Another Midsouthcon has come and gone in Memphis- the 33rd MSC to be exact.

It was a bit cold and rainy from time to time over the weekend, but since the con takes place inside the hotel the only thing the weather did was probably cancel some cosplay photo shoots, and give me a head cold- again. Nothing like Memphis weather to help brew some con-crud in my sinuses. This past week after the con we were in for another round of it- just as I’m starting to feel better…ugh. Saturday was cold and had sleet/snow flurries, Sunday was warm and sunny. Now my wife Nicki is sick. That’s what we deal with around here. Could be worse!

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The con was held again at the Memphis Hilton Hotel (or the “tin can/beer can” as some locals refer to it). It’s held various cons over the years, and the past 4 0r 5 Midsouthcons. It’s right off 1-240 and Poplar Ave.– one of the main roads in Memphis. So far this is my favorite location for the con. The many years they were at the hotel near the airport were convenient for me when I lived about two miles away, and the location at the Whispering Woods in Olive Branch, MS (just over the MS state line) had some things I liked about it (great con-suite location and closer to where I live now), but this one seems to be the best so far. There are plenty of places to eat nearby, off Poplar that runs from one end of the city to the other and the interstate loop (I-240) that encircles Memphis, the Crystal Shrine Grotto located nearby  off Poplar for some great cosplay pics, more parking, and a Target close by in case of any items you forgot to pack or need for cosplay emergencies. The con is a sci-fi/fantasy literary convention at heart, but has evolved over the years to include comics, media, anime, cosplay, SCA, kids programming, and more.

MidSouthCon is a non-profit type 501(c)(3) corporation, and currently benefits such charities as the Science Fiction Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund and LITERACY MID-SOUTH. They also help to promote other cons, fan groups, and local charities.

It’s a 3 day con (Fri/Sat/Sun) and held in the Memphis area each spring, and if it wasn’t for MSC I probably would never have met my wife! (More history on MSC here –


I stopped by the con on Thursday night to drop off my artwork for the artshow. I got off work later than I had hoped (as usual), but I didn’t have any of my large paintings this year to display, so load in and hanging my art was pretty easy. I just brought prints and some recent sketch cover comics I had finished. Had a Doctor Who painting I wanted to get done, but the weather, day job, and sinuses just didn’t allow it this year. Will have it at ConKasterborous for sure.

I like the new space for the art show- and dealers room next door. They were flip-flopped last year, but both layouts were a big improvement over the previous years. The gamers in the old art show location seemed to have more room as well, and were off in one of the ballrooms down a side hallway. Great for gaming, but hard for folks finding the artshow before. My only complaint with the rooms was the lighting- a bit dark. I did like that there was a new Art Show banner near the door, and the times were listed on the doors. Big help.


Nicki and I met up after work on Friday at Target, then headed over to the hotel. We had a panel together at 7pm in one of the smaller panel rooms. It was called “Show Offs” and was on displaying collections. Nicki was the moderator and we were joined by book collector and ‎IT Business Analyst at IP Kiya Black, and the Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture for Special Collections at the University of Iowa Main Library and sci-fi fan and musician Peter Balestrieri. Enjoyed talking with both of them, and since the panelists outnumbered the attendees 4-2 we talked to each other A LOT! We each talked about our own collections, how we display them, our recent renovations of our Batcave and Fangirl rooms at home, displays we’ve done at our local library, the Ohio State University Cartoon Library, as well as other collectors like Hollywood historian Bob Burns and MSC guest author John Jackson Miller. We also learned some great info on protecting collectibles- especially books from Peter, who even had information sheets on preservation and restoration links to hand out. Will be very handy in the near future! While we were talking Nicki had a slide show of our rooms and collections playing on her iPad.

