Watch out San Diego: Greene County now has comic con of its own
By ANDREW MCGINN
Oh, the things you’re apt to overhear at my house on a random Thursday night:
“Dad! Amazon has Bossk hands!”
What this means is that I have to get up and go over to the computer, where my 10-year-old son has a pair of greenish latex gloves, made to look like reptilian claws, up on the screen.
But wait! They’re eligible for free shipping, he tells me.
“Cool,” I say.
“Getting ready for Halloween early this year?” I ask, remembering it’s only mid-August.
“No,” my son says. “For the con!”
Duh. The con!
That would be the GC Mini-Con, a tentative effort by the six Greene County libraries to embrace the fandom surrounding comics, manga, anime, sci-fi, fantasy, movies and gaming.
We attended last year’s inaugural GC Mini-Con at the Greene County Community Center with more than 100 others — a promising number considering that it was publicized primarily by word of mouth.
Publicity is well underway for the second GC Mini-Con, set for 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 28 at the rec center.
My son will be among those in costume — that is, if he can make up his mind about what to wear.
First, he planned to go as Bossk, the reptilian Trandoshan bounty hunter whose second and a half of screen time in “The Empire Strikes Back” was roughly about 97 percent longer than Dengar’s time on screen. Nevertheless, both got action figures. Here we are, nearly 40 years later, and Amazon is trying to foist officially licensed latex reptile hands onto my 10-year-old son.
Except that with little more than three weeks to the con, he thinks he now may want to go as Ultraman, the Japanese superhero who’s been defending Earth from giant, rubber-suited kaiju (er, monsters) since 1966.
If you have absolutely no idea what any of this means, consider this your personal invitation to the GC Mini-Con.
There, you’ll see firsthand what the rest of the world has already discovered — that fantasy is now just as mainstream as fantasy football.
Fans are fans, whether they gather in costume to talk comics and movies or stand around a parking lot hours before a game in Iowa State jerseys. (And let’s be honest. Those dudes tossing around a football outside the stadium have more in common than they probably think with people carrying foam swords and plastic lightsabers.)
“It’s becoming more and more accepted,” said Amber Love, the 33-year-old director of the Paton Public Library, an anime enthusiast who never travels far without a pair of pointy elf ears.
Love is the one who brought the idea of a con — fan-speak for convention — to the Greene County Librarians Association, where the idea sat for a good two years before the other librarians in the county got up the nerve to test the waters.
“Anime, manga and conventions were new words to them,” Love said.
Anime is a distinct-looking style of Japanese animation that’s now as mainstream as “Pokemon.”
Manga are Japanese comics, read from right to left.
“The hardest manga to read,” Love explained, “is always your first.”
Love is slowly building a collection of manga at the William Paton Public Library with donations from family and friends.
Over the past decade or so, manga has taken America by storm.
Some of it will take an American property and put a Japanese spin on it. In my own book collection at home, I have a three-volume set of Batman comics that were published in Japan in the 1960s. The storytelling has a kinetic energy lacking in American comics of the era.
Love discovered anime while in high school at Prairie Valley in Gowrie, graduating in 2004.
Before long, she was president of Iowa Central Community College’s anime club and eventually cosplaying (dressing up in costume) at AnimeIowa, an annual con for anime/manga fans.
Funny enough, the people who are quickest to “Like” pictures of her in costume at AnimeIowa on Facebook are usually the high school classmates who were into sports — people who never would have let on that they harbored similar interests.
“Maybe they were into that and just didn’t say anything,” Love said. “When you grow up, you realize what you like and you start to accept other people.”
“It’s nothing you need to hide,” she added.
If anything, it’s impossible to hide these days from fan culture.
The year’s top-grossing movie, “Avengers: Endgame,” has so far grossed more than $858.2 million since its opening in April.
When my son and I showed up on opening night of “Endgame” at the Sierra Community Theatre, we were greeted by a line out the door. I was stunned. I marveled that I hadn’t seen that many people at a movie in Jefferson since “Home Alone.”
He, on the other hand, can’t fathom a time when geek culture wasn’t massive.
He’ll never know a time when leafing through the comic books at Walt’s Hallmark also meant keeping an ear out for peers (particularly girls) before they could get even the slightest glimpse of you looking at the latest issue of “Spectacular Spider-Man.”
Why, in his mind, wouldn’t there be a con right here in Greene County?
Of course, it probably helps to have a dad who’s into this stuff. We’re as comfortable in comic shops as other guys are in Scheels. One day at Mayhem Comics in Ames, I blew his mind when I pulled a comic written by his dad (yours truly) off a shelf. (I chose to neglect that it was in the clearance section.)
Jane Millard, director of the Jefferson Public Library, accepts the blame for holding up the GC Mini-Con for a couple of years.
“It took a while for me to come around,” Millard confessed. “I’m not a geek.”
“Now,” she added, “they’ve informed me I am. I just geek out about different things.”
Surely, I told her, there’s a genealogy con out there somewhere.
For years, fans of the band Kiss got together for cons of their own.
The idea of libraries holding cons isn’t a new one — the Ericson Public Library in Boone has hosted EriCon for years now.
Even still, the GC Mini-Con is new territory for Greene County.
“It really was an unusual sight for some of us,” Millard explained.
Love brought an extra pair of elf ears for a librarian from Scranton. Millard even bought a red cape just for the occasion.
“We think it’s pretty cool,” Millard said, “that libraries can bring people with the same interest together.”
How to go
What: The second annual GC Mini-Con, sponsored by all six Greene County libraries, with vendors, artists and a costume contest
When: 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 28, with a laser demonstration by Troy Powers at 1:30 p.m., Ninja Olympics at 2 p.m., a costume contest/runway at 3 p.m. and a sword class at 4 p.m. led by Samurai Dan and Lady Jillian
Where: Greene County Community Center