Credit: Ron Baxley Jr.

This is a column on regional comic cons (conventions) and how some of the same faces and names pop up again and again.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL

The “It’s a Small World” Disney parks attraction and song evokes nostalgia for me. Of course, in “The Lion King”, Scar tells Zazu not to sing the sometimes cloying earworm when the bird is imprisoned. Zazu sings, “IT’S A SMALL W’U-URLD AFTER ALL!” Next, Scar replies, “Oh, anything but that.”

But how often do we hear the cliche, “It’s a small world”? Like most cliches, there is an element of truth to that which is often repeated. In fact, I observe the regional con world figuratively shrinking the more I participate within it.

I found it to be a small world when Jason Conley, actor from “Wakanda Forever,” attended Chris Foss’ Vault Show and Sale where I was a guest author. The show was held in Columbia, S.C.

It is truly a small world. Actor Jason Conley was recently at a red carpet fundraising event for “Wakanda Forever” in Augusta, GA and was just at a show/mini-con in Columbia, S.C. last weekend.
Photo by: Ron Baxley, Jr. 

I had very recently mentioned Conley in my preview feature on the recent regional red carpet premiere of the film and mini-con he attended in Augusta, Georgia — about an hour away from Columbia.

Here is the original article on the aforementioned red carpet premiere which Conley was featured in “Grice Connect”:

JASON CONLEY IN THE SMALL WORLD OF GEORGIA AND S.C. CONS

Actor Jason Conley, who lives in Aiken, S.C. but travels to cons throughout the region and beyond, again, made what to me was a surprise appearance at Chris’ Vault Show and Sale.

At the show, Conley said that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was great to work with in “Wakanda Forever” and that she was friendly. He said, “I was tempted to say ‘Yada-yada-yada’ because of her being Elaine on ‘Seinfeld’ but didn’t.”  

He also said that he was honored to be a part of “Wakanda Forever” and a film that brought many together as well as the recent fundraiser to support Cancer Support Services.

FUNDRAISER HAD A LARGE IMPACT

Jeremy Mace, coordinator for the recent fundraiser, said “We had about 100 people. No cosplay contest, but a lot of great pictures.” Many cos-players were shown in photographs and videos from the event.

Mace said they met their goals for the evening and raised a lot of awareness for Cancer Support Services.

“The event was a big success for CSS and AU Health. They were excited to celebrate the new movie, meet the actor Jason, and enable their volunteers and employees to get pictures on the red carpet. The comics artists had a great time!” Mace added.

JASON CONLEY SHOWS IT’S A LARGER WORLD IN SHOW BUSINESS

Conley is a local actor from Aiken, S.C., who has also appeared in the “Righteous Gemstones” franchise, “Stranger Things” Season IV, the upcoming “Gotham Knights.” He is a comic book writer as well and has his own line, “Fate 68”.

Though Conley probably will have other appearances before then, he will be a guest at JoeFest and the Soul City Super Con on June 9-11, 2023, in the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center in Augusta, Georgia with over 40,000 sq. ft. of toys, comic books and many other guests.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD IN DIFFERENT SOUTHERN CITIES

Chris’ Vault Show and Sale was more of a mini-con at the R.L. Bryan building on Greystone Blvd in Columbia, S.C.. I have known the aforementioned Chris Foss from the over 20 years I lived in greater Columbia. I also used to travel to his store from my rural hometown in S.C. for about a decade or more before living in the city. (At present, I live about an hour from Statesboro… across the S.C. border. I hope to move to Statesboro eventually.)

Some of my first books were placed in Foss’ formerly owned Heroes and Dragons superstore in Columbia. They were satirical science fiction books which I wrote while I was in my twenties. Being a life-long writer, they did show some skill but were obviously the works of a young adult. Chris Foss, the owner, and the former manager, Tracy Hollingsworth, were kind to put them on their shelves to sell. Being a life-long geek, I visited their old location at Boozer Shopping Center and their superstore from when I was a child to my thirties — maybe even after.

By the way, the husband of a cousin, who is the daughter of a late, great aunt, is CEO of The R.L. Bryan Company. He rents R.L. Bryan on certain weekends to Chris Foss for his vault shows and did the same for the latest show.

Ron with his second book in his O.Z. Diggs VII series, “O.Z. Doesn’t Diggs G.C.C. at Emerald City”. This was published by YBR Publishing over 20 years after his satirical science fiction series. (Photo Courtesy Ron Baxley Jr.)

IT’S A SMALL WORLD WITH CONNECTIONS TO SCHOOLS, TEXTBOOKS, AND COMIC BOOKS

According to their website, “The R.L. Bryan Company was founded by Richard Latham Bryan in 1844, making it Columbia (South Carolina’s) oldest operating business. In 1901, the company became the textbook distributor for the state of South Carolina. In 1969, on its 125th anniversary, The R.L. Bryan Company moved its operations to its current location on Greystone Blvd. Today, the R.L. Bryan Company is still known for its warehousing and fulfillment services, as well as its role as the state’s textbook distributor.”

It fits that a vault sale/mini-con mostly devoted to print materials was held there.

