2014 NWI Comic Con A True Nerd-vana
February 24, 2014 — By Tom Lounges
The debut of “NWI Comic Con 2014” was an idea long overdue judging from the hundreds of region folks who descended the eight hour event held at Schererville’s Villa Cesare where both of the facility’s banquet halls were packed.
It was an idea turned reality by Highland resident Brian Grabinski, a lifelong comic fan and gamer who after spending the last year of his life putting all the pieces in place, produced what can only be described as a successful venture. If anything, the event was too successful first time out, because the response seemed at times too great for the size of the venue.
The Villa Cesare’s parking lot and those of surrounding businesses like “The Golden Corral” and “Home Depot” were jammed with vehicles.
The many mounds of plowed snow dividing the various parking lots may have slowed the moving hordes of comic fans to a zombie-like pace at times, but they did nothing to deter them. They carefully navigated their way over the frozen ground to ultimately gain entrance to what I came to call the glorious “Nerd-vana” awaiting within.
Dozens of tables lined the rooms as artists and cartoonists sketched away and patrons searched bins for elusive issues of their favorite title to complete collections, sought out factory-sealed action figures, snatch up game cartridges and bid on collectables in the large silent auction.
Among the many comic books creators, publishers and artists present were Byron Wilkins, Chuck Pavoni, Dan Hale, Erik Hodson, Matthew Hansel and region comic icon Cory Hamscher.
Many staged events were also on the roster for the day and serving as the event’s stage emcee was the multi-talented Jason Elkins, a region actor/artist who was once the resident illustrator for this writer’s own “Midwest BEAT Magazine” during the early 2000s. After catching up with Elkins, it was learned he has since added to his resume the title of independent filmmaker and co-founding partner of production company, Poszing Elk, LLC.
One of the highlights for me was the Independent Film panel and trailer screenings presented by Northwest Indiana Film. Clips were showed of Cerulean Filmworks’ “Through The Never,” T.I. Productions’ “Pinned,” J.I. Lange Productions’ “Deadly Memories: Lost & Found,” and Romeosfoe.net’s “Gamer Girl” webcast series.
Watch for East Chicago filmmaker Paul Celestin of J.I. Productions to be a Lakeshore Radio Spotlight guest in the not so distant future; along with “Gamer Girl” writer/director and star, Sarah Moore of Dyer, IN. I was very impressed with the quality of the regional film talents presented at “NWI Comic Con 2014.” Kudos goes out to event organizer Brian Grabinski for having included local film artists along with the many talented comic and gamer folks.
While it was the first “Comic Con” of this kind ever presented in Northwest Indiana, it was not limited to just local talents and organizations like the Northwest Indiana Ghostbusters who were out to scaring up some attention; but many companies from neighboring Midwest states. The proud knights of Medieval Times were on hand to muster up support for upcoming jousts tournaments, likewise the swordsmen and maidens of The Bristol Renaissance Faire; as was The Northern Darkness Garrison who had their showcase perimeter guarded by Darth Vader and assorted Stormtrooper minions.
The costume contest drew many visiting luminaries from the cartoon, comic, horror and anime genres. They lined up and listened attentively as the panel of judges called them up to the stage one by one. Dozens of contestants turned out to compete.
Among those I witnessed were Svengoolie, a “Walking Dead” zombie lady, Ant Man, Iron Man, and Captain America. A yellow My Little Pony galloped to the stage early on, followed soon after by Master Chief of the first person shooter video game “Halo.” There was an awesome Robo-Cop taking part and even Michelangelo was there in all his green and orange greatness representing The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
While all the costumes were pretty awesome, the best of the bunch and my personal favorite was Master Chief of “Halo” worn by Ryan McIntyre. I was glad to see that one take a top slot in the costume contest as I learned from proud papa Mike McIntyre, the costume was 100% custom-made by Bryan.
Though this writer had not been an active comic collector since the Silver Age ended in the 1970s (and yes, I still have them!), I must confess that my inner geek did re-emerge during the hours spent at the “NWI Comic Con 2014” last Sunday Villa Cesare; and never more profoundly than when Master Chief let me hold his assault rifle for a photo.
Judging from the turn-out, the favorable comments overheard, the many major players who crossed the state line to take part in Grabinski’s debut event, this writer believes there is little risk in predicting a “Comic Con 2015” is inevitable, though a large venue might be advised.