June 16, 2015
Everyone has a story of how comic books came into his or her life. Whether it is a further exploration of other mediums, a childhood obsession with a particular hero, or a shared family interest, comic book fans have to start somewhere. I discovered my first comic book store around the age of seven; interestingly enough, that store was Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find in the Elizabeth neighborhood of Charlotte. I was in a quest to procure a couple of Wonder Woman comics. Being a huge fan of Batman, as well as the X-Men in their prime 90’s iterations, I was looking for a strong female role model and eagerly sought to find it in comic form. I picked up a random assortment from Heroes and this ritual cemented itself in my life.
I can only imagine—after this many decades of business in the Charlotte area—how many similar stories there are about the comic shop. There are likely even more stories about the long-spanning Heroes Convention, which has impacted the lives of fans and artists alike. HeroesCon has been running yearly in Charlotte since 1982. The event continues to draw large crowds with the promise of countless of opportunities to meet illustrators, writers, and comic world personalities such as Adam Hughes and Todd McFarlane. It also gives fans the chance to meet the creators behind their favorite series.
Furthermore, HeroesCon has managed to create a casual and fun experience of going to a room crammed full of people who may or may not be dressed in PVC, and may or may not be in the middle of a passionate argument surrounding the fighting capabilities of Bruce Wayne versus those of Tony Stark. HeroesCon has remained true to the traditional comic book convention, focusing on how that medium continues to grow with the creativity of its next generation of artists. The last time I was there, I was able to see the full spectrum of this, including previews of compelling and interactive web comics, as well as low budget prints of incredibly inventive indie titles.
The convention brings attention to the humans that help elevate the iconic names of their heroes to the level of superstardom. These are the people who have made such a lasting impact over the span of their careers, that even toddlers—who are barely able to run—are clutching pieces of these creators’ work in a Spider-Man toy or a Captain America shield. HeroesCon actively puts the artist first in so many respects. In fact, it’s hard to leave without taking home bags and bags of new titles or original artwork. With those bags of comic book novelties comes a whole new appreciation for the people who have brought so many years of beautiful artwork, captivating storylines, and who have also inspired nerd fights for days about how that Apocalypse/Wolverine storyline should have gone a different route.
Behind what has become a huge annual event for Charlotte is one man, Shelton Drum, who started it all with a relatively small, one-day event called the Charlotte Mini-Con, at the once standing Eastland Mall. Shelton’s cumulative influence can definitely be felt in our city, as he manages to not only support artists close to work, but local artists as well, even incorporating paintings in his shop from Charlotte artists.
CLTure was able to interview Mr. Drum about how Heroes began, his initial vision, and his favorite things about putting together HeroesCon.
CLTure: What made you decide to try to organize a larger scale convention?
Shelton Drum: It was an evolution. The show just kept growing into what it is now.
CLTure: What about Charlotte itself made you feel like it would be a great home for Heroes?
SD: It was and is where I live. I never considered any other place to start. I’ve been doing business here for over 40 years.
CLTure: What have you added to the convention over the years that has become one of your favorite aspects?
SD: I’ve tried to keep it the same. It’s just bigger with more pros and more stuff to shop for. Same formula. Same focus.
CLTure: Did you ever anticipate it to reach the size it has now?
SD: Not at first, but that was 1982. There were no shows this size back then. After a few years, maybe 10 or 12, I did start to dream big.
CLTure: Stan Lee attended the convention in your third year. As the organizer of the show, what is it like for you to interact with talents that are well known, or revered like Stan Lee?
SD: Stan was first here in ’84, my third year. I was pretty star-struck that year. He had been the face and voice of my favorite publisher for my two decades of collecting at that time. I still get excited by Stan and really appreciate all of the talented creators we have attending. It’s easier for me to talk to them now, but I’m still in awe.
CLTure: Aside from Stan Lee, who are you the most excited to have visiting this year?
SD: Tough question. I really enjoy seeing and spending time with so many of my friends in the industry. The regulars that have supported me by attending year after year are truly some of my best friends in my life.
Meeting new talent in the industry is always fun and I love to see them grow in popularity until they are big stars. I love saying “I knew them when…”
CLTure: Who are some of the guests you’ve had in the past that you’d like to bring back?
CLTure: Are there any guests you really want to bring on for future events?
SD: All of the ones I haven’t yet!
CLTure: Has the convention changed in any way from your original scope, or how you imagined it would be?
SD: Just bigger really.
CLTure: What made you decide to focus on comics in particular instead of any of other mediums?
SD: I liked comics when I started the show. I like comics now.
CLTure: Have you ever felt pressure to include other mediums into the convention?
SD: People ask me all the time to bring in guests from other mediums. Many non-comic guests call us. We turn down a lot of offers.
CLTure: Can you tell us more about the charities Heroes works with?
SD: We provide complimentary space to lots of groups that raise money for local charities. We like to support the Second Harvest Food Bank with our Charlotte MiniCon held in January. We have done things for The American Red Cross, The Charlotte Fire Fighters Burned Children’s Fund, The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and on occasion, funds may go to a specific family or person in need. The art auction was originated in 1987, when our good friend and local artist Sam Grainger was hospitalized and had no health insurance. It started a legacy of benefits.
CLTure: Who are some of your favorite local and or national bands?
SD: Boy, that’s a long list! I’m a fan of folk, blues, alt-country and solid rock, but I like lots of stuff as long as it is original and from the heart. As far as my favorites, I’ll just say that the bands we have playing at the convention are ones that fit my criteria for original and real. Jr. Astronomers, Temperance League, and Married With Sea Monsters (The Mary Janes) will be playing a kick-off party for us on Thursday night. Jack The Radio play the Drink and Draw on Friday night. Jr. Astronomers and Temperance League again on Sunday night.
All-time favorites include, but aren’t limited to…
John Prine, Lucinda Williams, Ry Cooder, Black Keys, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jackson Browne, Avett Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Flaming Lips, Little Feat, Gillian Welch, Jason Isbell, The Weeks, Joan Armatrading, Drive By Truckers, Doc Watson, Wood Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Ray Lamontagne, Ruthie Foster, Keb’Mo…
CLTure: Any plans of organizing a Heroes Con-cert?
CLTure: Important question: Marvel or DC?
SD: Marvel when I was a kid. Whoever is doing the best work now. Mostly independent creators.