comics

Madison Mighty Con, above, brands itself as a small-scale grassroots celebration of comics.

Celebrities, sneak previews of the next big Hollywood blockbuster, costumes galore and huge lines have become the hallmarks of a comics convention, or comic-con, in 2018. Mighty Con, however, rejects that.

“Our motto is, putting the ‘comic’ back in comic-con,” said Kat Gallagher, the convention’s guest coordinator.

The third-ever Madison Mighty Con — at the Monona Terrace, 1 John Nolen Drive, on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — is a small-scale event that organizers say is first and foremost for the love of comics. The event, affiliated with the Chicago-area comics outlet Geek Inc., tends to be a quiet affair that shifts focus away from broader geek culture and toward comics vendors and creators.

Jeffrey Worthen, who works at Westfield Comics on Mineral Point Road, will be at Mighty Con to sell comics from his own extensive collection. He said that comic-centric booths like the one he’ll be running are actually quite rare to find at Madison’s other major comic-con, the more grandiose Wizard World. At Mighty Con, there will be more than 80 vendors and artists with bins of prints, magazines and books.

“It’s a chance for local comic book people to get together,” said Worthen. “There are people who go treasure hunting, hoping to find something to fill their collection with.”

Bruce Ayres, who runs Capital City Comics on Monroe Street, said the event is so small and local, and so focused on actual comics, to the point where it doesn’t even feel like a comic-con.

“It’s like an extension of a flea market,” said Ayres.

Gallagher said that description isn’t unfair, but she said there’s a lot more to the event than comics sales. The con may not have the Hollywood celebrities or panel discussions of a larger con, but it features other staples like a cosplaying contest and a video game tournament.

“We are trying to keep the grassroots comic convention stuff,” said Gallagher. “But we’re trying to get away from that feeling of, it’s just a glorified flea market.”

Plus, it will have a roster of special guests in attendance, artists who have made names for themselves in the industry like Bill Reinhold, Jordan Gunderson and Mike Baron. Many of those guests live in the area or have Madison ties.

Gallagher said showcasing such talent can be a point of inspiration for local artists who are still cutting their teeth in the industry. It shows that “not everyone lives in New York, not everyone lives in LA,” she said.

Gallagher said the event is not just for artists or longtime collectors. She said there are many younger people who have found their way into comics fandom over the past two decades, thanks to movie franchises like “X-Men" and “The Avengers.”

“With the success of the movies, those have brought attention to comics,” she said.

One other way that the Mighty Con stands apart from its larger-scale counterparts: its wallet-friendly price tag. The show costs $5 for adults, and is free for those 12 and under. Plus, everyone who goes will get a free comic book at the door.

Erik Lorenzsonn is the Capital Times' tech and culture reporter. He joined the team in 2016, after having served as an online editor for Wisconsin Public Radio and having written for publications like The Progressive Magazine and The Poughkeepsie Journal.