Three-year-old Columbus resident Trenton Edwards is quick to tell you he likes Sonic the Hedgehog, a blue cartoon character from the video game of the same name. Saturday, he got to be Sonic the Hedgehog.
The toddler had just entered the cosplay — or costume — competition at Golden Triangle Comic Con, an event where fans of comic books, video games and TV shows can all gather to celebrate their shared interests. Trenton’s Sonic joined characters like Wonder Woman, Harry Potter and Doctor Strange.
It was a day for visitors to “let their inner geek out,” Trenton’s father Warren Edwards said.
Fan conventions have been popular throughout the country for decades, with comic book collectors, artists, storytellers and standard-issue fiction fans getting together, often cosplaying as their favorite characters. But the phenomenon has been slow coming to the Golden Triangle. It wasn’t until last year that organizer Chris Tarantino got Columbus’ first ever convention off the ground. Edwards attended that one, too — but it was about a quarter of the size of this year’s, he said.
“It was still fun, but this year is definitely much more enjoyable,” he said. “… It’s much larger, much nicer. You can definitely tell it gained momentum from last year.”
This year, Tarantino and co-organizers Zac Ashmore, Austin Shepherd and Brandon Sesser teamed up with East Mississippi Community College and Realtor Colin Krieger of RE/MAX Partners sought to build from last year’s success — a convention that brought about 800 people through the Trotter’s doors.
This year’s convention saw that same number within the first couple of hours, said Austin Shepherd, who headed public relations for the event. He estimated this year’s event ultimately doubled the inaugural convention’s attendance.
Vendors, film previews and panel discussions — with topics ranging from the upcoming Solar eclipse to filmmaking and the finer points of the long-running British TV series “Dr. Who” — highlighted the event, along with cosplay and video game competitions.
Event-goers browsed vintage comic books for sale, chatted with fellow fans and shopped for art, toys and board games. They talked with professional actors and directors, like “Seventh Heaven” star Jeremy London and renowned video game voice actor Stephen Russell.
The most popular question to actor Don Teems was how long it takes to complete prosthetics and makeup for his various zombie roles as an extra on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
The answer, Teems said, is 2 1/2 hours, but that’s only part of the story. Filming takes place outside Atlanta, where the temperature feels more than 100 degrees during the summer.
Teems and his fellow zombies all wear thick costumes and heavy, alcohol-based makeup that keeps them from sweating. Meanwhile, their performances are often physical, everything from falling over and rolling around in the mud to fighting with the show’s human characters. Still, he said his three years as the shuffling undead on the hit series has ruined all other roles for him.
“It’s Halloween year round,” Teems said. “You can’t not have fun doing creatures.”
Attendees wanting to see a makeup artist in action could chat with A.G. Howard of Howardart SPFX Studios in Memphis, who demonstrated monster makeup and prosthetics on his friends, Batesville couple Ricky and Cher Tramel. Howard has been doing horror-themed makeup since the 1980s.
“I’m a big fan of (Hollywood makeup artist) Dick Smith and old-school horror,” Howard said as he applied clay prosthetics to Ricky’s face, slowly turning him into Batman enemy Solomon Grundy.
Among those joining Trenton in the cosplay competition were Memphis residents Angel Logsdon, dressed as Rey from Star Wars, and Kaitlyn Ford, dressed as comic book character Harley Quinn. The two friends have attended other conventions in Tennessee dressed as different characters. Though both are past their childhoods, they said cosplay makes them feel like kids again.
“I’m a big kid at heart,” Logsdon said.
Shepherd thinks Comic Cons succeed because they give people of different races, creeds and cultures a venue to come together and share their love of fiction.
“It’s a community atmosphere,” he said. “It brings a lot of diversity to Columbus that we’ve never had.”
Mississippi State University physics and astronomy professor Angelle Tanner hosted the convention’s panel on Monday’s Great American Eclipse. She spent most of it answering con attendees’ last-minute questions and doling out safety tips. Even if the eclipse weren’t happening, though, she’d said she would have attended Saturday’s convention.
Part of that is because she likes them — she attended Star Trek conventions back in the ’70s — but she also noted such events is where she’d find people interested in her research, which is on planets outside Earth’s solar system.
“I think NASA … is realizing that this is the audience (for space outreach),” she said. “These are the people who appreciate it.”
Mostly, though, Comic Cons provide an atmosphere for people who love creativity and storytelling, Tarantino said.
“It’s not just comic books,” he said. “It’s for people who are into art and creating things.”
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