North Carolina Comic Con never fails to deliver the goods when it comes to good geeky fun. Comic books, celebrity appearances, cosplay contests, and quirky events like the Wild Tarney Show make NCCC what it is. Oak City, NCCC’s spring show, just recently swept through Raleigh to entertain us and, for some, kick off con season.
Oak City has grown from a one-day comic and toy show to the full weekend experience it is now. Yet, no matter how much it has expanded, Oak City has never lost its family appeal and creates a welcoming atmosphere for fangirls and boys of all ages. Oak City is not the biggest show to come to the Raleigh Convention Center but it can boast to comfortably filling the 150,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall and many of its meeting rooms. I was in the building for the entire weekend, as I have been every year since its inception, and I can say that I was not disappointed.
This year there were far too many things on the Oak City to-do list for me to touch in a single review so I’ll just cover the highlights, starting with celebrity appearances. Lately, having celebrity guests have become the norm for any comic convention worth its weight. The most popular actors from television and the big screen make time in their yearly schedules to attend conventions, giving their fans a chance to meet them face to face. Before conventions began inviting these big names, the average fan’s chance of meeting their idol was nearly non-existent.
Oak City brought us guests like boxer James “Buster” Douglas, Overwatch voice actor Jen Cohn, and TV legend Orlando Jones. Every celebrity guest participated in a Q & A panel as well as photo and signing opportunities. When they weren’t busy with that they could be found at their tables interacting with the fans. Orlando Jones, one of my favorite TV actors, was certainly there for his fans from the moment he stepped into the convention center. I witnessed him connect with each person that approached him, never cutting a conversation short, even if that meant rushing to his next engagement. Jen Cohn was the life of the party, always seen with a smile as she moved between her panels and photo ops. Mixing with people that fuel your fandom is one of the biggest benefits of Oak City’s up-close and personal atmosphere.
The panels, besides shopping, are my favorite events at any convention. NCCC has a track record of having engaging and diverse panels on their roster every year. Oak City had a wide range, from leatherworking workshops, to science in comics, to the Black Panther discussion panel hosted by The Color of Fandom. The Wild Tarney show and the Cosplay Showcase & Contest provided con-goers with a chance to compete. Cosplayers came in their best Michelangelo, Wonder Woman, and Ewok costumes among others. They all had an opportunity to compete for the big prize or just show off what they could do with a bit of time and creativity.
The Wild Tarney Show was the treat that it always is, a chance for everyone to kick back and laugh as contestants tried to beat the buzzer and win a prize. This year Oak City provided a new entry into its events, the “Buster” Douglas Video Game Challenge to be exact. Attendees had the chance to go up against Buster himself and try to beat him at his own game: James “Buster” Douglas’ Knockout Boxing.
Another highlight of the convention was undoubtedly the appearance of artist Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Folks big and small came in hopes to meet the man that fueled their childhood imaginations, the creator of the heroes-in-a-half-shell. As one of the lucky people that grew up watching Leo, Donnie, Raph, and Mikey beat The Foot and fight Shredder, I was ecstatic to attend the discussions and catch a glimpse of him during signing and photo ops. The con exclusive TMNT comic variant was a popular option for those that wanted to snag a signature from Eastman.
At Oak City, you are likely to find a number of your favorite comic creators. My favorites happened to be there for the weekend, author Jeremy Whitley and artist Marcus Williams. We talked, we laughed, and I gave them my money. There was no shortage of places, on the vendor floor and in artist alley, for you to spend your money in support of local and indie comic creators. But isn't supporting the creators of the content that makes you happy what con is all about?
Oak City Comic Con has come and gone and put another notch in its belt. It’s no longer the baby of the comic convention world, proving to be able to hold its own among the monster cons that have their eyes set on Raleigh, NC. There will always be a special place for NCCC in my fangirl heart, both Oak City and Bull City, because this show stays true to the comics and true to their fans. I, for one, can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next year.
Mom, Fangirl, Blerd
photos by C&C Media Design