Friday, June 6, 2008

Crusading for comics

Newcomer brings Comicon to Spokane

When Nathan O'Brien needed a hero to help with potty training his daughter, Lanna, he called on the likes of Spider-Man and Batman.

"We rewarded her for going to the bathroom with various comic-book related toys," said O'Brien, a 29-year-old comic book junkie whose daughter is named after Superman's first love, Lana Lang.

For the O'Brien's, the fantasy world of comic books is very much a part of real life.

When he moved to Spokane from Seattle two years ago he experienced some culture shock when he found that the metropolitan center of the Inland Northwest didn't have its own annual comic books convention.

He was used to going to three or four conventions per year while living in Seattle.

"I guess I was spoiled," O'Brien said.

He talked to Craig Barnett, owner of The Comic Book Shop, who informed him there hadn't been a comicon in Spokane for more than 15 years.

"Since then I have made it my personal mission to bring a slice of the comic and pop culture world to Spokane," said the comics crusader, whose alter-ego is a general manager for a food services contractor.

So O'Brien went to work to create the one thing missing from his quality of life in Spokane, and the 2007 Spokane Comicon drew a respectable 300 spectators to shake hands with some top-notch artists in the industry and celebrity guest Margot Kidder (that's right, Lois Lane from the Christopher Reeve-era Superman movies).

O'Brien is hoping Spokane Comicon 2008 will be even bigger, and he's got some super-powered plans for the event, such as a $1 raffle for an autographed issue of Batman from his personal collection, estimated at a $200 value, and prizes for a costume contest for kids and adults (nothing inappropriate).

Other highlights include a free gift bag for the first 50 paid attendees, a free hourly raffle, appearances by Darth Vader and various Star Wars villains, and tons of toys and comics collectibles.

Some of the special guests include Eisner Award nominated creators of PX!, Spokane's Eric Anderson and Manny Trembly; another Spokane talent, Andy Owens, who is inking the canonical 8th season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in comic form; respected Spokane graphic artist Jim Koch, whose work can be found at Boo Radley's; Bellingham-based Blue Water Productions CEO Darren Davis, who landed a deal to release comic sequels to movies made by special effects wizard Ray Harryausen; and Seattle artist Clinton Crain, whose painted illustrations come to life on the pages of Marvel revamps Ghostrider, Spider-Man and X-Force.

Spokane Comicon 2008 takes place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in The Globe Room in Cataldo Hall at Gonzaga University. Admission is $5; kids 10 and under are free with paid adults. Costume contests and $1 raffle take place at 5 p.m.

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