Photo gallery included below.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s the event of the season for those who love graphic novels, cosplay and opportunities to meet celebrities: Rose City Comic Con.
The annual convention is back in Portland this weekend and it’s bigger than ever. Hundreds of booths and tables populated by artists, writers, comic dealers and vendors form a maze that stretches from wall to wall in the Oregon Convention Center’s cavernous exhibit hall.
Under the glow of fluorescent lights, thousands of visitors young and old from around the world drink in the sights and sounds of fictitious worlds colliding.
“Star Wars” die-hards dressed as bounty hunters walk amongst the booths alongside Wonder Women cosplayers and kids in Marvel costumes. Creatives proudly display their paintings, comic books, custom-built lightsabers, hand-knit stuffed animals, LEGO structures, pop culture figurines, character posters and much, much more.
One of the vendors at this year’s RCCC specializes in monsters.
Matt Hopkins is the designer and creator behind Portland-based company, Nightmerriment. He makes posable, stop-motion style furry monsters. Most at his booth are toy-sized — but the shaggy behemoth standing guard at the entrance stands well over 6 feet tall.
Hopkins shares the booth with Kevin Gorby, another creature creator, of a sort. Gorby is a master puppet maker with a decade of experience. He makes custom animatronic puppets for Luna’s Puppets, many of which have made their way into film and TV.
“Right now, we’re working on an independent film company Big Beach — they did ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ — we’re doing a full new series with them, so that’s our big project at the moment.”
When asked what their favorite aspect of RCCC is, Hopkins and Gorby agreed: it’s the people and the conversations.
“Being able to talk ‘nerd’ with other people. I don’t get that enough in my life, actually,” said Hopkins.
As one would expect from an event with a name that includes the word “comic,” many graphic novelists and illustrators have tables at RCCC.
One comic on display this weekend is “Ion Grip,” written by Andrew Webber and illustrated by John Gajowski.
“It’s a sci-fi comic, we call it ‘galactic espionage’ — Cold War-era themes in a space opera setting,” said Webber.
This is their second year with a table at RCCC.
“I love that it kind of feels like a small con but it’s huge,” Webber said. “I love how it supports local artists and beginning creators.”
Gajowski echoed the sentiment.
“Rose City Comic Con is really fun. It’s a great environment for budding artists and there’s a lot of creatives from Portland showing off their work,” he said. “It’s a good community to be in.”
Rose City Comic Con helps many local artists who are just getting their start in their respective industries but it’s also a place for those who want to become artists.
The University of Oregon has a large chunk of ‘con real estate this year to get the word out about a relatively new program it offers.
“U of O is the first nationally-accredited university to have a comics studies minor,” said Cheyenne, the editor in chief of the U of O’s comics magazine. “It is a very rich and diverse minor for all students.”
Those interested in the program don’t have to be artistically-inclined.
“We cover a lot of different varieties. You don’t have to draw to be a part of the comics community here; we do theory classes, we do everything,” said Cheyenne.
The comics minor has been around for about 5 years. Cheyenne said it attracts students from around the world, including Japan and France, and new classes are added every year.
“The comics studies minor is an amazing way to get people together through a common interest, no matter what major they have or what they’re interested in,” Cheyenne said.
The international attention the university receives in its comics program is reflected in the general comic con culture.
Martine and Mariken attended RCCC on Friday sporting “Star Trek” shirts. They’re from the Netherlands. They told KOIN 6 News it wasn’t their first time at a ‘con, but it was their first in the U.S. Both agreed RCCC was bigger than the conventions back home.
“There’s a lot more artists in the Maker’s Market, we don’t have that at all in the Netherlands,” said Mariken. “And also a lot more cosplayers who aren’t for the cosplay tournament but just for fun.”
A large draw for many people is the lineup of celebrities offering photo ops and autographs — for a price. This year, names like Jason Isaacs, Cary Elwes, Tim Curry, Billie Piper, “Weird Al” Yankovic and Bonnie Wright are in Portland.
Lou Ferrigno is also at RCCC this weekend, to the delight of OG Hulk fans. The seasoned actor told KOIN 6 News the allure for him in attending conventions is the people they attract.
“It’s the gratification for the people: mothers crying, women hugging me, mothers telling me how much they hated me when the kids were young because they were smashing furniture, getting green makeup on the walls and everything,” Ferrigno said. “Three generations!”
There’s just something about the Hulk that resonates with people.
“I’ve done over 5 TV series, over 40 movies, but they just love the Hulk,” he said. “It affected their lives.”
Kevin Sorbo is in the neighboring celebrity booth. He played the title character in the 1990s TV series “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.” He’s no stranger to Portland.
“About 8 out of 10 years, I played in the Fred Meyer Golf Challenge hosted by Peter Jacobsen, a local PGA pro here,” said Sorbo. “I’ve been here a number of times. But it’s been a while! I’ve never been invited to this con, though.”
For Sorbo, the RCCC experience is also all about the fans.
“I love doing the Q&A’s, the panels are great. They’re a lot of fun, I have fun with the fans,” he said. “The people ask a lot of great questions, some of them are repetitious but some of them are pretty good questions.”
He’ll be at RCCC all weekend. But he plans on golfing Saturday morning before heading back to the convention center.
Rose City Comic Con runs through Sunday. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased here.