Comic Expo has appeal for any age, allowance

Posted: August 14, 2014 at 2:03 a.m.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Comic Expo illustration.

For some people it still stings. They went off to college, came home and discovered that not only had Mom cleaned their rooms, but also that she'd thrown away the comic books they'd spent a childhood collecting.

Of course, it hurts even more to realize that that $40 collection would now be worth about $40,000.

River City Comic Expo

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, The Metroplex, 10800 Colonel Glenn Road, Little Rock

Admission: $5 (free for children 13 and younger)

(501) 492-9007

"Everyone's books got thrown out, apparently, and there's not many copies of those older books around," explains Brent Douglass, 36, of Sherwood.

Douglass is one of many adults with fond memories of childhood comic books.

"That's what got me into reading," he says.

Douglass started the River City Comic Expo in 2011 when he realized that while surrounding states had conventions, Arkansas did not.

The show is held twice a year, once in early spring and once in late summer. It hosts vendors and collectors selling new and old comics and collections of pulp novels. There are also games of the video, board and card variety, a magic act and round-table discussions, with raffles and giveaways every hour.

Of course, the special guests are always a highlight of the shows. This year's lineup will include Larry Hama, who has worked for Saturday Night Live and has had a long association with G.I. Joe. There's also cult favorite Kevin Maguire, local talents Mitch and Elizabeth Breitweiser and movie storyboard artist Renee Witterstaetter.

They'll be there to sign and to draw special sketches for attendees.

"They don't have to draw comic characters," Douglass says. "We have people ask the artists, 'Draw my son,' or 'Draw me and my wife.' He takes a picture with his phone, and while they walk around, they get a picture made."

One new feature of this expo is the option of encapsulation. When people get a drawing or get something signed by one of the guests, they have the option of having it shipped off to be wrapped in protective plastic and marked with the artist's name, the expo name and the date. That provides verification if the collector ever chooses to sell the piece.

Food trucks, including David's Burgers and the Waffle Wagon, are expected.

Another favorite activity is always the costume contest, and some of the contestants get into it in a big way.

"Some put two to three months into a costume and $600-$700 to look like their character," Douglass says. "It's always a kick to see the little kids dressed up as well."

Comic conventions and expos are big business. Many people hear "comic" and think of the Sunday funnies or of cute books for kids. Douglass, however, points out that there are some much more mature comics on the market aimed squarely at adults.

And then there are the adults looking to reclaim that lost piece of childhood -- adults willing to spend cash that would far exceed their old allowance.

Douglass recalls a previous River City Comic Expo at which two copies of the first Spider-Man comic sold for $10,000 and $14,000 each on the same day.

"It's wild," he says. "It may be made for kids, but it's mostly adults who are buying them now. Everybody's got a little bit of a kid in them still."

Douglass says even the spouses or parents of enthusiasts who are initially dragged in usually end up having a great time in this fantasy world.

"It'll be a day for everybody to be a kid again for eight hours or so," Douglass says. "They'll have a blast and they'll be looking for the next one."

Weekend on 08/14/2014