CONVENTION REPORT: HeroesCon 2016 (Charlotte, NC)

When you talk about big, prestigous conventions around the United States, you simply cannot have that conversation without mentioning HeroesCon. All the way back in 1982, Shelton Drum, owner of Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find (better known locally as ‘Heroes Comics’) launched the very first HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina. More than three decades later, Nerd Nation Magazine was in attendance for their 2016 offering.

HeroesConBanner

HeroesCon 2016 kicked off exactly as it does every single year; a June weekend at the very large, and very luxurious Charlotte Convention Center in downtown Charlotte., with a virtual who’s who among comic book professionals. All the big comic book companies were represented, more big name comic book guests than I will even begin to try and list (seriously, just go their website and see for yourself), nearly every major comic book store in the southeast and beyond, all the regional fan groups, big name cosplayers, and of course any and every regional media outlet from television to radio to web. Everyone was in the house for this one.

But is sheer size and a big, stacked guest list ALL it takes to make a great convention? Read on to find out (and be warned, dear readers, absolutely ZERO punches are pulled in this one!)

As the old saying goes, “nothing draws a crowd like a crowd,” and quite frankly, this is absolutely the case for HeroesCon. And make no mistake, it is crowded! As huge as the Charlotte Convention Center is, HeroesCon absolutely packs it wall to wall. There were times when I found myself unable to move more than a few steps at a time and more than a little claustrophobic from the thousands upon thousands… upon even more thousands in attendance. Simply trying to take an arial photo of the convention floor from a window upstairs didn’t really do it justice, as I just couldn’t manage to capture it all in one shot. If you’ve ever been, you know exactly what I mean, and if you haven’t, it’s worth going just to see… you know, if crowds are your thing. The convention center floor is a seemingly endless sea of commerce, made up almost entirely of vendor/artist tables, and well, not much else.

HC1

one tiny corner of HeroesCon 2016 – the lanes go all the way back to 100 and over past 2000.

And THAT is the problem here. There is basically nothing to actually DO here beyond shop!

If you’re a loyalist, right about now I’m sure you’re seething that I’d dare cross the line and say what I just did, and you’re of course welcome to cyber-bash me to oblivion if it makes you feel better, but you have to know I’m right… right?  Sure, they’ve got a small stage erected in the very back of place for the costume contest, and one small area set aside for a few Q&As and workshops, but that’s it. One two-hour walk through the crowded vendor floor, a glance over at the costume contest, and I was done. I chatted with all of my friends and associates that I ran into, and the entire time I just couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly why I just wasn’t enjoying this one… until it finally hit me what I – and everyone else there – was actually doing.

We were literally paying money JUST to stand in lines and pay more money! That’s it!! 

There are hardly any panels, and the few I heard about didn’t sound worth going to. There were no films screening, no serious gaming going on, no entertainment whatsoever, and no nightlife of any kind. I get that it’s a “pure comic convention” and all, but surely a multi-million-dollar business such as this can provide something more than a giant vendor room. I understand that it is all about making money in business, I totally do, but I just can’t shake the ripped-off feeling that surely more people than just myself (and the 20 or so friends that agreed with me) must have also felt. And just in case you’re one of the angry ones reading this, yes, I always support the vendors at any con I attend. I’m just saying that any good con needs to have much more than shopping for it to be worth the price of admission, and HeroesCon just doesn’t.

When I spoke with several people attending the con about this, almost all of them agreed with my complaints, yet nearly all of them also mentioned that they only really go because all of their friends do, and they get to see a lot of people there every year. While I totally understand the concept, to me it just seems a bit ridiculous, and reeks of the same sentiments of an abusive relationship… you know, the whole “he can change” excuse-making, and all that. Or, if you prefer that I rephrase this (and I know I probably should), it’s a lot like people who keep watching a television show after they stop enjoying it because “they’ve been watching it this long, may as well stick with it.” Maybe I’m just getting jaded, or maybe I’m just spoiled on so many good, enjoyable conventions that I attend every year, but I digress.

Truth be told, HeroesCon isn’t so much an actual “convention” as it is a giant “expo” or “trade show” – if you want a real, actual convention in Charlotte, I’d suggest sticking with ConCarolinas or Mad Monster Party.

But that’s not my ONLY problem with HeroesCon! I actually have one other BIG one!
THEY DON’T SUPPORT THE LOCAL NERD COMMUNITY AT ALL! 

