Mario Russo, organizer of Greater Atlanta Comic Cons, held the first Marietta Comic/Anime Con this Sunday at the Hilton Garden Inn on Windy Hill Road.
“Comics have always been my true love,” he said. “And it’s as geeky as you could possibly imagine.”
The self-professed geek said his goal is to bring back the smaller comic book conventions that surged in popularity in the 1990s back into the mainstream, as it’s an affordable form of all-day entertainment for families.
“This is kid-friendly — there’s comics kids can read, they can dress up in costumes and just be with their families,” the New Jersey native said.
Now living in McDonough, Russo lamented that bigger conventions like ComicCon and DragonCon can be too large, expensive — $130 per ticket compared to his $5 entry fee — and inaccessible to a lot of comic book, cartoon and anime fans.
“And it’s not really a kid-friendly show,” he said. “There’s way too many dominatrix out there to bring the kids.”
With comic book prices ranging from $3 to the hundreds and even thousands of dollars for the rarest of collector’s items, Russo said the convention offers a little bit of everything and boasts vendors from all over the Southeast.
“We have comics that start in the 1940s and go up to last week,” he said.
Alongside the comics, there were posters, original comic art sketches, action figures and toys all for sale.
Joanne Padgett, author of science-fiction series “Vampires of Camelot,” said she likes to travel from her home in Nashville to book signings at smaller conventions like Marietta Comic/Anime Con to have more face time with her fans, whom she calls “fang buddies.”
“If you go to these bigger conventions like DragonCon you get lost in the shuffle,” Padgett said. “I’m a big fish in a small pond here.”
Russo said comics, unlike their film counterparts, also help get kids like his own 10-year-old son interested in reading.
“If you get kids to read comics and they enjoy it, they connect reading as enjoyment and then they’re reading books the rest of their life,” he said.
Dwayne Hepler, a Cobb County business licence inspector from Mableton, said he’s glad there’s a place closer to home to get his comic book fix alongside his son, Wyatt.
“With the combination of toys and comics, it’s more something my whole family can enjoy,” Hepler said.
Sisters Peyton Albright, 14, and Madison Albright, 6, of Marietta wore Batman and Wonder Woman costumes to the event.
Peyton, who will attend Wheeler High School in the fall, said she likes the social aspects of conventions as well as the opportunity to get her hands on new comics.
“I came here because there’s so many other people that I have common interests with and there’s lots of stuff I can buy and waste money on,” the pigtailed teenager said.
Though Russo isn’t optimistic comic book stores like the one he owned up until 1996 will jump back into popularity, he hopes to get comics back onto grocery store racks like they were decades ago. He said he’s in talks with Cracker Barrel to get low-priced comic book packs into the restaurant chain’s gift shop.
“I want to bring comics back into the hands of the kids and make them more accessible so you don’t have to go to a special store,” he said. “And this (convention) kind of is a stepping stone for that.”
Russo will also play host to the Atlanta South Comic Con in McDonough on July 14.
The event will come back to Marietta on Nov. 10 at the same location, with other dates throughout the fall in Warner Robins, McDonough and Columbus. For more information, visit www.atlantasouthcomiccon.com.