CINCINNATI — Matt Bredestege is making a big promise to anyone who attended last year’s Cincinnati Comic Expo.
“Our big goal is making this year’s show bigger and better than the last one,” said Bredestege, who coordinates media relations for the expo, set for this weekend at the Duke Energy Convention Center.
In order to deliver on that promise, expo organizers dug deep to top the rare joint appearance of Burt Ward and Adam West, stars of the 1960s television series “Batman,” to headline the 2015 pop culture convention.
Their answer: Stan Lee. The legendary Marvel Comics creator agreed to make the Cincinnati Comic Expo his last Midwest comic book convention appearance. Lee, who will turn 94 in December, announced in May that starting next year, he will limit public appearances to his home state of California.
“This will be the last chance for fans to see Stan,” Bredestege said.
The expo also recruited former Marvel Comics artist Rob Liefeld, who created Deadpool, the foul-mouthed mercenary portrayed by Ryan Reynolds on the big screen, as well as actors who appeared in one or more "Star Wars" films.
Bredestege is confident that the expo will surpass last year's estimated 16,000 guests. The expo also has heavily promoted Lee's appearance in other cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis.
“It’s not just a draw for the people of Cincinnati,” he said.
With an increased number of people expected to attend the Cincinnati Comic Expo this year, here are some tips for getting the most out of the event.
Take a look at the guest appearance schedule before heading to the convention center. Knowing who you want to meet, when they are meeting fans and any additional costs for the opportunity to rub elbows with certain guests will save a lot of heartbreak. (A VIP package to meet Stan Lee, which includes priority line access for an autograph and photograph, costs $350 on the expo’s website.)
Walk the floor, meet the legends
There will be many comic book artists, writers and actors who are usually more than glad to meet and speak with fans on the convention floor. Some folks worth meeting include:
- Neil Adams: The comic book artist helped revolutionize the industry while working for DC Comics in the 1970s. He will be selling merchandise and signing books at booth 335.
- Basil Gogos: This illustrator brought classic Hollywood monsters like Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, Godzilla and others to life in the 1960s and 1970s for “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazine. The 2005 coffee table book “Famous Monster Movie Art of Basil Gogos” collected most of that work. Gogos will be located at booth 127.
- "Star Wars" cast members: Several actors who brought “Star Wars” to life on the big screen will be at the expo to meet fans. Guests include Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the original trilogy and “Force Awakens"; Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian; Dave Prowse, the man in the Darth Vader suit for the original trilogy; Ray Park, who played Darth Maul in “The Phantom Menace;” Tim Rose, who led the rebellion as Admiral Ackbar; and Mike Quinn, who played Lando Calrissian’s Millennium Falcon co-pilot in “Return of the Jedi.” The “Star Wars” corner of the expo is located at the opposite side of the convention center from the main entrance.
Bring friends and have fun
For many people in the geek community the convention is a chance to connect with like-minded people and do things that you might not do outside of convention situations. On Friday, people are encouraged to dress as the undead for the annual Cincinnati Zombie Walk, a fundraiser for the Freestore Foodbank. Then there is a geek prom at 8 p.m. Saturday in Hall C of the convention center. This year’s theme is “8-bit,” an ode to old-school video games. Everyone is encouraged to dress up accordingly. There also will be judging for the expo’s annual costume contest Saturday.
Attend a panel or workshop
Learn about everything from creating your costume for cosplay to representation of women in comic book culture at a variety of panels hosted throughout the weekend. Who said you can’t expand your mind while celebrating your love for all things geek? See the full list of panels and workshop here. (And maybe meet the love of your life during one of the Sci-Fi Speed Dating sessions.)
Guard your bank account
Set a budget for yourself and be prepared to spend some money on collectibles. One pro-tip given to me last year was to return to the convention on Sunday when certain vendors are more willing to negotiate prices to unload some merchandise before leaving.
Cincinnati Comic Expo
3-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Duke Energy Convention Center
525 Elm St., Downtown