Jon Robinson has liked Batman for a very long time. So much so, that as an adult, he dresses liked the Caped Crusader when attending comic cons (comic conventions). But he doesn?t stop at that pop culture icon.
?I dress as a lot of different characters, from Joker, Riddler, Iron Man, Storm?trooper, Jor-El and of course Batman,? Robinson said. ?Batman is very well known. (I?ve) always been a fan of him in comics and movies since I was a kid ? never grew out of it. Kids are usually more excited to see Batman in person (adults as well). With my son being Kal-El, we make a good team.?
Kal-El is Superman?s Kryptonian birth name, and Robinson?s 7-year-old son?s real name is Kal-El. Super?man, if you don?t know, is from the planet Krypton in the comic book world.
Robinson doesn?t dress in the flimsy fabric-looking costume Adam West wore in the campy Batman TV series from the 1960s. No, he sports a more modern look ? like that worn by Christian Bales in Christopher Nolan?s Batman big-screen trilogy.
The Little River resident and his family have attended comic cons in other areas, like Wichita and Kansas City. One day, an idea hit him after attending an event in Topeka where the character Clark Kent was inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame, he said.
?I just decided I?d give it a shot,? Robinson, 38, said. ?It was just one day, and (I) decided to start a comic con. We tried to make our show a kid-friendly show.?
Robinson, who runs the convention, said the Small?ville Comic-Con in Hutch?inson is in its second year. The event will be from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 20 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 21 at the Kansas State Fairgrounds.
During the first event, which was last year, it was in one building, but this year, it?ll be in two (Meadowlark and Sunflower South), Robison said. Parking is free.
Tickets are $17 for adults for an advance two-day pass; $12 for senior citizens for an advance two-day pass; $8 for an advance two-day pass for youth ages 7-15; and free for children 6 and younger. There is a limit of two free children per one paid adult.
For more information about other ticket prices and options, visit http://www.smallvillecomiccon.com/. Only advance passes are sold online. Tickets also may be purchased at two Hutchinson businesses: Midknight Games, 128 W. Fifth Ave., and Toy Depot, 127 S. Main St.
Smallville Comic-Con occurs at the same time as the Smallville, Kansas Festival, which is June 18-21 in various downtown Hutch?inson locales.
The story behind the Smallville Comic-Con started when Chris Wietrick, Ben Eisiminger and KC McNeely initiated a campaign to have Hutchinson recognized as the official Smallville, Kansas, after noticing parallels between Hutchinson and the fictional boyhood home of Superman, according to smallvillecomiccon.com.
This caught the attention of Robinson, who loaned his costumes inspired by Super?man to the cause. The grassroots efforts were a hit, and on June 21, 2013, Hutchinson was renamed Smallville, Kansas, for a day. This also was the day Superman was inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame and the 75th anniversary of the creation of that famous hero from Kansas. Robinson and his family all wore Man of Steel costumes to the event at the state capital. This year, Hutchinson will be named Smallville for four days.
?Somewhat overwhelmed by the Hutchinson community?s interest in Superman, Smallville and comic books in general, Jon was then struck with the thought this interest may be great enough to support a local comic con,? www.smallvillecomiccon.com stated. ?A comic con is a fan convention which brings together celebrities, artists, writers and vendors with a focus on all things comic book and pop culture.?
And the interest did seem to be great enough. Robinson said about 3,000 people attended the event last year and an estimated 6,000 will go this year. Who attends the event?
?Anybody ? if you like pop culture,? Robinson said.
Vendors will be there to sell a variety of things, such as jewelry, chain maille, new and used vintage comics, collectibles, toys, costumes, artwork, anim?, hand-crafted specialty items and clothing. Vendors usually are versed in pop culture, such as science fiction, all the comics and Dr. Who. About 100 vendors, artists and creators will be attending this year.
Creators include writer A.D. Trosper with Dragon?s Call Series; A.R. Crebs with ?The Esoteric Design?; comic book artist and writer Alfred Trujillo; artist and writer Ande Parks; artist Ash Gonzales; makeup, drawing, painting and sculpting artist Madhouse Marilyn; author, screenwriter and producer Neo Edmund; and writer and artist Mike Grell, to name a few. Mitch Brian, who is from Hutchinson and co-created ?Batman: The Animated Series? will be there, too.
Also om site will be real vehicles that resemble the VW Bumble Bee from ?Transformers? and a jeep and SUV from ?Jurassic Park.? An almost life-size Jabba the Hutt from the original ?Star Wars? movie trilogy will be on display on a 12- by 6-foot base. Robinson made the sculpture himself, using more than 40 cans of spray foam and other material.
?He?s still a big guy,? Robinson said.
Members of the 501st Legion will be present in full regalia, and will have a Blast a (Storm) Trooper event as a fundraiser for charity, Robinson said. The 501st Legion is ?the world?s definitive imperial costuming organization,? with the goal of promoting an interest in ?Star Wars,?? according to www.501st.com. They also wish to facilitate costume use and to contribute.
?Various garrisons, bases and clans within the Star Wars fan club 501st Legion will be present in costume with activities and photo opportunities,? according to a news release. ?Fan favor?ites the Iron Brothers of Topeka (IBOT) will be back to rock the house in their Iron Man, War Machine and new Cylon costumes, as well as numerous other professional cosplayers.?
Celebrity appearances are likely, such as by Billy Dee Williams from ?Star Wars? fame; Vernon Wells from ?Mad Max? and ?Power Rangers Time Force?; Lee Meriwether from ?Batman the Movie? and ?Star Trek?; Rick Stasi; Manu Intiraymi from ?Star Trek: Voyager/Renagades?; and Katrina Law from the TV show ?Arrow.? Meriwether played the first Catwoman.
Just as celebrities are a mainstay at comic-cons, so is cosplay, or dressing up as characters from video games, books or movies.
?You don?t have to,? Robinson said about dressing up during the convention. ?It?s just for fun.?
That fun will include a contest for those who show up in costume.
?Please remember, this is a family-oriented event, and costuming, as well as clothing in general, should be safely within a PG rating,? www.smallvillecomiccon.com stated.
General rules include no partial or full nudity; no pyrotechnics, smoke, fog, fireworks, fire, concussions or explosions; no oozing or dripping fluids; and use of a personal wrangler is desired in costumes that limit visibility or movement.
Adding to the fun will be gaming, panels and a movie screening of the horror film ?Cabaret Diabolique.? The two-hour movie is for people age 13 and older.
?We?re a full-fledged comic-con even though we?re Smallville,? Robinson said. ?We do everything pop culture.?
by Wendy Nugent