I think one of the reasons we may have had a small turnout was we were up against opening ceremonies going on at the same time in the main ballroom, and we weren’t listed in the panel description of the MSC pocket program guide. Had heard other panels were left off over the weekend, too. Happens. One of my biggest pet peeves with MSC is the amount of panels, repetitive panels, and conflicting panel times. I do love to attend or speak on panels at the con, and there’s A LOT to choose from, I just feel sometimes they end up splitting their audience and not having as many folks show up for some in doing so. I’ve had the problem of being scheduled on one panel while another I’d reallllllly love to check out is happening at the same time down the hall, or Nicki and I being on different panels at the same time- always want to hear her panels. I’ve also heard some guests say they felt like they were saying the same thing as they were in an earlier panel, or that they didn’t get to see as much of the con as they would have liked to because they were so busy on panels all weekend. I also wish they wouldn’t schedule panels back to back to back in the meeting rooms. It can be hard to clear the room for the next panel, and cutting the panels short can really cut off a good discussion just as it’s getting going after everyone has introduced themselves. It’s also tough to get from one side of the con in time for another panel if you’re on two back to back that aren’t in the same room or hall. It’s a tough tightrope to walk when scheduling programming at cons- what’s too much or too little..? How do you get all of your guests enough face time with fans? How do you justify the free pass (or other incentives) you give to a guest? Just glad I don’t have to make those decisions, and do thank the MSC staff for inviting Nicki and me to be a part of their programming. I’ve helped put on two small one day shows, a two day con, and volunteered at other shows. Running a con is not something I ever want to attempt to do again, and I don’t envy anyone who does. It can be a very thankless job, and a majority of the feedback you hear can be negative- the folks with gripes are usually the loudest since the folks without any are too busy having a good time to complain. Big thanks to everyone involved with this show. Every year I see improvements!

After our display panel was over we headed across the street to have dinner with our friends Rhonda, Tim, Traci, Rachel, and John Jackson Miller. John had brought along a few of his friends from high school. JJM is originally from Memphis and comes back each year to MSC. We had a great dinner, and even had one of the waiters ask us about the con and some recent comic story lines he had missed. I had another panel to get to so I had to leave a few minutes before everyone else, and Nicki was dropped back off at the hotel by Tim and Traci and attended my panel once she was there.

My last panel for Friday was “Prepping for an art show” at 10pm. We had seven panelists this time and I was afraid we’d outnumber the attendees again, but this time we had a good crowd- especially for that time of night. We were joined by MSC Artist Guest of Honor Melissa Gay and discussed getting ready for convention art shows, group shows, one man shows, pricing art, promotions, receptions, and more. I have done 4 one man art shows around Memphis, many group shows in Memphis and Hernando, MS, and and have participated in the MSC one for several years now. Hope to do a show with Nicki and some of her photography some day.

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After walking around and looking at costumers we said goodnight to whichever friends still happened to be up and wandering the con. It was getting late and Nicki and I had a long drive home, so we headed south back to our bed. Sometimes it’s nice to stay at the hotel a con is held, and sometimes it’s nice just to sleep in your own bed.


The next morning we made a pit stop at Chick-Fil-A for some quick breakfast, and then headed to the con for my “The Rise and Fall of Saturday Morning Cartoons“. I forgot my Rice Krispies Treats to hand out at the panel, and forgot my new Batman shirt to change into later- opps! Panel was in the small room again, but was well attended. Cartoons had been showing there before our panel. Got to talk toons with the Commercial Appeal’s John Biefuss, author Mark Berry, MSC assistant programming manager Robert Brogden, and Lucas Leverett. We talked a lot about the cartoons (and live action shows) we loved as kids, which ones we had been watching as adults, some history of the beginnings of Saturday morning cartoons, and why they disappeared after over 50 years of being in our homes. My favorite parts were when one of us would bring up a show and others would say, “Oh, man- I loved that show!” The scary part was doing some research for this panel and finding out that Saturday morning cartoons had only been around a few more years than I have! There were a lot of things that contributed to the extinction of Saturday morning cartoon programming- video games, cartoon channels, VHS/DVD, infomercials, the internet, and cheaper live action shows were just a few of the reasons. Sad in a way, but kids today usually don’t have to worry about missing any shows. If we missed an episode of anything it could be years before we ever saw it again- if ever..!
Nicki wanted to catch Author Guest of Honor Cory Doctorow‘s panel at the same time as my cartoons panel. He discussed his career as an author, blogger, and his views on copyright laws. She bought a copy of his book and I later got it signed when she had to her Doctor Who panel. Looking forward to reading it and checking out his blog and podcast.


