Heroes Convention – the annual three-day celebration of comics at the Charlotte Convention Center – turns 30 this weekend with guests Stan Lee (co-creator of “The Avengers,” “Spider-Man,” “X-Men”), Mike Mignola (“Hellboy”), Cully Hamner (“Red”), Bill Willingham (“Fables”) and hundreds of others.
The anniversary also marks Heroes’ events coordinator Karla Marsh’s 30th convention. Sort of.
In 1983, her 13-year-old brother pressured their mom, then 8 1/2 months pregnant with Karla, into taking him to the first HeroesCon.
“I was born 13 days later,” says Marsh.
Trips from their home in Lincolnton to HeroesCon and the Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find comic-book store (which presents the convention) in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood gave the Marsh siblings something to bond over.
“It turned into a brother/sister thing. We scheduled our vacations around it,” she adds.
After volunteering at HeroesCon for eight years, Marsh was asked by store owner and convention founder Shelton Drum to head up the 2012 event.
“Every good thing that’s happened to me in my life seems to be somehow connected to Heroes,” says Marsh, who left her job as a graphic artist at a newspaper in Lincolnton after 12 years to take the gig in February. “The bonds I made with my brother and grandfather, who helped me learn to read reading ‘Wonder Woman’ comics. And I (met) the love of my life at the store.”
The day she met Phil Southern, who still works at Heroes, he made the mistake of asking Marsh’s then-boyfriend if he could help him find anything.
“I promptly walked over and said, ‘He doesn’t read comic books,’ ” she recalls. Southern apologized. At the convention that weekend, he blew her a kiss. She promptly dumped her boyfriend in the parking lot.
She isn’t the only local whose path has been altered by comics.
Artist Bridgit Scheide, who works at Heroes and self-published her second comic series “Brother Nash” in May, was turned on to the medium by Ben Towle, her N.C. Governor’s School professor who happens to be a regular at HeroesCon’s “Indie Island,” a section of the convention for independent comic creators.
“We read (the Holocaust-set graphic novel) ‘Maus.’ That was when I realized you could tell any story through sequential art,” says Scheide, 25.
She began renting a table at HeroesCon while in college at UNC Charlotte.
“It’s encouraging for people who are just starting out. I know a lot of people go around and show off portfolios and get feedback on their work. You can always ask artists questions. They’re pretty happy when you ask them their process. …It’s a really encouraging atmosphere for people who want to get into comics as a business,” she says.
Adds Jason LaTour, a Charlotte-based artist and HeroesCon guest who studied journalism at Eastern Carolina University before taking on Wolverine, Daredevil, and Captain America professionally for Marvel: “For someone that didn’t go to art school, the convention was like my mini-art school.”