A heroic effort

A colorful, well-attended debut for Chico’s first comic-book convention

Cosplay runway: (from left) Victoria Johnson (Batwoman), Kelly Steinhauer (Emma Frost), Bess Lyon (Sailor Moon), Emma Grant-Dreher (Gogo Yubari from <i>Kill Bill</i>).

Cosplay runway: (from left) Victoria Johnson (Batwoman), Kelly Steinhauer (Emma Frost), Bess Lyon (Sailor Moon), Emma Grant-Dreher (Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill).

Photo by ken smith

Chico-Con: A Chico Comic Book Convention, Sept. 28, Chico Veterans Memorial Hall

“Where is this place?” my friend asked as we turned onto Rio Lindo Avenue, went past Country Waffles and headed down the street dominated by doctors’ offices, laboratories and facilities catering to various medical services.

“I’m not sure, but I’m guessing we’ll know when we get there,” I said, the words barely escaping my lips before we rounded a corner to see a young man dressed as Thor, the Norse god of thunder, standing on the sidewalk, his fabled hammer, Mjölnir (or a reasonable rubber facsimile thereof), dangling from one hand while his other held a burning cigarette.

While such a sight may have turned a few heads on any other sidewalk in town a full month before Halloween, passersby here—at Chico-Con, Chico’s first comic-book convention, last Sunday (Sept. 28) at the Chico Veterans Memorial Hall—barely batted an eye. In fact, as we took our place in line behind Gandalf the Grey and a middle-school-age girl dressed as some sea monkey creature I couldn’t place, the mix of costumed and noncostumed attendees was roughly even.

“Actually, that wouldn’t be cool at all if Thor used Captain America’s shield,” a noncostumed, middle-aged man chided a woman, apparently his wife, as they stood in line behind us. “The results would be disastrous.”

Caliber, a character from local CK Comics.

That conversation aside, poking fun at comic fans and their ilk—fantasy and sci-fi buffs, hardcore gamers, even the odd Twilight fan—for their consuming love and authoritative knowledge of the subjects of their passion is a silly thing to do at a comic convention, no matter the size and status of the event. It’s also a silly thing to do in general nowadays, as all manner of diversions once considered immature and escapist have become the norm, for adults as well as children. Today, to be a well-rounded conversationalist at a cocktail party, it’s as handy to have as much of a working knowledge of the X-Men’s individual origin stories as it is recurrent themes in the works of Franz Kafka.

Chico-Con organizer Shane Will—a local comic artist and author, creator of indie Black Jack Comics’ The Ape, and founder of the local CK Comics—was banking on the fact that the city was ready to support such a convention, and it was apparent upon walking into the main room of the Veterans Hall that the gamble paid off. The “convention floor” was packed with booths manned by artists and writers, most of them local but with some visiting luminaries (Marvel artist Ramon Villalobos and Dark Horse Comics/Image Comics’ Robert Love), as well as vendors galore and—most importantly—lots and lots of fans.

To be honest, I would have liked to take a closer look at more of the booths, but even by noon that had become difficult. With so many fans shoved inside the limited space and the air thick with the aroma of $3-a-slice Round Table pizza and cheap costume makeup, it felt a bit claustrophobic.

As the room grew more crowded by the minute, I shouldered my way through the throngs and out the back door for the cosplay fashion show. The show was hosted by Magpie Costume Designs and Pepper Grand Coulee’s Funky Trunk and featured characters from films, books and comics—Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, a half-dozen takes on Batman heroes and villains, and many more. A crowd of more than a hundred gathered into a small lot between the back of the building and the freeway to witness the spectacle. Later in the day, there was a second cosplay contest.

Which brings me to one of my few complaints about Chico-Con. A prepublished itinerary would have been invaluable, so people could plan accordingly when to attend the day-long event. The only reason I knew when to catch the fashion show was from scrolling back through posts on Facebook. As it was, people came and left, though it seemed they did so at a rate of two coming, one leaving. By the time I left around 2 p.m., the building and outdoor area were even more packed, with more superfans lining up outside.

These are small complaints, I realized, while standing in another makeshift smoking area behind the building next to a couple dressed like Mortal Kombat characters, all three of us sharing a laugh as a guy in a blow-up bowling pin costume teetered unsteadily through the growing crowd, momentarily bumping into someone in a full Stormtrooper costume. Chico-Con Year One definitely left true believers looking forward to next year. As Stan Lee might say, “Excelsior!”