Featured image: Fred Wright, Jr. (L) and Daryl Cullins of Eastgate Comics threw their first Comic Con in High Point this past weekend. (photo by Michaela Ratliff)
Wonder Woman and Naruto gather on the patio of the Greensboro-High Point Marriott Airport hotel enjoying hot dogs and snacks as Teen Titans’ Raven and Starfire arrive at the first annual Triad Comic Con on Sunday. Inside and around the hotel’s grand ballroom, more than 20 vendors selling comic books, custom art and a variety of Funkos — nearly 4-inch-tall figurines with round, usually black eyes and oversized heads — gather. Towards the front of the room, Marvel fan Avery Little is dressed as Captain America, posing for pictures with other guests. DJ Dlinkwent plays hip-hop beats in the background which morph into the “Cha Cha Slide” that gets attendees moving. Nearby, Charles “Chuck” Ramsey, one of the event’s organizers, takes a breather in a chair to the left of the hotel entrance. He says coordinating his first Comic Con was unpredictable at times.
“You’ve gotta be able to flow like water,” he says.
Ramsey collaborated with Daryl Cullins, who works at EastGate Comics in High Point and the owner of EastGate Comics, Fred Wright Jr., to raise comic awareness in the area.
“We wanted to bring something back to the Triad,” Cullins says. “High Point hasn’t had a steady comic shop in over ten years. We’ve been in business for three years, and we’re still growing.”
Instead of selling rare collectibles or books of more well-known comics, some vendors push their own material in hopes of gaining new supporters. ENDtense Studios, a Black-owned, Greensboro-based, family-operated comics company, is one of them.
“We try to put a variety of different characters in our stories so everyone will have a story they’re attracted to,” says Jerome Smith, author of “Electrik Tiger” and one-third of ENDtense.
The men each created their own comic with Black characters and Black heroes, drawing inspiration from their personal lives to mold the stories, a task Elijah Simon, another member of ENDtense, enjoys.
“We can take a situation from our personal life and turn it into a fantasy and exaggerate on it,” he says.
Travis Smith, the creator of the Shadow Wolf comic, says the group being family makes business flow seamlessly.
“What makes the group work so well is that we’re all related,” he says. “Jerome’s my brother and Elijah’s my cousin. We grew up drawing together, so it makes things a lot easier. It’s fun.”
Mikaila Council, a guest at the event, runs around in excitement as she boasts about receiving a free Solid comic from Simon after stopping by his table and showing support.
“I got an amazing comic from a new, aspiring artist,” Council says. “If I could change anything about my day it would be… nothing!”
Council’s mother, Stephanie who watches nearby, rates her first Comic Con an 11 out of 10.
“It’s a new experience for me so I’m excited to be here and bond with my child,” she says. “She’s an artist herself and I’m finding out about new characters and things.”
She did have just one suggestion for event organizers, though, as she watches an impromptu dance battle break out.
“I would have all the dancers in some type of character. Hit them with a Verzuz every 30 minutes. Let them battle it out. That would be hot!” she says.
In a nearby ballroom, a wrestling ring hosts the day’s matches, courtesy of Next Revelation of Lucha Libre professional wrestling company in Thomasville.
In the most epic match of the day, 13 wrestlers compete for the Triad Comic Con Battle Royale championship belt. The only way to eliminate a wrestler is to eject them from the ring by throwing them over the top rope. Ear-piercing slaps, the vibration of the ring after body slams and collective “oohs” echo throughout the room as the athletes leap from the ropes of the ring onto their opponents. The final three standing include Mike Mars, the “Gate City Guardian” TDT and Xavier Maxim, who eventually emerges victorious by eliminating TDT.
“I’ve been wrestling for 14 years,” Maxim says. “I’ve been at the top of the mountain and I’ve been knocked off the top of the mountain, so to make that climb again, and get back to the top one more time, this was a big way to the top, baby.”
Ramsey says for their first Comic Con, especially one hosted in the midst of a pandemic, the turnout was pretty successful. He says he’s looking forward to hosting yearly Comic Cons with Wright, his friend since kindergarten. He wants to outgrow the airport Marriott, and has his eyes set on the larger Koury Convention Center.
“We’ll just take it one con at a time and provide a family-friendly event that everybody can have a good time at,” Ramsey says.