Fayette County

Lexington’s comic convention packed, ‘outgrowing’ convention space

Pop culture piggy banks was some of the merchandise for sale at the 2016 Lexington Comic & Toy Convention at the Lexington Center in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, March 12, 2016.
Pop culture piggy banks was some of the merchandise for sale at the 2016 Lexington Comic & Toy Convention at the Lexington Center in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, March 12, 2016. Herald-Leader

The Lexington Comic and Toy Convention, which ended Sunday, is getting almost too big for its venue.

Attendance at the three-day event at Lexington Convention Center hit almost 25,000, several thousand more than last year, ComicCon staffer Tyler Phillips said Sunday.

“I think we’re outgrowing the space we have available,” he said, adding that the proposed expansion of the convention center would help with crowd control.

“A couple people were a little upset with waits in line, but if you got 20,000 people, there’s gonna be waits in line somewhere,” Phillips said.

Convention halls were filled Sunday with people waiting to meet, among others, three actors who played the title character in Doctor Who, Star Trek stars and actor Walton Goggins, Boyd Crowder himself, from the TV series Justified.

For Goggins, who played an Eastern Kentucky criminal for six seasons on the FX show, which ended last year, this was his first trip to the state — something he said he’s always wanted to do.

“This state means a great deal to me because of Harlan County and the people of Harlan County,” where Justified was set, Goggins said.

His panel didn’t have a moderator. “We’re just gonna talk,” he said, allowing people in the audience to open up about how his characters have affected them. One man said he drove five hours from West Virginia to see Goggins.

In turn, Goggins, who grew up in Georgia, talked about being insecure when he started out in Hollywood and the roles he had to take for money.

“People in Hollywood so often profile people from the South as ignorant and backwards or duplicitous,” he said of his early roles.

He recalled feeling, when surrounded by people who had gone to college, that he couldn’t keep up.

“I remember sitting in a conversation with people talking about (author William) Faulkner, talking about Southern writers, you know, and I just thought, ‘I’m never going to be in a situation where I don’t have a literary reference or a way to contextualize this experience again,’” he said.

To make up for not having a college degree, Goggins said, he traveled and read as much as he could.

“So when I sit in a room with people who had it more easily than me, I’m going to blow them away,” he said.

When he got to the point in his career when he could afford to stop playing “ignorant and backwards” characters just for the money, Goggins said, he made sure his Justified character had the same mind-set toward education.

“In this case in particular I said, ‘Listen, I’ll only do this if I am the smartest person in the room,’” Goggins said.

During a different panel, Goggins’ show got name-checked by the fifth incarnation of the doctor from Doctor Who.

“I love a series set in Kentucky called Justified. Have you seen Justified?” Peter Davison asked to warm applause.

Later, Brent Spiner and Denise Crosby, who played doomed lovers on Star Trek: The Next Generation, reflected on a whether it was a “double-edged sword” to be known primarily for Star Trek.

Spiner said he goes numb when someone yells his character’s name in an airport, “as if all of the rest of my life” didn’t happen.

But he also said his role as Lt. Cmdr. Data has allowed him to meet people who were inspired to become scientists, or people with Asperger syndrome who felt a connection to the character.

“One edge of the sword is much sharper than the other,” Spiner said.

Making connections weren’t exclusive to celebrities.

Ryan Glitch brought his company, SciFi Speed Dating, to the convention. . It pairs convention-goers for lightning-quick conversation.

Glitch said there are 79 marriages, 46 engagements and “maybe” 22 babies, if one was born Sunday.

Other vendors, including Tokyo Toybox, which displayed racks of plush toys in multicolored racks, said they had sold out of some products.

S.C. Houff, a fantasy writer from Virginia, said she sold more books at the convention than at any of the others she frequents.

Phillips said vendors in particular were very happy with the fifth edition of the convention and were signing up for next year.

“We had a few hiccups because of the growth,” he said. “There were more than we expected to come out, but we handled it as quickly as possible and we’re ready for next year.”

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