Week in Geek 2.13.15

Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday

Cleveland’s big Comic Con

Cleveland is no stranger to the comic book scene, most notably for giving birth to arguably its most widely recognized character – Superman – who ushered in the superhero genre when Clevelanders Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel created him in 1933.

More recently, the city has accommodated several high-profile films based on comic book properties, and on Feb. 20 through 22, Cleveland will host one of the largest conventions on the circuit when the Wizard World Comic Con arrives at the Cleveland Convention Center.

wizard world cleveland

The weekend extravaganza celebrates the spectrum of pop culture from movies to comics, sci-fi, toys, cosplay, gaming and more. And visitors have a chance to meet entertainers from all of those venues at Wizard World Cleveland. Special guests include William Shatner, Bruce Campbell, Karen Gillan, Seth Gilliam, Billy Boyd, Drea de Matteo and Lou Ferrigno from the world of film and television, to name just a few.

Hail to the king, baby.
Hail to the king, baby.
It's no secret i'm a HUGE fan of Star Trek TOS. Geeking out!
It’s no secret i’m a HUGE fan of Star Trek TOS. Geeking out!

Comic book fans can bring books from their collections in hopes of getting them signed by artists and creators like Tom DeFalco, Arthur Suydam and Eisner Award Hall of Famer Neal Adams, as well as several others from both independent and major label publishers.

Neal Adams is a legendary comics creator for both Marvel and DC Comics.
Neal Adams is a legendary comics creator for both Marvel and DC Comics.

“Fans take away something different depending on what they have experienced,” said Jerry Milani, who handles PR for Wizard World. “There may be one, or two or three reasons that they came to the convention, and they leave having enjoyed five, six, seven different things. They may be coming to our show to meet Lou Ferrigno. They’re a big fan of the show, want to meet him and on the way over to meet Lou, they see a vendor who has some Hulk stuff they’ve never seen before, so they run over there. And around the corner, they see someone dressed up as the Hulk, and that’s cool. And they’re still on the way over and run into an artist who has a different interpretation of the character. And then they finally get to meet Lou.

Lou Ferrigno's most well-known work - he played the Hulk on the beloved television show
Lou Ferrigno’s most well-known work – he played the Hulk on the beloved television show

“So, there’s going to be all these things that are going to happen at the show – you’re going to find things that are unexpectedly exciting, and unexpectedly fun,” he said. “And I think that the best part of the show is whatever you get out of the show.”

Bringing the Wizard World show to Cleveland isn’t just great for fans, though. Conventions like this have huge impact on the cities where they’re held. On the high-end of scale, events like the San Diego Comic Con – that city’s largest event – is expected to generate close to $500 million for the city between 2013 and 2015. More moderately, Indianapolis’ Gen Con gaming convention accounts for almost $50 million in yearly economic impact for that city, a figure exceeded only by their hosting the 2012 Super Bowl.

Cleveland is no stranger to hosting big events, either. According to Destination Cleveland, Cuyahoga County’s convention and visitors bureau, the National Senior Games drew in 10,888 athletes to the area along with an estimated 18,000 friends and family members. Likewise, the 2014 Gay Games brought 8,000 athletes to Northeast Ohio who contributed to $52 million in economic impact.

“And beyond economic impact, large events, conventions and meetings can often mean a lot more to our community,” a statement from Destination Cleveland said. “Larger events such as Cleveland Comic Con provide the City of Cleveland with national media visibility by showcasing the destination to a market that may have not initially considered visiting before.”

Part of the decision to bring Wizard World to Cleveland is based on what event organizers recognize as an enthusiastic pop-culture fan base in Northeast Ohio, as well as having a viable convention center that can accommodate the show’s needs including facilities for incoming celebrities, comics creators, exhibitors, programming rooms and more, according to Milani.

The Cleveland Convention Center, home of Wizard World Cleveland
The Cleveland Convention Center, home of Wizard World Cleveland

“We’ve been fortunate to have shows in the region, especially our Columbus show that we’ve done for several years,” Milani explained. “We’ve had a fan base who come from different areas to different shows. We’ve met fans from Cleveland, and it’s helped us to know that there’s definitely an interest there from fans for our kind of show.

“I know that we plan to have thousands of fans there, and that it’s been tracking very well for us – especially for a first year show. We’re doing 25 shows this year, and 10 are first year shows. And among those, right there in Cleveland is one of the best of the new cities that we’re going to this year.”

In addition to high-profile guests, the show will feature a selection of local artists and creators as well. Michael Chojnacki is a film and music historian living in the Cleveland area, author of the award-winning vinyl cover art compendium “Put the Needle on the Record.” Marc Sumerak, an artist, Eisner Award and Harvey Award nominee, was born and raised in Northeast Ohio. Shawn Coss, one of the artists on “Cyanide & Happiness” and John Sloboda, artist for “Star Wars” and “The Walking Dead” will also be on hand along with several other Cleveland-area creators.

Local creator’s perspective

Shawn Coss is one of the artists for Cyanide & Happiness
Shawn Coss is one of the artists for Cyanide & Happiness

Coss, who calls the Akron, Ohio area his home, gave his time to talk about his career as an artist and what Wizard World means for local creators. In addition to his work on Cyanide & Happiness, a webcomic available at explosm.net, his clothing and merchandise company Any Means Necessary showcases his macabre humor and artwork on t-shirts, collectibles and more.

