such cities as San Diego and Chicago because of its small town feel and its focus on local artists.
“A really big show will attract talent from everywhere, but with something like the size of Motor City, you still get the really indie people or the people that just love comics that are really trying to start out doing comic book conventions, or just want to show off their artwork or their wares,” she says. “That’s really my favorite part of conventions, just trying to find a new person for me to admire.”
Cook, like Jones, says aspiring artists coming to the convention shouldn’t be afraid to approach professionals with feedback, questions or ideas.
“If you really like someone’s work, the best thing you can do is just go tell them. We’re all insecure artists inside; we all really like to hear that somebody likes what we do,” she says. “You have a real opportunity to learn something from them, especially when you’re face to face with them.”
Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.
12:30 -7 p.m. Fri., 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Sat., and 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun.
Suburban Collection Showplace
46100 Grand River, Novi