By the way, though I have visited with my cousin and her husband for years, I had never seen the inside of her husband’s place of work until Chris Foss’ Vault Show and Sale. The outside of its building is quite mod. In addition, the interior has a lot of nice wood paneling in the lobby with a modern interior staircase and metallic relief sculptures on the walls. Next, in some ways, it reminded me of some of the sets from the television series “Mad Men.” After all, the business did move to its current building in 1969. Also, the space we used at the vault sale/mini-con was about the size of a banquet hall or larger.

Decor from the R.L. Bryan building in Columbia,S.C.  Photo by: Ron Baxley, Jr. 

The author (right) at CanaCon in Grovetown this fall. Chris Foss, who ran the recent miin-con in Columbia, S.C., is shown to his left. (Photo Courtesy Ron Baxley, Jr.)

SMALL WORLD CONNECTIONS BETWEEN CONS

But none of the aforementioned was brought up when connections were re-established at previous cons. Instead, Chris Foss, who I had not seen in a long time, ran into me at CanaCon in Grovetown, Georgia, where we were both guests. He, seeing that I had made a name for myself with Oz and fantasy fiction, invited me to his con. It coincidentally ended up being at my in-law’s workplace’s building that he rents.

Proverbial small world.

Grice Connect freelancer and YBR Publishing Oz universe and fantasy author’s guest table at Chris’ Vault Show and Sale at R.L. Bryan in Columbia, S.C. last weekend.  

Photo by: Ron Baxley, Jr. 

IT’S A SMALL WORLD WHEN IT COMES TO FACES, IMAGES, AND POP CULTURE

I had deja vu about the pin-up guest artist Gregbo, who was at Chris’ Vault Show and Sale this past weekend. I had seen him at cons in the Columbia area and “Carolinas” before and maybe even Soda City Comic Con there. In addition, the same was probably true of Soda City Art. I thought I had probably seen them various places as well.

Guest artist Gregbo with his wife at Chris’ Vault Show and Sale at R.L. Bryan in Columbia, S.C. last weekend.  Photo by: Ron Baxley, Jr. 

Another proverbial small world is the world of Masters of the Universe collectors and vendors who attended. I saw at least three or four vendors who sold the preferred action figures of my childhood.

Speaking of which, many articles have been written about the attending LT Toys & Stuff in Boozer Shopping Center and how the young man who started the toys/collectibles store did so from the ground up. Therefore, I felt like it was a small world by meeting him at Chris’ Vault Show and Sale.

Holding a scary Chucky doll, Lawson Taylor, the young teen owner of LT Toys & Stuff at Boozer Shopping Center is shown with Jason Taylor at their booth at Chris’ Vault Show and Sale last weekend. It was held at the R.L. Bryan building. Photo by: Ron Baxley, Jr.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD WITH MY OWN WORK, MEMORIES, AND CONNECTIONS

Yet another case of small world syndrome there was a piece by guest artist Mike Hoffman at Chris’ Vault Show and Sale that reminded me a bit of a Polynesian chaos demi-goddess character co-author James C. Wallace II and illustrator Gwendolyn Tennille created with me in our second Oz/Wonderland crossover book (no longer in print), “Whether the Sea is Boiling Hot and Whether Pigs Have Wings.” We created her, Lava Magma, almost a decade before “Moana” came out. We were probably all tapping into the same Polynesian mythos, though. (That book is out of print after we left a publisher, but our first Oz/Wonderland book, “Of Cabbages, Kings, and Even (Odd) Queens of Wonderland an Oz,” is still in print on Amazon.com.)

A print on canvas by guest artist Mike Hoffman which reminded the author of one of his own Oz/Wonderland series book characters, Lava Magma, that he created with James C. Wallace II and Gwendolyn Tennille. Photo by: Ron Baxley, Jr. 

Even attendees brought back memories because there was one attendee who was wearing a ring of the rabbit/pookah from “Donnie Darko.” I liked that film and spotted her apparently custom ring immediately and asked if I could get a picture of her with it.

An attendee of Chris’ Vault Show and Sale shows off her ring which has the rabbit/pookah from “Donnie Darko” on it. The sale was held at the R.L. Bryan building in Columbia, S.C.  Photo by: Ron Baxley, Jr.

MY OWN SHARED SMALL WORLD

It’s a small world to me as well when I have met people as a fiction author with a table at the Statesboro Main Street Farmers Market. Then, I was able to later write non-fiction feature articles about it. Also, it’s been a small world when I have seen connections between places like the market and Galactic Comics and Games, where I have my books locally, and the Averitt Center for the Arts. They did a “Young Frankenstein” promotion with Galactic Comics and Games, which we at Grice Connect promoted. Praise God for the proverbial small world; it helps me forge many connections. The small world syndrome connects me to folks just as Grice Connect connects readers to the community.

At the Statesboro Farmer’s Market in September (Photo: Ron Baxley, Jr.)
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Ron Baxley, Jr., who is new to Grice Connect, has been a freelance (and at times full time) journalist for over a decade total and has been a creative writer almost his entire life. Though across the border...