Planet Comicon and the Panels of Doom

We’re just a few short weeks from Kansas City’s largest comics show, Planet Comicon. I’ve been going to Kansas City conventions for nearly two decades now, and Christopher Jackson and his team put together a terrific show that builds on the past successes of the legendary Mo-Kan conventions of the 80s and 90s.

I have many a story to tell of those past conventions (which now famous comics pro was known as “Sylvester” and why?), but I’ll save them for another day. For now, I’m concentrating on the upcoming weekend of April 5 and 6.

I’ve offered to help develop the line-up for panel presentations for the show. Plus, I might also be moderating some of the panels. After hearing this I went directly to Mark Evanier’s panel moderator tips over on his blog. With Evanier’s expert advice, I hope to avoid making an utter fool of myself.

Of course, nothing’s set yet. Even if I just end up filling the water glasses, I’ll be happy to participate and help out.

Any catastrophe I might cause aside, it’ll be a great show. Be sure to attend and track me down to say “Hi” while you’re there.

My first night in fandom

The fine folks at the Mid-Missouri Comics Collective asked me for information about the comics history of Columbia, Missouri. Since Eclipse Comics’ offices were located in Columbia for a while, I dashed off an e-mail to cat yronwode, the no-capital-letters-in-her-name former editor-in-chief of Eclipse Comics, to pose a few questions.

That email took me on a trip down memory lane to my first meeting with cat. I was just 15-years-old. My buddies Mark Runyan, Robb Cox, and I just had become aware of a local group of grown-up comics fans who had a club named “Ozark Fandom” near my hometown of Willow Springs, Missouri. Through the mail, the group’s leader – a really nice guy named Chris Rock (but not that Chris Rock) – invited us to a club meeting.

It ended up being one of the most memorable evenings of my life. The meeting was held in a log cabin at the end of a dirt trail in rural Howell County. At that meeting we met Chris, cat, and a number of other local fans, including Ronn Foss who was a pioneer of small press comics fanzines. I have to say that cat was the most dynamic personality of the evening, educating, entertaining, and challenging a trio of pimple-faced adolescents.

At the time, cat was writing a comics news and reviews column in the weekly adzine The Buyer’s Guide for Comics Fandom (now known as the magazine Comics Buyer’s Guide). As a result, she had a boatload of review copies that she gave away at the meetings – including a bunch of small press comics fanzines. Those were the first real amateur comics zines I’d ever seen. The significance of that gift on my life is not measurable. Because of those free zines I discovered a whole new perspective on comics and publishing. My eyes were opened by terrific zines including Bill-Dale Marcinko’s AFTA, David Heath, Jr’s No Sex, and Gene Kehoe’s It’s a Fanzine.

I’m sure it’s impossible for kids in today’s Internet-driven and comics-saturated pop culture to understand, but my friends and I had had almost no direct exposure to other comics fans, let alone involvement in any sort of organized fandom. While Robb, Mark, and I had already been creating our own amateur comic books, cat’s fanzines introduced us to a wonderful, fascinating new world.

Those freebies led to more zines produced by Kirk… and extensive contact with other zine publishers… and comics and articles published by others… and my first professional writing… and my first professional comics work… and to the creation of Comics Career Newsletter itself. By then, cat was editing the Eclipse Comics line and agreed to be interviewed for the CCN‘s first issue.

I haven’t scratched the surface of my wonderful memories of that magical night in 1979 when cat yronwode, Ronn Foss, Chris Rock and the rest of the Ozark Fandom gang through open to doors to comics fandom. Thanks to them all for the first night of the rest of my life.


I lived in Columbia, Missouri, for over ten years and loved nearly every minute of it.

Columbia is the home of the University of Missouri and the Mizzou Tigers. It also has a surprising amount of comics history. After all, how many cities can boast that one of its high schools has a cartoon character mascot? (Hickman High School’s athletes are known as the Kewpies.)

The folks at the Mid-Missouri Comics Collective (Midmococo) have put up an extensive history of Columbia’s comics connections. Some of the highlights from Midmococo’s page include Mort Walker’s tenure as an MU student, the introduction of Miss Mizzou in Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon strip, and Eclipse Comics moving its headquarters to and from the area. They even mention Comics Career Newsletter.
It’s well worth a visit if you have any interest in the local region. I think the history could be a model for other local comics groups to emulate. We’re getting to a point where some comics history could be lost forever unless interested amateur historians begin documenting it.