“About six years ago, I met one of the creators (of Cyanide & Happiness) through of all places, MySpace,” Coss said. “After I became good friends with (creator) Kris Wilson, he brought me on board with the company.”

A desire to create art for a living, and break away from what is described on the Any Means Necessary site as “the agonizing 9-5 and 12 hour shift jobs they currently worked,” motivates Coss to keep following his passion. Before things took off for him, art was something he had on the back burner. Following his dad’s advice, he made sure to get an education in something dependable. For Coss, that meant graduating college and becoming a registered nurse. He offers the same advice to anyone else pursuing a career as an independent artist, passing along his dad’s lesson to make sure to have a substantial career plan to fall back on.

That being said, Coss has remained “balls deep” in his artwork since embarking on life as a professional artist.

“Pretty much right as I graduated, the opportunity came up,” he said. “I kinda just went head first into it, and I’ve been doing it since.”

With Cyanide & Happiness, Coss helps bring an uncensored humor to life, and the crew behind the comic just released their first cartoon show through YouTube. Because the project is completely independent, the creators are able to poke fun at anything they want and say what they like “without the FCC giving us any crap about it” Coss said. Season One of the Cyanide & Happiness Show is currently available to view on their YouTube channel.

Here’s the show’s trailer, which viewers are encouraged to binge watch. There’s 11 episodes in Season One, each about 12 minutes long. The shows feature the same irreverent humor as the webcomic, brought to life in animation as a series of shorts. Based on the number of views for the episodes, which are in the millions just since episode 1 was released in November 2014, fans are enjoying the show immensely.

Coss’ other labor of love, his clothing line at Any Means Necessary allows him to share his artistic vision on his own terms.

“It’s pretty much any artwork that I want to put out on a t-shirt,” Coss said. “Me and my buddy who run it – we don’t have to listen to anyone else in terms of designs. We create what we like, and with that artwork it’s a more darker, twisted theme with a little bit of humor to it.

“I’m not sure it’s anything breaking the mold or curing cancer, but it’s entertaining for us and it’s self-sustaining,” he said, adding that it affords him the luxury of wearing pajama pants all day long, if he so desires – a noble goal imo.

One of the many designs available through Any Means Necessary. "When they said you had no chance ... When they said said "Yeah, when pigs fly" ... This is for the naysayers Always prove them wrong ... by Any Means Necessary
One of the many designs available through Any Means Necessary. “When they said you had no chance … When they said “Yeah, when pigs fly” … This is for the naysayers. Always prove them wrong … by Any Means Necessary”

Right now, Coss is prepping for the release of the Stephen King film “Cell” in which his artwork plays a prominent role, something he’s super excited about. He’s also putting the finishing touches on some posters for indy movies, and working on Cyanide & Happiness Season Two for YouTube.

No stranger to the convention circuit, Coss has appeared at others like Emerald City Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con. He reached out to Wizard World especially for their Ohio-based shows to help expand the Cyanide & Happiness brand, and had a booth at the Columbus show in 2014.

“When we went down there, we had like the longest line,” Coss said. “I think we had a line longer than Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery, for all three days.”

Cyanide & Happiness’ popularity shocked the Wizard World programmers, because they hadn’t been too familiar with them beforehand.

“From there, they were like ‘we want you at all the Wizard Worlds if we can get you there,’ ” Coss said. Due to scheduling, they are only able to appear at the Columbus and Cleveland shows.

“I get to meet people locally, and connect with those fans,” Coss said of the convention circuit, particularly the ones in Ohio. “I can show them that I’m just some guy from Ohio who’s doing this as a career, and maybe you can too.”

Shawn Coss and his fellow artists from Cyanide & Happiness, as well as his Any Means Necessary merchandise, will be at Booth 227 all three days of Wizard World Cleveland.

“Come up, say hi, BS with me,” Coss said.

Wizard World highlights and attendance info

Highlights of the show include VIP Experiences with the special guests mentioned earlier as well as Ian Somerhalder from the CW hit “The Vampire Diaries,” Karen Gillan from “Dr. Who,” WWE Superstars Dolph Ziggler and Diva Paige.

Attendees will also receive a limited edition exclusive variant cover by Greg Horn issue of “The Walking Dead #1” comic book.

Our mantra has always been ‘give the fans a good show,’ “ said Milani. “And if you give the fans a good show, and the fans have a good time, everything else takes care of itself.”

Wizard World Cleveland is Feb. 20-22 at the Cleveland Convention Center. A 3-day weekend admission is $75.00 in advance, or $85 at the door. More information about single-day admission, VIP tickets and more is available at the Wizard World Cleveland website.

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Thanks for reading the 15th Week in Geek in addition to visiting The Long Shot. Of course, there were many more exciting things that happened in the world of science, technology and pop culture this week…but these were the ones that most caught my attention. If you have any news you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me know – i try to keep up with stuff but i can’t read everything!

If you would like some further reading, about some science, technology and pop culture stuff that happened this week, here’s a few links i hope you find as interesting as i did. This is a double-dose of linky goodness, combining the last two weeks due to Week in Geek’s hiatus on Feb. 6:

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Next week, Feb. 20-22 i’ll be at Wizard World Cleveland. i’ll be tweeting throughout the show, and Week in Geek will probably consist of shorter evening recaps of the day’s events.

Remember – if you would like to contribute to The Long Shot, i’d be happy to make that happen!

Week in Geek also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).

Check out the articles i’ve written for The News-Herald.

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