Pop Culture

Comicpalooza Day 1: Ron Paul Endorses Ghostbusters

Check out our second day at Comicpalooza and Day 3, then head over to our slideshow to see more Comicpalooza action and cosplay.

Former or current presidential candidate -- depending on your level of optimism -- Ron Paul was just roaming the halls of Comicpalooza. Obama I would've expected, he's a notorious nerd, but Paul? If I hadn't taken this picture, none of you would believe me.

For the second time I'm braving the halls of the George R. Brown Convention Center for the annual Comicpalooza convention. Last year was a treasure that led me to many of the best geek-centric stories I've ever had the chance to write. Would this year live up to to expectations?

"Come see the strange thing" was the first thing I heard shouted at me. I turned because I'm more used to that sentence being shouted about me, but this time it proved to be a member of the Braggart Family SideCircus. During the convention, they put on impressive displays of juggling and driving nails into their skulls. Apparently they run a freak show in between performances.

The press badge got me out of the $1 fee for seeing the so-called strange thing, which I was told was given to them by a mysterious man from California. Upon opening the ornate box, I was gifted with the sight of something that looked like a cross between a monkey, a fish and a dollar-store candle that had been left in the sun for a couple of hours. As far as Fiji mermaids go, it wasn't really spellbinding. I'd have been more impressed with a pickled punk or a Yeti foot cast.

Still, it left me in a mood for more mysterious fare, and luckily the booth for the Pasadena Paranormal Research Team wasn't far away. The nonprofit group has been together less than a year, and specializes in investigating strange noises, mysteriously moved objects and a pervasive feeling of being watched. A spokesperson told me that though they've rolled out five investigative cases so far, they mostly function as a repository for people to share their paranormal experiences.

"These are people that believe the spirits that may be present in their houses or business are benign, even helpful," she said. "Most times, they just want to tell someone what they've seen, heard and felt."

She showed me some of the ghost-investigation equipment on hand, and as someone who is both terrified of ghosts and also a hard-edged skeptic, I was fascinated. Though I was assured that spirits could communicate through EMF readers, they were used more to detect faulty wiring and strange electrical fields that might be leading a person to believe they're being haunted. Amusingly, they also had a voice recorder for picking up electronic voice phenomena...the exact same model I use in journalism.

Heading through the dealers' area, I checked in with Red 5 Comic, publishers of the acclaimed Atomic Robo series, which is still going strong. Last year Scott Chitwood told me that the film rights to Robo had been sold, and a feature film was still in the planning stages. The book was nominated for an Eisner award this year, and a ten- to 15-minute animated short is also due to be released in the near future. A Kickstarter campaign for the project has a $12,000 goal, and closed at a ridiculous $75,000.

One of the conversations that we had with Chitwood last year was about his passion for digital comic selling. I was curious how that was working out for him a year later.

"Great," he said. "The thing that you discover when you are doing digital sales is that you're not actually competing with your own hard copies. It's two entirely different audiences, and both require their own different strategies."

He did admit that he feared for the brick-and-mortar comic shops' abilities to continue building audiences in the digital age.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner