Commentary

Granados: North Raleigh comic writer looks forward to NC Comicon

CorrespondentNovember 1, 2013 

Who knew that the Triangle was a mecca for nerds of all stripes? I did. That’s who. And if you’ve been reading my columns these past few years, you should, too. I’ve covered writers, artists, musicians, comedians – you name it, we’ve got it. And we also have NC Comicon.

In its fourth year, this collection of comic geeks is coming to the Durham Convention Center on Nov. 9-10, and if you want to get your superhero-graphic novel-comic colored freak on, you’d better be there.

North Raleigh resident Jeremy Whitley will be. You’ve read about him in this space before. He is the comic creator of “Princeless,” a story that eschews gender stereotypes and envisions a princess perfectly capable of saving herself. Whitley is selling comics and joining panels at this year’s Comicon, and he’s thrilled that we have such a venue here in the Triangle.

“It’s nice to have it here because it kind of fosters the creative community and the comics community,” he said.

Alan Gill is the creator of NC Comicon. He is the owner of Ultimate Comics in Durham, and he said when he opened up about 10 years ago, he had no idea the Triangle would be such a comics haven.

“I had no business plan. No idea what I was doing,” he said. “But I figured out really quick that there were a lot of nerds in RTP, and they were not being served in the area. And they have money.”

He knew there was enough interest for a comic convention. He started Comicon at a Morrisville outlet mall. About 500 people came. It’s grown exponentially since.

“We actually only had about half of the convention center last year,” he said. “But sure enough, around lunch, we had to stop letting people in.”

That’s because he had 4,500 people show up. Just in case, he’s reserved the whole convention center this time. He’s also partnering with the Carolina Theatre next door. The theater will be showing comic-themed movies – old favorites like “Dick Tracy” and “Superman II.”

There will be a Lego room. Tons of comics for sale. Local and national creators. There’ll even be question-and-answer sessions with well-known comic artists and writers, though chances are you’ll never have heard of them. Gill explained that to most of the public, the comic scene is opaque.

“Unless you say ‘Stan Lee,’ they’re oblivious,” he said.

Some of you might even be oblivious to Stan. Try Google. Shouldn’t take long.

I asked Gill what he thought accounted for the huge comics scene in this area. He named the Research Triangle Park as well as the plethora of colleges. Whitley told me it was the convention scene itself that taught him about the crowd of fans living here.

“In college, I didn’t know how much it existed outside the university,” he said. “But I’ve learned through this convention ... and others ... there is a huge community for comics and creative stuff.”

And things have changed quite a bit over time, as well. Comics weren’t nearly as prevalent in popular culture when Ultimate Comics began.

“When I first opened the store, it was right after the first “Spider-Man” movie came out,” Gill said. “And there have been lots and lots of movies. “

At least four “Spider-Man” movies. A lot of “Batmans.” “Superman.” “The Avengers.” “Iron Man.” More. Maybe too many more. Maybe not. I guess it all depends on how deep a well of interest you have for this kind of stuff.

For Whitley, the well is possibly infinite. In addition to his current comics work, he’s also picked up a gig writing some issues of a “My Little Pony” comic, something his daughter will love. And it’s thanks to her, in part, that he thinks he will succeed.

“I feel like I’m up to the job, because I’ve seen all the episodes several times,” he said.

And in the meantime, he can spend his downtime hanging with the local talent, of which there is much. And a lot of them will be at the Durham Convention Center on Nov. 9-10. Join them. Or not. They’ll have plenty of company anyway.

Alex Granados writes about people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him at agranadoster@gmail.com.

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