Lexington comic and toy convention draws nearly 10,000 over two days

bestep@herald-leader.comMarch 17, 2013 

A lot of people connected with the superheroes, villains, fantasies and stars of their past and present at the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention over the weekend.

It featured everything from vintage comic books and new graphic novels to actors from Star Wars and professional wrestlers, to Power Rangers and the hearse from Ghostbusters.

Organizer Jarrod Greer said Sunday that total paid attendance for the two-day event was 9,948. It was the second year for the convention at the Lexington Convention Center.

For some, nostalgia was the draw.

Don Hernton of Lexington, who went with his sister Mylissa Crutcher, said he was a fan of science fiction, comic books and wrestling as a kid. The convention had it all, he said.

The event, he said, "takes you back to the blizzard of '78-79, when you were just stuck in the house watching Star Wars."

"I think we're all children at heart," said Hernton, 41.

Crutcher, 32, was dressed as Lana Kane, a character from the animated television series Archer.

It's just like being a fan of University of Kentucky basketball, she said of the attraction of comics. "If you're a fan, you're a fan for life."

Matthew Saunders, 28, traveled from Cleveland, Tenn., for the event.

A passion for comics is a hobby like hunting or any other that people grow up with, he said. "I just never grew out of it, I guess," he said.

There were long lines to get items signed by stars who brought fantasies to life on screens big and small, including Billy Dee Williams and Peter Mayhew from Star Wars and Jason David Frank from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV show.

The event also gave people a chance to meet those who created the stories that hooked them on comic books and graphic novels, whether it was 30 years ago or three.

Roger Stern, who has been in the comic-book industry more than 35 years, working on Captain America, Spider-Man and many other characters, said Sunday that fans sometimes ask him to sign things from decades ago.

"It's wonderful," he said.

The racks of comics common in five-and-dime stores when he was growing up in small-town Indiana are gone, Stern said.

"We're looking for that new model" to reach people, he said.

But Stern said he saw a number of families at the convention, with parents introducing their children to the comic books they loved as kids, which was encouraging.

The convention also was a chance to dress up.

Jennifer Crabill of Midway came dressed as Babydoll, a character from the 2011 fantasy movie Sucker Punch. Her daughter, Krysta Lube, came as Columbia from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

People stopped the two every few steps to have pictures made with them.

"Where else can an adult dress up as their favorite character?" said Crabill, who loved comics as a child. "It's just a fun time."

Collectors could search vendors at the convention for their favorite action figures or the vintage comic book they needed to fill out a collection.

Cary Ashby, 43, of Norwalk, Ohio, was working at a booth selling comic books. On Saturday, he helped a woman find a comic her nieces and nephews had asked her to find, he said.

"I think it's a sense of community where nerds can be nerds," Ashby said of the event.

Rikki Farmer of Lexington, said he came to look but ended up buying old comic books and collectible figures.

"There was a lot to see," he said.

Greer, the organizer, said he had hoped for attendance of 6,000, while his wife and accountant had hoped for 8,000, so he was happy.

"Bottom line, once again year two far exceeded my hopes and dreams and expectations," he said.

The event is back on for next year, Greer said.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1.

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