Last weekend the nerds, geeks and superfans of Albuquerque descended on the Convention Center downtown for three days of fandom, photo ops and costumed revelry.
The 7th annual Albuquerque Comic Con brought a long list of cult celebrities, comic artists and vendors to all three floors of the Convention Center, attracting an estimated 30,000 fans.
The size of the event was truly impressive, with an endless maze of vendor and artist booths. One could wander for hours around one of the many large ballrooms and still not see everything that was on display.
Jim Burleson, the owner and promoter of Albuquerque Comic Con, said that the size and scope of the event has been years in the making.
“It’s taken us seven years to get this big. We’ve expanded into three floors of the Convention Center, and every one of them is packed, standing room only,” Burleson said. “It’s a huge testament to the community that Albuquerque has, where word of mouth has given us the opportunity to grow at an exponential rate.”
Many people come for the celebrity guest appearances, which this year featured Ralph Macchio (aka the original Karate Kid), Ryan Hurst (who played Opie in “Sons of Anarchy”), Shannon Purser and Peyton Wich of “Stranger Things,” and Olivia Olsen (the voice of Marceline on “Adventure Time”), and many more.
Others come for the comic artists, which included Rob Liefeld (best known for his work on Deadpool and X-Force), Peter David (well known for the Hulk and Spider-Man), Neal Adams (who helped reinvent many DC heroes in the “New 52” reboot), and James O’Barr, creator of “The Crow.”
Many others come for the cosplay. Convention warriors dressed in homemade costumes, carrying makeshift weapons and props, were out in full force, adding color and surprises everywhere you looked.
Audrey Kimbert came all the way from El Paso to show off her hand-sewn Sailor Moon costume, complete with blonde wig and magic wand. She said that while she enjoys getting autographs and buying merchandise, she really comes for the camaraderie with her fellow cosplayers.
“There’s a huge community of cosplayers who work all year on their outfits, and then travel around to different cons to hang out, show off and maybe win some contests,” Kimbert said. “The community is so great; it’s a really accepting and supportive group.”
Many of the booths featured professional, full-time cosplayers like Rosanna Rocha, Cara Nicole and Kitty Kaboom.
“The dream of all cosplayers is to make a career out of it,” Kimbert said. “Those girls are our heroes.”
Prop makers also come to show off their creations. One man had a full-size Dalek (the Doctor’s main adversary on” Doctor Who”), which he could drive from inside the machine. A voice modulator allowed him to talk to passers-by in the distinctive robotic voice of the Daleks.
Patrick Potter, who is part of the R2 Builders Club, wowed everyone with his fully functional R2D2 droid, which he built himself from scratch and controlled with a radio transmitter.
There were also many Jedis and Sith Lords in attendance, and the Galactic Empire was out in full force, with several members of the 501st Legion costuming club showing off their exquisite Storm Trooper uniforms.
Handmade Star Wars props were also for sale, including the battle-ready lightsabers of Joshua Pederson, who is part of a local Star Wars sparring group that can often be seen on Main Campus having epic lightsaber battles.
Pederson said he started off wanting to buy prop sabers from toy companies and other private makers, but that he was unhappy with their high prices and lack of durability during full contact sparring. He decided he could make something stronger and cheaper himself.
“Most of my sales so far are to local people in the community here, all word of mouth. I’ve had a couple of out-of-state sales, but they were friends of friends. I do have a website that’s under construction,” Pederson said.
There were also some impressive local art talent on display. Self-published comic artist and writer Dave Jordan was showing off his latest book, “Mitts,” a noir detective story in a world of cat people. The screen-printed movie posters of local designers Jon Sanchez and Jeremy Montoya drew lots of attention as well.
Burleson said that the event grew by about 20 percent since last year, and he has even higher hopes for next year’s con, which is already being planned. He said he hopes to get some bigger, A-list celebrity guests, possibly even some of the stars of legendary British sci-fi series “Doctor Who.”
Whoever is on the guest list, next year’s Albuquerque Comic Con is sure to be a colorful explosion of obsession, fandom and self expression.
For even more interviews with artists, celebrity guests and attendees, check out the upcoming episode of our Wolf Tracks podcast at dailylobo.com/section/wolf-tracks.
Jonathan Baca is managing editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.