My next panel at noon was on “The Psychology of Arkham“. This time I was joined by Josh Plock, Siri Eroom, James Weakley, Brittany Bailey, and Robert Brogden. If you know me, you know I loves me some Batman and his rogues gallery!


One of my favorite bat-adversary is Harley Quinn, who was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm for Batman: The Animated Series, and then later introduced to the DC Comics universe. Fellow panelist Brittany was cosplaying as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, and even had an Arkham name badge on her lab coat. Need one for my Harley Quinn collection!


We had a great turnout for the panel, and we discussed subjects like the various Gotham career criminals that have had stays at Arkham, what psychosis drives them, which ones go to Blackgate Prison instead, and is Bruce Wayne/Batman just as crazy as the crazies he catches, and is he responsible for the creation of some? We also discussed Narcissism,the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath,how “insane/insanity” is a legal term, and some Arkham history and trivia.


Next up was the Doctor Who panel that Nicki was moderating at 2pm in the grand ballroom. She was joined by panelists Sylvia Cox (MSC Guest Liaison), Josh PlockKathryn Sullivan, Bill Tracer, Bruce “Doc” Anders, and special guest K-9!


Last year the panel was in the smallest room at the con and was not only standing room only inside the room, but had folks standing in the hallway as well. The crowd wasn’t as big, but everyone felt more comfortable in the bigger space (Thanks, Kelly!). Many folks discussed their first Doctor, favorite companions, the Doctor in other media, how they felt about the current TV series new Doctor and Master/Mistress (spoilers!), and what the future holds for the series. We even had a TARDIS appear midway through the panel.


There were some great Doctor Who cosplayers who attended, too- these were the ones I was able to round up after the panel. Rounding up cosplayers for a photo op can be like herding cats!

Nicki has donned the 4th Doctors scarf and hat in the past, and has plans to do some more Doctor Who cosplaying at future cons, and I wouldn’t mind trying to make a costume or two for myself. We’ll be heading back to ConKasterborous this year. Had a great time there last summer.

Once I had wrangled the costumed Whovians for a photo, we headed across the con to our next panel- “Holy-DVD-Release, Batman!” where we discussed the recent ’60s Batman TV show finally being released on DVD and Blu-Ray. Nicki was moderator again (she’s really good at it), and she and I were joined again by fellow panelists reviewer John Biefuss, author Mark Berry, and MSC assistant programming manager Robert Brogden. Had a great time reminiscing about our favorite episodes and villains, and why all the wait for the release. We asked some trivia questions, passed around some bat-books, and I even did my Adam West impression…which didn’t go over well. “Holy-Tough Crowd, Batman!
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Nicki bought the 3 season DVD collection for me back this fall for my birthday. I never thought I’d actually own these episodes..! The closest I’ve come was the ’60s movie on DVD and Blu-ray, and recently copies I recorded off of cable before our DVR died. Before that it was either race home from school to catch re-runs, or later record some on VHS. The fantastic restoration job done on the episodes for this series set make them look amazing. The colors pop, and there’s so much detail that just got washed out in the syndicated ones I’ve caught on TV over the years. I’ve gotten a kick out of watching favorite episodes, remembering ones I had forgotten, and seeing others I somehow missed.


After that we had Nicki’s next panel – “Do You Have That Fandom In My Size?“. We were in the same room so we didn’t have to go far. Great turnout for this panel, too- standing room only. Nicki was moderator on this one as well, and joined by panelists Tim Brown, Laura Smith, Johnny Dellarocca, and MSC programming manager Kelly Brogden (who describes herself as “beyond fluffy“). Topics included the lack of larger sizes/colors/styles of geek friendly clothing, why more female characters aren’t included along with the boys on merch and promotional materials, why does anything geared towards female fans have to be pink, and why can’t guys like Wonder Woman or My Little Pony? The panelists also discussed why we’re not seeing more female live action and animated movies and TV shows, and how hopefully the success of Agent Carter will help get more made.


It became a very lively discussion, and was attended by guys and girls of all sizes, races, ages, and fandoms. Kelly said she and her husband Robert had made her own tees because she can’t find them in their size. Johnny applauded that and encouraged folks to be confident in themselves, wear clothes that fit- whatever size you may be, get creative with your fandom, customize clothing/costumes to meet your needs, and find your own style.


