“Spend your money at the show, not on admission.”
That’s the marketing hook that got me to bite on this year’s Indiana Toy and Comic Expo. I’ve long ignored the city’s preeminent geek event, Gen Con. I’m not a tabletop gamer so I never bothered to attend.
Indianapolis’s two latest comic conventions, Pop Con and Indiana Comic Con, didn’t appeal to me either. Their admission price and three-day schedule were too much. Conversely, I had been a few times to the Ash comic show held regularly on the city’s east side. The tiny show always left me underwhelmed.
In the words of Goldilocks, the ITCE seemed just right. In its second year, ITCE looked to be the right mix of inexpensive, condensed, and substantial. The one day event promised lots of vendors and a few extra frills. The event was held this past Sunday at the Wyndham Hotel on Indy’s west side.
I showed up at 10:00 a.m., an hour after opening. I plunked down my $5 admission and got a raffle ticket and hand stamp in return. The event was settled in two of the hotel’s ball rooms and adjoining hallway. One room was for costume events while the other was the show floor. Vendors and attractions spilled out into the dimly lit hall.
The area was a bit crowded but not uncomfortably so. You could still make your way around easily to see what was to offer. I only had a couple traffic jams get in my way during the four hours I was there.
I quickly surveyed the scene and made my way around the perimeter of the vendor booths. I decided to attack the tables systematically, sizing up everything before making my first purchase. The assortment and placement of vendors was excellent. Comic sellers and artists were sprinkled evenly among the toy vendors.
Even amongst the toy booths, there was a good mix. Most sellers had an assortment of goodies but there were a few that specialized in a certain subject like Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Doctor Who, or Lego. Star Wars was definitely the most popular subject and that pleased me.
In the weeks leading up to the event I had established a game plan. This show I was determined to complete my run of vintage Star Wars figures. I only had a few of the initial 77 I didn’t get as a kid. (The final 17 and blue Snaggletooth are way out of my budget.) Knocking out those last few was my top priority at ITCE.
After sizing up all the toy sellers I found one in the hallway that had a tremendous collection. Even better, they sold themselves as a “no repro zone.” I didn’t have to wonder about getting reproduction guns and accessories with my loose figures. The seller had the three I was needing: Twin Cloud Car Pilot, 2-1B, and Zuckuss (a.k.a. the true 4-LOM). I bargained him down to $32 for the set. I also went for an $8 Wampa that was only slightly yellowed.
Objective complete, I meandered through the booths once again to spend a little longer at each. As you’d expect, some of the hawkers were chatty and others tried to ignore you as much as possible. Talking up their product was part of the fun and an easy way to coax them down on their often crazy prices.
While reviewing the attendee list before the show I noticed one of my favorite comic artists was in attendance. I needed to meet Rusty Shackles and pick up a few of his video game-related prints. Neither Rusty’s friendly demeanor nor his art selection disappointed. The tough part was choosing which mini poster prints I wanted. Rusty’s “buy two, get one free” show special made the decision a bit easier. Another $20 wisely spent.
Giving my wallet a breather, I went back to the hall to walk around. A local garrison from the famous 501st Legion of Star Wars cosplayers were in attendance. Now was a perfect time to snap some pics of stormtroopers. I also gave attention to the various cosplaying attendees I had previously ignored in order to meet my agenda.
This was my first brush with a cosplay event—you know, outside of Halloween. I was thoroughly impressed with the dedication these people put into their craft. Even the little kids in costume were fun to see. I will never find it in myself to dress up but it was a ton of fun to people-watch. Next time I’ll spend more time taking pictures of all the creations. You can tell the cosplayers love the praise.
Everything else accomplished, I finally zeroed in on comic books. I didn’t feel up to sorting through the numerous long boxes to finish my run of Marvel Team-Up. There was enough inventory; I could easily fill that list. Instead I decided to peruse the cases for my new area of concentration: weird and interesting comics.
To anyone who has attended a comic show, the scene is extraordinarily routine. Tables of long boxes in the front and a wall of high-priced issues display behind, sandwiching the booth’s proprietor. Even the price assortment seems standard. Boxes of $1, $2, and $5 issues dominated. Knowing I couldn’t afford any expensive stuff like Hulk #181, I browsed through the assortment. Silver and Bronze Age stuff was my focus.
In a $5 box I found a very unique item. It called to me immediately. It was by the legendary Wally Wood. A measly five bucks for a Wood book seemed like charity. After I got home and did some research on my purchase, I became even more thrilled with it.
A little history lesson in case you’re unfamiliar. Wood was a prominent artist in comic’s Gold and Silver Ages, probably best known for his work with EC Comics. This highly influential artist would probably have the legacy of a Jack Kirby if it weren’t for his troubled life. He committed suicide in 1981.
In 1969, at the height of Marvel and DC’s popularity, Wood self-published this Heroes Inc. book. The book cost 15¢ at a time when most everything else was selling for 12¢. It can be considered the forefront of the independent comics movement of the ’70s and beyond. I think I got a good deal for $5.
At this point, all you seasoned con-goers are head-over-heels laughing at this convention newbie—if you’ve even read this far. The ITEC event can’t begin to compare to this week’s SDCC. For a decent-sized show in the sleepy Midwest, it performed well at least in my inexperienced eyes. I’m glad that ITEC served as my first step into this larger world of conventions.