As far as comic cons go- Cherry Capital Comic Con (C4) is one of the best there is. I like this show because it has a heavy focus on artist alley, brings a handful of media guests, welcomes crafters and vendors alike to setup tables as well. They are a family oriented show, and make sure there is something for everyone- be it cosplay, after hours karaoke, panels on making comics, the 501st legion in all of their glory, great food options, and above all else- incredible volunteers and staff making every minute magical. These people pour in a great amount of passion to make sure every attendee, guest, worker, and everyone in between has whatever they need. I think you would be hard pressed to find another show that puts in this much effort. They treat everyone like family, and I think that is an important quality to see. I see volunteers making sure those tabling have water, a chance to break away from their table for a moment, or even bring them something to eat. You don't get that kind of care just anywhere.
I had one of my dreams come true two years ago. I got to meet not one but TWO people that I never thought I would: Bob Camp and Brian O'Halloran. I got a signed print from both of them for ridiculously cheap. They were both incredibly friendly, and genuinely happy to be there. While C4 may be a smaller show, I think it works better that way. Less crowded and you can actually have time to talk to the people you want to talk to, rather than being rushed through a line. Every year there are plenty of great artists and writers that show up- many of whom I am honored to call friends. The show runners are wonderful people that are on the floor, making sure everyone has what they need. C4 is always a great time, and I do hope you'll come join us this year as they celebrate their ten year anniversary.
One of the greatest things this show does started just last year- The Gary Reed Award. For those of you who don't know who Gary Reed is- he paved the way for many independent comics. He is the reason several creators are out there- working their tails off to keep the dream alive. He founded Caliber Comics in 1989. Caliber Comics published over 1300 comics throughout its years some of which included: Mechanoid Invasion, Deadworld, The imprint Gauntlet which carried Berzerker and U.N. Force, Negative Burn, and more. Gary set fire to the world of independent comics. He took a chance on people he believed in and helped to develop writers and artists from all walks of life. He knew how to bring out the best in people. He could coach anyone- including me. He had me write a spread about Deadworld and its spin-off soda for a magazine. There was nothing this man couldn't do. I swear he was a superhero to many of us... Several people have shown an outpouring of love and respect for this man- and being he is from Michigan, we all share a special place in out hearts for Gary. He wasn't just a friend and mentor- he was family. When C4 announced they would be doing an award in his honor, I thought it was a beautiful thing. This award is given to a person that has been nominated by their peers- someone who embodies the spirit and nature of Gary Reed, and that is someone who consistently strives to improve upon their own work, while giving back to the community of creators. It is a high honor to be considered for this award, and the first winner of it was someone I believe truly earned it- and that is Seth Damoose.
Seth has grown significantly in his career- I've had the pleasure of witnessing many great works from him over the last few years, and I have to say- this many always has his nose to the grindstone. Through all of his accomplishments he has remained humble, and incredibly kind to anyone he comes in contact with. When Gary passed, Seth and he were working on a series titled Savants. Instead of letting it go to the wayside, Seth picked it up and has continued working on it. In this industry, there are two rules- work hard and be nice. Those two things will get you exactly where you want to be. I think for those reasons, there isn't a better person to have earned this award on its inaugural year. I reached out to Seth about what it was like for him accepting this award and this is what he had to say:
Accepting the award was in one word, humbling. Gary was someone whom I looked up to greatly and admired. He and I had a relationship that started in passing at conventions, but it was through the convention scene that we became closer. Many hours of conversations, including advice about not only comic books and their creation, but how to be a good person, husband, father, and friend. We would spend time discussing the theories of storytelling, and how it was done "in his day", as well as what could be done to move the medium in the right direction for the future. Gary was extremely supportive of everyone that I saw he interacted with. Encouraging others to push themselves to not only get the best out of themselves, but EVERYONE around them. Gary's goal was not just to make the market a better place, but the environment around him/it.
Being even nominated for the award was for me truly an honor. I have always strived to better myself and my work in my craft. The lessons I learned from Gary have helped me do just that. It is a process that never ends, but Gary made sure to help keep us all on the right track. The company with which I shared the nomination were not only peers, but friends as well. I've been extremely lucky to be in a place with all of the amazingly talented creators around me. If I am indeed good at what I do, it's because of the support and encouragement of those around me. I would not be able to reach the heights I've reached without help, and I am amazed every time to turn around and see everyone's smiling faces looking back at me. Knowing that life and comics are a continual work in progress, I remind myself constantly that we can always get better, and do more. We are all only as strong individually as we are together. Just to mentioned in the same breath as the other nominees was more than enough for me! Winning the award was truly a shock! I would have never in my wildest dreams thought that what I did in the comic medium and world would garner any sort of recognition, let alone being honored above those I look up to. My goal is simply to tell the best stories I can and help those around me do the same. This is a team game, life, and it's always going to be more fun if everyone can play along. After the initial shock of actually winning an award passed, I tasked myself to pay the honor and privilege forward to as many individuals as I humbly could. If we all elevate ourselves and our "game", the world will have no choice but to be a better place. It costs us absolutely nothing to be nice, to support those around us. Lifting others and seeing them succeed is the greatest success I think we can achieve.
