Last year’s Tucson Comic-Con had founder Michael Olivares wishing he was Dr. Octopus.
The annual comic book event moved from the Bookmans Event Center in 2011 to the Tucson Convention Center Exhibition Hall for its fifth anniversary, the comic equivalent of going from Bruce Banner to the Incredible Hulk.
Volunteers were plentiful, but Olivares still could have used an extra mechanical arm or two.
“It was a huge, multi-floored event,” he said. “We had to make sure we had insurance, had security. We never had any of that before. We were managing, but it was a big job.”
The convention brought in more than 6,000 comic fans, 1,000 more than originally anticipated.
“There was a lot of interest,” he said.
While not at San Diego Comic-Con levels just yet — that monster event attracts more than 130,000 each year — Tucson Comic-Con has become a welcome addition to a fall season that includes the TusCon science fiction convention, the All Souls Procession and the Tucson Zombie Walk.
This year’s event will follow in the tradition of past Tucson Cons by putting a focus on the artists behind the art.
When people ask Olivares which celebrities he is bringing to Tucson, he tells them the artists are his celebrities.
“I would love to bring the cast of ‘The Walking Dead,’ but that is not what our show is about,” he said. “It is about the creative minds in the world of comic books and appreciating what they do.”
This lineup includes a mix of new, heavy-hitter talent and regular, local and national visitors.
Matt Hawkins, a 20-year veteran of the comic book industry with more than 1,000 issues to his name, has signed on to appear.
So has Ken Kristensen, writer and co-creator of the Image title “Todd the Ugliest Kid on Earth.”
Mike DeBalfo, a Phoenix artist recently picked up by Aspen Comics and “sought after at bigger shows.” Olivares said, has returned to the convention several times.
“No other convention that I’ve done has consistently supported local talent as well as Tucson Con has,” DeBalfo said.
Jeff Mariotte, an author and co-owner of Mysterious Galaxy, is another regular.
“It is always a great time,” Mariotte said. “It is big enough to attract fans and major talent, but intimate enough to have real conversations.”
Other notable names appearing include letterer Hannah Nance Partlow, creator of “Lady Death” Brian Pulido, writer and “Hawken” co-creator Benjamin Truman and the Los Angeles-based inker, Jonathan Bolerjack.
“I love all these guys,” Olivares said. “I’d like to keep the con about the artists in the long run.”
An employee at Showtime Cards, Olivares figures he has another three or four years before the con becomes his full-time occupation.
He’d like to someday use the convention to raise money for charities and hold smaller events, in association with Comic-Con year-round.
Attendance-wise, Olivares wants to break the 10,000 mark by the con’s 10th anniversary.
“I think it will be a fine-tuned machine at that point,” he said.