Yes, I said it. Because someone needed to. The nerd community, and by proxy the convention community comes together and supports one another. All area conventions work together, cross-promote, help one another, share their contacts, you name it, EXCEPT HeroesCon. The simple fact is, this isn’t a part of the fandom community, it’s just another big box corporate business that’s only out for themselves, snub anyone they deem “competition,” and basically act as the 1%ers of area fandom. In this regard, they’re no different than Wizard World or any of the other “chain” cons out there. They don’t have a community, they have customers. That’s their perogotive, of course, but it’s just not something I like to see, especially when all other conventions in the Carolinas (almost all of which I work with every year as a guest) ARE working together and supporting one another. But again, maybe it’s just me… and of course all of this is ONLY MY OPINION.

The Bottom Line:
Overall, HeroesCon 2016 was fantastic for what it was. Unfortunately, it was little more than a giant vendor room where again, attendees are paying money to pay more money, with nothing else to actually do. If great shopping and meeting comic book professionals is what you’re after, HeroesCon is about as good as it gets anywhere. But if you’re like me and you want more fun stuff to do, quality entertainment, and a far less Walmart-esque atmosphere, I’d recommend staying away from this one. There are plenty of other, far superior cons in the Charlotte area, and while HeroesCon is absolutely the biggest, it’s most definitely not the best, if you ask me. Again, just my opinion here, but until I see some changes to make this one a bit more worthwhile, I will most likely not be back.

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-Dave Harlequin
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine
@DaveHarlequin

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Note: the views and opinions expressed by Mr. Harlequin are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Nerd Nation Entertainment, Nerd Nation Magazine, our sponsors, or anyone else for that matter. This is an opinion piece and is meant for entertainment purposes only. So please, don’t be a d-bag and try to sue anyone over the stuff he writes. Don’t like it? Feel free to sound off in the comments section, or better yet, just go read something else… preferably right here at Nerd Nation! 

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24 thoughts on “CONVENTION REPORT: HeroesCon 2016 (Charlotte, NC)

  1. Fully agree with this. I went with my gf because I’d never gone to this one and she had been a few times We walked the whole floor, and the whole time I wondered why it felt like I was just at a large comic book store. At one point I saw the section of tables in the middle and fully expected there to be people gaming at said tables, but I don’t recall a single group of people so much as playing yu-gi-oh, which I thought was odd. We went when the place wasn’t too packed but another thing that I was surprised by was the lack of costuming. I’ve been to conventions. I know that not everyone dresses up. But less than a quarter of the people I saw there were in anything remotely like a cosplay. Probably our only memorable experiences was the surprise companion cube box we got a few cool things out of, and a chat with someone at the SCAD University table about how she was going there for school in the fall and got some ideas about what she should major in.
    -Greg Crasnow

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for saying it how it is! If I don’t have room to move and something geeky to do that isn’t throwing money at a vendor, I don’t really enjoy myself. Sounds like they didn’t even have a game room. That’s sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Man. I remember HeroesCon being loaded with screenings of films, up and coming shows, animated series. Games of all sorts from cards to good ole tabletop rpg.There were concerts held later in the evenings. It would seem there would be more to offer fans these days. This is sad sad news indeed. This is not the HeroesCon I remember.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank God someone finally said it! All of the local Charlotte press just heap blind praise on this /CON/ and basically ignore all the other good ones around here. It’s total BS and is probably because they’re paying for the good press. Im glad to see someones telling it like it is!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember going for the first time a few years ago when Stan Lee was there. I bought a three day pass, took a day off work, and brought a bunch of comics to get signed by creators I really wanted to meet. I pretty much had all of that done on Friday, and stood around on day two in line to get my picture with Stan Lee and then waited to get that said picture printed out. It was a great experience because I got to meet a ton of my comic book heroes, but I was heading home by noon on the second day. Even my friend I went with who is big into toy collecting just dropped me off on the second day so I get my pic with Mr Lee and he went to Wal-Mart and Toys R Us instead of bothering to go back in the con.
    I clearly remember commenting that if I ever went back, it wouldn’t be to go to the con, but to bar hop around the convention in the evening and buy drinks for all the artists and writers in hopes of having conversations creators I admire.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. FYI…There were 76 panels along with a Display contest, a daily QuickDraw contest. The panels included Marvel, Deadpool,the entire Spider Gwen team. Steranko, Mike Grell, Neal Adams, Basil Gogois(!) The entire Milkfed crew, 3 panels with Ba and Moon, 7 art demos inclkuding one by Jason Latour and one by Ben Caldwell, there was a scavenger hunt foir the kids, 5 ‘academia’ panels as well as LGBTQ culture in comics.
    Friday had a drink and draw four charity. We watched Ba and Moon draw 2 gorgeous pen and inkjs. There was an amazing Art Auction Saturday night. Attendees were welcome to watch the artist create the art pieces.
    SCAD offerered 5 free seminars. The inkwell awards ceremony occurred Friday night
    Heroescon is a Comics show designed four Families and fans who love the art.
    If movie and TV tie ins are what you expect, you were most likely disappointed. But saying there was nothing there but vendors is wrong. You missed a lot.

