MEANWHILE AT TRI-CON...
Published: Sunday, April 7, 2013
Updated: Sunday, April 7, 2013 22:04
More than 1,700 comic fans, cosplayers, children and self-proclaimed geeks from across the Tri-State area gathered Saturday to attend the second annual Tri-State Comic Convention at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in downtown Huntington.
For more than eight hours, the Big Sandy Superstore Arena was transformed from an unassuming concert and entertainment venue into a secret lair containing comic creators, caricature artists, steampunk jewelers, toy vendors and zombies.
Tri-Con featured more than 40 exhibitors, 30 vendors, 18 special guests from both major national and independent comics publishers and a charity auction and costume contest.
Show organizer Eric Watkins said he was excited about the turnout and could not wait to start planning next year’s convention.
“We’ve had easily a 40 percent increase over last year’s convention,” Watkins said. “Last year, we had around 70 tables set up, and this year the number is more around 110 tables. It’s been a fantastic, unbelievable day.”
Watkins said he already had plans for next year’s show.
“I can’t wait for next year. I’ll relax tomorrow, but on Monday, we’ll start working on next year’s convention. It’s a year round process,” Watkins said.
Convention attendees were treated to featured talents like Lora Innes, comics legend Tony Isabella and Beau Smith, a Huntington native, Marshall graduate and comic writer, whose work has been featured in “Spawn,” “Wyonna Earp” and “Green Lantern.”
“Huntington hasn’t had a consistent convention since 1983, and it’s a real shame,” Smith said. “James Maddox and Eric Watkins have done a real exceptional job with Tri-Con. I’ve been a part of conventions all across the country, and this is one of the best conventions I’ve been a part of.”
Smith said he wanted to be a comic book writer since he was in third grade.
“I wish something like this would have been around when I was a student at Marshall,” Smith said. “I’ve been in the industry for 27 years now, and if Tri-Con was around during my college years, I would have started my career a lot earlier.”
One of the most talked about and eagerly awaited panels was “Talking with a Walker” with Kevin Galbraith, a featured extra on the second season of the hit television show “The Walking Dead.”
Galbraith spoke to 100 zombie fans about his experience portraying the infamous swamp zombie from the second season.
“I’m a fan first,” Galbraith said. “The opportunity I’ve had, the things I’ve gotten to do — I’m living the dream.”
Galbraith, a George A. Romero admirer, was awestruck when local news anchor and “The Walking Dead” devotee Tim Irr, revealed he had a small part in Romero’s 1985 movie “Day of The Dead.”
“I was a college student at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and they paid us $1 and gave us sandwiches,” Irr said. “They needed tall zombies for this one scene, and I got picked. It was an experience I will never forget. It was wild.”
Galbraith was excited to meet a fellow walker, and his first “Romero zombie.”
“Meeting Tim was the highlight of the convention for me,” Galbraith said. “The zombies I portray on ‘The Walking Dead’ owe a lot to the Romero movies. I guess you could say I’m kind of walking in Tim’s footsteps.”
Besides meeting zombies, convention goers also had the chance to rub elbows with the likes of Darth Vader, Iron Man and Batman among other characters portrayed by local cosplayers.
Irr was also one of the featured judges for the highly competitive costume contest, which had contestants of all ages.
“I thought the costume contest was spectacular,” Irr said. “I wasn’t expecting so many homemade, labor intensive costumes. I was really impressed by their dedication. They are obviously huge fans.”
Tri-Con also featured a charity auction to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of comic creators, retailers, publishers, librarians and readers.
The auction featured signed comics by Garth Ennis, Neal Adams and Mark Waid and original comic art by Norman Lee among other items donated by convention exhibitors, vendors and guests.
Show organizer and Marshall University alumnus James Maddox said he was really impressed by the enthusiasm and energy during the convention.
“The most important thing is to have fun. A lot of people stopped to thank me and tell me they were having fun. At the end of the day, that’s what matters. That’s why we do this each year,” Maddox said.
Chris Hodge can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.