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Comics Today's Date:

The New York Comic-Con:
From The Hero Initiative Booth

Taking care of those who took care of our imaginations.
Not many ComicCon rookies are lucky enough to experience their first Con from behind the scenes by volunteering their services to unique charity The Hero Initiative - founded in 1992 by President Jim McLauchlin - but not everyone is lucky enough to have a friend like Tabitha Johnson.

I met Hero Initiative Regional Advisory board member Tabitha last year through various networking channels. Although Tabitha runs circles around me in her knowledge of comics, I’m able to hold my own just enough to receive the invitation to volunteer with her at Hero booth this year, in exchange for my pullout couch and some sandwiches.

The charity’s official mission statement reads as follows: “"Hero is the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping comic book industry veterans. Through Hero, financial aid is available for comic creators who may need assistance with the necessities of life or simply, a helping hand back into the comics industry It is a chance for us - the fans - to give back to the people who have given us so much enjoyment."

That’s the official statement, but the living, breathing testimony is the time so willingly given Hero booth by the artists and writers of today who want to give back to the people who made their career possible.

Doug Brathwaite and George Perez.
Throughout the three days spent at the beautiful Jacob Javitts Center just a few short blocks from Penn Station, we were graced to share a table with the likes of the delightful George Perez (Chairman of The Hero's Disbursement Committee, George is a frequent and especially dedicated artist to the Cause – he spent the better part of all three days with us. George is often is the single highest grossing artist for Hero at a con, and every penny he makes at a convention goes to Hero.)

Additional Hero signers and sketchers included: Leinil Francis Yu, Leonard Kirk, Adam Kubert, Matt Fraction, Jimmy Cheung, Marv Wolfman, Doug Braithwaite, Jim Lee, Dave Gibbons, Len Wein, Arthur Suydam, and Joss Whedon. Joss was kind enough to make a special trip over to our table to thank the volunteers in person.

I had the added pleasure of trading pleasantries with George’s radiant wife, Carol, and Doug’s lovely wife, Sue, as the rest of us watched in awe as their husbands penciled out beautifully detailed sketches ten minutes at a time for auction. Never underestimate the contribution of these women, who fully enable their talented husbands’ unconventional lifestyles. Both are beautiful, intelligent and articulate women and artists in their own right, meeting them was a privilege.

Hero held a silent auction each night, but it was on Saturday, the busiest Con day by far, that I got to help out with the real deal – barkered by Hero founder Jim McLauchlin. It was a lot of fun, and Hero surpassed their goal that day.

It's not a big deal for Marvel.
Some of the hotspots this year included the Game Pavillion, where Congoers were wowed by demos of Grand Theft Auto and Street Fighter IV, Warhammer 40,000, Final Fantasy XIII and Magic: The Gathering to name just a few. Also packed all weekend was the table diagonal to ours: Cyanide and Happiness. Three young men in top hats made homemade cards for the hordes. It goes without saying that the DC, Dark Horse and Marvel booths saw heavy treading as they showcased gorgeous action figure prototypes and graphic novels for Emily the Strange, The Umbrella Academy, Watchmen and X-Men.

That being said, my favorite action figures were Mike Richter and Michael Jackson, although I acknowledge that they were simply very good blast from the past replicas and not new prototypes. Would the exhibitors behind these two please stand up? Forgive me for not taking down your names.

Joss Whedon, George Perez, Jim Lee, Lou Ferrigno and Peter Mayhew never ran out of starry-eyed fans seeking to shake their hands, take photos with or get their treasures signed by them.

Some of my favorite costumes this Con included a couple of Stormtroopers, a Green Lantern, an ambitious Dr. Manhattan, two very creative Wonder Women, a badass Hellboy, a very cozy-looking Chewie, a positively flawless Flash and a couple of very beautiful Halos.

Click to see a larger pic of this amazing work.
Another highlight included watching the development of an amazing work of giant chalkboard art come to life over the course of the weekend (will that artist please come forward?)

Sunday was Kids’ Day and I scored (then lost) the lightsaber my son has been wanting. It was something else conversing with the under ten comic fan set as they proudly produced their sketchbooks full of original art and signatures that they’d been collecting over the past two New York Cons as their parents glowed proudly beside them.

I didn’t get the chance to attend any panels this go-round – preferring instead to remain close to the booth and help out as much as I could, but I did attend a screening of the new Futurama film, which promises to be every bit as ridiculously funny as its predecessor. A few of my friends were lucky enough to attend the Wonder Woman screening as debuted by DC Guest of Honor Bruce Timm.

Marv Wolfman signing for HERO.
Another highlight was the volunteers’ dinner, which was also attended by Hero supporter Georges Jeanty -- a dear friend of both Tabitha and fellow volunteer Shannon Lower – who is one of the loveliest men I have ever had the honor of meeting. At the end of the Con, Hero took in $30,000.00 – not bad at all for a recession!

I loaded up on not nearly enough books, made several lifelong friends and am counting down the days to October 2010, the tentative date of the next NYCC.

Next time, though, we’re packing more food and drinks!

Deborah J. Draisin


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