It’s been more than 30 years since Flash Gordon came to Fayetteville. Actor Sam Jones, known for his role as Flash Gordon in the 1980 film of the same name, is one of the many guests attending this year’s Fayetteville ComicCon on Oct. 15 and 16. More recently, Jones was also in Ted and Ted 2 with Mark Wahlberg. Like many events, ComicCons come in a variety of genres, and Fayetteville’s ComicCon encompasses just about all of them.
Michael Chaudhuri cast a wide net when he set out to host Fayetteville’s 2015 ComicCon last year. And why wouldn’t he? He knows the area and the diversity that thrives here. In short, last year’s event was a success, drawing more than 8,000 visitors. Chaudhuri could have stopped there. Instead, he decided to go even bigger this year. “Our con features a little bit of everything. If its geek, we got it,” said Chaudhuri, adding, “We do more than most conventions in the country. We have great guests, gaming, cos play, a kids dome, sci-fi speed dating — we put Fayetteville on the map. We had a lot of people say Fayetteville wouldn’t support an event like this … then people came and were amazed.”
With 72,000 square feet of space to fill, Chaudhuri pulled out all the stops bringing in special guests from the world of comics and popular culture; MtG, Heroclix, Yu-Gi-Oh other items of interest include video game tournaments; panels; portfolio reviews; trivia contests; martial arts and swordplay demonstrations; door prizes; photo ops; free comics or packs of non-sports cards to everybody (while supplies last); and two cosplay contests, with prizes galore, including one for best active-duty military entrant.
Jones has been attending ComicCons for about 20 years, but the last two years have been especially busy. For fans, this is a great opportunity to come out and talk with Jones one-on-one and take pictures with him. “I am usually scheduled for a panel, and I really enjoy these because the moderator usually opens it up to the fans. The questions are always really good,” said Jones. “One common comment is, ‘It must have been a lot of fun making Flash Gordon.’ Believe it or not, because I was in every scene, I didn’t get any time to enjoy it. It took five months to complete. I was sent from one set to another to shoot a scene, to rehearse a scene, to practice with a bullwhip artist, the list went on. And in your 20s, it is easy to do. Now, I get to do screenings and other events with the fans, and I enjoy that.”
The guest list is impressive with ghost hunters, actors from a variety of films and shows including Power Rangers, Pokémon and The Walking Dead. Comic book artists and authors, Tugg the Super dog, Kitt the car from Knight Rider and the Scooby van will also be onsite.
For Chaudhuri, bringing guests like Jones to the event is an important part the activities, but it is one piece of a big and colorful puzzle. “It is going to be crazy for us,” he said. “I like to see the smiles and people having fun. One of the highlights was dancing and a main stage … last year we had 10 Harley Quinns dancing together. There were Dead Pools, dancing furbies and other characters. We didn’t have a plan for that, but when I saw 12 Dead Pools dancing together, I knew we had something good.”
If EJ Snyder looks familiar, there’s a good reason. This retired Army combat veteran fell in love with survival training when he was at the U.S. Army Ranger School. He was a U.S. Army Ranger School instructor, a Survival and Tracking instructor and a drill sergeant. He went on to appear on Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid three times, TNT’s 72 Hours and History Channel’s Patton 360. He’s currently the host of Discovery Channel’s Dual Survival. “A lot of people don’t realize I am a Fayetteville resident. I get asked all the time what I am doing here,” said Snyder. Being a retiree, it works for my family. It was nice having survival work waiting for me. I’ve been on three Naked and Afraid’s, and I am the host of Dual Survival. We did three episodes in Brazil, we went to Utah and the Louisiana swamps as well as the country of Georgia. That episode aired recently. Our last two episodes take place in Africa.”
While the Dual Survival season is almost over, Snyder says he’s not done with survival shows just yet. “We are waiting for Dual Survival to let us know if we are going to do another season. We will see what happens. I have several other shows I am getting ready to pitch to different networks, too.”
When he’s not filming, Snyder stays busy in the community. He is a motivational speaker, makes appearances at local venues and looks for opportunities to share his survival training and knowledge wherever and whenever he can. “I offer classes for backpacking and survival training. I do demos at schools and have even done birthday parties,” he said.
Fans can find Snyder at the Fayetteville ComicCon Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop booth on from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. “I’ll be there to meet and greet fans and talk with them,” said Snyder. “There will be some survival items for sale. I am also bringing items I used on Naked and Afraid and Dual Survival. I will answer questions about any of the shows. We are talking about maybe doing a Zombie Apocalypse survival panel, too.”
For more information about Snyder, visit www.ejsnyder.com.