Superman, Wonderwoman, Spiderman or a collection of other superheroes may be walking the streets of downtown Cortland this weekend which means the 4th Annual Heroes and Villains Con is in full swing!
Calling all comic book and pop culture fans! Cortland’s lone comic book store, Heroes and Villains, will be holding its 4th Annual Heroes and Villains Con. The one-day event on Saturday, April 6 will be held at the Cortland Corset Building at 75 East Court Street in Cortland, N.Y., and will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be a combination of professional artists and writers and individual creators on hand. When the initial comic con was held in 2016, it was difficult for co-owners Stephen Vincent Jr. and Vanessa Mielke, to predict how popular it would be. The event only took up the first floor of the Corset Building with 17 guest talents, but it ended up drawing an estimated 500 people. The event steadily grew over the next three years, now covering all three floors of the building and boasting close to 40 talents.
Hardships played a key role in Stephen’s and Vanessa’s decision to open a comic book shop. Their son, Dallas, was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on nerve tissue. Weekly chemotherapy sessions were followed by trips to nearby comic book stores which sparked a new love for the genre.
“Stephen and I always had a passion for superheroes, but it really became our therapy and escape during a difficult time,” Vanessa explained.
Even when there was a welcomed break from the doctor's office, the trio would drive out to either Syracuse, Ithaca or Binghamton for their fill of caped crusaders. During these excursions, they would always imagine how convenient it would be to own their own shop in Cortland.
“A comic book store could do well in Cortland if it was done right and made to appeal to the locals,” Vanessa said. "If the customers feel like they are well cared for, they are right there with you."
Vanessa recalled what started out as a joke, suddenly became a light bulb moment - why not open a comic book shop?
"We both didn't want to do the jobs we were doing and we eventually wanted to do something different, so maybe this is a thing we should look into."
After a year of research and a giant leap of faith, the pair opened the doors to Heroes & Villains in 2011. Now the first-floor store is filled with comics, graphic novels, and various collectibles, but it has not been easy keeping the doors open.
“We went into it with nothing, and we really still have nothing because the first five years of a business are tough,” explained Vanessa. "But we have so many customers that come in and tell us how much the store means to them. So we keep it going if nothing else for those customers.”
Unlike some of the larger comic conventions, Heroes & Villains Con is a smaller, friendlier one, boasting a casual, intimate atmosphere that allows fans to mingle directly with professionals and exhibitors. Indulge in your love for comics, and meet an outstanding array of professional and local creators.
Just a few days ago the duo confirmed J.G. Hertzler will be joining the talent list. The American actor, author and screenwriter is best known for his role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as the Klingon emperor, as well as in “Star Trek: Enterprise.” Also included among the guests appearing at the Heroes and Villains Con will be comic book writer, Peter Gillis, best known for his work at Marvel Comics and First Comics in the mid-1980s, and legendary Marvel and DC Comics alumnus, Charles Barnett III.
Unlike the majority of larger conventions where a fee is required for guest talents to make an appearance, all of those choosing to attend Heroes and Villains Con are simply there to help out a small-town comic book store.
“We’ve been very blessed in the sense of people responding to us,” Vanessa explained. “They [the talent] resonate with us and what we’re trying to do here in Cortland.”
The event will also feature close to 14 vendors, including Gauntlet Gaming who will be running gaming demos all day.
Outside of the guest talents and vendors, Vanessa and Stephen spent considerable time developing ways to incorporate the younger crowd. Vanessa emphasized how important it was to make the event a family-friendly affair.
“We want everyone of all ages to feel welcomed and included, but we want the younger kids to be more involved because they’re the next generation in all of this.”
New to this year’s comic con will be a character scavenger hunt for children ages 5 to 10 and a pop culture trivia game. A pair of lightsaber dueling clubs will be holding demonstrations where kids will have the opportunity to not only create their own mini light sabers but learn how to use them. Don’t forget to come dressed in your favorite comic book, video game, movie, or book character - the con’s mainstay cosplay contest will be in full swing.
Another new addition to the festivities will be the release of Monster Carnival: A Comic Anthology which Vanessa was very excited to announce.
"These people were inspired to do this after last year's convention so we're super excited about this. The people who are involved are ridiculously talented and amazing people."
Coordinated by Jonathan Myers, the year-long project includes short stories, monster art, and more of 27 artists. Creators in attendance will be available to answer questions about the creation, and sign copies.
Admission is free, but donations are welcome to help offset the cost of the convention. Donate five dollars or more and receive a grab bag filled with up to 10 comic books. A raffle basket filled with Pop! figures, games, graphic novels and more will also be up for grabs. For a chance to win the basket worth over 500 dollars, purchase tickets in-store, or during the event.
For more information about the guests and vendors scheduled to appear at the 4th Annual Heroes and Villains Con, check out theheroesandvillainscon.webs.com; or find Cortland Heroes and Villains on Facebook.
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