Stockton-Con, in just its second year of existence, packed the Stockton Arena to the brim with upwards of 7000 pop culture enthusiasts of all sorts on August 4. Seeing that kind of turnout in my hometown was enough to get Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” playing in my head.
Because despite all the usual things you hear about Stockton – crime, foreclosure, bankruptcy – the city’s culture changes, grows, and prevails. It’s hard to give a damn about your city’s bad reputation when the people of said city create an affordable convention that’s just a 10-minute drive from your house.
Donning my last minute Dr. Newton Geiszler cosplay, I joined the already lengthy line to enter the convention about half an hour before the doors even opened. Folks of all ages, local and non-local, some in cosplay, some with their families and friends, all turned out. I made friends with a gentleman from San Diego who’d never been to San Diego Comic-Con and enjoyed mystery novels. I made a sort of squealing sound when I saw Dean and Castiel cosplayers walk by. Pretty cool stuff.
Once inside, out on the arena floor, it felt very much like the first Stockton-Con, which had been held at UOP. Despite this years well-deserved larger venue, weaving through all the artists and vendors and stopping to look at things while dodging alien tails and cardboard weaponry was quite a feat. But it wasn’t impossible to navigate, and people seemed understanding enough if the crowd stopped moving so someone could take a photo with Captain Jack Sparrow.
I walked around the entirety of the floor at least twice, and I’m sure I still didn’t take it all in. A friend told me later that night that he had bought a sketch done on the spot by an eight-year-old artist. He’d also bought a cat!Bane button from one of my favorite artists, Jenny Parks (I bought “Doctor Mew” and “Purrlock” buttons from her at the first Stockton-Con).
I also came away with a new favorite artist. Marisa Garcia is the creator of Chunky Girl Comics. At her table, Garcia had on display a preview issue of “The Heavy Response Unit,” which features team of plus-size female heroes. Fat female pride in comics? I’m all about that. And to make it even cooler, two of the characters were brought to life by a couple of gorgeous cosplayers.
Speaking of cosplay, I managed to miss the costume contest, but it was enough just to take in all the characters walking around the arena. Next to the Avengers Initiative table, attendees could take photos with Wolverine and Iron Man against a green screen. I saw a Loki who I’m pretty sure I went to high school with. Saw lots of anime characters I couldn’t identify, and what I assume was Homestuck cosplay. I even spotted a fifth Doctor from a distance. Celery on the lapel and everything.
And Stockton-Con did have a boost of star power this year as well. Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica signed photos and chatted with fans on the upper level of the arena. My mom’s a fan, but I’d never watched the show. But I can tell you that he seems like a cool guy. I heard him chatting with some folks about their favorite TV shows. He’s a fan of Dexter.
Linda Blair of Exorcist fame and Susan Olsen, the youngest daughter of The Brady Bunch, were there as well. I didn’t get to meet either of them myself, but crowds of people all but blocked their tables, so it’s safe to say they were a hit.
Later, I went to the Al’s Comics panel, featuring Al himself and Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics in Concord. Al runs the comic shop on the Miracle Mile here in Stockton. Field is the guy you can thank for Free Comic Book Day. And the two of them were responsible for getting the Fantastic Four’s hometown of Central City, CA officially renamed as Stockton, CA, which led to a visit from Stan Lee in 1986. You can’t tell me that’s not a wicked cool display of nerd power right there.
I love the combination of local and internationally-known geekdom that Stockton-Con brought in this year. It’s a lot of good for a small price (tickets were $10 at the door, $6 if you donate some gently used clothing). And ticket proceeds are donated to St. Mary’s Dining Room and United Way. Can’t beat that.
So congratulations to Stockton-Con for a second successful year.
Hopefully the talk about making it a two-day convention next year isn’t just talk!