01ComiccoverEvery kid has a singular moment of blinding inspiration. They begin to realize that the world is bigger than their backyard. They realize people are capable of creativity, kindness, strength, gumption … but also have a Dark Side. For more than a century, no area has been able to accomplish this quite like science fiction. Its many forms — comic books, animation, games, television and movies — have bred legions of dedicated fans. These fans will have the chance to celebrate some of their favorite characters and stories at the Fayetteville Comic Con Oct. 21-22 at the Crown Coliseum.

According to Michael Chadhuri, the chief organizer, FCC is expecting at least 10,000 people to attend its third year.

“I’m just a long-time comic book geek,” Chadhuri said. “We said, ‘Why are there no conventions in Fayetteville?’ It was baffling to us, so we said let’s just try one to see what happens, and it blew up with the first year. Just incredible. It’s very participatory. We like to have something for people to do, not just see this, see this. You can play a game. You can dance on the stage.”

One of the most recognizable features of a comic con is the cosplaying, which just means anyone dressing up as one of their favorite characters. Note: someone needs to dethrone the greatest cosplay ever done that went viral this year — an 85-year-old woman dressed as Olenna Tyrell from “Game of Thrones.” Fayetteville, you have been challenged.

There will be two cosplay competitions at FCC. On that Saturday at 1 p.m., the junior competition (15 and under) will take place, with gift certificate and trophy awards. The adult competition (16 and up) will be on Sunday at 1:30 p.m., also with various prizes such as gift certificates, cash and an X-Box bundle grand prize.

For all the single nerds out there, FCC will also have Sci-Fi speed dating. Who knows, you start chatting with another like-minded person about “Star Wars” or “Full Metal Alchemist,” and you could end up with a lifelong partner or friend. 

Gaming will also play a huge part in FCC. An entire wall of the convention center is reserved for the “Gaming Alley.” Do a demo, join a tournament or even hop on an old-school arcade cabinet.

The heart of any comic con, though, lies in the panels and Q&As that fans can attend. 

Chadhuri said, “There’s something for everybody. Every year we try to bring a whole new slew of guests to the convention and to Fayetteville.”

One of the most anticipated guests this year is Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk in the original 1978 television series. Though he has been to conventions across the country, he has never been to Fayetteville’s own before.

Ferrigno said, “It always puts a smile on my face to chat with them and get a photo with them because I have three different generations now (of fans) because the Hulk was 40 years ago. It should be very exciting.”

Ferrigno relates to why fans still idolize the Hulk all these years later.

“As a kid, I had to overcome adversity because I had to deal with speech and hearing issues, so I use to read comics, and I was obsessed with the power (of the characters),” Ferrigno said.

A modern-day phenomena featured at FCC is anime, which has grown exponentially in America thanks in large part to original Japanese anime shows being dubbed in English. Several anime voice actors will be guests at FCC, one of whom is Vic Mignogna.

“I played Vega in ‘Street Fighter 2,’” Mignogna said. “I just thought that was a fun little weird, one-time, random thing to do. But it just took off from there. I was very blessed to be on the ground floor of this expanding anime world, and so now, 18, 19 years later, I’ve voiced over 300 different animated series.”

Some of Mignogna’s characters include Broly in “Dragon Ball Z” and Edward Elric in “Full Metal Alchemist.” Like many others, Mignogna became intrigued by pop culture phenomena as a fan at a young age.

“When I was 9, 10, 11, I discovered the original series of ‘Star Trek’ and it changed my life,” Mignogna said. “It inspired me in so many ways to try new things, like building props and making uniforms and costumes and shooting little home movies and building sets.”

His love of “Star Trek” eventually evolved into its own passion project. About five years ago, Mignogna started his own web series called “Star Trek Continues.” He executive produces and stars in it as Captain Kirk. “Star Trek Continues” has millions of views online and has won several awards, including a Webby Award for People’s Voice Drama. After Mignogna’s Q&A, he will be screening its latest episode for attendees.

“It will blow your mind,” he said. “You’ll feel like you’re watching episodes of the classic series that were somehow locked in a vault for 50 years. One of the main reasons I go to these events is to meet fans. I really love getting out and meeting people that have enjoyed my work over the years.”

Mignogna will be joined by fellow voice actors Chris Sabat, Linda Young, Eric Vale and Mark Dodson.

Of course, you can’t say comic con without comics. And FCC will have creators, writers and artists of comics in spades. Professional artist Steve Butler will even be bringing kids onstage for drawing demonstrations.

Editor-in-chief Mort Todd and members of his Charlton Neo team will also be leading a panel. Charlton Neo revives the Charlton Comics that ran from 1945 to 1986. Todd is perhaps best known as signing Don Martin onto Cracked magazine after working at Mad for decades. His Charlton Neo Comics team have made a special FCC edition and will be signing 250 copies for attendees.

Though Todd works more in his editor capacity nowadays, he has some advice for the aspiring artists out there.

“When I was 13, I brought my art portfolio to DC Comics,” Todd said. “The art director told me I would never work in comics, and I was crushed. Then 10 years later, he’s looking for work from me. So my bottom line is for anyone, any age, no matter how far they are in comics, is just keep doing it. Keep writing. Keep drawing because the more you do, the more you know and learn to make it better.”

These are just a select few of FCC’s guests. Actors from “Power Rangers,” zombies from the “The Walking Dead” and many others are expected to be in attendance.

We’re living in an age where letting your nerd flag fly is pretty cool. As Felicia Day once said, “The world opened up for me once I decided to embrace who I am — unapologetically.” These words embody the life blood of a comic con.

FCC will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Visit www.fayettevillecomiccon.com to learn more.

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