Owner of Monroe Comic Con

BIO: Hi I’m Gary Pillette from Monroe MI, father of 2 great young men; Drake 22 and Bryce 18. I am happily married to my wife of over 26 years, Dawn. I have worked as a tool and diemaker at Ford Motor Co. since 1996. I love sports and anything pop culture, especially the Dallas Cowboys, Stan Lee and Spider-Man 🙂 I’ve owned a sports and collectibles store and have hosted many sports cards shows and conventions over the years but in 2013 my oldest and I totally fell in love with the comic convention scene! 

BU: Thanks so much for doing this interview with us, Gary! I am excited to talk about Monroe Comic Con, so I will jump right in!

I know you have a background in trading cards! (Which we may pick your brain about at a later date).

BU: When and where was your first comic con? And how did you come to the decision that it was time?

Gary:  *Laughs* I do love me some trading cards but in 2013 my son and I attended our first comic-con. We loved it! Although it was way overpriced, we loved it non-the less. It was about that same time, (2013) that we knew a young single mother with and autistic child in need so we started thinking of ways to raise funds for her to attend a camp for mothers of autistic children. The decision was unanimous. We would run a comic con BUT we would only ask for a donation as admission to it.

BU: That’s pretty amazing and a rarity I might add. So, you just jumped in and decided to help this woman? How did it go? Did you have the attendance you were hoping for?

GARY:  Well, it was small, about 30 artists, vendors and guests but the turnout was amazing! We had over 500 people through the door. We had actors from the OZ the Great and Powerful, our good friend 3x world boxing champion Bronco McKart and the great comic book artist Talent Caldwell who were all donating their time to help us raise money.

BU: Wow~ That’s pretty good for a first turn out! In fact, it’s incredible.  How much did you know about organizing a con at this time?

GARY: I really didn’t know anything about organizing a con, I’ve done sports card shows but never something like this. Fortunately, we had a good friend in SyFy FaceOffs, Rob Miller who helped us get guests and shared his knowledge with us on how to run a comic con. He’s part of the Monroe CC family!  Everything went very well! We had an art contest for adults and children, raffled off baskets from local businesses and even a cosplay contest (only 4 people dressed up). *Laughs* We thought if we could do this in only a couple months let’s try and see what we could do with a year of planning behind us.

Right then and there the Monroe Comic-Con was born.

BU: I am speechless. You make it sound so easy… So, here you are, basically a trading card guy, and out of a need sprang a whole new venture for you! AND new hope for a lot of people who need special help.

BU: You have another con coming up soon, right? How many does this make? and has it gotten any easier?

GARY:  This will be our 5th Annual Monroe Comic-Con on September 16th, 2017 and it will be at the MB&T Expo Center this year and for years to come. (We signed a 3-year deal with MB&T). It’s definitely not getting easier now that we fly in and put up around 5 – 10 guests a year, but it’s certainly a feel good challenge. We are trying to make a difference with our conventions.  We also promote year-round, advertise, manage 120 plus vendors and artists per year and so much more. It’s opened our eyes, that’s for sure! But it’s worth it! SO worth it.

BU: BEST thing about doing this? 

GARY: The best thing is the response from the fans of all ages and the support from our hometown. We have grandfathers dressed as Jedi with their grandkids and they stay all day with smiles on their faces. That’s sort of what it’s about.  So many people have thanked us for bringing MCC to our community and making it affordable. When we decided to do this, we made it a point to have a reasonable admission so families that couldn’t normally enjoy this sort of show could afford ours.

WE WILL NEVER GO ABOVE $10 admission!

We offer some of the best vendor rates and I think the best bang for your buck in the Midwest (but maybe I’m biased 🙂 Plus each year we raise money for different local charities. We love being part of our community!

BU: This is very admirable. It’s like you are a town hero…a SUPERHERO! :D. I can feel how important this it to you, and that this is heartfelt work for you.

BU: Doing conventions is hard work, I know. There are good things about them and then the not so great…is there something scary or unexpected in doing these conventions?

GARY: The thing that weighs on my mind the most is how to keep going. I never want to become stagnant.  We need to keep improving each year, and we will! It’s always a learning process of how to do that and stay affordable.

BU: What type of Comic Dealer usually sets up at your convention?  Mostly New comic dealers, vintage, mixed?

GARY: It’s a good mix, a few mega dealers that own comic shops and a lot of local collectors too.

BU: Is there something that continues to sell no matter what at comic cons? And do you have any tips for would be promoters?

GARY:   I guess fairly priced vintage comics and great comic art seem to always do well. As a vendor (and even as a guest for that matter) you need to know your crowd and price accordingly. *Smart guy~

BU: Do you have a vision of what you would call your “perfect con”?

GARY: My perfect con? It’s the one everyone enjoys and can afford. Hard to say, they’ve all been less than perfect to me. Always room to improve, so we take a lot of notes right after and ask for a lot of feedback.

BU: Those are what they call some of the tools of highly successful people!

BU Products: How much does using products from BU help in your mission.

GARY: BU Products have been great! People love the giveaways and always ask where they can get more. We really appreciate BU’s support! Your acid free sleeves and boards are critical to collectors, so when people know where to get the best, they are happy, and so are we!

BU:  Your vision for the next year?

Gary:  Man I just want to get through this year 🙂 We want to bring in a different set of unique guests and try and improve on 2017! We’ve done a Walking Dead theme, (Which brings ME back to my PICK YOUR BRAIN comment!), Power Rangers theme and this year we went after TV series actors from GRIMM and Arrow. We will see but we have a few ideas 🙂

BU: Grimm and Arrow? That’s huge!

BU:  Any tips you can share? * anything about cons or dealers or how conventions work for helping the industry

GARY:  I guess all I can do as a promoter/owner is my best at getting fans through the door and promote as much and in as many different ways as possible each year; learn what works and what needs more attention. Like I said earlier for vendors, it is critical to know the market you’re in. We’ve been lucky and have had a very high return rate with our artists and vendors from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana! Our thing is we try and treat them all like family, our Monroe Comic-Con family!

BU: Aw…That’s one heck of a family!!  We are honored to be a part of Monroe Comic Con, Gary, and we salute you for making your conventions about the people.

Thank you.

GARY: Any time. Bags Unlimited rules.