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'Not just comic books'

Costumed characters gather for second Greenville Comic Con

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Star Wars reenactment group The Mandalorian Mercs will perform at Greenville Comic Con Saturday.

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By Kim Grizzard

Friday, August 3, 2018

Expect to see everything from Stormtroopers to the Walking Dead and Bob Belcher to Wonder Woman at the Greenville Convention Center on Saturday. There haven’t been this many costumed characters in town since Halloween.

But they will gather this weekend for the annual Greenville Comic Con. The one-day show is a convention of sorts for fans of a range of pop-culture entertainment from comic books and anime to science fiction and fantasy books, movies and TV shows to video games and even horror.

“People think it’s just comic books,” said Sherry Deel, of All Things Geeky By 2 Nerds, who runs the event with her husband, Tim. “It’s definitely not just comic books.”

Launched last year, Greenville Comic Con debuted with more than 2,500 visitors, nearly double the number the Deels had hoped would turn out for an inaugural event. Already, the Greenville Comic Con is the largest annual event for All Things Geeky By 2 Nerds, which hosts similar comic cons in Marion and Statesville.

“I think that there are more nerds out there than people realize,” Deel said explaining that she does not consider the words “geek” and “nerd” to be derogatory. “To most of us, it’s not bad to be considered a geek or a nerd. It’s just kind of who we are.

“My husband and I are into that kind of stuff (comics, anime and pop-culture entertainment),” she said. “So we know that the people are there.”

It was Tim Deel’s passion for comics that for years prompted his family to spend vacations at comic book shows. But necessity was the mother of the Deels’ comic con business. When her husband was no longer able to work due to a debilitating neurological condition, Sherry needed a way to support the family.

“I was a stay-at-home mom home schooling my child, thinking, “I have no idea how am I going to pay the bills,’” she recalled. “They told us he was never going to get better, so I said, ‘What’s something on your bucket list?’ He said, I’ve always wanted to have a comic con,’ and I said, ‘OK, I can do that. What I thought would be a one time thing has turned into what I do for a living now.”

After launching comic con events closer to their home in western North Carolina three years ago, the Deels began researching areas for expansion.

“I looked at a map of where comic cons were in North Carolina, and I saw a big gap right around (Greenville),” Deel said. “It’s kind of like field of dreams, you know, if you build it, they will come.”

People who come to the convention center on Saturday can expect to see “The Walking Dead’s” Amber Dawn Fox (Officer Bello), who is making her second appearance at Greenville Comic Con. Joining her will be eastern North Carolina native Brandon Hardison, who has portrayed both a savior and a walker on the AMC series. (Autographs with the stars are $10 each.)

Comic Con features that are free with admission include Level Up Gaming Theater, a mobile, climate-controlled gaming center with space for 28 gamers to play at once (new to this year’s comic con) and Eastern Exotics, a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation foundation (featured at last year’s event.)

Also returning to Greenville Comic Con is the Carolinas Garrison of the 501st Legion. The 501st, an international association of “Star Wars” fans, is best known for its accurate replicas of costumes of “Star Wars” villains.

“When we pick our costumes, we have to look like we just walked off the movie set,” said 501st Legion member Shanda Haddock of Goldsboro. “We’re all going to look identical to what’s on the movie.

“We’ve had a lot of kids who will actually just completely lose it,” she said, laughing. “They love it. They come running and just grab hold of us and say, ‘You’re awesome. I’ve seen you in the movie.’”

Joining the 501st will be members of the Rebel Legion and Mandalorian Mercs, similar organizations that highlight different characters in the “Star Wars” series.

Haddock, who will make her second Greenville Comic Con appearance as a New Hope Stormtrooper, has made about 150 appearances since joining the 501st Legion. All members are volunteers who come together at charity events or to raise money for nonprofit organizations.

At Saturday’s comic con, the 501st Legion will host a “Blast a Trooper,” which will give kids a chance to fire a Nerf gun at the stormtroopers. The event is a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish.

“Our slogan is ‘Bad Guys Doing Good,’” Haddock said. “Some of them love the idea that they get to shoot the bad guys.”

Kids are not the only ones who get into the action at comic con. Deel recalls that at last year’s Greenville Comic Con, one of the costume contest winners was a senior adult with a walker, who described himself as a “walker” from “The Walking Dead.”

“He said he was a walker-walker,” Deel said, adding that the man also was dressed as Walker, Texas Ranger. “That just shows that there’s no age to this. You can be 2 and you can be 92.

“My favorite thing about the show is it is a nonjudgmental environment. You can come be yourself and have a ball,” she said. “It’s so fun. I guess you’re among your own kind.”

The second Greenville Comic Con will be held from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at the Greenville Convention Center, 303 S.W. Greenville Blvd. A costume contest is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for kids 12 and under. Kids 3 and under get in free. A preshow event will be held from 8-11 p.m. today at Trollingwood Taproom and Brewery, 707 Dickinson Ave. The event will feature comic and cosplay artist Brian Wingrove and live music from The Out of Limits. People who come in costume will have a chance to spin the prize wheel to win free tickets to the local Comic Con. Visit www.greenvillenccomiccon.com for more information.

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