Motor City Comic Con is heaven for Michigan nerds
With comic-book characters filling cinema and television screens nationwide, Michigan's biggest comics and pop-culture convention is gearing up for a record year.
Motor City Comic Con, which runs Friday through Sunday at the Suburban Collection Showplace, drew a crowd of 40,000 last year. Convention founder and owner Michael Goldman says advance ticket sales for this year's show are up by 25 percent over last year.
"Conventions like mine have had tremendous growth because people are curious," Goldman says. "They've heard the words 'comic con' now. It's all over television and films. So every year more and more people want to see what a comic con is."
Although comic books provide the foundation of the convention, the event also shines a light on movies and television of a nerdy variety. Alongside comic-book legends like Batman artist Neal Adams and British sci-fi artist Simon Bisley, a variety of film and TV stars will appear. Those include William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk in "Star Trek," Robert Englund, best known as "A Nightmare On Elm Street's" Freddy Krueger, and Jeremy Bulloch, who portrayed "Star Wars'" Boba Fett. A quintet of actors from TV's "The Walking Dead," including Steven Yeun, Scott Wilson, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Chad Coleman and Emily Kinney, will also appear.
"It's absolutely everything as you walk around," says longtime convention attendee Jason Gibner. "There's 'Game of Thrones.' There's 'Walking Dead.' There's 'Star Wars.' And then there's people buying Gold and Silver Age comics for God knows how much money, all just under one roof."
The event also provides a key outlet for local comics artists to promote their work — like Milan resident Gibner, who began purchasing booth space about five years ago to sell his own paintings of sci-fi characters. Brighton resident Katie Cook is a regular artist on the highly successful "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic" comic and the creator of her own comic, "Gronk." She says many of the other conventions she attends around the country focus primarily on "big names," but Motor City "still has a lot to offer the local creators."
"It's not uncommon to walk around Motor City and see college students who are pushing a book they've made, or even high school students," she says. "They're really just trying to start out in an industry that they really want to make their career in. That's something I love to see because that's how all of us really got our start, making comics for ourselves and setting up at these things not knowing if things were going to stick."
That's just the position Ferndale resident David Petersen was in in 2005 when he debuted his first-ever comic book at Motor City. His all-ages fantasy series "Mouse Guard" has gone on to win national acclaim, including an Eisner Award, the comic industry's highest honor.
"This is the 10-year anniversary for me," Petersen says. "So I'm just celebrating going back to the show that started it all for me and gave me my professional career."
The show will be considerably bigger this year than it was when Petersen got started, and Motor City regulars like it that way.
"I wish when I was a teenager that there was something like this," Gibner says. "I was still trying to figure out: 'How can I fit in?', trying to hang on to the dream of being cool. I think it's great that people just let their nerd flag fly and don't have to worry about it."
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.
Motor City Comic Con
12:30 p.m.-7 p.m. Friday;
10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday;
10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Suburban Collection Showplace
46100 Grand River, Novi