Graphic content inside: Comic convention hits UNF

Spinnaker

Your intrepid reporter and his invaluable photographer sidekick recently ventured into the world of local comic book aficionados.

When your curious correspondents arrived at the Student Union Jan. 27, a man dressed as the Joker greeted us at the door. No joke.

Chris King turned out to be the man behind the painted mask and the organizer of the event.

King spearheads Comic-Con-Plus — dubbed “Jacksonville’s only ongoing Comic Book Convention” on its Web site.

In an effort to expand their endeavors, this proverbial Justice League of Jacksonville’s comic book dealers decided to test the waters of Osprey Nation.

Four vendors, including King, comprised the Jan. 27 convention, selling comic books and memorabilia.

Joe Peace was one of the dealers. A larger group of vendors usually gets together for Comic-Con-Plus shows, which are normally held at the Ramada Inn in Mandarin, Peace said.

The group plans on holding more conventions at UNF in the coming months and hopes to eventually rent out a bigger space at the Student Union to house a larger event with more dealers.

“What we’d like to do is the ballroom, but we’ve got to crawl before we run,” Peace said.

Jay Olchak is a veteran of the national comic book convention circuit and has been in and out of the business for decades.

There is a healthy menagerie of comic book enthusiasts in Jacksonville, but that doesn’t equate to healthy sales, Olchak said.

“There is a strong following but it’s not profitable at all,” Olchak said.

After speaking to the dealers assembled inside, approaching the Joker was next on the agenda.

“He’s a joker, alright,” Olchak ribbed.

“You’re going to regret that,” Peace chimed in.

King manned the door as folks sporadically shuffled in. A $2 admissions fee and an obligatory name tag, one pre-made and emblazoned with monikers like “Mr. Enthusiasm,” were requisite for entrance.

He may have looked menacing and mischievous in his Joker makeup and suit, but King’s motivations for conducting conventions were the opposite of ominous.

Comic-Con-Plus started up in July of last year. King began the enterprise to generate operating capital for his nonprofit organization, The Least of My Brethren, a charity for the homeless.

“I’ll meet someone who needs a pair of pants, and I’ll take them to Goodwill,” King said. “It’s not about helping 10,000 people at once, it’s one person at a time as I meet them.”

King is an illustrator as well as a comic book convention organizer and humanitarian to the city’s homeless.

He said he loves the reactions his costumes elicit — King also occasionally dons a Borg get up from the “Star Trek” universe.

“It’s an exercise in psychology, you should try it sometime,” King said.

If you missed the mayhem, fret not, dear reader. King said they’ve got the Student Union booked through March and plan to do a convention a month at least until then, so keep your eyes peeled to The Spinnaker for further 411.