My hometown is a little place called Salem, OR. It is the capitol but you wouldn’t know it from looking at it, unless you happen to be downtown staring directly at the capitol building. Salem is, quite honestly, a pretty boring town. It is full of state workers, old people, and young people who wished they lived in Portland or out of state somewhere. That’s probably an exaggeration, but those are the ones I run into at least and I grew up here. After moving to Southern California for school, whenever I told someone where I lived I would get one of two responses:
1. How close is that to Portland?
2. Isn’t that where the witch trials happened?
Usually my answer would be an unamused stare before I would relent and explain that Salem is about an hour south of Portland and is actually the state capitol thank-you-very-much and no, it is not where any sort of witch trials happened. We do have a creepy state hospital that was featured in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Jack Nicholson is pretty much our only claim to fame.
After moving back to Salem, I was bummed because the geek life around town is pretty limited, especially for anyone over the age of eighteen. To be honest, I was spoiled living in Southern California within reasonable driving distance of Wondercon, San Diego Comic Con, and the various other nerdy or geeky things that living in close proximity to Los Angeles afforded me. However, I was chilling at my brother’s brewery one evening and happened to catch the eye of a stranger who challenged me to darts. In the midst of our conversation I came out of the geek closet and expressed in no uncertain terms my love for Captain America and a million other things.
He asked me a single question: Are you going to Cherry City Comic Con, then?
Again, I stared. I had been expecting him to say San Diego Comic Con, or Rose City Comic Con, but no, my ears did not deceive me: he said Cherry City Comic Con. It turned out in my absence that a local comic book aficionado had been working around the clock to produce a comic book convention right here in Salem, OR. I was ecstatic and immediately looked up the details. It was going to be small, but that was reasonable given how new it was. All I cared about was the fact that it was happening, and happening at the State Fairgrounds no less.
So I sucked it up and bought a weekend pass, even though I knew I’d be working graveyard shifts and wouldn’t be able to attend much. What little I was able to attend, though, was fantastic. I continue to be completely and utterly impressed at how a small little convention could have so many things packed into it.
There were a lot more people than I had initially anticipated, especially for a Saturday afternoon post-opening rush. However, I saw groups of young people, people my age, couples, singles, and families with their children all wandering around the booths. It was almost as if all of Salem (or at least a good representative population) had come out to see what this new, fun event had in store.
I picked up my badge and began to explore and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
There weren’t any big names (except for Randy Emberlin who worked on the Spiderman comic books) but there was a lot of excellent local talent. A lot of artists came out for the event, as well as local businesses including Tony’s Kingdom of Comics which I mentioned in our Free Comic Book Day summary. On top of that, a lot of different organizations from the Portland area came down for the convention, including the Superhero Fun Run.
Outside of the booths filled with vendors there was a space to get pictures taken in costume. There were an impressive number of really good cosplay costumes and I was surprised to see pretty much every other person I passed dressed in something. Apparently there is a huge underground cosplay culture in Salem, OR that has just been waiting to be unleashed. My favorite one, for the hour and a half I was there, was of Galactus. It helps that Galactus happens to be one of my favorite Marvel villains. I was so impressed I was compelled to approach him and ask for a selfie, and he obliged.
I kind of regret not asking for his hand in marriage right then and there. Oh well.
Other than vendors and costumes, they had a small stage set up for panels. As this was the first year of the con, they had more Q&A sessions with different people than actual, traditional panels like you’d find at San Diego Comic Con or some of the bigger conventions. It was nice, though, to be able to sit and listen to someone talk about their little corner of the geek world and share their insight with the audience.
I was sad that I couldn’t stay longer, and that I couldn’t drop in again on Sunday. Unfortunately for me, I had to get back home and go to sleep before my first graveyard shift of the weekend. I did, however, walk out with a bad ass print from a local artist (Brett Weldele) of Daenerys Targaryen and of course my weekend badge to add to my awesome badge collection.
To top it all off, the con did well enough this year that they are definitely planning on having it again next year, and even plan to expand it! All in all it was a fun convention and reminded me why I love smaller cons.