Few national-level comics conventions have the kind of reputation and acclaim that Heroes Convention does. With a comics-first attitude, a family-friendly atmosphere, and one of the most impressive guest lists in comics, HeroesCon has become the biggest "little" comics show in the country. But not by accident: what makes our convention great is our strong foundation in comics, a long dedication to the highest-possible level of quality, and an independent approach that lets us stand out from the pack in the minds of fans, creators, and exhibitors alike.
In the early 1980's, HeroesCon founder Shelton Drum, still in his tender twenties, was running the Charlotte Mini-Con, a one-day show taking place in a local mall. Shelton had only two years earlier opened Heroes Aren't Hard To Find, and the mini-con was a chance to provide area comics fans with exposure to local comics industry professionals, as well as other area dealers--which at that time mainly consisted of individual comics fans selling portions of their own collections.
But by June of 1982, the Charlotte Mini-Con had grown to a size that dictated more official expansion, and the fans were clamoring for more national guests. And so Heroes Convention was born, and today is the oldest independently-owned comics convention in the country. That first year, we came out of the box hard, with a guest list that included George Perez, Marv Wolfman, Mike Zeck, Butch Guice, and more.
With a huge success under our belt, we were off and running, getting bigger and better with every year. In 1984 we had Stan Lee as a guest, which was a thrill for everyone involved--especially Shelton, who had been reading and collecting Stan's work from childhood on. That's always been one of the coolest perks in this business: meeting the people whose work you've admired since you started reading comics. It's an opportunity you don't always get in life. Not to mention the nice folks you meet along the way, whose work you're exposed to through the convention. Stan's appearance made a huge splash in town, and brought a lot of publicity not only for the growing HeroesCon, but for our store as well.
However, few roads have no bumps--in 1986, Shelton decided not to hold the convention after a death in the family. "HeroesCon literally takes the entire year to plan and organize," says Shelton, "and that year I just couldn't. I didn't have it in me." But the next year we came back stronger than ever. In 1987, we held our first Art Auction, to help defray the medical expenses of the late great Sam Grainger, who at the time was struggling with diabetes. In later years the Auction turned into a HeroesCon tradition, benefitting at different times the Charlotte Firefighters Burned Children's Fund, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Harlan Ellison's KICK Internet Piracy fund, and John Romita Jr.'s Saving Baby Jordan fund, among others. In recent years, the rising costs of organizing an independently owned, comics-centric show like ours have forced us to stop donating the proceeds of our annual Art Auction to charity; using it instead to help defray the massive hospitality costs of putting together the kind of guest list we've become famous for. We still do plenty to help promote and raise funds for our favorite charities, including the CBLDF and The Hero Initiative!
1992 saw the first HeroesCon appearance of a hot young artist, then pencilling The Ray: Joe Quesada. Joe, of course, went on to make a little something of himself in comics, but he has found the time nearly every year since to make an appearance at HeroesCon: the only difference is that now it's as Editior-In-Chief of Marvel Comics. In 1994 we had another whopper year, with stars like Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, Gil Kane, Joe Madureira, Jeff Smith, and John Romita Sr. and Jr. The next year was our first in the then-new Charlotte Convention Center, and to celebrate we flew in Image co-founder Todd McFarlane for a one-day appearance. A true iron man, Todd sat down and signed over 2,000 autographs that day without a break!
But it's in this decade that HeroesCon has really claimed its rightful place at the top of the convention coolness meter. With a growing reputation as a show where pro's and fans could actually talk, not to mention an inredible collection of artists and a now-famous yearly Art Auction, the convention turned from a fun show into a must-attend for hundreds of pro's. Guests like Gene Colan, Greg Horn, Howard Chaykin, and Mike Ploog made their first appearances, and repeat guests including Brandon Peterson, Ed McGuinness, John Cassaday, and Paul Pope made HeroesCon one of the most talked-about events of the summer each year. For our 2006 show, after a strange, aggressive, and ultimately aborted move by another convention, the entire comics industry mobilized in support of HeroesCon. Just the short list of guests who made their first trip to Charlotte that year includes Warren Ellis, J. Michael Straczynski, Bryan Hitch, Peter Bagge, all three Hernandez Brothers--the list goes on and on.
2007 was another auspicious year, as we celebrated our 25th anniversary: the little show that Shelton Drum started way back in his mid-20's has grown up. Now HeroesCon has the reputation as the show to go to for a fun, laid-back atmosphere, where people still show up to shop for and talk about comics, and where fans and pro's can mix and mingle freely. Now in his 50's, Shelton had this to say in the 2007 program book: "Speaking personally, this one weekend of the year is the only time I get to see many of my oldest and dearest friends. I don't know about you, but I'm thankful for the chance to spend this time with all of you for the last 25 years." We look forward to our next 25 years as America's Favorite Convention!