The Memphis Comic Expo's 2014 launch was a huge success in spite of unfortunate scheduling.
"We were up against so much," festival founder Donald Juengling confesses. "There was the Cooper-Young Festival, the Southern Heritage Classic, a Japanese festival. It was like five other big things all at the same time." Comic book fans turned out anyway to browse the vendor booths and meet their favorite artists and writers.
"Our motto is 'Creators Come First,'" Juengling says, describing his vision for shaping the Memphis expo into something that stands apart from hundreds of similar annual festivals, especially at a time when comic book companies are rapidly expanding their TV and movie universes. "I think there was an appetite for something of this nature," he says. "There are tons and tons of comic conventions around the country where you can go meet [actors like] Kevin Sorbo or Lou Ferrigno or the dudes from The Avengers. But we're old-school. When they started these things in San Diego back in the '70s, it was strictly about comics. And so are we."
"Well, maybe not 100 percent," Juengling corrects, pausing to marvel a bit at the mainstreaming of cosplay. "When I was a kid, if you dressed like Captain America and it wasn't Halloween, you got beat up," he says, impressed by just how much that has changed. This weekend, June 5-7, expo is bringing in Nicole Marie Jean and other internationally known cosplayers to judge the event's costume contest.
This year's guests include writers such as the prolific Cullen Bunn and the multiple Eisner Award-winning Kyle Baker.