Pedestrians in downtown Richmond may have been greeted by an overwhelming number of superheroes around the Greater Richmond Convention Center last weekend flocking to the second Wizard World Comic Convention.
The event featured an appearance by “Star Trek’s” William Shatner, wrestling superstar Diva Paige and Lord of the Rings actor Billy Boyd, as well as booths with artists selling their work and an enormous amount of costumed guests.
Cosplay, which is the art of representing a character or idea through costuming and accessorizing, is a booming subculture currently growing in popularity around the world. Multiple comic conventions attracting cosplayers take place in Richmond each year, but some of the guests at this year’s Wizard World said they were not as impressed by them.
“From one to ten, I’d rank this convention a solid eight,” said Christian King, a convention veteran who was dressed in a hand made replica of Boba Fett’s suit from Star Wars.
King also made a large purchase at the convention when he bought the actual car used during the filming of the latest Fast & The Furious movie, which was on display in the center of the floor.
There was also a booth on a row next to the car he purchased for the 501st Legion, a roleplaying group dedicated to promoting interest in Star Wars by attending events dressed as members of the fictional Imperial Army.
While speakers had scheduled times where they presented, multiple notable comic artists, such as Michael Golden, were on the floor displaying and selling prints of their work, as well as doing sketches and autographs.
Golden is known primarily for his work on the Batman graphic novels and his creation of the Marvel character “Rogue.” He said he has been working with comic illustration and design since the 1970s, and regularly attends conventions to showcase his art.
“Lately I’ve been consistent with the show schedule, and I call it shows because I don’t just do conventions but I do lectures, vocal shows, store signings, all kinds of things,” Golden said.
Golden, like some other artists at the event, spoke about the surprise he felt when he realized the connection some of his fans had made with him and his work.
“The work that I’ve done over the years, particularly in comic books (…) has been a part of a lot of people’s lives,” Golden said. “It gives you a completely different perspective on what it is you do for a living.”
Other convention attendees have made unique careers out of the subculture by capitalizing on cosplay. People like Jillian Ryan are “professional panelists,” and often attend events and sell photographs of them in costume for profit.
“I’ve been costuming for about eight years and paneling for about five,” Ryan said.
Ryan said she is sometimes paid to attend conventions, but this year she’s taking the majority of her profits and donating them to charities around Richmond. Ryan judged the children’s cosplay contest at this convention, and she also held a panel in which she and others spoke about body image acceptance.
Ryan said for many adults, cosplay goes beyond a means of creative expression.
“A lot of us work a nine to five and are tired,” Ryan said. “We don’t get the option (to be creative), and this let’s us actually show not only (we are) a fan of something, but it also shows that we can create something beautiful.”
Independent artists at the convention were also given the opportunity to show off their products, which are often based around pop culture subjects and appeal to the event’s attendees. Andrew Heath, who has designed prints of projects ranging from Star Wars to Parks and Recreation, had a booth with a large wall of his work on display.
“The best people are the ones where I’m looking down, and then I look up to them walking to me with their money and I’m like ‘Oh, thanks!’,” Heath said. Heath added that Star Wars is always a good seller.
“The classics are what people are always after,” he said.
The Wizard World comic convention will continue its tour throughout the U.S., and the 29th Annual VA ComiCon will take place on the August 29 at the Richmond Raceway.
Spectrum Editor, Austin Walker
Austin is a sophomore print journalism major. He started at the CT as a contributing writer, and frequently covers work done by artists and performers both on and off campus. He hopes to one day be a columnist writing about art that impacts culture, politics and documenting the lives of extraordinary and everyday people. // Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn