Motor City Comic Con returns with celebrity guests, local talent

By: Jennifer Sigouin | Royal Oak Review | Published May 9, 2017

 Paranormal researcher John E.L. Tenney, of Royal Oak, will meet with fans and host a panel discussion during Motor City Comic Con.

Paranormal researcher John E.L. Tenney, of Royal Oak, will meet with fans and host a panel discussion during Motor City Comic Con.

Photo provided by Motor City Comic Con

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METRO DETROIT — It’s not every day that fans can rub elbows with some of their favorite comic book creators, artists, and film and TV icons, but then again, Motor City Comic Con is not an everyday event.

The 28th annual convention — coming to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi May 19-21 — is Michigan’s largest celebration of pop culture, with more than 300 creators, writers, illustrators and actors on the lineup this year. MCCC organizers estimate that more than 55,000 guests will attend the event, which offers autograph and photo opportunities; panel and Q&A discussions; an Artists Alley, featuring comic book creators, writers and illustrators; and a show floor packed with exhibitors, crafters and vendors, including local comic book shops. Visitors can also enjoy a cosplay contest on Saturday and a family-friendly Kids Day on Sunday.

In typical MCCC fashion, this year’s event has plenty of star power, with an impressive roster of media guests from popular television series and films including “Guardians of the Galaxy,”  “The Walking Dead,” “Arrow,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Gotham,” “Sons of Anarchy” and more. Fans can also enjoy a blast from the past with appearances by stars of such ’80s and ’90s hits as  “The Breakfast Club,” ”Weird Science,” “American Pie,” “Freaks and Geeks” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Some of the headlining celebrities scheduled to appear include Ron Perlman, Michael Rooker, Rob Schneider, Lou Ferrigno, Sting (of the WWE), Wil Wheaton, Sean Astin, Kelly Le Brock and Anthony Michael Hall, just to name a few.

MCCC is also a great place to check out some of the homegrown talent that’s right here in Michigan, as a number of participating comic book and media guests are based in metro Detroit.

Brighton resident Katie Cook, for instance, will be among the comic book artists in Artists Alley. Cook is an accomplished illustrator and writer who has worked on a variety of projects, including licensed properties for DC and Marvel Comics; “Fraggle Rock” comics for the Jim Henson Co.; the popular “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” comics; and current projects for Disney. She’s also the creator of the comic “Gronk: A Monster’s Story” and is well-known for her “Star Wars” artwork and her contributions to the official starwars.com blog.

Cook will have some of the books she’s worked on, as well as prints of her artwork, available at her booth at MCCC. She’ll also be doing what she calls “quick draws,” which are on-demand drawings at the request of Comic Con guests.

A lot of the projects that Cook has worked on — like “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” — are geared toward younger readers, and she noted that kids often like to talk to her about some of their favorites.

“I’m thrilled to talk about the characters with them,” she said, adding that kids have sometimes told her that the comics have inspired them to start reading more.

She’s also open to speaking with up-and-coming artists about their careers and how to break into the industry.

“I tell them to put themselves out there online,” she said, noting that the internet is the No. 1 way for artists to get their work seen by others.

While Cook takes part in 16-18 conventions each year, she said that MCCC is special because it’s her hometown event and the one she’s “grown up going to.” She particularly enjoys seeing the work of other local artists and watching their careers grow from year to year.

“I love looking at the different art styles that are popping up,” she said. “I encourage everyone to walk through Artists Alley and see the talent Michigan has to offer.”

On the media side, paranormal researcher John E.L. Tenney — a lifelong Royal Oak resident — will be available to meet with fans throughout the weekend.

Tenney is one of the country’s top investigators of UFO, paranormal and occult phenomena. He was the co-host of the 2014 reality TV show “Ghost Stalkers,” which can still be seen on Destination America, and he has also appeared on TLC’s “Paranormal Lockdown” and A&E’s “Paranormal State: The New Class.” In addition, he has written more than a dozen books; he’s acted as a consultant for numerous media companies; and is well-known for his signature “Weird Lectures.” He’s also the creator and host of the “Realm of the Weird” podcast, which is currently being adapted into a TV show.

Tenney said that events like MCCC give fans a chance to talk to him about some of their own experiences.

“It’s an opportunity for people to tell their own personal ghost stories or UFO sightings,” he said.

Tenney has spent the past three decades exploring and researching unexplained phenomena — which he posts about at weirdlectures.com — and a number of those incidents have happened in Michigan.

“Michigan is actually a really great place for people who love strangeness,” he said.

Tenney noted that one of the state’s largest group UFO sightings happened in the Dexter area in 1966, with approximately 3,000 people reporting that they had seen something. To this day, he still meets people who had witnessed it.

What happens in real life, though, isn’t always portrayed accurately by Hollywood, he explained. He said that he often gets asked about the reality behind feature films that deal with the paranormal and the occult. Movies based on true stories, like “The Conjuring” and “Annabelle,” he noted, often embellish facts for the big screen.

While the official MCCC panel schedule hasn’t been released yet, Tenney is planning on hosting a discussion that will further explore some of those discrepancies.

“I’ll be doing a lecture on reality vs. fiction when it comes to the paranormal, the occult and the supernatural,” he said.

He’ll also talk about real-life “superheroes” who can use telepathy and kinetic energy; he’ll explain what an actual exorcism is like; and he’ll discuss the concept of zombies from a scientific and historical standpoint.

Tenney added that MCCC is an event he looks forward to because he “grew up as a comic book kid.”

“I’ve been to this comic con, in all its iterations, since I was 12 years old,” he said, noting that the convention has “radically changed” since its early days.

Over the years, he has seen it evolve from a small gathering of 25 or so comic book artists, with more of a cult following, into the massive pop culture event that it is today, attracting fans of all ages and interests.

“This is what it’s like when the nerds win,” he said.

Motor City Comic Con hours are 12:30-7 p.m. Friday, May 19; 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, May 20; and 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, May 21. The Suburban Collection Showplace is located at 46100 Grand River Ave. in Novi. For a complete schedule, parking information or to purchase tickets, visit www.motorcitycomiccon.com.

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