How Albuquerque got its nerd back
By John Bear
20th Century Fox
The Albuquerque Comic Con will be the first “full-blown comic book convention” to hit Albuquerque in more than a decade, according to event organizer and Tall Tales Comics owner Jim Burleson. On Saturday, Jan. 15, and Sunday, Jan. 16, four rooms in the Hilton Albuquerque will be dedicated to gaming, vendors and panels, as well as celebrity photo ops.
Tons of guests are slated to appear, including Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery of Boondock Saints fame. (More important, to me anyway, is that David Della Rocco—the guy who played the Saints’ zany friend Rocco “The Funny Man”—is supposed to drop by.) Lou Ferrigno (most famous for playing the Incredible Hulk on TV), as well as several people from the original “Battlestar Galactica” and “Buck Rogers” shows are coming. Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Bokeem Woodbine (“Saving Grace,” Dead Presidents) are also expected to attend.
In the creative department, cover artist Gene Ha (DC’s “Blackest Night”), creator/writer/director Brian Pulido (“Lady Death”), illustrator Jamie Snell (Topps) and local writer Scott Phillips (The Stink of Flesh) are stopping in. Cartoon Network affiliated artists Andy Kuhn (who lives in Albuquerque) and Shannon Denton are on the list. Several other locals, including folks from 7000 BC, are showing their work, too.
There’ll be plenty of costumed fans milling around, but a uniform of another stripe is getting the star treatment. Active duty military, police and fire fighters get in free if they have an ID or uniform.
Organizer Burleson says he’s thought about putting on a convention of this magnitude for quite some time, but he never thought he had the skills to pull it off—until now. The Weekly Alibi spoke with Burleson about his own heroic feats in putting Albuquerque Comic Con together.
Albuquerque’s last full-blown convention was in 1997. Why the wait?
Not to hurt anyone's feelings, but comic people are not really business-minded. Most of us open comic shops to not have to get a real job—and so our wives and quite often our mothers think we are actually working when we leave the house. Only reason I wanted to do it is because I come from an event promotion background and felt very strongly that I could use my promoter skills to run a successful event. The expense to promote this is more than most of us make in a year, so asking comic book people to find that kind of bread up front isn't all that easy. If this fails, my kids don't go to college.
How does it compare to something like Comic-Con in San Diego?
Well it's modeled after that event. From talent guests, to special events throughout the show, to vendor setups and onsite gaming tournaments, we are trying to create our own little microcosm of San Diego Comic-Con. Hopefully, in a couple years, we can be as vital to this state’s economy as that show is to Southern California. I like to feel vital.
What’s the appeal for people who aren't necessarily into DC or Marvel?
This event will cater to anyone who likes movies, toys, history, games, comics and anything cool.
This event will cater to anyone who likes movies, toys, history, games, comics and anything cool. So I guess, to be clear ... who we are trying to appeal to is cool people.
We are hosting a film festival during the convention, having a comic cover contest where aspiring comic artist will get to lobby for a chance to win a job as a comic cover artist—a quite coveted title for comic artists. Also, we will be hosting several panels describing various industry interests such as making Star Wars costumes, moviemaking, breaking into the comic industry, how to get into acting and at least a dozen more things.
Who are you most excited to see?
Dickey Beer [stunt coordinator on Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life Poster] and Deep Roy [Teeny Weeny in The NeverEnding Story] are my closest friends from the film industry, so it is always a pleasure to see them, but I'm truly excited to see all “The Walking Dead” stars that have agreed to come out since we booked Norman Reedus as one of the Boondock Saints trio. Fans have been raving about the ’80s TV stars Erin Gray, Gil Gerard, Anne Lockhart and Herbert Jefferson from “Buck Rogers” and the original “Battlestar Galactica.” It's just gonna be a great time. Can't wait to see all the local comic book artists from here in New Mexico who have done so well internationally as comic celebrities.
How’s the comics culture in Albuquerque—are there many artists working here?
Funny you should say that. Andy Kuhn just signed a deal for his “Firebreather” comic book, published by Image Comics, with the Cartoon Network. We have almost two-dozen comic creators from right here in New Mexico signed up to display all their work in artist alley. And it is from those creators that we will be awarding a cover contract for 12 Gauge Comics’ “Boondock Saints” comic book. Big news for comics in New Mexico. Not to mention the half-a-dozen small publishers who are launching new titles at our show.
Why do so many comic books end up being made into films?
Comics are how we used to be able to explore our imaginations visually. From the ’60s, comics have been how we lived out our alien and superhero fantasies. With the evolution of the film technologies and special effects, it has become the natural progression of how we explore our imaginations. Now cartoons are no longer the only realistic way to show flying men and laser beams. Now grown-ups no longer have to pretend they don't like Spider-Man and Batman because apparently feature films about superheroes are more grown-up than animated films.
So it’s no coincidence that movies are a major theme at this event.
We are basing it on comics in film because of the added exposure film has given to the comic industry. All of our headliners have a comic about them or played roles based in the comic industry. Lou Ferrigno, for example, was how most of us were introduced to the Incredible Hulk.
How did you get into comics?
My dad brought me some G.I. Joe and Captain America comics home after a long [assignment for the Air Force] when I was 13, and I was hooked.
What’s your favorite?
Still a Captain America fan, but Hulk and Green Lantern are right up there. X-Men don't suck, either. Awe heck, I love ‘em all.
Albuquerque Comic Con
Saturday, Jan. 15, and Sunday, Jan. 16
1901 University NE
Tickets: One day, $15 and $5 for children. Full event passes, $25, $10 children.
Available at albuquerquecomiccon.com
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