Outside of Halloween, people do not often dress up in elaborate costumes in otherwise ordinary public spaces. Comicon, however, presents ample opportunity to see some of the most popular comic and television characters come to life. Attendees of all ages cosplay for the event, dressing up as their favorite characters and often adding their own personal twist to their costumes.
NC Comicon was founded in 2010 by Alan Gill, owner of Ultimate Comics, and comic book creator Tommy Lee Edwards. It began as an event in the Morrisville Outlet Mall and grew every year since. Two conventions are held each year: one in Durham in November and one in Raleigh in March.
This year, NC Comicon was held at the Durham Convention Center Nov. 9 to 11. The convention drew about 9000 people from across the state. Guests included Kevin Eastman, who created “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and Gerard Way, the former frontman of “My Chemical Romance” and creator of comics like “Umbrella Academy.”
The event was housed in three buildings: the convention center, the Carolina Theatre and the Durham Civic Center. Near the main hall of the convention center, comic artists gathered in the Artist Alley. Several local vendors marketed their handmade merchandise. The Carolina Theatre housed a variety of panels and workshops, ranging from talks with specific writers and artists about genres of comics to navigating the arts industry.
For Comicon, comic artists, illustrators and writers were invited to share their experiences in the field and their takes on popular culture. The scope of the event went beyond traditional American comics: Some artists also created art around popular Japanese animation and video game series like “Dragonball Z,” “My Hero Academia” and “Kingdom Hearts.”
Many cosplayers donned recognizable costumes from a multitude of comic and animated series. They could easily be found milling around in the lounge or by the front of the convention center. One cosplayer in particular stood out among the rest. Dressed as Queen Amidala from Star Wars, cosplayer Mary Plott from Concord, North Carolina stunned fellow convention attendees. Her costume was entirely homemade and she was stopped repeatedly throughout the day for photo requests.
“We come here almost every year and it’s not far from home, it’s a really nice convention, we just love it,” said Plott. “We’re doing the [cosplay] contest tomorrow night and I’m super nervous.”
She said that the costume had taken her three months to create, assembled from materials from fabric stores.
Outside of the many cosplayers lounging in the lobby of the Durham Convention Center, there was plenty to see in the exhibition spaces off the main hall. Over 100 booths by different companies, studios and individual artists were set up. The Artist Alley featured art by Chroma Coma and Heroic Effort Crafts.
The Artist Alley bombarded attendees with a plethora of colors and sounds; pictures and paintings decorated panels behind artists while people admired the art or purchased comic-related memorabilia. Stands carried everything from pins and Funko POPS! to collectible figurines, cosplay props and toy plushies. Oftentimes, the creators or artists themselves would man their booths of fanart and goodies.
Sitting behind a comic book-laden table was writer Robert Venditti from Atlanta, Georgia. He published his first book, “The Surrogates,” in 2005.
“I’ve been writing comics ever since then, but I’ve only been doing it full-time since 2012,” said Vendetti.
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He also shared his love for conventions outside the solitary nature of his work as a writer.
“My favorite part of the job is being able to make a living writing,” Vendetti said. “That’s what I’ve wanted to do ever since I was in second grade. It literally has been my life dream, so to be able to do it, I’m thankful for every day of it.”
Vendetti, like many others, has a history with the convention. Many guests come and find a community with like-minded individuals and cosplayers.
“I’ve been to this show in the past. I came [to this show] in 2012 as a guest, and I just really liked the people. I like the venue. I like how comics-focused it was. And I also like the downtown Durham area,” Vendetti said. “That just makes me want to come back every year because of the people and the environment.”
Other artists seemed to share similar sentiments when it came to discussing the sense of community they found at conventions like Comicon.
Standing by an array of impressive artwork was artist and UNC alum Andrew Sheppard from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Sheppard described his nonlinear path toward art. He started as a psychology and economics double major in college. After he graduated, he started working at a restaurant, where he met a fellow artist who convinced him to travel. His first show was in Baltimore. Then, he decided to pursue a full-time career as an artist.
“I consider myself a multimedia and mixed media artist," Sheppard said. I work in all types of stuff."
NC Comicon brought together hundreds of talented artists, writers, and cosplayers who shared a love and passion for comics and animation. The show concluded Sunday night with a cosplay contest in the Fletcher Hall at Carolina Theatre, the biggest contest the convention has seen.