Local comic book fans have big plans for the long Thanksgiving weekend. The Dallas Fantasy Fair is returning after a more than 20-year hiatus, occurring Nov. 24-25 at the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas.
For those not in the know, the original Dallas Fantasy Fair, hosted by the late Larry Lankford, was THE comic book convention in North Texas from 1982 to 1995. In an era when "geek culture" was far less mainstream than it is now, patrons could shop a large vendor’s room filled with comic books, toys, T-shirts, action figures, and more. In addition, there were panels, seminars, movie previews, and costume contests.
Perhaps the biggest draw to the DFF were its guests, including such legendary comic book creators as Alex Toth, Frank Miller, John Byrne, Will Eisner, Neil Gaiman, Jack Kirby, and industry icon Stan Lee, the Marvel Comics creator, who just died November 12.
“Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created what is known as the Marvel Universe, the bulk of the Marvel characters, and I met them both at Larry’s shows in Dallas,” says J. David Spurlock, organizer of the resurrected Dallas Fantasy Fair. “I became friends with them and many other legendary talents I met at the Fantasy Fair conventions.”
Spurlock’s ties with the original Dallas Fantasy Fair are far and wide. He never missed a show, but it goes much deeper than that.
“DFF founder Larry Lankford and I met when we were 13 at D-Con ’73,” he says, referring to an early comic con in Dallas. “We stayed close from then on and a few people even thought we were brothers. I was at every Dallas Fantasy Fair, often as a guest artist but I was also involved behind the scenes as a close friend of Larry’s.”
Spurlock left the Dallas/Fort Worth area in 1996, just as Lankford shut down the original DFF, but he returned recently to be near family.
“Inevitably, when I began reconnecting with old friends, our great times at the old DFF come up,” he says. “People say the new shows are great but that there was something special about the old DFF shows. So we’re bringing it back.”
Spurlock promises to re-create the vibe, atmosphere, and fun of the old comic cons, which were more intimate, less commercial, and more comic book-focused than the bigger, glitzier shows of today.
“Many of the conventions now are mostly Hollywood autograph shows,” he says. “Though it’s great to meet the actors who play the characters, I feel it is priceless to meet the talents that actually created these pop-culture characters before we lose them, as we just lost Stan Lee.”
Guests at this weekend’s Dallas Fantasy Fair include an array of talented artists, such as Michael Golden (The Micronauts), Simon Bisley (Lobo), Frank Brunner (Doctor Strange), and Benbrook resident Kerry Gammill (Superman).
The guest of honor is Jim Steranko, who is known for his stylized art and snappy attire.
“Steranko was a revolutionary talent at Marvel in the ‘60s,” Spurlock says. “He co-created Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and went on to work in film with Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg. Steranko helped create Indiana Jones. Steranko is a unique personality who could have walked out of a Mickey Spillane novel.”
In addition to comic book creator meet and greets, the DFF is hosting an eclectic array of other guests.
“We have George Lowe, the voice of Space Ghost,” Spurlock says. “Imagine carrying on a conversation with Space Ghost! We have Bob Camp, the co-creator of Ren and Stimpy — he also does voices and conducts sing-alongs of ‘Happy Happy Joy Joy’ and all the Ren and Stimpy songs he wrote.”
Frank Frazetta Jr., son of the late fantasy artist, will also be there.
“Google Frank Frazetta,” Spurlock says. “His paintings sell for over $1 million. Frank, Jr. is making his first-ever Dallas appearance in support of the Frazetta Museum.”
Want to know how much your collection is worth? Dallas-based Heritage Auctions will offer free appraisals on your art, music, movie, and comics-related items. Dressing as favorite characters is encouraged, too.
The Dallas Fantasy Fair takes place 10 am-6 pm November 24-25 at Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas. Tickets are $20 Saturday, $15 Sunday, and a two-day pass is $30. Kids ages 10 and younger get in free with a paid adult admission.