COMIC FUSION PRESENTS
SUPERHERO WEEKEND 2016
AMBER LOVE 22-AUG-2016 With the cumulative totals of COMIC FUSION’S SUPERHERO WEEKEND since 2007, the comic shop, industry professionals, and volunteers have now brought the total to over $60,000 raised for charity! The event was Saturday and Sunday, August 20-21 this year and benefited CASA of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren counties for the second time.
In 1977, a Seattle Superior Court Judge named David Soukup was concerned about trying to make decisions on behalf of abused and neglected children without enough information. He conceived the idea of appointing community volunteers to independently investigate the cases, make recommendations, and speak up in court about what was in the best interest of the child. He made a request for volunteers; 50 citizens responded, and that was the start of the CASA movement. News of the success of Judge Soukup’s experiment spread like wildfire and CASA programs sprang up all over the United States. Currently there are over 1,000 CASA Programs throughout the United States and CASA volunteers have helped more than 2 million children find safe, permanent homes in which they can thrive. ~ casashaw.org
CASA is nationwide program for court-appointed advocates to monitor children in the foster care systems and advocate in the courts on their behalf. Our local director Tracey Heisler was an eager partner for Superhero Weekend. As the matriarch of a geeky family, she fit right in with our planning, even going to the Garden State Comic Fest to help collect donated artwork for the auction. CASA even gave every volunteer a swag bag of items including Girl Scout cookies and comics. We couldn’t have asked for a better partnership.
Each year, Comic Fusion has hosted an art auction of sketches and original comic pages donated by comic book professionals like J.K. Woodward, Alex Saviuk, and Phil Sloan; and in the past other notable artists included Jim Lee, Adam Hughes, Katie Cook, Dean Haspiel, and Amy Mebberson. We’ve gotten prints too which are sold for a flat price rather than auctioned and have been donated by Amanda Conner, the Princeless comics team, Marcus Tu, and Billy Tucci. The last element that brings in money is a tricky tray style raffle with a lot of gift baskets and individual items. Collecting all those donations is a major part of the prep work.
Another part of the prep work is the unsung work of cleaning the shop which I do. I haven’t managed to convince anyone else to help out on a Friday afternoon for that super fun good time. With my back pain and fatigue situation, this year I prioritized and did as much as I could which ended up being the two bathrooms, the kitchenette area, the game room, and one odd hallway. It amounted to hours of sweat, bleach, and five Hefty bags. On Saturday, a bunch of the volunteers helped set up chairs, tables, refreshments, and whatever else needed lifting that I couldn’t personally do.
Over the years, we’ve tried some different things to see what works like having kids design their own masks. This year AmberUnmasked contributor Jesse Parrino streamed his live gaming right from a crowded corner of the artists’ alley. Speaking of AA, we had some new and some returning guests: Nick Justus, Avantika Shaha, Selin Atay, and myself on Saturday; on Sunday, Neil Vokes and his frequent collaborator Tom Schloendorn joined Avantika and Selin.
My partner Joe and I started out the day early. It was already swampy with humidity and heat indexes had been over 100 degrees for over a week. Needless to say, even at 9:20AM it was gross outside. We stopped in the historic district of Flemington so I could pose for some appropriate Leslie Knope photos. The sweat was dripping down my face so bad that some photos with great potential were ruined because you could see the lines of sweat on my face. It was that bad just standing still and posing. The sun was also directly facing the sides of the building and gazebo steps we wanted to use so the first 10 minutes were completely unusable photos of me squinting or having burning tears. We went over to Main Street Bagels for a break and decided to try taking the photos all over again and had some better results.
This year, CASA organized a Superhero Walk of volunteers to walk around a few blocks carrying signs to bring awareness about the importance of the foster care system. We met up and left Comic Fusion at 10AM. The heat and sun were brutal. Some of our cosplayers were in full gear with gloves, boots, and helmets. I was in a suit with a wig and it was unbearable. Fortunately, we had an ambulance at the front and one at the back of us for blocking traffic (I’m sure that upset those drivers) but we didn’t need the EMTs for heat stroke which is kind of a surprise. I’m not a person who likes extreme weather so if there’s another walk/event planned for July or August in the future, I’ll be sitting it out.
This was the first year the shop moved dates from October to August. Over the previous nine years, the weather has been “mostly” accommodating, but we’ve also dealt with hurricane aftermaths, ice and snow. Wonder Woman Day had been a partnered event run with other towns and the founder of that always scheduled for the end of October because his town didn’t have weather that ours does. We broke off from that arrangement and moved to early October which mostly helped until Superstorm Sandy knocked almost all of New Jersey out of power. It seems like we can’t win.
Saturday at closing, the art auction ended. Anyone who had a winning bid on art could pick up their piece. On Sunday, the raffle tickets were sold all day and the drawings were after 5PM. I only put tickets into four baskets: the three different Harry Potter jewelry items and the Death Wish Coffee swag basket. I won the Harry Potter Deathly Hallows bracelet.
On Sunday, singer Darrien Rich had been entertaining the outside crowd for a while when the rain started and we moved everyone inside. By then most of the cosplayers were exhausted and sweaty and welcomed the chance to get back into street clothes.
On Saturday, the store event didn’t “officially” begin until noon, but since we were all there for the walk anyway, it kicked off around 11AM. For Saturday, about half the cosplayers returned and new ones came who weren’t there on Saturday. Besides the 501st and Mandolorians, there were other Star Wars cosplayers who attended. We also had Venom, an AIM henchman, Guy Gardner, Mr. Incredible, Riddler, Raven, Star Man, Iron Man, Batwoman, Poison Ivy, Lego Man, Wonder Girl, Star Lord, JoJo’s purple Dio, and more. I dressed as Leslie Knope on Saturday then as Peter Parker’s Aunt May on Sunday. Naturally, our favorite geeky girls, who have been coming since they were born, came dressed up in characters they picked themselves as DC Superhero Girls Harley and Katana. Several other kids came dressed up too.
I’ve never analyzed the social media performance (I don’t have access to the Facebook analytics only Twitter), and honestly, from the work I’ve done trying to get into analytics I don’t know what can be trusted since there’s no standard reporting tool. It felt like we had a good quality of social media response because of a few heavy hitters online like Jill Pantozzi, J.K. Woodward, and Tyler Crook retweeting @ComicFusion posts. This year I did more with Instagram too since I have a couple simple apps to better type text over photos. I felt like it made a difference, but I don’t have any figures to know for sure. Instagram’s major lack of reposting tool is such a hindrance.
Another difference is that the art auction was drastically scaled back. Without having three or four of us going around a show as large as Baltimore Comic Con to collect art, it was only Tracey and Stacy getting what they could at Garden State and directly through friends. The people I know, I reached out to through email and had pieces mailed in. With much less art and only posting it to Facebook instead of cumbersome HTML tables on the store’s website, it was easier to manage. Future events will probably be handled the same way and look towards having no more than 30 sketches.
We also made into the local newspapers twice before the event to promote that it was coming up. Plus a NJ.com reporter (the conglomerate of all the biggest NJ papers) showed up to the event, interviewed a few people and posted a photo gallery. I thought her piece was a bit odd in the direction she went with it, but it was nice and quickly uploaded by that night.