'Amazing' Comicpalooza 2011 a Hit with Fans

Michael O. Varhola

Some 10,000 people decided to spend a big part of their Memorial Day weekend at Comicpalooza, a relatively new fantasy, sci-fi, and comic book convention in Houston that has quickly become the biggest and hottest event of its kind in Texas. The fourth-annual event was held May 27-29 at the George R. Brown Convention Center and was attended by many people from the San Antonio area, who made the relatively short road trip down IH 10 to the Lone Star State’s biggest city.

“It’s really been amazing,” said John Simons, the “guilty party,” as he puts it, behind the organization of Comicpalooza. “We’ve had a lot of great events, a lot of them you don’t see at other cons. Edward James Olmos, for example, playing laser tag against some storm troopers.” (For the less nerdy who might be reading this, Olmos battled the robotic Cylons in his role as Admiral Adama in the popular Battlestar Galactica series, while storm troopers are from Star Wars, making for amusing cross- franchise interaction.)

Olmos was only one of the popular guests at the convention, and others included Sam Trammell (True Blood), Tony Todd (Candyman), and Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation).

Simons also said that the convention was used as a venue for making several significant industry announcements.

“Bob Layton wrote a screenplay and Olmos Productions is going to film the movie,” Simons said. “There’s a new feature-length animated movie that’s going to be based on Tad Williams’ fan-favorite book Tailchaser’s Song and that was announced here. Steve Jackson Games, the largest game manufacturer in Texas, made some announcements here. We had a lot of that sort of thing going on.”

This year Comicpalooza also had its first-ever presentation on the paranormal, “America’s Haunted Road Trip,” by d-Infinity editor-in-chief Michael O. Varhola, who is also the author of two books dedicated to haunted sites people can visit, Ghosthunting Maryland and Ghosthunting Virginia. This interactive presentation was very well attended and included lots of questions and comments from attendees, and Varhola and Simons began discussing ways to include an expanded paranormal track at Comicpalooza 2012.

Varhola also gave the first presentation on his latest book, Texas Confidential: Sex, Scandal, Murder, and Mayhem in the Lone Star State, a true crime book scheduled to be released nationwide in July.

Other features of Comicpalooza included a sci-fi/horror/adventure film festival running across all three days of the convention, panel discussions, Q&A sessions, demonstrations, a huge dealers room with hundreds of exhibitors, and dozens of artists showing off their work. (Shown here is the proprietor of the new "8th Dimension" game store in Houston, which carries d-Infinity in its inventory.)

“We had a lot of things you don’t see at other cons, like indoor Quidditch matches (ala Harry Potter), roller derby, professional wrestling matches. Crazy stuff!” Simons said. “It was a fantastic con.”

Comics, as suggested by the name of the convention, were also a theme of the event, and a number of significant comic creators and artists were in attendance, including Larry Elmore, Athur Suydm, Brian Denham, and