    Liked by 2 people

    • LOL! Obvious Heroes employee is obvious! Notice how he only harps on the panels you “missed” and doesn’t say a thing about how there was nothing fun to do, no entertainment, no parties, and nothing outside of art stuff going on anywhere, nor says anything about how Heroes shuns and ignores literally everyone else in the community. It’s the exact same thing with SC Comicon where I live in Greenville, SC.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This show was by far the biggest that Heroes has put on, and each year the test and try new things. Everyone is going to have a different experience, depending on what they go to the show for. This year they added half of Hall C, and it remained fairly open and free of crowds for most of the convention (except for the cosplay photo shoot on Saturday and the costume contest on Sunday), and a lot of people came to me to express how much they liked having a space to get away from the crowds. This is one of maybe 3 shows left in the country that is focused primarily on comics and artists, and they cater to lovers of the art, with a live art stage, the drink and draw event, and the art auction. (Are the artists selling their prints, books and sketches? Yup – they need to make money too!) If you come looking for a multi-genre show like DragonCon, NYCC or SDCC, you’re going to be disappointed – that’s not his bag. Shelton has always said that he knows comics, and that’s what he sticks to as much as possible, and I think he’s held true to that vision. The panels and big events all cycle around that.

    As for supporting local fandoms, I agree there’s more room for that in the future (and I’ve been noodling some ideas down), but there was representation from local organizations like the 501st Carolina Garrison, Charlotte’s Abari, and Word of the Nerd. My Friday panel on Cosplay and Charity included local speakers from the Carolina Action Figures, and our prizes in the costume contest were donated by local businesses. Not to mention the local artists that you could find throughout the floor, and the ones with Charlotte connections to grow into established veterans (like Matt Fraction and Jason Latour)

    I often get asked about what else there is to do at night (if the art thing isn’t your bag), and because of the CCC’s location, there are a lot of nearby options in Uptown that I’ll recommend. I agree they could offer one or two more HeroesCon related events in the evening, but I just don’t think they’ve had someone volunteer to organize it, or look into availability of additional space at the host hotels (sometimes smaller spaces are booked out several years in advance).

    As the show grows (and anyone who attended even 5 years ago can attest to how massive it’s become, much like DragonCon) and there will be associated growing pains. But I admire Shelton and the entire hardworking crew of HeroesCon volunteers for standing by their original tenets of being a comics show, first and foremost. As I said, everyone is going to have a different experience. I hate that I missed panels that I thought were interesting, that I didn’t see as many of the costumes in person that I’m seeing in hashtags, or spend enough time with friends that came in from out of town and had a blast seeing each other. But there’s always next year!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Who are you? what have you done? from what i have seen about you online all you do is go around bashing smaller cons and bigger cons! because they where not your cup of tea! Who made you a convention God? Have you ever tried to hold your own convention? do you know anything about them or how hard it is to put a convention on? I think Heroescon was awesome and they do a great job! Conventions are about getting together with friends and buying items from dealers from all over the U.S. that you might not normally get the chance to do, I have been going to Conventions since the early 90’s i don’t care anything about Cosplay or contest, I think you are a big mouth know it all that really doesn’t know s**t about conventions, You have this digital magazine here to voice your option on things you have no clue about,You like to try and make yourself edgy and cool by bashing convention and saying things you think other people don’t have the balls to say to get more readers to your crap rag! How about you Put on a con and lets swing the judgemental pinglun your way and see how you feel when some jackass talks s**t about all your hard work!

    yea my con sucked and had a lot of issues like the roof caving in on the vendors and the location being somewhere out in the sticks/swamps of georgia instead of the actual city i advertised it in, and I’m still mad about that being called out in your review, but my opinion still matters and im gonna do whatever i can to try and get back at this guy who gave my con a bad review a few years ago because im an adult!

