Ramblings About Comics and Stuff Convention Special #7
Detroit Fanfare 2012
After experimenting with a move to downtown Detroit last year, the third annual Detroit Fanfare returned this weekend to the venue where it originally launched, at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, MI.
This year’s media guests included some names familiar to comic book fans, including Sam Jones (Flash Gordon, 10), Michael Jai White (Spawn, Black Dynamite), and the ever-familiar Dave Prowse (Darth Vader). Comic guests were far more numerous, among them Golden Age comics artist Allen Bellman, veteran letter Tom Orzechowski, and Mouse Guard’s David Petersen.
For the first time, Detroit Fanfare added a Friday preview night, with the convention open to all attendees and was followed by some after-hours events, including a screening of Sam Jones’ 1980 Flash Gordon film with Jones in attendance. Also held Friday night were the third annual Shel Dorf Awards, a set of awards honoring outstanding comics series and creators, and named in honor of the founder of the original Detroit Triple Fanfair and later, San Diego Comic-Con. Among the winners were Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead from Image Comics for Continuing Series of the Year, Scott Snyder (Batman) for Writer of the Year, and Allen Bellman received a special Shel Dorf Legacy Award.
A note about Bellman: at 88 years young, he remains incredibly sharp and is one of the few remaining creators from that era still able to make the rounds on the convention circuit. His wife Roz was aware beforehand of his pending award, but managed to keep it a secret and Bellman seemed genuinely surprised and honored to receive it, despite an unfortunate misspelling of his name on the trophy itself.
During the show Friday night, Bellman shared anecdotes from his days at Timely Comics, among them a story about how the office would close early on Wednesdays and how he and fellow artist Syd Shores would head to Ebbets Field after work to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers. Bellman specifically remembered the first time he saw Jackie Robinson play there, and more specifically the crowd’s uncertain reaction to Major League Baseball’s first black baseball player.
Modern day baseball was also on the mind of attendees, with the Detroit Tigers in the midst of a World Series battle and the competing San Francisco Giants reportedly staying at the same hotel.
Another addition to the show was a dedicated artists’ room, in lieu of the more typical artists’ alley seen at other cons. Artists and small press creators displayed their artwork and comics, and the room was evocative of old-school comic shows, a feel that Detroit Fanfare seeks to pay tribute to and that many feel strayed from in its move to the much larger Cobo Hall last year.
The show continues throughout the weekend, and is scheduled to have many more tie-in events, including the traditional Blood 4 Comics blood drive held by the American Red Cross and sponsored by IDW Publishing, where fans who donate can receive free comics and graphic novels donated by local comics retailers.
Detroit Fanfare is slated to return next year, dates and location TBD.