MARIETTA - The second annual River City Comic Convention played to an audience of several hundred at Marietta's Lafayette Hotel on Sunday.
Organizer Jordan Lowe, owner of the local Asylum Comics store, said last year's River City Comic Con drew about 450 people when it was held at the Washington County Fairgrounds.
"We're on pace to shatter the 2011 number already, and it's not even noon," he said late Sunday morning at the Lafayette.
Batman and Robin, portrayed by Marietta residents Brandon Richards and Miranda Thompson, right, get an autograph from actor Ian Petrella, who portrayed Randy in the holiday classic “A Christmas Story” during Sunday’s River City Comic Con at the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta. (Photo by Sam Shawver)
Lowe said this year's event, which featured 12 vendors with 25 tables full of comic books, posters, artwork and related collectibles, as well as 18 exhibiting artists and filmmakers, was planned in answer to requests for from his customers who wanted a local comic convention.
"These conventions are often held in larger cities, but not so much in small towns like ours," he said. "I saw the need for one here and decided to jump right into it."
He said even in a slow economy comics sales continue to stay steady as an affordable part of popular culture.
"People love these stories - it's American mythology that appeals to both kids and adults," Lowe said of the comic book culture. "Just look at Superman. He's been around for more than 80 years now and is still going strong."
Cairo resident Jordan Melott, wearing a Captain America outfit, was among several people who attended the convention in costume.
"This is my first time at a comic con," he said. "It was great to learn they were having this one in Marietta, so close to home."
Melott collects Marvel's Captain America comics and is already counting down to the next movie that will feature the superhero. He said comic books are somewhat of a family tradition.
"My step-dad was a Superman comics collector and used to skip school to buy a 10-cent comic book to read when he was just a kid," he said.
Brandon Richards, of Marietta, came fully costumed as Batman and partner Miranda Thompson as his sidekick, Robin.
"I know it seems kind of cheesy, but I really like Robin - I think he's funny," Thompson said.
Richards has always enjoyed DC Comics' Dark Knight.
"Batman has been my favorite superhero since I was little," he said. "I thought he looked so cool and dark."
Lee Smith, of Columbus, has been writing and illustrating his own comic books for about a year now.
"All of my comics are about Ohio history," he said. "I even have one about Marietta's own Nancy Hollister who was governor of this state for 11 days."
An elementary school history teacher, Smith said he hit upon the idea of comics as history books after seeing how bored his students became with traditional textbooks.
"I've been doing very well with these," he said, adding that he's also learned a lot doing research for the historical comics.
"In fact, the first comic strip was created in Lancaster, Ohio, by Richard Outcault," Smith said.
Filmmaking, which Lowe considers a pop culture medium closely related to comics, was also part of this year's event, including the locally-filmed quirky web comedy "Running the Asylum," starring Lowe and others.
Short clips of several films were featured in the hotel's Rufus Putnam Room during Sunday's event.
Actor Ian Petrella, who portrayed Randy in the holiday classic "A Christmas Story," was part of the event, as was Daniel Boyd from Charleston, W.Va., writer and director of the cult classic Troma film "Chillers," and Jeffrey Scott Richards of Parkersburg, writer and director of the locally-filmed "Christ Complex."