    BY THE WAY – THE REVIEW I’M STILL SO MAD ABOUT CAN BE FOUND RIGHT HERE:
    http://www.cinemaslasher.com/gonzo-report-retro-mega-comic-con-2015/

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  9. Hey brother, I have to both agree and disagree with you on this one. Heroes Con was exactly what it has always been, which is a comic book con. These cons are always what I call “trade show cons” or “exhibit hall cons” where the main thrust is the vendor room. SDCC and NYCC and the Wizard World shows are all the same thing, as are Charlotte Comicon, SC Comicon, and I assume several others that I’ll be attending later this year. These are vendor cons, and most folks understand going in that there will be limited panel offerings, and most of the show will be about buying comics, comic- or geek-related merch, meeting creators and getting sketches or autographs, and buying stuff.

    You’re 100% right – these cons are nothing like ConCarolinas or ConGregate (July 15-17 in High Point) or even DragonCon, which are more program-centric conventions. But there’s another difference, too. Those are fan-run, typically non-profit entities putting on a fan party and inviting the world. These comic cons are offshoots of a commercial entity, designed to make money.

    The third style of con, which is a little of a blend of these, is the “Celebrity Con” like Mad Monster, or Fandom Fest, or Walker Stalker, where people go mainly to meet people who have been in movies or on TV shows that they are fans of. Those cons generally have more panels, but a heavier media presence, and are usually run by a for-profit entity. You’re brutally familiar with those as well.

    So it’s not that Heroes isn’t a good con, it’s just that it’s a different type, with a different focus. For what it is, it’s one of the best in the country. For what you were looking for, it was not that at all. And that’s a bummer, and it’s important that you let people know that it’s not a ConCarolinas-style con, or a Mad Monster-style con. Just my opinion, and I’ll see you at the next one!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I was a vendor for this show. I was there last year for the first time, and had a bunch more stuff this show. From the Vendor’s perspective I would also agree. I did a little less than last year and the consensus from the other vendors I spoke with was the same or worse. I couldn’t figure out why it was slow since attendance was so high. I know there is a lot of competition, and it can be overwhelming to walk the floor, but there were a lot of gaps and slow periods for a big show like this. Sure I was irritated by the announcements that blasted so loud and rambled on so I couldn’t speak to people at my booth, maybe it was just me though.

    As for events, the drink and draw was at a bad location, I know that it wasn’t meant to be there since a wedding changed it. But I have to say, as an artist that paid a premium price for a table that they wanted me to pay for coasters or paper and then sell my work. I’ve never heard of that before, and it kind of set poorly with me. I know it’s for charity, and I know other non artists play around and draw, but I mean there could be free materials for people with tables.

    So yes I enjoy talking to my fellow artists. that was cool. I also had a table at both ConCarolinas and Mad Monster Party. They each had flaws this year, nothing to bad mouth, but things that could be fixed. ConCarolinas had some bad communication. For instance as a vendor I wasn’t sure what the hours were, and apparently the vendor room was free to the public, that would have boosted attendance for that room. As for Mad Monster, that was a blast. the only downside was the last day was Easter Sunday, and well, traffic was (understandably)light.

    I hear that Denver sapped away some of the talent for this year’s Heroes, not to mention the HB2 thing. I think having events is great and maybe they’ll take some of these things to heart. I don’t think your gripes are wrong, nor do I think less of you to write about it. As a vendor, I want the audience to want to come and the show to be a success for everyone. so hopefully next year will rock.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. You seem to rather aggressively miss the point of Heroes Con. It is a COMIC BOOK convention, in the purest sense of the phrase. Emphasis is kept strictly on comics, the art of comics, and the creators who make them. Yes, in years past, the show HAS screened films and had gaming areas, but as conventions have become more commonplace, as the culture has come into the mainstream, gone “overground” as it were, there are precious few events that have had the dedication to comics that Heroes Con has. It fills a very specific niche, and has evolved to stay that way. I brought a friend out from St. Louis a few years ago, and he was awestruck when we entered the hall. He is a frequent attendee at a lot of different cons, so I was taken aback at his enthusiasm. Heroes Con is the only show I’ve ever attended, so I wasn’t privy to the differences. And I learned from him that the difference is the strict focus on comics.

