by Brian Clarey

When District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny declared Greensboro “Comic Book City,” it was easy to shrug it off as just another hokey public-relations stunt. But Brian Ewing, one of the minds behind the city’s first downtown comicbook convention, assures us this is not the case.

“We don’t sell a lot of comic books for a city our size,” he says. “We sell a lot of comic books for any city.”

At the heart of the Gate City’s comicbook culture is Acme Comics, which calls Lawndale Drive home but was once located at the corner of South Elm and McGee streets, in the space that is now the Idiot Box.

“It’s really fitting that we have some events there,” Ewing says.

The locus of the convention is the Empire Room, where vendors, speakers, panels and shows will set up. But like Spider-Man, the con will web-sling its way throughout downtown, with events at the Idiot Box, Fincastle’s, Golden Spiral tattoo shop and Stumble Stilskins, and others at the Lost Ark on Spring Garden Street and an after-party down the road at Geeksboro.

“It’s definitely a cultural kind of event,” Ewing says. “There’s a really vibrant alternative-culture community in Greensboro.”

“It’s like a Hobbit birthday, where instead of getting gifts, we give this gift to the city,” says Stephen Mayer, another organizer of the con and an employee at Acme.

Along with the usual spate of lectures and merchandise, this con creates an emphasis on inclusion in comic-book culture.

“Geek Girl Rising,” a panel of female artists, writers and performers, responds to the decades-long male bias in the industry.

The history of Acme will be honored in a panel with original owner Mark Austin and a few of the store’s more notorious alums. And a nod to its future will close out the proceedings on Sunday with the long-time manager Jermaine Exum and his crew.

In between will be a cosplay costume parade, a live podcast featuring one of the heavyweights of the modern superhero era Mark Waid and a live-action game show.

Cody Elles, another convention principal, moved here from Los Angeles four years ago and soon took a job at Acme Comics. He thinks having a convention like this in Greensboro makes perfect sense.

“It’s intellectual, it’s artsy,” he says. “It’s okay to be excited about the things you love.”