Mesa County Libraries' Comic Con attracts fans young and oldSep 27, 2021 03:16PM ● By Jan Weeks
Comic fans, unite!
When you were a kid, did you raid your parent’s closet for dress-up? Use sheer curtains for bridal veils or ghostly groanings? Clomp around in Dad’s dress shoes or cowboy boots?
For many of us as kids, Halloween was our favorite holiday because, in addition to candy, we were able to dress up and become someone else for a day. But as grown-ups, we don’t often get the chance to embrace our imagination so creatively. At least, not until Comic Con comes to town.
Shana Wade is the organizer for Mesa County Public Libraries’ Comic Con, which just finished its eighth convention in Grand Junction on September 18. It first began at the Mesa County Libraries' Central Branch but soon outgrew the space and moved to the Grand Junction Convention Center.
According to Wade, most of this year’s exhibitors were illustrators.
“Some have been doing comics and illustration for years and been to Denver Comic Con and other big city cons,” Wade said.
Though not as large as the Denver convention, which takes place this year over Halloween weekend, the Grand Junction gathering featured many well-known authors and illustrators. One such is R. Alan Brooks, who has created graphic novels like “The Burning Metronome” and “Anguish Garden.”
Wade’s husband, Bryan, is also renowned for his illustrations in comics and other art channels. He attended the convention to both display his art and to encourage budding artists.
For those unfamiliar with Comic Con, the gathering has inspired fans from toddlers to octogenarians to dress up as their favorite comic book hero or other fictional character for more than 50 years.
The organization sprang up in 1970 and was originally based on comic books and science fiction films and TV shows. Then Star Trek’s convention leapt into being on January 23, 1972. As the popularity of sci-fi and fantasy grew, Comic Con has expanded to include multiple genres, including horror, anime and even the occasional hobbit or elf, as well as fantasy.
Jim Van Pelt, local science fiction and fantasy author, didn’t attend conventions until he was in his 40s. That’s when the editor of a sci-fi review magazine told him conventions were a great way to meet fans and editors.
“I was walking from one convention building to another. I stopped at a park bench and sat down next to a really convincing looking Klingon. He said, ‘Nice day, isn’t it?’ And I thought, ‘I’m home!’” said Van Pelt, 67.
Gary Schlagheck, who admitted to being in his 50s, has expanded beyond G.I. Joe and X-Men from his childhood. He’s gone to several Comic Cons, assuming the personas of Gambit, Batman, a Ghost Buster, Deadpool, and a TIE Reserve pilot from “Star Wars”.
“The best thing is seeing so many people getting along and simply enjoying a wholesome day out,” Schlagheck said.
Neil James attended Comic Con for the second time this year, portraying a Rear Admiral from “Star Wars: First Order.” As a youngster, James delved into Batman, Green Lantern, X-Men, Teen Titans, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, and the Avengers comics. For him, the best thing about Comic Con is “being able to witness the immense creativity of our nerd community!”
A new Justice League
Dave Brock, 47, has taken his passion for cosplay beyond Comic Con. In 2010 he founded the nonprofit Justice League of Hope, where members dress up as superheroes and deliver toys, food and more to families who applied for help.
“Last year we helped 19 families. We’re spreading unbreakable smiles,” Brock said.
Brock and his fiancée, Amanda Cooley, love portraying larger-than-life characters. In fact, Brock proposed to Cooley’s Superwoman as Alf dressed as a Ghost Buster, his favorite character.
“It’s great to see people who are into the same thing you are. There are panel discussions of pop culture and more,” Brock said.
He explained that some cosplayers study their characters, whether it be Gandalf or Galacta, and they become that individual. The few times they put their characters on pause, or break character, they leave the convention floor so other people never see them as anything but the personality they portray.
In cosplay there are no limitations—any age, any size, any costume. (The only things prohibited are items that could be used as weapons, such as swords and throwing stars.) Brock explained that Comic Con is a chance to live in your imagination and become a child again. For him, it’s a way to bring back the happiness and joy of childhood.
Van Pelt agreed. “It feeds my inner, imaginative self. Frankly, much of the world can be deadening, depressing or frightening—watching too much of the news can do that to a person—while Comic Cons are celebrations of imaginative play. They can be an antidote for that which ails us.”
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