The Rest of the Story ...
Like they say in the funny pages: "BAM!" "BOOM!" "CRASH!" Expo-Man defeats the evil New Manager.
And his alter-ego, Donald Juengling, is bringing the Memphis Comic Expo back to the Agricenter this weekend with its original motto firmly in place: Creators come first.
Juengling hopes that his dedication to artists and writers will continue to make his show a destination for serious fans at a time when graphic fiction is huge, but more fans still consume comic book properties by way of big-budget films like Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming or television shows like Arrow and Legion.
Tim Burton's Batman hit the silver screen in 1989, three years after comic book artist/author Frank Miller's Dark Knight series reinvigorated the superhero genre, introducing readers to a more mature, novelistic version of the World's Greatest Detective. Although Christopher Reeve's Superman had been popular a decade earlier, Burton's film marks the true beginning of Hollywood's serious romance with the funny books.
Since that time, there have been more than 70 major Hollywood films based on superheros originating in the Marvel and DC universes, and at least 17 more are already in the works. That figure doesn't account for independently originating properties like Hellboy, Ghost World, or Kick-Ass, among others.
Television has proven to be an ideal medium for cross-product universe-building and serialized storytelling, and between network, cable, and streaming services, there will soon be more than 20 comic and superhero-inspired shows to choose from.
"It's huge," Juengling says of the seemingly inexhaustible supply of comic book products making the jump into new mediums. "That's why it's important to make sure we appreciate the creators. Because without these guys, none of that other stuff would even exist. Who knows, maybe next year the Comic Expo will be all media stars."
Juengling has learned that great responsibility brings great stress — and sometimes great disappointment. This year's biggest Expo guest, Russ Heath, had to cancel for health-related reasons. Heath's the nonagenarian who created the Haunted Tank while working in the trenches for DC's war and horror divisions in the 1940s and 1950s. If you don't know the name, you may be familiar with military aircraft renderings. Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein — an artist whose name you probably do know — modeled two of his most famous paintings, Blam and Brattata, after frames Heath created for DC's All-American Men of War title.
"These guys really deserve all the recognition they can get," Juengling says, and — as if powered by the force of some mysterious and occult hand — the list of artists he's bringing to town continues to grow. POW!
The Memphis Comics Expo, Saturday, September 16th, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.; Sunday, September 17th, 10 a.m. -5 p.m. at the Agricenter, 7777 Walnut Grove Rd. $75.
Comic creators coming to this year's Expo include Gene Ha, artist for Alan Moore's Top 10, and Chris Burnham, the No. 1 New York Times best-selling artist of Batman Incorporated and co-creator of Nameless with Grant Morrison.
Kyle Baker created Nat Turner and has won 8 Eisner awards; Darick Robertson is the artist and co-creator of Transmetropolitan with Warren Ellis and Happy with Grant Morrison; Ty Templeton is known for work on Batman Adventures; Bob McLeod co-created the New Mutants with credits that include Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man, Venom, and Wolverine. And many, many more. In addition to writers, artists and cosplayers, the Memphis Comics Expo welcomes Walter Jones the original Black Ranger from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.