LOCAL Houston | The City Guide JUNE 2016 - Page 38

COMICPALOOZA’S JOHN SIMONS Interview by Lance Scott Walker | Photography by Joseph Hemphill Photo Manipulation by LOCAL Houston Magazine If you’ve ever been to a comic book convention, you know there is usually one thing (like a guest) that makes it an event you can’t miss, and then once you arrive you’re exposed to a million other fantastic things. Since the inception of Comicpalooza in 2008, founder John Simons has been steadily adding to that list of fantastic things, and this year’s edition again reinvents the idea of what a con can be. The original Comicpalooza was little more than a signing party in the lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse in Katy, but it has grown both in size and in scope each year since, now occupying thousands of square feet of the George R. Brown Convention Center in Downtown Houston with countless panels, classes and events spanning a whole range of genres and mediums. For anyone attending, there is still that one thing they can’t miss (for me this year, it would be David Prowse, who walked as Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” movies, and Peter Mayhew, who stood as Chewbacca), and the list keeps getting longer. I guess each year you’re probably starting your ramp up for everything a lot earlier, yeah? Oh, yeah. We’re 26 days later than we were last year, and pretty much the busy season starts on January 1st. And then as soon as you hit February 1st, it’s really like being in a vice. What was the year when you felt like it really snowballed and started to become something that reached outside of Houston and everywhere else? Well, you know, 2014 – in 2014, we doubled the size from 2013. So that’s a big jump; we’ve had at least 55 percent growth each year. In 2008, it was just a dozen guys in the lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse Theater on Mason Road in Katy. Are you a comic book guy? Are you familiar with comics? I’m a science fiction and fantasy guy, so I used to go to conventions around Texas in the late ’90s and early 2000s because you always have some crossover, but none of them were anywhere near the size of what we’re doing. It was an auditorium with a few hundred people. And that’s if you went up to Dallas, where I felt like I was going to the big ones. And that’s the way it was. Before Comicpalooza, the biggest comic cons that Houston had put together going back until about the beginning of the ’90s was only about 1,100 people. And if you were going to some of the ones in Houston in the early ’90s, we all know the same guys. There were three or four different guys who did it. The one who put on most of those was Rober Quintano, who runs a comic book store now. Generally they were pretty happy if they got 900 people. There was one guy out of Nacogdoches, and he put on the one that had 1,100 people and that was in like 2001 or 2002. So when we did Comicpalooza the first year it was just this little promo thing for six hours. It wasn’t a con. The second time we did it, we did it in a mall. It still wasn’t a con. It was a three-day comic book festival. And the third time we did it, it was in the George R. Brown with 70,000 square feet. And then it was a comic book con. That was March of 2010. It was already the biggest one Houston had had since the mid-’80s. Houston used to have a really robust comic book culture, and had some very respectable comic cons stretching back quite a ways. But that all ended in the mid-’80s, and so by the time I came on the scene, I wasn’t even familiar with any of those conventions. And kind of starting from scratch. I had a comic book store, and it was just so miserable, the whole scene here. I knew that somebody could do it, but it needed to be done differently than it had been done, so I spent a couple of years researching the cons that had been done, and trying to figure out what could be done to make them work better. Read the rest of the interview at www.localhoustonmagazine.com. 38 L O C A L | june 16