Superheroes abound in super RI convention


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Originally Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2012, 11:31 pm
Last Updated: Nov. 18, 2012, 11:37 pm
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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

ROCK ISLAND -- Tim Johnson has pretty poor vision, and that's one reason his favorite superhero is Daredevil -- an ordinary man who goes blind but strengthens his other senses.

"He's kind of a more realistic superhero," Mr. Johnson, owner of the comic book shop Mellow Blue Planet (2212 5th Ave., Rock Island) and organizer of Sunday's third-annual QC Planet Comic and Arts Convention at Skellington Manor, said.

"He doesn't have superpowers, per se, but hypersensitive senses," he said of the powerful character portrayed by Ben Affleck on the big screen in a 2003 flick. Mr. Johnson owns every Daredevil comic book released since 1964, except the very first, which is valued in the thousands of dollars.

He said that the public has a stereotype of comic book fans as mainly kids (or immature adults), but the hobby has "evolved over the years," he said, to encompass a wide population. Indeed, there were collectors of all ages at Sunday's event, including families checking out an estimated 500,000 individually wrapped comics, action figures, toys, T-shirts, books and illustrations, from 16 vendors and nine area artists and writers.

Ben "Stone" Stomberg -- who owns Stone Alley Books & Collectibles in Galesburg -- was one of the vendors on display, and his copies of "The Walking Dead" comics were very popular, he said. The apocalyptic zombie-themed books have gotten a boost from the highly-rated AMC series, now in its third season.

"They're not all the same characters," Mr. Stomberg said of the show versus books. "Personally, I prefer the show, and my favorite character wasn't in the books -- Daryl Dixon. He's a wild-card guy. You never know what's going to happen. That's what makes 'Walking Dead' so unique as a comic book; it's so unpredictable."

He and Mr. Johnson said the explosion of comic book characters brought to life in TV and film over the past 20 years hasn't necessarily caused more people to buy the vintage or current comics themselves. It's easier to see a new movie than wade through 500 issues of a superhero such as Batman to understand his backstory, Mr. Stomberg said.

Luckily, DC Comics recently rebooted its characters, starting over with iconic brands such as Superman and Batman, he noted.

C.J. Bilbrey, of Rock Island, sold his dark adventure books on Sunday, a series that focuses on amasked vigilante known as Vanguard which takes place in the present day Quad-Cities.

"It's a very real setting with real people, that will appeal to comic-book fans," he said of his self-published paperbacks. "There's no cape or tights. I don't want him to be able to do anything I couldn't do." Vanguard does wear a SWAT team-style uniform, Mr. Bilbrey said.

Seth Chappell, of Rock Island, who makes colorful foam puppets (some based on comic characters and rock stars) on display Sunday, picked up a book about zombie Smurfs. He also likes the "Walking Dead" series, and has made a zombie puppet of Mr. Johnson, of Mellow Blue Planet.

"It's a real nice mixture, a blend of everything," he said of the convention inventory. And the customers were "not your typical 'Star Wars' geeks," Mr. Chappell's wife, Ren, said.

"There are a lot of deals here, good prices," Dane Van Vooren, of Moline, who spent four hours perusing all the tables, buying about $200 in comics, said. "You have to dig for the gold."

A big fan of X-Men who has been to comic conventions in Chicago and Minneapolis, Mr. Van Vooren said he's got "thousands" of books in his collection. "It's the story and art that spark the imagination. I also like the people you meet along the way. They're good friends now."

Compared to other comic conventions in the area, Mr. Johnson said he wanted to expand on the idea by offering related activities and artists. Some of the illustrators on Sunday demonstrated their artwork by doing it right there. Mr. Johnson had made up several blank covers with the title's logo at the top, and a friend made him front and back illustrations for Thor. He asked the artist what he could pay him, and the man said it was free.





















 



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