Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love. It sits just a short 90 minutes away from NYC and about two hours from Baltimore. In recent years, there has been a lack of geeky celebrations within the community. The only comic book convention the city sees is Wizard Con, but other than that, the city is relatively void of big conventions that celebrate comics books and the diversity they bring. This year, ReedPop looked to do something by introducing a new convention: Keystone Comic Con.
When KeyStone Comic Con was announced, I was very pleasantly surprised. Troy Baker, Nolan North, Phil La Marr, Kevin Conroy, and other big name actors and actress were lined up to attend. Despite my excitement and enthusiasm, I was a bit wary, as the meltdown of Baltimore’s Universal Fancon came to mind. But as the event drew closer, and people began posting on social media, I became quite excited for it.
The main expo hall featured a variety of exhibitors, from creative art to dealer’s selling all sorts of trinkets. One nice thing was that the expo hall was filled with passionate con-goers, eager to find that elusive comic issue. I actually picked up a special book called The Art of Atari. Artist Alley had a collection of aspiring artists and comic-book writers. By complete surprise, I came across Bob Camp, the co-founder of Ren and Stimpy. He was “keeping the boys alive” as he said, promoting the importance of hand-drawn animation and displaying his prints. Having grown up with the crazy duo, I had to grab a print. While the expo hall was neat, the panels and cosplay were the biggest highlights.
The biggest moment of KeyStone Comic Con was recognizing the works of Frank Miller, the illustrator who worked on such ground-breaking stories such as The Dark Knight Returns and Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. Other panels included “A Spotlight on John Barrowman,” “Comic Pop Live,” and “An Evening With Troy Baker.” After grabbing lunch, I attended a hilarious panel with the two founders of classic web-series Cyanide And Happiness, Dave McElfatrick and Brett Vance. It gave insight into how the wild minds at Explosm.net work, but also, a perfect example of how an episode is made. For a good 40 minutes, the audience detailed a future hero for the series, a bearded man that launched eagles from his beard called “Beaird Man.”
For me, the biggest highlight was the panel “Kevin Conroy: Behind The Cowl.” For the first time in my life, I saw Kevin Conroy in the flesh and was humbled by his ability to make it to Philadelphia and give us insight into what it is like to be revered as the pinnacle voice of both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Having grown up with Batman Animated Series, and having fairly recently watched Batman: Mask of the Phantasm for the very first time, it was a great pleasure to hear his thoughts, and share his experiences.
Several striking moments included singing ” Am I Blue” from Justice League Unlimited and reminiscing on his time at Juilliard, where he was roommates with the late, great Robin Williams. The best part was his answer when asked: ” What is a line that Batman has said that has stuck with you for the last several decades?” He replied with a scene from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, where he pleads with his deceased parents to release him from his fate upon discovering happiness. Seeing Kevin, on National Batman Day of all days, was one of the big highlights of the year, and I’ll never forget it.
As I walked about the halls, saw the panels, and got to see amazing cosplay, it became clear that KeyStone Comic-Con, while a much quieter convention, already accomplished an important mission, and that is convention representation. KeyStone Comic Con resides in a city that has strong African-American communities, known for pushing the boundaries of artistic mediums. There is a pulsating community of “Blerds” (short for Black nerds, a self-identifier) that have made leaps and bounds in the community, in addition to creating their own stories for the medium.
The fact that KeyStone Comic Con exists meant a lot to the local community to be able to pull off a pretty-significant convention for their first year. Seeing a convention take place in Philadelphia was a welcome addition for the communities of Philadelphia, South West NJ, and Delaware. KeyStone Comic Con was a solid event. It looked and felt like an entirely different comic book convention, that catered specifically to the people of Philadelphia and comic book enthusiasts. KeyStone Comic Con Part will happen again next August 23-25.