“Take that, Comic Con!” said Jennifer Kent, motioning emphatically at the chocolate majesty before us.
Kent, event coordinator for Portland’s annual Chocolate Fest convention, leads me through the large entry doors into the Fest’s main showroom. In this chocolate-lover’s mecca, stalls and vendors lined the alleys hawking an assortment of sweets and wines. The roads were full of pilgrims seeking enlightenment through the tastiest treat. And in the middle of this chocolaty paradise, Batman was savoring a truffle.
“We’ve had some people coming in with costumes, so we’re assuming they’re coming from Comic Con, but it’s been a great mix,” said Kent. “This is the first time [Chocolate Fest and Comic Con] have both been here at the same time. I was a little nervous at first, but now I definitely think it’s beneficial.”
The integration of human and superhero at the Wizard World Comic Convention in Portland wasn’t only enjoyed by Chocolate Fest, as hundreds of people discovered while lining up across the Portland Convention Center waiting to gain entry. Several characters from The Muppets caravanned around, stopping every so often to pose for photos with fans. Creatures from The Dark Crystal scared a group of children. A giant Totoro dressed in a Batman suit loomed with adorable menace over all he surveyed. Comic Con was in full swing even before walking through the showroom doors.
Once through those doors however, even more costumed fans lay in wait amidst the clamoring stalls and booths. Superheroes, anime characters and cyborg soldiers roamed the aisles, evidencing that many Portlanders decided to come dressed as their favorite fictional persona while enjoying the festivities of the convention.
“We really liked Pokemon when we were kids,” said Ash Ketchum of Pallett Town.
“We also just thought about characters we look like already. I have red hair and he has black hair, so… this is how we naturally look,” said Misty of Cerulean City.
Hillsboro-natives Andrew and Kylie Alvarado, dressed as Ash and Misty respectively from the Pokemon television show, have been attending conventions for years and traveling as far as Hawaii to get their geek fix. But this year marks the couple’s first outing to a comic convention in Portland.
“Everything looks great, it’s been a lot of fun,” said Andrew.
“We haven’t been to any events yet, though,” said Kylie.
Panels, film screenings and photo opportunities were only a few of the many events scheduled to take place over the weekend, and an important part of enjoying the convention to its fullest. Elsewhere in the building, Stan Lee met and conversed with fans while a mob had gathered around several cast members from the hit television show The Walking Dead. Beyond the vendor stalls filled with Doctor Who shirts, signed movie posters and anime figurines, several rows of tables were set up with celebrity guests waiting to meet eager fans and sign autographs. In a matter of paces, one could see Adam West’s beaming visage next to Bruce Campbell eating a sandwich. Cassandra Peterson, in full Elvira regalia, laughed with fans while William Shatner excused himself to use the restroom.
With so much going on, how could there be any time for comics? But then, it could be noted that not once has there been any mention of comics up until now. It might also be of note to point out that the much tamer annual Stumptown Comics Fest is not taking place this year. So what might this mean for the future of comic conventions in Portland?
Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner, the Portland-based creative team behind the critically-acclaimed comic Witch Doctor, had a bit to say on the subject.
“They had been planning on doing Stumptown this year, but logistically they just weren’t able to set it up in time,” said Seifert. “I heard from the director of the festival that they want to take a year or two off and then come back. I think there’s been a lot of erroneous reporting about it. It’s not that Wizard World is replacing Stumptown, they’re just taking a break.”
“It’s more of an addition,” Ketner said. “It’s one more convention that we get to do in our hometown every year. We’re happy about it.”
“They’re very different shows with very different demographics,” Seifert said. “[Wizard World Comic Con] has the feel of a scaled-down version of the shows that I think should be called ‘Fan Expos’ rather than ‘Comic Cons’ because there’s very little focus on the comics. But in this case, I think it’s really helping. The fact that there are so many big-media guests here have brought a lot of people that wouldn’t have come out otherwise who are also interested in comics.”
Although the big-media fixation of Wizard World isn’t necessarily driving out the more independent comics-oriented air of Stumptown, many people seem to feel that way. Despite the ambiguity of Stumptown and Wizard World’s future relationship with one another and how people feel about it, the Portland Comic Con seemed to present an enjoyable and entertaining experience for the many people in attendance. So it can’t be all bad, can it?
“I’m having fun,” said Lando Calrissian of Cloud City.