Forces combine for literacy's sake at Weber's Fantastic Con

Monday , June 09, 2014 - 11:58 AM

Standard-Examiner staff

WASHINGTON TERRACE — Opposing forces from the Rebel Legion and the Imperial Army marched into the Pleasant Valley Library together over the weekend for its mini Comic Con event to help children improve literacy - and allow adults to geek out.

“We knew it would be something that would rally the community around reading,” said Weber County Library Adult Programming Coordinator and Librarian Jessica Whetman on Saturday. “There is a lot of interest in comics”

Hundreds of people, from babes in arms to empty-nesters, showed up here for Weber County Library’s first Fantastic Con.

“It gives us a chance to be walking, talking action figures,” said Rebel Legion Rogue Base member Damon Ricks who was dressed as a Jedi Knight.

Darth Vader, from the 501st Legion Alpine Garrison was equipped with a voicebox and full costume to read children the popular Mo Willem’s book Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus.

“His voice was killer, he was so dead on” said Meredith Smith of South Ogden. “My kids are loving it.”

Smith attended the event because they usually come to the library’s regular events and they have all been fun, so they decided to try this out and her kids had “so much fun.”

She came as Wonder Woman and her three children were Clark Kent, Spiderman and Batman. Her husband made use of the notorious missing-mate tube sock by fashioning it into an eye mask.

“We weren’t even comic book fans,” Smith said. “I think we are more dressed up for this than we have been for the last several halloweens.”

Whetman said comics are a good place for anyone to start. She said naturally children who struggle reading will gravitate toward comics and graphic novels, then go on to read much more advanced literature. The love for comic books and the stories always remains.

Teens broke from their poker face to a huge grin when they saw a Jedi Knight with a light saber equipped with leds and motion sensors.

Comic Cons are becoming more of a pop culture mainstay, making the geek culture a new norm for those of any age.

Brad Jacobs of Roy doesn’t have any problem with the once underground events becoming more mainstream.

“I was geek before geek was cool,” Jacobs said as he stood inside the library with a scrapbook full of mementos from prior conventions or events dating back to the late ’80s. “I feel right at home here.”

He has been to both Salt Lake Comic Con events and tries to go to any other conventions around the area. He was still impressed by the smaller event at the library.

“I love it - three exclamation points, BAM, BAM, BAM!”

Jacobs says these conventions give him a sense of belonging and it highlights that the comic-genre isn’t just for kids.

“It’s good that it’s mainstream now, so people go, ‘oh yeah, you guys are cool.’”

The family-friendly event included free face painting and hair by cosmetology school Paul Mitchell. Zombies make up was the most popular request.

In addition to Spiderman, GhostBusters, Storm Troopers and others roaming around for pictures, the four-hour afternoon event also included three magicians, a fire dancer, book and mask vendors, a giant lego display and two authors and an illustrator.

Parents would play with a light saber and ask questions while the children also played.

Whetman said the nearly all volunteer event went very well and they plan to do it again next year. So add it to the list of one of many comic cons Utahns are now involved in.

“No wonder we are the #1 nerdiest state in the country,” Ricks said as he held some Original Star Wars trading cards from the ‘80s that he handed out to parents. “And I love that we hold that title.”

Contact reporter Cimaron Neugebauer 801-625-4231 or Follow him on Twitter at @CimaronNews

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