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Wizard World NOLA 2017 pays it forward

Comiccon

No time for formalities; a homemade sign will do for Judah Moses Nero (Photos by: Sarah Isabelle Prevot)

Judah Moses Nero, local cartoonist and artist, welcomes his Wizard World friends to sit at his table to banter and converse about comics. He has done this year after year, but 2017 brought a new visitor to the tables—Judan Moses Nero himself.

Three years ago, through a chance meeting with comic book writer Johnathan Lang at his veterinarian’s New Year’s Eve party, Jonathan and Judah took a long walk together from the By-water to Coop’s Place. This walk began a tradition and set in motion a series of events that makes Judah’s story sound like luck.

“This all happened really fast,” explains Judah. “I was a musician most of my life. That’s what I did up until I moved here, but the industry drained me. You know when they say something tugs on your heart strings? Well, New Orleans yanked on mine, ripped them out, and I had to make a new instrument,” his scratchy, baritone voice reverberates and he retells his origination in the comic world.

“I needed a new outlet and Maria, my partner, knew it,” he says. “One of my co-workers’ kid got into a fight at school and they were calling him ‘The Hulk.’ I went home and started doodling and Maria suggested, ‘Why don’t you try drawing it?’ I did a few more sketches and she kept encouraging me to ‘Do more, do more, do more.’ Then, my best friend, Adam began bringing me to all the local comic shops and introduced me to the New Orleans comic scene.”

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The infamous dinners at Coop’s Place. Pictured Left to Right-Bottom to Top: Alita Edgar, Heather Johnson, Bill Alrifai, Jesyka Bartlett, Victor dandridge Jr., Lori Bauerlein, Faith Merritt, Danny Fingeroth, Alex Rea, Fred Van Lente, Howard Chaykin, Dean Haspiel, Clinton Hobart, David L. Thomson III, and of course Judah Moses Nero in the Front! (Photo credit: Judah Moses Nero)

Jonathan Lang returned to Coop’s Place the next night with Dean Haspiel--Emmy award winning cartoonist and writer.

“I’m having the time of my life hanging out with my new friends Dean Haspiel, Danny Fingeroth, Dr. Travis Langley, Gabe Soria, Jim Mahfood, and Alita Edgar,” Judah says, “and this guy being served by my co-worker at another table goes, ‘What’s your last name?,' he hands me a ticket and says, 'I expect you plus one…'” The tickets were for Wizard World. “…that’s how this whole thing started. He didn’t know me and he just gave me free tickets!” Judah exclaims. That guy, he discovered was Bill Alrifai, one of the organizers for Artists’ Alley at Wizard Word.

Time continued and everyone carried on, but Judah was inspired and began drawing with even more conviction and confidence, which got notice from his audience.

“He started a private Facebook group where he would post his drawings and say, ‘Be honest, what do you think about what I’m doing here?’ And despite us telling him to stop, he continued to draw,” Dean Haspiel endearingly joked.

Each subsequent year, the group grew to where, “In fact, now it’s like where’s your mom?” Dean explains. With half the restaurant filled with Wizard World friends this year, Judah turned to Dean at this point in the interview to help recall.

“Alex Rea and Bill Alrifai, coordinators for Artist Alley at Wizard World, were both like, ‘We love this guy, and he’s clearly dedicated to drawing and produces all this stuff. Let’s invite him to have a table in Artist Alley at the show.’ I was really excited that they were into that, this last minute kind of thing. While he’s taking care of us, they ask him, ‘Do you want a table?’ And the next day he’s showing up at the Wizard Word as an artist!” Dean explains.

“While being here, not only is he interacting with the fans, doing his thing, and getting a new table seat, but he is also meeting other local New Orleans’ cartoonists,” explains Dean as he highlights the significance of supporting local artists and building a community.

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I asked Judah to sum up his weekend at Wizard World. He uttered one word over and over, “Overwhelming!” Pictured Top Row left to right: Danny Fingeroth, Howard Chaykin, Dean Haspiel, and Neal Adams Bottom Row: Judah Moses Nero (Photo credit: Judah Moses Nero)

“For the first time in my life I’m nervous.” Judah says as he paints the scene. “Here’s the moment, I’m sitting next to legendary names in the business—Danny Fingeroth, Howard Chaykin, Dean Haspiel, and then there’s me. Neal Adams is standing in front of our table, and it hits. This is going to be my life. I’m terrified. Overwhelmed. I see people look at my stuff and I think, are they going to throw up on the table or are they going to enjoy it?”

Luckily, there was no barfing.

What to look forward to from local cartoonist Judah Moses Nero—“I’m working on a comic book called Wonder Molly and Kid Power. I’m just starting it. It’s based on two Vietnamese kids whose parents own a local nail salon in New Orleans. It’s going to be these kids on their adventures in New Orleans. One of the villains is going to be Mardi Gras Man.”

As I finished up my interview with Judah, artist Clinton T. Hobart stops by to enthusiastically proclaim, “That’s it, I’m moving here! Half my annual income comes from this place. New Orleans has the most intelligent, knowledgeable, friendly people. It’s the number one city for selling original art at a con.”

And how does Wizard World respond? By investing back into the city’s local artists.

Wizard World Comic Con New Orleans is an annual conference where pop-culture and comic books fans alike converge for a weekend to indulge in their passions, fantasies, heroes, and whatever their imaginations can conjure.

 

Native New Orleanian, Sarah Isabelle Prevot is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Arts Administration at the University of New Orleans while also being a regular contributor to NolaVie. You can follow her on Twitter @siprevot and email her at sarah@nolavie.com.