We're still livin'. Livin' in the eighties! We still fight! Fight in the eighties!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Captain Aardvark Rocks the Convention! Drive, Magic T-Bird, Drive!

Dallas Fantasy Fair, 1984

Back in cave man days, before the dawn of civilized anime conventions, we had to pretty much make do with whatever was in the immediate area.  In the early '80s, in Texas, that meant comic book conventions or science fiction conventions. SF Cons were still fairly strong in Texas, with NASFIC (the American convention held in place of WorldCon when the latter is held somewhere, well, not in the US) held in Austin in 1985, and AggieCon at Texas A&M and a few others scattered here and there around the Lone Star State. At the SF cons I went to (admittedly, not all that many) during that period, they'd have video rooms and, every once in a while, even let us show this anime stuff in raw Japanese.  But, for the most part, the comic book conventions was where the real action was at.

And, in Texas, during the '80s, Larry Lankford's Bulldog Productions ruled the comic book convention  biz in the state.  For a number of years, they'd run two cons per year in Dallas and rotate conventions through Houston, San Antonio and Austin as, I suppose, the money became available.

As I've mentioned a few time in previous posts, I'd become addicted to conventions before I moved from Houston to San Antonio, in '80 and so long as I could managed to scrape up the cash (and a ride), I hit as many of them as humanly possible.  The first "LarryCon" - which is what almost everyone I know called 'em - I can remember attending was a Dallas Fantasy Fair in 1984, though I'd attended a few other comic cons in Houston and San Antonio before then. The San Antonio "cons" were especially weak, most of them being glorified excuses for the local comic shops to set up booths in the middle of malls with no other programming to speak of. 

My running buddy back then was Mike Cogliandro, a fellow comic book nut and aspiring artist.  We met at the only comic book shop in our area of town and after shooting the bull for a few weeks found out we lived - get this - five blocks from each other.  Talk about kismet, eh? Anyway, Mike had a car and a job, so I  mooched off hung around with him through most of the '80s and some of that time was spent driving to and from comic book conventions.  Mainly in Houston, 'cause I still had relatives there who would let us set up shop for a few nights,  but occassionally in Dallas because of Mike's association with local San Antonio comic book pro Sam De La Rosa.  Sam worked closely with Kerry Gammill (who lived in Dallas) and Mike helped Sam out by doing background work on some of his books. This meant carting Sam up to Dallas every once in a while (Sam didn't drive) and I usually hitched a ride because I was pretty much a bum. 

Kerry and Sam.  You really don't see this kind of detail in American comics much anymore.  Mainly  'cause it took FOREVER.

Anyway, Kerry was going to be a guest at one of Larry's cons in '84 and Mike, Sam and I piled into Mike's white T-Bird and headed for Big D.  I'd been over to Ben Dunn's house a few times and had been intrigued by some of the contemporary anime I'd seen, so when I came across the EDC's anime video room at the con, I picked up a copy of probably the same flyer that Dave Merrill did and flopped down at the back of the room to watch the stuff.  Manning the room was Jeff Blend, who may just be the hardest-working anime fan that no one outside of Dallas remembers.  Seriously, I've been in many a video room and run more than my share of them, but Jeff Blend just totally rocked. 

I don't recall a whole lot more about that particular con, but I joined the EDC and swapped information with Jeff and promised Derek and Meri that I'd make more trips up their way and try my best to drag Ben up for some tape-swapping sessions and maybe even a few EDC meetings.  My interest in American comics hadn't quite died yet, but it was definitely narrowing, and I found myself in an extremely rare position back then - I actually had money to spend and couldn't find a whole lot to spend it on.  I was a collector of original  art, but there weren't a whole lot of artists I particularly admired doing sketches.  Then I spotted Dave Sim sitting off by himself looking extremely bored and, for some reason thinking that he had a reputation as being a bit of a grouch back then, I got a particularly evil thought.  I headed to the dealer's room to track down some cheap reference material, 'cause I hadn't thought to bring mine...

Okay, every Harlock fan worth his salt had at LEAST one of these back in '84.

And, cackling like a maniac, I head back over to artist's alley to see if Sim's gotten any richer in the fifteen minutes since I'd left him...

Evidently not.

 I almost asked him if this was the strangest request he'd gotten, but I'd heard bizarre stories about Cerebus fandom, so I thought better of it. Mostly, I was thinking that he really, REALLY must've needed the fifteen or twenty bucks. I heard he gave up doing con sketches a few years later. Dumbasses like me are probably the reason.

I really miss those stupid comic book fandom days.

Mike C. has his own website up now, though he doesn't do a whole lot of comic book work anymore. Mostly he hangs around the Austin film/arts/music community doing work as an extra on assorted films and TV series like Friday Night Lights, and goofing with musical type people.  Check out his sketchbook for fun stuff like Sandra Bullock's shaky butt and William Shatner's "Zone of Respect."

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