“It’s an incredible gathering of fans of anything that’s geek-related; anything that’s just fun,” said co-organizer Michael Chaudhuri of the Fayetteville Comic Con. “It’s a colorful mirage of cosplay, comic books, toys, anime, sci-fi and gaming all under one roof.” The con, started four years ago by Chaudhuri, Keith Gibbs and a few other proud geeks, returns to Fayetteville Oct. 20-21 at the Crown Complex.
“It’s a place where people can get together and not be judged, too,” Chaudhuri added. “We’re accepting, and we’re family friendly. Everyone can be themselves.” FCC has quickly grown into an event that draws people from all over the country and is supported by what Chaudhuri estimated to be nearly 100 local volunteers.
“Everybody has a different reason for coming,” he said. “Most have more than one reason.”
First, there’s the cosplay. Cosplayers often spend months laboriously and lovingly creating costumes to “play” a character from any medium, usually comic books, TV/film or video games. Essentially, it is intense dress-up for adults, and it’s great fun – whether you’re participating or simply taking in all the zany creativity.
But not everyone who cosplays is just there for fun – some have their eye on multiple prizes. Two cosplay competitions, which are organized and overseen by Candace Harrell and Nickolas Phillips, create a sense of friendly competition at FCC. The junior-level competition for 15-and-under offers trophies and gift certificates and takes place Saturday at 2 p.m. For everyone else, there’s the senior-level competition on Sunday at 2 p.m. It features gift certificates, cash prizes, Dell laptops and a yet-to- be-revealed special grand prize.
“(The judges) love creativity and craftsmanship and energy and enthusiasm,” Chaudhuri said.
The FCC’s Gaming Alley also draws a huge crowd. Gamers and newbies alike can do a demo, join a tournament or play for free on an old-school arcade cabinet brought in by Stop Button Arcade. Dragon Ball Z and Star Wars will be featured.
For those rich in nerdom but lonely at heart, Geek Speed-Dating (previously called Sci-Fi Speed-Dating) is returning. Multiple relationships, both romantic and platonic, have blossomed from this event. There’s even been a marriage that resulted from the FCC speed dating event two years ago.
But the strongest pull for many comic con fans is the Q&A panel – the chance to meet, take photos with and ask questions of iconic childhood and/or current heroes, including actors, artists and writers.
FCC has more than 28 panels planned, and its guest list is impressive.
Butch Patrick, who played Eddie Munster on the classic TV show “The Munsters,” will bring with him several original props from the show, including both the Drag-U-LA and the Munster Koach. Patrick is about to start filming his next project, “Eddie’s Monstrous Movie Mausoleum,” in which he said he’ll play the straight-man commentator on classic horror films everyone loves to make fun of.
Patrick said his favorite part of attending comic cons is the family aspect. “The new generation of fans that are walking to the table with grandparents and parents; there’s a good, strong family bond,” he said. “That’s my favorite part. You get to put a smile on peoples’ faces, you’ve got extended family you never knew about. You were an important part of their growing up, and they share those stories with you.”
Iconic horror film actors who will be in attendance include Tony Todd, Tom Savini, Warrington Gillete and multiple actors from “The Walking Dead.” Todd played the titular villain in “Candyman,” Kurn in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Ben in “Night of the Living Dead” and William Bludworth in the “Final Destination” franchise.
Anime, animated shows originating from or associated with Japan, has experienced enormous popularity in the U.S. thanks to English-dubbed versions of various original series. Veronica Taylor, the original voice of Ash Ketchum in “Pokemon,” and voice actor Dameon Clarke of “Dragon Ball Z” and “Fullmetal Alchemist,” are two anime giants who fans will get the chance to meet at FCC.
None of these actors would have a job if not for the team of creatives responsible for the stories, and plenty of content creators will be on hand at FCC. For example, guest artist Russ Braun has drawn dozens of prominent comics, including “Jack’s Fables,” “The Boys,” “Swamp Thing” and “Where Monsters Dwell.” He also worked with Disney on the art for many feature films, including “Lilo & Stitch” and “Mulan.”
Steve Orlando wrote the “Midnight” series for DC Comics along with “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” “Supergirl” and “Justice League of America.”
Bob Wiacek wrote Marvel Comics’ “Star Wars,” “The Uncanny X-Men” and “X-Factor,” along with DC Comics’ “Superman.”
These are just a few of the iconic figures who will be in attendance.
Attendees can also look forward to nerd trivia slams, informal art portfolio reviews, martial arts and swordplay demonstrations, aerialists, live tattooing, live comedy, photo ops, door prizes and more – all backgrounded by tunes from DJ Clash of Winston-Salem. “Dragon Ball Z” fans will even get to sit in a 10-foot-tall Saiyan Pod that’s traveling all the way from Texas.
FCC will also host the world premiere of a new comic book from Aftershock Comics, an independent publisher that’s on the brink of mainstream success. Several of its comics are currently being adapted for big-screen films. Braun and Orlando, who work with Aftershock, will debut their new comic, “Kings # 1.” “The first place in the world you can buy it is at the Fayetteville Comic Con,” Chaudhuri said. “There will only be 300, signed by the writer and artist.” He added that Aftershock will also have many rare, exclusive comic books available for sale.
All in all, FCC is a community event that welcomes people from all walks of life, whether they consider themselves part of geek culture or not. “If someone wants to just come as themselves (and not dress up), that’s fine too; that’s part of being yourself,” Chaudhuri said.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit the Fayetteville Animal Protection Society in support of their animal rescue efforts during Hurricane Florence.
The FCC takes place Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 20- 21, at the Crown Expo, 1960 Coliseum Dr. It runs 10 a.m. to 7 p.m Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Advance tickets cost $15 for each day of the con or $25 for a weekend pass. A VIP Weekend Pass is available for $69.95, which grants early bird admission, a dedicated VIP entry line, no wait for autograph lines, reserved seating in the largest panel room and a VIP goody bag and lanyard. Advance tickets can be purchased in person at the Crown Center Box Office or the Fort Bragg Lesiure Center or online at www.fayettevillecomiccon.com/tickets. Active-duty service members will receive a discount.
Day-of prices are $20 for Saturday, $15 for Sunday or $32 for the Weekend Pass. Children 10 and under will be admitted free if accompanied by a paying adult. Parking is free.
To explore the full list of FCC’s guests, activities and attractions, visit the event website at www.fayettevillecomiccon.com.