Year ten promises to be an amazing show! There is some great talent showing up as media guests including: Jim Steranko (Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, Strange Tales), Brian O'Halloran (Clerks), and Billy West (Futurama, Ren & Stimpy).
Featured comic guests include: Gene Ha (Top 10: The Forty-Niners, Global Frequency), Mike Grell (Superboy, The Warlord), Tony Isabella (Black Lightning, co-creator Misty Knight), Angel Medina (Berzerker, Megaton), William Messner-Loebs (Flash, Wonder Woman), and finally Jill Thompson (Wonder Woman, Scary Godmother).
Artist alley has all of your favorites too! Folks like Dirk Manning, Dan Dougherty, Seth Damoose, Source Point Press Publishing, Corrinne Roberts, Emily Zelasko, DJ Corchin, Jay Fosgitt, Ryan Lee, Bruch Gerlach, Victor Dandridge Jr, Tony Miello, and many more! For the complete list go here.
Tickets are dirt cheap. You can do a full weekend for $25 OR you can do separate days: Friday night preview is $5, Saturday only is $15, Sunday only is $10. Kids 10 and under are free- tickets are available at the show at no additional charge, but may also be purchased online here. It is held at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, 100 Grand Traverse Village Blvd. Acme, MI
I spoke with a few people that have either been guests of the show or have attended to hear what they had to say about their C4 experiences:
"C4 is where I take my home family to meet my con family. Michael, Rob, Pat and Co. go out of their way to create a fun and friendly environment that assembles a lot of my favorite people in one room, and my annual bear hug and back rub from Jason Plowman ain't half bad either!" - Dan Dougherty (Touching Evil, Beardo Comics)
"Everyone will talk about the location, but it can't be overstated. I can't think of another con sequestered away in such a beautiful area, and at the perfect time of year. The surroundings only amp up the amazing vibe of the show, which is so 'family'. Not that it's just a great show FOR family, but the fans and everyone who puts the show on ARE a family. Coming back to the show each year is not only a success for me every time, but it's the best family reunion I've experienced since I was little." - Jay Fosgitt (Bodie Troll, Marvel Comics)
"Cherry Capital Comic Con in Traverse City, Michigan has been one of the best kept secrets of the Midwest Convention circuit for years due to a number of reasons. It's always maintained a very creator-centric focus, the attendees are there to support the artists and vendors, the staff treats everyone -- and I mean EVERYONE -- there like family, and it's at a freakin' resort on a holiday weekend. Considering all of this, it should come as no shock to anyone that they're now celebrating not only their 10th anniversary, but that they've been growing stronger and stronger at an exponential rate these last few years. C4 in Traverse City, Michigan is the type of show every dreams about, and now the word is finally getting out far and wide that it does... and it's fabulous." - Dirk Manning (Nightmare World, The Tales of Mr. Rhee)
"I love that C4 is family friendly, affordable, and keeps it's focus on the comic creators." - Teresa Mork (Artist, Attendee)
"C4 doesn't fit the traditional comic con stereotype. Sure, it has all the things you;d expect at a con- comics, toys, collectibles, comic creators, cosplay, panels, and even a few media guests. And while it certainly isn't one of the biggest cons out there, it definitely has one of the biggest- if not the biggest- hearts when it comes to cons. The people behind C4 have such a love for comics, the people that create them, and the fans that adore them, that it's hard not to see and feel that emotion when you set foot on the con floor. Call it your nerd weekend, or vacation-con, or summer camp for grownups. No matter what you call it, Cherry Capital Comic COn is a weekend filled with family, friends, fun, and above all else- heart." - Derek Becker (Comics Pros & Cons Podcast)
I interviewed three of the show runners, Rob Humphrey (Punching the Clock, Unlawful Good), Pat Kawula (Digital Nerdage Podcast), and Michael Ackerly (Top Comics in Traverse City) about C4.
Who are your staff members and/or have helped you?
RH: We have a dedicated year-round staff of 10 people, all of whom started as volunteers with us years ago. Some have been on since year one, others joined along the way. In addition to Mike and myself, we have Pat on Media; Jason, our Graphic Designer; Sarah, our Game Room Coordinator; Corey, our Volunteer Coordinator; Salina and Amanda, who handle our merch booth and serve as a central hub for volunteers throughout the weekend; Richard, who handles Catering and Transportation; and Noah, our Floor General/Jack-of-All Trades. We also have a fantastic group of repeat volunteers each year- we seriously could not pull it off without them!
