Leading up to the inaugural Cincinnati Comic Expo Tophat and I had some pretty low expectations. We read through the artist list and vendors list periodically throughout the summer and were continually annoyed at the lack of webcomics featured. Most of the people on the list were silver age B-listers or indie artists trying to go all controversial with lots of sexy time in their story lines. We briefly got excited at the mention of a gaming section but were less excited to learn it was more about boards and less about videos.
For reasons I can’t quite explain I was still pretty keyed up as we made preparations for nerding Saturday morning. I had a work engagement that made us miss the only two panels that sounded interesting, one called “Taking comic books into the digital world” and one that featured the guy who brought us every Batman movie except the one with Adam West, Michael Ulsan. When I met up with Tophat at my apartment I discovered that my wife had a sudden interest in tagging along. Her interest in comics begins and ends with NBC’s Heroes and the nerdiest thing she does is write fan fiction for the Twilight series, something I haven’t been particularly supportive of. The series, not her writing. She has gone out of her way to keep me from reading it. I’m fairly certain her main reason for going was to make fun of myself and Tophat and I was very concerned she would become bored before us and demand to go home. Something I was willing to fight. Anyway, the three of us headed down to the Cintas Center at Xavier University on an all together lovely afternoon in September fully expecting to get bored in an hour and head downtown for Oktoberfest.
I’d never been to the Cintas Center before so I’m not sure what I was looking to find, but I was a little surprised when we were basically in the hallway outside a basketball arena. There was plenty of room to move around and room enough for the artists and vendors, but it was kinda funny going back to the gaming roof and passing an empty 10,000 seat basketball arena. Next year the whole thing moves to the Duke Energy Convention Center downtown, which has everybody worried about parking.
Tophat, my wife and I were sporting our freshly minted Faceplant! buttons in the hopes of drumming up interest in the site, so when a lady offered us free Superman and The Flash buttons we insisted on a trade. Tophat said he later saw the girl wearing our button, so that’s exciting.
I had been looking forward to meeting some people from Ringtail Cafe, a little indie press shop from the other side of the river. Mostly I was intrigued that there was a comic company so close to home, but secretly Tophat has been looking for a job in the industry. Or rather, he wants to get out of the news business and I think he should get into the comic writing or editing business. Ringtail Cafe seemed to be a likely fit. I spoke with project manager Krista Mueller for quite a while as Tophat encouraged my wife down the slippery slope of nerdom. She ended up buying four or five pins and a comic from Mueller while we talked about the little company with big dreams. Right now they’re a little too furry-friendly for us, but they do have a project on the back burner that looks like a grand slam to me. Who here hasn’t thought they were uniquely equipped to save humanity from the inevitable zombie apocalypse? The lovely Krista was kind enough to let me take her picture holding the poster for the zombie fighting friends while Tophat pretended to look interested. I’m not even sure he heard what the comic was about. I swear, he has the attention span of a squirrel on cocaine.
As we wandered around admiring the overweight Bobba Fett and the fantastic Joker and predator costumes and the array of toys and comics we found interesting but knew little to nothing about, we made a discovery. A bona-fide webcomic artist. S.P. Burke flew in from Chicago to show off his comic series Oh Goodie!. I plan to do a full review of the comic at a later date, but he described it as a punk version of Archie. After reading through about 60 pages I disagree. Although I never read much Archie, Oh Goodie! is much more entertaining and has a much more dynamic character base than any Archie comic I’ve ever read. But anyway, we had a fascinating discussion on the merits of webcomics and their constant fringe status which was occasionally interrupted by Burke’s need to photograph all of the scantily clad ladies in costume (not that I blame him), including a woman dressed as the ever dangerous Molotov Cocktease. This led Burke to launch into his Monarch impression. That guy could make some dough as a voice actor. He has the range and sense of humor to pull it off. He also had a number of original drawings and sketches for sale, including a hilarious panel of a father reading Playboy articles to his daughter. I probably would have bought one if I were more familiar with Burke’s comics and knew I was getting something I’d want to hang on to. I’m willing to bet next time I see him he’ll be rich and famous and charging a fortune for half-finished sketches of an eye. Oh well.
Speaking of women in costume. My wife got a kick out of pointing out that most of the women in aforementioned scantily clad costumes did not have the requisite bust sizes to pull off what they were wearing. Especially the Xenia girls that were charging for photos at their own booth. That brings me to the costume contest. About an hour before it was set to kick off, my wife announced she was bored and ready to find some grub that wasn’t overpriced concession stand fair. I insisted we stay for the costume contest and to kill time we went back to check out the gaming tables. Tophat found them boring, but in college I enjoy my share of games of Risk, Settlers of Katan, and especially Heroscape. I even have a starter kit for Heroscape in my closet. These days the only person who will play it with me is my brother and he hates the fact that the game takes a lot of time to set up. But really, setting up the board is half the fun. Oh right, we were in the gaming room. Tophat thought we’d better get a picture of me playing a game since I took his picture talking to Krista Mueller. The local gaming store, Yottaquest, had several games set up including Kattan so I thought I’d just jump in there. Of course Kattan was ocupado but Phillip duBarry was there to offer up his self-produced board game Revolution!.
It’s not often a person gets to play a board game with the game’s creator, something he failed to mention at the time. The modest fellow. What was originally supposed to be a photo-op turned into an exciting way to completely miss the costume contest. The game is all about strategy. The government is in turmoil in this little town and you’re trying to gain support for your faction. You do this in several ways, one of which is through gaining influence in various parts of town. You gain influence by gaining the support of a number of public figures in town. Each turn the public figures are once again up for grabs and they each have their own unique rewards. The game is very easy to learn. We played the yet-to-be-released expansion pack which increases the number of players from four to six and includes a new section of town to control and more figures to influence. For some reason I’m terrible at video games and don’t mind it, but with board games I become fiercely competitive. I usually try to quietly gain the upper hand and slaughter my enemies once they’ve been lulled into complacency at the top. This tactic worked well for Revolution! and I came out on top after hanging in the middle of the pack for most of the game. Although to be fair to duBarry, I think he was going easy on us. After taking an early lead he gave up his seat to a new player and restarted with a new color. He still finished in second or third place.
Now, I mentioned that Tophat was having fun encouraging my wife to indulge her inner nerd. She by far bought the most swag of the day. In addition to the Ringtail Cafe pins and comic, which included a personalized sketch by artist Jackie Hernandez, she also bought a Winnie the Pooh cell. Tophat has clearly unleashed a beast.
After an enjoyable afternoon nerding it up we decided, or rather I decided, my craving for sauerkraut could be ignored no longer. Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest is billed as the largest outside of Germany and after getting out of the Fountain Square garage elevator and diving into the mass of humanity on Fifth Street I don’t find it hard to believe. There were people everywhere. Fortunately there was a good quantity of bratwurst, sauerkraut balls, and beer everywhere too. We wandered around with our stomachs screaming at us for a good while before we located the right combination of sausage, sauerkraut, German potato salad and German beer. After all, if you’re going to Oktober fest Sam Adam’s is OK, I mean it is brewed right here in Cincinnati, but a nice Spaten Dunkel is just better. Mmmm. The perfect ending to a great Saturday.