    At most other shows, comic book professionals are treated pretty poorly. Their presence is token, and they are sidelined, ghettoized, and generally underappreciated. That’s why Heroes Con boasts such an enviable guest list every year. Professionals love coming to the show because they get treated like stars. THEY are the focus, not television and movie promotion, not media personalities, not video game demos. Creators don’t have to compete with all that sound and fury, so they rather enjoy their experience here (a lot of the regular guests have taken to referring to Heroes Con as “comic book summer camp).

    Don’t let the size fool you: Heroes is not a conglomerate. It may be a huge convention, but it IS locally owned and operated, by a very dedicated, very small and hardworking staff, and a cast of wonderful and generous volunteers. It is NOTHING like Wizard World (as my friend from St. louis will attest); ask any pro that’s been to a Wizard show that was at Heroes Con and they can vouch for that, too. When it comes to telling a David and Goliath story, nobody wants to be Goliath, and I get that, but this “review” is not the truth-telling crusade that it would imply. It sounds like you went for a couple hours, looked for an experience that would match the tone of your article, and that was that.

    I work for the show and the store, so I will admit an inherent bias, and I will cop to a bit of defensiveness. But that’s only because it was obvious to me before I WAS an employee that Heroes Con is specifically, by design, a celebration of comic books. “Nerd culture” has been homogenized, turned into a melting pot of a bunch of different subcultures. It IS a very rich and diverse community, but that doesn’t mean every show has to cater to every taste. If anything, there should be MORE shows with specialized focus. That’s what makes Mad Monster Party so special, for example: it fits a niche. I would never show up at MMP and complain that I couldn’t find enough Silver Age Superman comics. In a day and age when people are so entitled as to expect everything under one roof, I have immense respect for ANY organizer that has the passion and dedication to say no to things that don’t fit their vision. That’s a rarity nowadays, and THAT’S what makes Heroes Con special and praiseworthy. It really is a singular and pleasant experience, provided that’s what you’re looking for.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. So this was my second year at Heroes Con, as an attendee and cosplayer. I’m not going to scream at you for having an opinion, but I have to disagree (for the most part).

    My other big con that I have for comparison is Dragon Con. Compared to DC, Heroes Con isn’t crowded at all, it’s like wide open spaces compared to trying to navigate the Marriott in Atlanta.

    I will give you that DC has a bigger nightlife, but that’s like compared chocolate and vanilla ice cream, different flavors, both delicious. But I enjoyed the kick off party, the drink and draw, the walk with Kelly, the art auction. I didn’t even make it to some of the other events like the Brimp Up, I was so exhausted from everything else.

    Especially this year, I couldn’t find enough time to do everything. There were panels that I missed going to because I was so caught up in talking to guests or other attendees, watching the live art drawing, or you know, playing the free arcade that was new this year, and very awesome. There was never a time where I had nothing to do. So that’s a big point that I have to disagree with you on.

    The thing is, you seem to want Heroes Con to be like every other con. Except the reason that so many people like it is because it is different, it’s a true comics con. It’s about the people who make comics, and the people who enjoy comics. If I want a gaming experience, I’ll go to Gen Con, if I want a media/entertainment experience, I’ll go to a con that has lots of media guests, etc… If I want comics, I’ll go to Heroes Con. I never felt like it was just a big business, it felt like one big welcoming environment full of people that loved the same things I did.

    Basically, you’re eating an orange and complaining it’s not an apple. If you don’t like it, then switch to apples, but myself (and everybody I met this weekend) seem to like what we’ve got on our plate when it comes to Heroes Con.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve often said the same thing. HeroesCon is great for what it is and it certainly has been an asset for the comic book industry, especially if your main interest is silver age, bronze age, and golden age comic books. I just feel that HeroesCon has missed the opportunity to grow into something bigger. The lack of panels, gaming, and other events within the convention prevents it from growing. I get the feeling that’s by design, though. I remember how bummed I was when Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find stopped supporting gaming.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for the review. I was debating what convention to go to this year (2017) and had always heard about this one. I won a paid trip to the LA anime expo last year and am now spoiled by all it had to offer. It now makes it harder to decide which smaller conventions to go to. I won’t be going to this one.

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