Marvel artist John Romita Jr. says Charlotte HeroesCon is a comic lovers’ dream

It doesn’t matter how many conventions John Romita Jr. attends, and how many thousands of fans he continues to meet. A small part of him usually worries he won’t have people lining up at his at booth.

But he can rest easy in Charlotte, as fans have assured him via social media that they’ll be queuing up to meet him first thing on Friday when the doors open at the Charlotte Convention Center at 11 a.m. for this year’s annual Heroes Convention.

Romita is best known for his long career as a comic artist at Marvel and DC Comics, and for co-creating the “Kick-Ass” comic series. He is the son of the late John Romita Sr., one of the most prolific artists at Marvel known especially for his work on Spider-Man comics and for creating iconic characters like Mary Jane Watson.

“As long as they like me, I like it. It’s a great show,” Romita said in a phone interview with the Observer on Thursday. “There’s an old adage that if you do a show too many times, that people can get bored with you, and that’s something to be wary of. But as long as I’m having fun, I’ll continue to do it.”

For over 40 years, whether by foot, flight, or webslinging, fans have made their way to Charlotte for the short-lived paradise that is HeroesCon.

Thousands of guests each year come looking for a chance to cosplay as their favorite characters, attend a panel discussion with their favorite comic creators, or simply take in the sights and sounds while looking at art and shopping at the stalls throughout the venue. Romita will be one of the top draws this year.

No stranger to HeroesCon

It’s not his first time at the Charlotte show, which was started in 1982 by Shelton Drum, the owner of the Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find comic book shop on Pecan Avenue. And each time Romita attends, Charlotte tends to stand out.

“Overall, the quality here is top notch. These guys that I’ve known for a long time do a great job,” Romita said. “Shelton and I go back a million years, so he’s always treated me well.”

Drum’s professionalism and his reputation with comic creators is a major reason the convention, also known as HeroesCon, tends to draw major names in the industry, Romita said, including Marvel legends like the late Stan Lee and Romita’s late father.

In addition to Romita, fans will have the opportunity to meet other prolific comic book artists and writers like Chris Claremont, known for his work in the ’70s, ‘80s and ‘90s on X-Men, and Adriana Melo, known for her artwork in DC Comics and Star Wars.

Jim Starlin, co-creator of Thanos and writer of Marvel’s “The Infinity Gauntlet” comic miniseries will give Charlotte fans a chance to debate whether or not Thanos was right.

“Shelton treats people very well,” Romita said. “If he didn’t do as good a job as he did, then the word of mouth wouldn’t spread. And it’s become a large show, and I think that is a testament to him and to the city.

Crowds flock to the opening day of the 2019 HeroesCon in the Charlotte Convention Center.
Crowds flock to the opening day of the 2019 HeroesCon in the Charlotte Convention Center.

What’s inside HeroesCon this year

Some attendees will have the opportunity to learn from Cher Lambeth, a former Jim Henson Company puppet building builder, about crafting and performing with a puppet. Others can learn how to draw Star Wars characters from cartoonist Jamie Cosley, whose work appears in Stars Wars Insider.

There’s also an opportunity to learn how to craft elements of a masquerade or drag performance, like makeup, music, and storytelling, from a panel hosted by local drag performers, including Will Charmer and Pepper Insult.

Each day, the convention will host a cosplay masquerade, giving guests a chance to show off their costumes.

Compared to other conventions, like San Diego Comic-Con, which has grown to be inclusive of all types of media and fandoms, HeroesCon has kept a focus on comic book artists and writers.

Although, Romita said, given recent events like the writers’ strike in Hollywood, many of the shows nationally have been getting back to comic-focused roots and are beginning to look more like HeroesCon.

And while he does appreciate conventions sticking to their roots, he also likes that larger conventions like SDCC incorporate films, video games and merchandising.

Romita sticking with Spider-Man

He couldn’t say much about his projects in the works, but he did confirm that’s he drawing Spider-Man for Marvel at the moment.

“I just spoke to Marvel recently, and they want me for a little bit longer. So as long as they want me, I’ll stick around,” Romita said. “And there’s going to be a new writer on the book in a couple of issues, so I can’t really say much more, other than I’m still having fun and it’s better than having a real job.”

Brianne Dameron, dressed as the Joker, Natalie Belcher, as Supergirl, and PJ Clark, as Harley Quinn, walk through HeroesCon to look at comic books in June 2017 in the Charlotte Convention Center.
Brianne Dameron, dressed as the Joker, Natalie Belcher, as Supergirl, and PJ Clark, as Harley Quinn, walk through HeroesCon to look at comic books in June 2017 in the Charlotte Convention Center.

Romita’s father was also known for his long career at Marvel Comics, and especially his work on Spider-Man. Being able to “roll along” and work on the same hero his father drew has been a pleasure, he said.

“I consider his quality of work well, well above mine,” Romita said. “I know what he did as a fine artist, not just a cartoonist, and he was doing things as a teenager that I can’t do now. But it gives me a bar to reach for.”

And in a way, Romita has been able to continue the tradition of involving family in his work. He said that with his wife and two sons, he has three new bosses.

Working with sons on social media

In recent years, Romita’s sons have helped him spread his social media presence, giving him a chance to not only connect with fans, but his family.

Social media has also helped him connect to conventions around the world, including Italy, where he made stops in Naples and Lake Como.

“We get a chance to see places we wouldn’t normally have seen,” Romita said.

After his weekend in Charlotte, Romita will be heading back to Italy to a town just oustide of Milan for another convention. And because of social media, he’ll have an idea ahead of time of what the fan response might be.

“When we get a nice reaction to advance notice on the show, that helps a lot,” Romita said. “I’ve been doing this long enough where I have a good amount of both: I have fans and and I have haters. If the haters outweigh the lovers, then I’m gonna have to second guess what I’m doing in my 70s. You know?”

But for now, he’s got his eyes set on exploring Charlotte a little bit before the convention starts today. It will wrap up on Sunday, June 16.

“It’s a beautiful area,” Romita said. “This is a nice city. I really like it.”

How to go to HeroesCon in Charlotte

Three-day passes are $75 per person. Admission is $35 to attend only Friday or Saturday and $30 on Sunday.