I’ve never been to a convention before, not a Comic-Con, not a HeroesCon in Charlotte, not even a more … conventional convention (unless we want to count growing up in a fundamentalist Pentecostal church and going on family outings to out-of-state revivals at the Grand Ol’ Opry, but that’s an article for another day).
I’ve always been a fan of comics, but at some point my love of music and film took over and comics hopped in the backseat. In the past year or so, while sitting at home during the pandemic, I’ve found myself rekindling my love for collecting and reading comics. On top of collecting new and old comics, I also enjoy picking up trade paperbacks, a few of which I’ve picked up at Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, the popular comic book store that’s been serving collectors in Charlotte for more than 40 years.
Like religious events, comic and collectible fans crave the community aspect of networking with other comic fans (without all the judgment), and after our year in isolation, the store’s recent Giant-Size Mini-Con was a much-needed respite, and a perfect way to get my feet wet in the con world.
Full disclosure: I am employed by Charlotte-based collectible company GoCollect, which set up a table at the convention, but I was not working the event and attended on my own time.
Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find has been holding the annual Heroes Convention, or HerosCon, for 39 years, with some pivots, adaptations and changes during the era of COVID-19. On Nov. 6-7, the Heroes team held the Giant-Size Mini-Con as a way to keep fans connected in a safe manner while we await the big 40-year anniversary Heroes Con scheduled for June 2022.
To start off, I must commend Heroes for their commitment to making the Giant-Size Mini Con a safe event, requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of attending. The Mecklenburg County mask mandate was also enforced throughout, which is more than can be said for a lot of places in the area. Save for a few “chin diapers,” most people complied with the rules over the weekend.
I heard a few people say the crowd was more sparse than years past, but keeping in mind the times we live in, that’s to be expected. I, for one, was happy not to be crowded in a closed space with too many people.
How HeroesCon came to be in Charlotte
For a little history lesson, Shelton Drum, owner of Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, has been hosting the Heroes Convention since 1982, just two years after the store opened. In 1984, Stan Lee graced the small convention with his presence, and it has grown exponentially since then with appearances by Todd MacFarlane, Jim Lee, Marv Wolfman and many others.
So what’s the difference between a HeroesCon, a Mini-Con, and a Giant-Size Charlotte Mini-Con? Well, the latter is a mix of the two formers. Due to the pandemic, the HeroesCon scheduled for June 2020 was delayed until June 2021. Smaller Mini-Cons are usually held in February as a teaser to HeroesCon, and that went off without a hitch in 2020, as COVID-19 was just a rumor from overseas at that point.
As the pandemic has carried on longer than we all would’ve hoped, the June 2021 HeroesCon was pushed back again to 2022. Due in part to missing two conventions, it was decided to make the usual one-day Mini-Con a bigger event to take place in November, and thus we had the Giant-Sized Mini-Con.
The annual HeroesCon and its accompanying Mini-Cons have grown to be a nationally respected stop for comic fans due to its family-friendly nature and its support of regional vendors, artists and all creators in the comics medium.
My visit to the Giant-Sized Mini-Con
A nice addition to the Mini-Con was the Artist Alley, featuring regional artists Mason Dickerson, Wes Brooks, and Michael Muller alongside renowned comic writers and artists like Chuck Brown & Sanford Greene (Bitter Root), Mark Bagley (Spider-Man), and Steve Epting (Captain America). Normally the smaller con would focus primarily on regional artists, so the mix of the two was a welcome treat.
It’s great to see local artists getting recognition on a larger platform, and by the way, they all have things for sale, so as you begin gearing up for Christmas shopping, make sure you look them up and shop local when you can!
I expected to see more patrons of the convention dressed up as characters and expected to be looked at weirdly since I wasn’t dressed up, but the inverse was actually true. I did see Batman, The Rocketeer, Captain America, Catwoman, some Klingons and a few Final Fantasy characters — some more convincing than others — but maybe I set my hopes too high. Based on the pics from cons that I’ve seen online, I expected things beyond my wildest imagination.
I feel like the vibe was more cautious than previous years, but folks were just happy to be out and networking, as many have resorted to only ordering comics online over the last year and a half. If anything, over my two days at the event, it felt like everyone was very grateful to be there.
I was glad to use this event as a chance to wade back into big groups and prime myself for the blowout that will be the three-day 40th anniversary celebration of HeroesCon 2022. Here’s hoping for a Stan Lee hologram!
In closing, the event really did open my eyes to more regional collectors. I pride myself in knowing what’s going on in the local and regional music and film scenes, but the Giant-Sized Mini-Con allowed me to see that other niche markets like collecting have the same networks.
And so I come bearing one recommendation: Go check out Rebel Base Comics and Toys over on South Sharon Amity Road. I’ve passed by the store for years and honestly have never gone in (I have received a horrible haircut or two at the Great Clips next door). Rebel Base has competitive pricing to Heroes and differing stock, with a focus on toys and those sorts of collectibles, so mixing both stores into your repertoire should satiate any collector’s quest.
It’s amazing to see the community that Sheldon Drum and the other fine folks at Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find have cultivated in the 41 years since the store opened in 1980, and it’s also great to see that Charlotte and the comic fans from across the South have come together to support Heroes and HeroesCon, even after a year in isolation.
It’s important to support these institutions to make sure they’re able to stick around for another 40 years. But for now, I’ll see you all in June.