MA: My Mom, where do I start. My confidant, my shoulder, my strength, she is my pillar. Her passion to help C4 succeed is unparalleled. She is what keeps me going everyday. My partner in life Leigh is a jack-of-all-trades. She is always available to get in the trenches and help wherever needed. I can't wait to marry her this year :) John Cancilla is our handy man. He fixes all the manly stuff we can't fix. He stays calm and handles lots of problems. Doug Mead, my Top Comics Partner, makes me available the entire weekend at C4. I couldn't be there without him. My Aunt Cheryl and cousin Renae round out my family tree that help C4 happen.
You have built this convention from the ground up. What have been some of the key things in making it successful?
RH: We thrive in the space we're in because of two basic principles: We will never attempt to be something we are not, and people come first. It is all about the experience. We are not a huge show, nor do we want to be. We pride ourselves on bringing in a small, quality selection of industry guests, a well-balanced and talent-filled Artist Alley, a diverse selection of retailers, and a selection of interactive panels, costume contests, gaming, and after-hours to really have something fun for everyone. We are a comics-centric show, with an intimate atmosphere, who just happens to book some very high caliber guests. If we bring in a media guest, we try to make sure they will connect well with our crowd and have some comic-crossover appeal. We want fans to meet their heroes, while discovering their new favorite creator all in the same room. And behind the table? We joke quite a bit that once you've done our show, you're part of the family, and every year is like a family reunion. One of our favorite things to do over the convention weekend is to do a big, family-style dinner with many of our returning exhibitors.
MA: C4 has never been about profit. We keep it affordable for exhibitors, artist, and families. Everyone makes C4 what it is today. Every year we will strive to keep our mission going strong. We treat everyone like family. It's that simple; we thrive on that principle. People come back because they are comfortable and feel welcome. Our show is small so guests are able to really meet the creators and get to know them on a more personal level than other shows.
Will there be cosplay contests?
RH: Absolutely! The Adult Costume Contest happens right after the show floor closes on Saturday, and the kiddos get their very own contest Sunday morning, an hour before the show opens. At the end of the kids costume contest, members of the 501st Legion form a parade with the kids through the show floor to officially open the con for the day. We named Sunday's event the Matthew Litchfield Kids Costume Contest after our biggest little fan, Matthew, who frequented the show to be with people who loved the same things he did- specifically Star Wars and Superheroes- prior to losing his battle with brain cancer.
How does C4 support local business and indie creators?
MA: C4 was created to get artists and writers in one location. As a comic shop owner I was approached many times to provide that opportunity. C4 was first and always will be about the creators. Everything else you've seen has grown into what the community has asked for, a full blown pop culture convention.
How are you celebrating your ten year anniversary? What will be different about the show?
MA: We are going for broke, like literally broke. We have extended our budget to create a celebration of C4 that we hope everyone can appreciate. This show has never been about money. We believe in the comic community and the support that they will give us in year ten.
What is most important to you about this show?
MA: I want everyone to know about C4. There have been too many people working day and night. I don't want the to hear "What is C4?". My goal is to change that, pure and simple.
Does C4 contribute to any charities?
PK: We had started the drink and draw event 2 years ago to create original items to include in our charity auction. After the passing of our friend Steve Dillon we renamed the drink and draw event in his honor and now donate the proceeds from the auction of the art created at the Steve Dillon Drink n Draw to the Hero Initiative (a charity Steve supported as often as he could). A charity focused on support members of the comics creators community. As most are independent contractors, insurance can be cost prohibitive. The Hero Initiative works to help creators in medical or financial crisis where possible.
In addition to the silent auction, we also work with our friends in the 501st Legion/Rebel Legion to raise funds from the sale of a patch that is officially licensed by LucasFilm and exclusive to C4. Funds raised from games played at the Blaster Range are also donated to the charity. For the first time this year the Great Lakes and Northern Michigan Ghostbusters Coalition will be working to raise funds for our charity too!
We try to keep our focus on family with our charity choice each year and mostly choose charities focused on helping children. This year we have selected the Traverse Bay Children's Advocacy Center as our charity partner. The Traverse Bay Children's Advocacy Center (TBCAC) is a safe haven for children and families suffering from the trauma of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and witness to violence.
If media outlets want to apply for press coverage, how can they do that and when is the deadline?
PK: The link to the Media credential application can be found here. The initial deadline has passed but we will still review applications up to May 21st. Additionally, just applying for a credential will get you on our mailing list for press releases and you will be alerted when applications open next year as well.
If people want to volunteer for the show, how can they do that?
PK: Our website is always the best place for information. Our volunteers are such a huge part of our show and one of the things we get the most compliments about. You can find a link to our Volunteer signup here.
Where can we follow C4 on social media?
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/cherrycapitalcon
Twitter - https://twitter.com/traversecitysc4
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/traverse_city_c4/
Again- the show is THIS weekend! May 25-27 and is held at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, 100 Grand Traverse Village Blvd. Acme, MI - See you there!