All panelists agreed that fans should like what you like, support what you like, and embrace fans of all types. I’d love to see another panel like this at a future MSC- and other cons. Would also like to see more Captain Chaos cosplayers!

We didn’t have another panel until my 6pm “Drawing Comics Pencil and Digital“. I was the moderator, and was joined by artists Kelly Williams and Larry Cathey. We discussed drawing inside and outside of a computer, how we determine which projects need to be traditionally drawn or which need to be done digitally, how we all got started working digitally, and what other tools and art mediums we like to use. Nice to talk shop and answer art questions for about an hour.

After that we caught our buddy Tim Brown’s Fanfilms panel he was moderating. They had shown a few examples of fanfilms before we got there. By the time we arrived and got seated they were discussing some of the dos and don’ts of making fanfilms. Tim runs the Superman Celebration Fan Film Festival and Competition in Metropolis, IL each June. Once his panel was over we joined him, his wife, and our friends Mike and Rhonda for dinner down the street at Genghis Grill. Saw several other con folks there, too.

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After dinner we headed back to the con to catch the Masquerade. We stood in line for a bit until a con staff member noticed that we and the couple in front of us were wearing guest badges. He offered to let us have early entry to get good seats, so we took him up on it. Gotta take advantage of con-perks like that when you  can! Once inside we ran into Tim who was at the back of the room setting up equipment to video the costume contest. We grabbed a couple seats in front of his riser. I ended up giving my seat away to a cosplayer and joining Timmy so I could get better shots. There were more and more arriving and was surprised many weren’t in the costume contest. I’ve been in it before a couple of times, and it can take up a lot of time on Saturday, so I can see why some would pass on it.


There were about 2 dozen or so entries, and most didn’t do a skit so it actually went by a lot faster than I had expected. The younger contestants really seemed to have fun. It was getting kind of late and we had about a 45 minute drive home ahead of us so we didn’t stick around to see who the winners were, or stay for the dance party.

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There was a time we wouldn’t miss one, but there are times when our inner Danny Glover reminds us that we’re getting to old for this shit! We also needed to be back early for the Kaffee Klatsches in the morning.
What’s a Kaffee Klatsch? It’s basically breakfast with the Guests of Honor at the con. We signed up to eat with Dragon Dronet– one of my favorite SPFX artists and stuntmen (Dragon’s been involved with Batman:Dead End, Buffy, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and many more!) , and he’s just a really cool cat,  martial artist, and musician. We were joined by our friends Marcus, Kelly, Dragon’s friend and sparring partner Chad, and a couple other folks. We got to talk one on one with Dragon and find out what he’s been working on, hear some fun behind the scenes stories, and hear more about his love of music. We met Dragon several years ago at a past MSC, and I’ve been lucky to run into him the three times I attended the San Diego Comic Con.

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After we finished our breakfast, Dragon excused himself to go get ready for his upcoming panels and fight demo with Chad later. We ended up running into Timmy in the hallway outside of the “Building Props” panel he was going to be on with Dragon (he was carrying his trusty flask-saber he built for Star Wars Celebration a few years back- and wearing one of my Abby Normal tees). Fellow panelist Kelli Harrell was waiting for the room to open as well.



Once inside Tim and Kelli were joined by guest artist brothers Michael and Paul Bielaczyc, local Rocky Horror propmaster Timothy Romine, Dragon Dronet, and Chad Volpe.


Michael and Paul discussed how they made the props and make-up for their ice wizard costume Paul wore in the masquerade the night before. Kelli shared some of her favorite materials to use, and Timothy let us in on a trade secret- painted googly eyes for studs/rivets!



Dragon brought along some movie props from his personal collection including the mask from The Mask and others.
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Two of my favorites were Dragon’s personal fighting helmet (which is over 25yrs old and he still uses to spar in) and an armored glove from the movie The Chronicles of Riddick. Dragon passed them around and let each of us examine how they were made.

They were incredibly cool to see up close and to actually hold. I was amazed at the detail on the gauntlet and it’s range of motion. Also thought it was cool that Dragon’s fighting helmet was partially made of cardboard and a leather jacket from Goodwill!


After the prop panel was an armor building panel, and the group was joined by my buddy John Clark– another prop builder and costumer I first ran into in Metropolis at the Superman Celebration.


