Students Crowd Around University’s Debut ComiCon

Story by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts Editor

Photos by Chris Mailloux
The Lance – Staff Photographer

The sound of iconic film themes blaring through the speakers could have been enough to have students gravitate to the commons area of the CAW Centre, which served as a pop-culture bubble Wednesday afternoon.

Practically serving as a prologue to Windsor’s second annual ComiCon, the university had its own unique version of the event Oct. 5 where numerous local vendors and featured professional artists could be engaged. With this year’s big event occurring at Caesars Windsor the weekend of Oct. 16, the UWindsor ComiCon is a direct way to reach out to students according to organizer Jeremy Renaud, as he believes there’s something within the space to draw in youth.

“There’s something for everyone,” Renaud said. “I know at the university there’s probably a lot of people that are in some way, shape or form tied into comic books. If it’s through comic book movies, if it’s through video games or cosplay.”

There were local vendors present courtesy of CG Realm and Game Cycle among others, where anything between comics to video games was for sale. Cosplayers also added to the nature of the event, as they engaged any students passing by.

Steve Zmijak was among the cosplayers present, who not once broke character upon his portrayal as ‘Dr. StEvil’. Having worked as an entertainer in this regard over the past five years, it has helped him gain a steady following and finds plenty of reward in simply connecting with people, all while his character mannerisms on the ‘Austin Powers’ villain remain down to a science.

“The look on their faces, the happiness is just awesome,” Zmijak said. “They say that had a good time and it made their day.”

The most prolific guest of the UWindsor ComiCon was none other than illustrator Arvell Jones, whose extensive body of work has had him involved in the professional circuit for the past few decades, particularly with Marvel Comics. His most recent work can be found in Netflix’s ‘Luke Cage’ TV series, where his creation of the character Misty Knight marks the first black female superhero.

He never imagined comic books to have the staying power as they do now, but he also says the creation landscape has changed greatly with the advent of the internet.

“Back then if you wanted to get something published, you had to go through a major publisher and somebody with some bucks to publish your stories and ideas,” Jones said. “Now anyone can self-publish anything at any time.”

While illustrators are technically in charge of a comic’s visual direction, Jones believes they’re as much as storytellers as writers are, for they have to consider aspects like pacing, environment and creating page-turning narrative pieces. When it comes to breaking into the industry itself, the key lies in sound ideas and the protection of said ideas.

“They need to see what the professionals are publishing, and kind of come in by emulating what’s going on. They have their own style, but to use their characters to understand what they’re doing, and come up with a unique way to fit in,” Jones said. “If they’re doing their own thing, then they just need to work on their visual language.”

Literally in the middle of all the foot traffic, a live painting of The Joker was being composed by local comic artist Johnny Desjardains. The painting itself was set to be donated to the university, but Desjardains says it takes him an average of 45 hours to create an ideal, finished result. Having done both freelance and commissioned work as a comic artist for the past six years, one challenge he constantly faces is being content with the work created, for it’s not always healthy to be your own worst critic.

“You have to be proud of the accomplishment, because you can’t just hate everything,” Desjardains said. “If you hate everything then you just stop doing it.”

Students interested in attending Windsor’s second annual ComiCon at Caesars can get 20 per cent off the price of a pass by going on the event’s website and entering the promo code ‘U20’.

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