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Comicpalooza attracts fans of all kinds

Comicpalooza attracts fans of all kinds
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Aquaman. Harley Quinn. Spiderman. The Doctor. No, it’s not the next superhero mashup movie. They’re the people I saw in the first half hour at Comicpalooza.

Leon casino, I and 10,000 other Houstonians skipped work last Friday to go downtown to a comic book convention. People filled the halls of the George R. Brown Convention center with characters from movies, TV shows, video games and anything. If it’s geeky, it’s fair game.

“I like the cosplays because a lot of them are really cool,” said Cole Mackenrath, a middle-schooler dressed as a troll from webcomic Homestuck. Yes, middle schoolers are reading Homestuck.

“I’ve seen so many of them, they’re so cool and intricate,” Mackenrath said.

He’s not kidding. I gave up trying to keep a running tally of the costumes I saw on the floor after an hour. There were too many.

Everything Plus Art

Comicpalooza is an annual convention for Houston nerds of all stripes. What started as a gathering for comic book fans has blossomed into a massive celebration of geek culture at large. The crowd was surprisingly diverse, with an equal ratio of men to women.

The secret to the convention’s success is its broad appeal. The show floor was packed with booths for comic book authors, actors, Marvel-themed t-shirts and local artists. Lots of local artists.

“This’ll be my fourth year going, and I’ve never actually had a booth here,” said artist Rachael Bryant. “It’s really, really nerve-wracking.”

Bryant is one of dozens of artists who set up stalls every year to sell artwork to fans. They cover their displays with images of Wolverine, Batman, Marv from Sin City, and My Little Pony. Selling to geeks is a business, and it is booming.

“This is my full-time job,” said artist Mike Champion. “I go to 20 or 30 shows a year, all over the country, and put cool artwork into people’s hands. I ain’t gonna lie, it’s kinda nice.”

Champion says he enjoys coming to the shows, even though he rarely gets to leave his booth. He said he appreciates the reactions to his work, which brings a viewer to tears once a month on average.

“My favorite part of the show is just seeing people get excited over everything,” Champion said. “It’s pretty humbling to know that your stupid little chicken scratches can touch somebody on that level.”

Extra Panels

The full experience goes beyond the show floor to panels. Comic conventions throw a couple people at a table in front of a 20 or 30 people in a private room and have them talk geek culture and art.

They vary from the mundane (“Basic Photography 101”) to the creative (“What Makes Monsters Terrifying”). Listening to an artist talk about using Jungian archetypes to design monsters is as fascinating as it is unnerving.

It’s easy to label the whole affair overblown from the outside. And yet you’d have to be a monster not to get excited when you see somebody dressed as your favorite childhood character.

What It’s All For

That’s the real purpose of Comicpalooza (and every comic con). It’s a way for people to get together and share their joy about ‘90s TV shows, old zombie movies and obscure video games.

Rischa Leinweber, owner of Lucky Day Hats, said she planned to dress up as a character from some cult movie I’d never heard of.

“People will get it,” Leinweber said. “That’s what’s fun.”

The convention appeals to everyone, especially the unpaid volunteers that make everything run.

Mary Kate Kumzinger, a new volunteer, said she enjoyed her experience helping run Comicpalooza. She helps fans navigate the show floor and ran the autograph table for actress Tricia Helfer.

“I’m definitely coming back,” Kumzinger said.

As I sat on the third floor of the show and watched a guy dressed as Luigi dance to “Safety Dance,” I accepted the convention’s logic.

Comicpalooza is lighthearted fun. For just a few days, you don’t have to worry about your day job or the kids or chores. You can dress up as your favorite obscure character and share it with the dozen other people who will see you and immediately Get It.

That’s why people go to Comicpalooza. It’s fun.