“First of a ll, the term ‘comic book geek’ used to be a negative term. Nowadays, it actually took quite a swing upwards. More people are coming out of the ‘nerd/geek closet’ than ever before,” Chris Yambar, a comic artist and writer, said.
Yambar’s Lawn-Con began in the artist’s own yard years ago. Now, for its fifth year anniversary, the convention resided at the B&O Station in Youngstown.
Yambar is a painter, writer, cartoonist, publisher, designer and recorder. He is best known for his comic, “Mr. Beat,” and his involvement in “The Simpsons.”
The convention offered national and indie comic creators a place to showcase their work and their talents — as well as live music, stand up comedy, portfolio reviews, local wrestling acts and a cosplay contest for all attendees.
Yambar said he is excited, but not surprised at the turnout of this year’s lawn-con, especially with the dawn of the “geek revolution.”
“You can look at all the movies that come out every single year … the sci-fi, the super hero, the action/adventure, the animation. … They’re probably the biggest grossing genres that ever walked the face of the Earth. A lot of females are entering into this as well — the hobby, the art form, the cosplay, the creative aspect … all that. And that’s exciting. It’s proving that it’s not going away. It takes on a lot of different forms, but its not going away,” Yambar said. “It crosses the age, gender and income barriers. … It’s right there. You even see people sporting nerdy apparel, like the green lantern movie — even though it sucked — and people aren’t ashamed to wear it anymore … even subdivisions of anime. That’s everywhere. We are in magical times.”
Nothing was more magical than seeing men, women, adults and children of all ages gather to celebrate the nerdom that is Lawn-Con. Tents were set up down the stretch of pavement in front of the B&O Station and were filled to the brim with original artwork, free comic books, homemade art and other local and indie goods that were for sale.B&O Station in Youngstown.
Tom Goldthwait, a Youngstown State University graduate student in the computer science program, and Fiona Kelly, a YSU undergrad student, had a tent set up at the convention for their company, Derailed Games. The two artists, along with art director Nick Uroseva, decided to make their own board game called Vigilance. According to the designers, the game idea was formed July 2014 and has an unknown release date.
“To come up with the idea, we looked at a lot of different conventions that we were going to in the future. We realized a lot of the games there had a superhero theme,” Kelly said.
This realization helped the designers to create their own game with a similar theme.
“The plotline is basically … [there is a city] … called Peril City, and bad things keep happening. You need to go around and try to solve all of the problems. You’re trying to build up prestige by solving problems and doing favors for people. The winner is whichever hero gets the most prestige,” Goldthwait said. “The crises are randomly generated, so they come from a deck. The players actually get the crises into their hand and they play them when they want to, but they have to play a card every turn. We want to play-test it until we get it exactly where we want and then look heavily into a crowd-funding campaign for finding a publisher to work with us.”
Another local vendor was Anne Marie Lutz, an author who claims this area as her hometown. Her books include “Color Mage” and “Sword of Jashan” and she also had a short story in the 2013 “LocoThology” anthology. Her books were picked up a few years ago by a small press publisher from Amherst, Ohio. She was at the convention to promote and sell her books, as well as sign copies.
“I didn’t always write seriously because I was working, trying to make a living and feed myself. I started writing again, seriously, about six years ago,” Lutz said. “I started going to book conventions and critique groups. Everybody in my critique group wrote some kind of speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy or something like that. Eventually I got picked up by a publisher and now my books can be ordered on barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.”
Yambar believes that Lawn-Con will continue to grow as long as the population as a whole harbors a love for creativity and, deep down, hopes to see the Bat Signal in the night sky or the USS Renegade spotted next to Hubble Space Station.
“How cool would it be to be driving somewhere, and you look up and there’s Spiderman? I mean, it’s kinda groovy, and people just want to have that feeling of escape,” Yambar said. “But you know then that your insurance rates are going up cause they’re beating up on some building downtown, you know? And you could get a chunk of concrete going through your house at any moment, there is a bit of insanity in it, but that’s why it works.”