Chad showed us part of his samurai armor he built that Dragon called his “cosplay” armor- only because he does fight demos at cons and renaissance fairs in this (he has another other scratch built “full dress” samurai armor) and it’s made with shoestrings! This guy knows his Japanese fighting armors and weapons, and how to be creative when making costumes. Really wish I would have had more time to discuss that sort of thing with him over the weekend.
Since Dragon had to do a fight demo soon after this panel and wasn’t going to have time to go back to his room to suit up, he donned his alligator skin armor during the panel while telling us the history of it. Quite an interesting backstory…but it’s better when he tells it!


The armor also had a lot of character and interesting details, including some Draconian emblems from Buck Rogers!


Everybody got a kick out of examining the armor up close, and seeing the difference between the screen used gauntlet and the armor Dragon uses for sparring!


After the armor panel we stopped by the dealers room and checked out Dragon’s table. He had some of the props from the panel, plus a few others. Incredible work! Would love to be able to collect more props and prop replicas. I have a few batarangs, but could always use more. 😉


Speaking of incredible prop work, we stopped by John Clark’s table in the dealers room, t00. Nicki had shield envy..!


We did a bit of shopping in the room and picked up a few Lego figures, some hand made Doctor Who and Robin key chains, and I got a Batcycle and some comics from my buddy Eric Crimmins at his table- which included a 3D Dave Stevens comic…thanks, Eric!
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After shopping and socializing in the dealers room, we went next door to the main ball room for Dragon and Chad’s fight demo. This was the first time we had seen both of them fully suited up. Pretty impressive. Once you see Dragon in his armor it’s not hard to believe he’s been a Predator and a fighting gorilla.


They first did a bit of sparring with some Shinai bamboo Kendo swords. As they fought, they would rib each other- sometimes literally!



They explained the difference between point sparring, traditional samurai fighting, and fight scenes choreographed for movies and TV.


You could really tell these guys loved what they do for fun and a living.



Other guys who love what they do for fun and a living, are my fellow MidSouth Cartoonists Association members Lonnie Easterling and Greg Cravens. They were set up in artists alley drawing funny over the weekend. You can check out their toons at and


After the fight demo, Dragon and Chad headed down the hall to a costuming panel called “It’s All In The Details”.
They were joined by theater costumer Sona Amroyan, entertainer Johnny Dellarocca, and moderator/cosplayer Christopher Randolph. They discussed the differences, and similarities in costuming and prop building for movies/television, theater, and cosplaying. Said goodbye to Dragon and Chad after the panel.

We caught one other panel on Podcasting, which included Author Guest of Honor Cory Doctorow as a panelist. Learned a lot about getting started, interviewing guests, equipment, and more. Hope to do a HGWT podcast soon…
Before heading out we stopped back by the Memphis Star Wars Fan Force table upstairs in the lobby to see our friend John Jackson Miller again. John’s been busy writing Star Wars and Star Trek novels lately. He’s also written for tons of comics, including Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Iron Man, and the Simpsons. Like I said earlier, JJM’s originally from Memphis, and still has lots of friends and family in town, so this con is his yearly homecoming- and it lets him escape the brutal and isolating Wisconsin winters. JJM likes to talk, and this con is a great opportunity for him to do that. We kid that he ate Trivial Pursuit games and TV Guides while growing up, and can now regurgitate trivia on demand. Ask him about TV show spin-offs or comic sales figures and you’ll see what I mean!
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After saying goodbye to John, we heading home- tired from a full weekend of fun! We stopped on the way back for some barbeque at Memphis BBQ Co., and once home I hung my con badge with the others I’ve collected over the years and called this con over for me…until next spring.
Would like to thank Carlin Stuart, Danny and Kim Chamberlain, Kelly and Robert Brogden, all the con staff and volunteers, our fellow panelists, Dragon Dronet and other MSC guests, all the folks who took the time to attend our panels, and all those cosplayers who were kind enough to pose for pics.


Sorry I didn’t get to run into Comics Guest of Honor Ethan Van Sciver, but we’ve met a few times before, and I’m sure we’ll cross paths at a future con again soon!



P.O. Box 17724
Memphis, TN 38187-0724