HAMPTON—There are a few things keen observers may notice when looking at the event poster for the upcoming Top Shelf Comic-Con:
First, the name itself. It’s called Top Shelf because this is a local event being hosted by The Vanguard. Top Shelf is a bar term for the best brands of liquor in the house, and The Vanguard can certainly boast that since their Caiseal Bourbon was recently voted Best Virginia Bourbon 2021.
Second, the central figure of the poster is an intergalactic-looking keg that is pouring beer into superhero-clad bottles. Of-age visitors to Top Shelf Comic-Con can enjoy a premium craft beer or cocktail while at the event. A full menu of food is also available with options for the whole family.
Third, the cost of the comic on the poster is listed as zero cents. That’s because entry to the event is free and open to the public.
“We would go to other cons where people were paying $20 to $30 dollars just to get in the door,” said Wes Lambert, who is the bar manager at The Vanguard and who first created the Top Shelf event in 2019 with his best friend Jacob Smith. “Then when you get in and you want to buy a comic, you really can’t afford it anymore. So, when we thought up Top Shelf, we wanted to do something for the comic community by making it free for visitors and vendors.”
This is the second Top Shelf event being held at The Vanguard. The 2019 event was a big success, but the event last year was cancelled because of covid. So, the organizers are hoping to draw a good crowd again this year. It will be held indoors, with vendors filling the floor space in front of the stage as well as upstairs on the mezzanine. Around 20 vendors are expected, selling comics, comic book-themed action figures and toys, baseball cards, funko pops, and all sorts of other collectibles.
In addition, Brian Lacy from Brian Lacy Art—the creator of the event poster—will be on hand with the original poster artwork, as well as prints of some of his other work that will be available for purchase and autographs.
“We created Top Shelf Comic-Con not only for the community, but for the vendors as well,” said Smith. “Wes and I would hit every con we could, backpacks stuffed with comics, and deal until we got the comics we wanted. The cons started getting so expensive, dealers stopped trading as much. Their margins were so tight that the fun wasn’t there. Some booths even at the smaller cons are $1,500 for the weekend. Taking into account travel plus hotels plus food, and the smaller dealers got squeezed out. Now, a lot of the ‘Comic-Cons’ aren’t even about comics anymore. Wes and I called in favors, used back channels to get venues for free. We messaged every comic shop owner, hustler, artist we knew. Our vision was a show/con that was 100 percent free for everyone. A spot where you could have a beer and relax, enjoy the hobby with your community, without worrying about overhead. Wes and I refuse to make one dollar on this—no kick backs, no hook ups—just a place for everyone to come and share the hobby for free.”
The event will be held on Sunday, December 19 from 11:30am to 6pm. The Vanguard is located at 504 North King St. in Hampton.