By Lenore McKenzie-Morris
Creativity and imagination were the products on display at X-Con, Myrtle Beach's only event to showcase comic book art, horror film production and gaming.
Organizers were hoping the event, now in its second year, would continue to draw a growing crowd.
Robin Roberts, chairman of the convention, said the event at Springmaid Resort was off to a good start.
"This year we pre-sold 60 to 70 tickets; last year we pre-sold two tickets," he said, noting that the first convention was planned and executed within 90 days in 2008.
"This year we had a whole year to put it together," he said. "We have a lot more guests this year and twice as many vendors."
Well-known artist Bob Camp, who was the creative director on the Ren and Stimpy show, was among the guest artists.
"I was here last year," Camp said. "I thought it was a lot of fun. It just seemed like a really cool thing and the people running it were really very nice. It's fun to meet people who are into comics and the people who make them."
Camp, who is currently creating storyboards for Disney, said he started his career as a caricaturist and portrait artist at state fairs and rodeos. In 1981, he met someone who took him to New York City where he found a job at Marvel Comics. While there he contributed to the Conan, Nam and GI Joe series.
Camp wasn't the only celebrity at the resort. Patty Cockrum, a Marvel comics veteran with credits for the X-Men series, was available to discuss her work, as well as Tim Seeley and Jonathan Hickman, both experienced Marvel artists.
Young aspiring artists from Myrtle Beach throughout the Carolinas were on hand to show their wares, too.
Matt Bahr, a Myrtle Beach resident, was seated two chairs down from the Ren and Stimpy creator, offering to draw on request for convention attendees.
Next to him, Joel Shugart, Jr. of Rock Hill was selling the few remaining copies of The Lollipop Kids comic book which he self-published.
"It started out as a comic book about my nephews," Shugart said, "and it came around to The Lollipop Kids."
Shugart said he's almost sold out of the first edition of the comic series by attending a lot of conventions.
"I've done a lot of talking it up and posting on MySpace to drum up business," he said.
The Myrtle Beach convention offered Shuggart and Bahr the opportunity to interact directly with comic book fans and veteran artists.
"We mix the local talent in with the established artists so they can make connections," Roberts said. "I would love nothing better than for them to get connections."
Roberts, an architect who found himself in the comic book business when Heroes Hangout went up for sale, said he bought the business because of a friendship with the manager.
"We moved the comic books over to the art gallery - Palmetto Studios - and he came with it," Roberts said. "After about a year, he asked if I'd ever gone to a comic book convention."
Discussions led to planning, and X-Con was born.
"There isn't one in South Carolina, except for a one-day event in Greenville," Robert said.
The 2008 event surprised Robert and his staff when they opened the doors to hundreds of ticket buyers who had heard about the mostly unadvertised event through the Internet. More than 750 people attended the first year.
Roberts said the event was dubbed X-Con to avoid labeling it as strictly a venue for comic books. The organizers want it to become what the public wants it to become.
"The whole show was spawned off the love of comics, and then there's all the peripheral stuff that draws everyone in," Roberts said.
A full costume shop gave convention attendees the opportunity to create their own look or mimic a comic book character. Several of those attending had made detailed costumes just for the event.
A full slate of movies was shown throughout the three-day convention. The film crews were on hand to cast for new projects.
"Last year we had one independent company that makes horror films," said Roberts. "This year we have three."