It doesn’t take long to figure out that Dan Gorman is a passionate guy. Whether it is comic books, movies or television, he clearly has the “bug” that afflicts those rife with an insatiable appetite for popular culture. And like anyone who fervently loves something, he wants to contribute.
That’s why Gorman and his partner, Jason Miller, are hosting Rubber City Pop Culture Fest, May 26-28, at Goodyear Hall (1201 Ohio 18, Akron, OH, 44305).
Featuring actors Stephen Vinning and Tom Proctor of “The Walking Dead,” artists Matt Horak and Shawn Cos, and local author/pop culture authority Joanna Wilson (just to name a few), the event is shaping up to be both an interactive and entertaining weekend. Vendors such as EarthQuaker Devices, Nerdy Taco, Defunct FX, Inked Earth and Blimp City Jewelry and Gifts will be on hand for conventioneers’ convenience.
The Devil Strip: My first love as a child was professional wrestling. What was your entry point into the vast ocean of pop culture fandom?
Daniel Gorman: I have been a fan of science fiction from the earliest time I can remember. I loved watching “The Hulk,” “Wonder Woman,” “Buck Rogers” and “Battlestar Galactica” on television when I was very little. I fell in love with “Star Wars” around the time “Empire Strikes Back” was released. My favorite movie when I was 5-years-old was “Jaws.” I became a huge fan of the comic strip “Garfield” around that same time, and I thought I might become a syndicated cartoonist. When I was 12-years-old, I discovered comic books, and the rest, as they say, is history.
TDS: What is the origin of the idea for Rubber City Pop Culture Fest (RCPCF)? How long have you and your partner been working on it?
DG: Way back in the late-1990s, my partner Jason Miller and I had a shared dream about running a bonafide comic book convention in Akron. We were going to call it “Rubber City Comicon: The Greatest Show in Con-Dom.” However, the timing and the opportunity never really presented itself for us to be able to run the event we really wanted to run.
Flash forward 15 years, and the guys behind Akron Comicon beat us to the punch. We immediately got behind their show and wanted to help them realize the vision THEY had for a real convention for the city. The success of Akron Comicon also proved to us that our vision wasn’t that off-base, and that the city could–and would–support a pop culture event on the scale we envisioned.
And then an opportunity presented itself to us.
One of our business associates was involved with the Rubber City Sports Group. They were looking for events to run in the East End Facility, and after taking one look at the place we knew we could host our event there. So we set to work, re-branded our event to make it more fan and family friendly, and Rubber City Pop Culture Fest was born.
TDS: RCPCF organizers have taken a broad approach to the genres represented in the show. Horror, comic books, and television are each prominent. What were the criteria for selecting guests?
DG: To be honest, guest selection was based on our collective network of friends and celebrities we had worked with over the last 20 years. As an artist who has been exhibiting in Artist Alley’s around the country since 2006, I had built a pretty solid network of talent who I either had worked with, worked for, or had become friends with through the course of business. Jason has also built a diverse network, so together we had a number of friends we could count on to help us make this convention a success. We have known many of the guests, vendors, and exhibitors for many years.
TDS: NE Ohio is notoriously supportive of “nerd culture.” As a native, what do you think it is about the people of the region that allows it to connect so succinctly with them?
DG: This area has not only a love of pop and “nerd culture,” but it is also rich in the talent that creates and contributes to that culture. Superman was born not too far north of here. There are a lot of artists in this area, both in and out of genre-related work. But I think there is some kind of creative gene that the people of NE Ohio all share. We are all artists in some way. The art community in this area is so strong and diverse and rich. It’s amazing to me how much talent I see in this area every day. I also think the people of this area have a superhero mentality. Everyone is always willing to help, to donate, to lift each other up. This area has gone through many ups and downs. It has seen its share of financial decline, but the people here are very proud of their history. They don’t shy away from it–any of it–and they embrace everything that they are.
As NE Ohioans, we reflect on the hard times we’ve experienced, but we celebrate our culture and achievements to an even greater extent. The people of Akron exhibit this trait as much or more than any people I have ever seen. It’s like the feeling is “We are the Rubber City and we will always bounce back!” That’s the kind of resolve that we see in the heroes we love in comics, television, and on the big screen.
TDS: As a first-time event, what experience do you hope RCPCF delivers for attendees?
DG: Jason and I hope that the show provides a convention experience that is up-tempo, exciting, and fun from the second it opens to the second it closes. We want you to have fun meeting and supporting the artists, vendors, and guests. We want every attendee to participate in the events and leave wanting more. We want this event to be a celebration every Memorial Day Weekend for years to come— and fan participation will go a long way in making that happen. We want this to be YOUR pop culture convention, and a destination for you each and every year. We can’t wait to see everyone at the First Annual Rubber City Pop Culture Fest!