Superhero, sci-fi fans unite for first Cape Fear Comic Con

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Matt Hayward of Dark Matter Cosplay will be among the notable panelists at the upcoming first Cape Fear Comic Con. Hayward will also head up the con's costume contest. Courtesy photos.
Matt Hayward of Dark Matter Cosplay will be among the notable panelists at the upcoming first Cape Fear Comic Con. Hayward will also head up the con’s costume contest. Courtesy photos.

Calling all cape-wearers and cosplayers, amateur superheroes and would-be zombies – the first Cape Fear Comic Con is nigh.

Fanboys and girls of all ages can geek out to a host of cross-genre artists and notable personalities during the inaugural event, set for Saturday, April 16, at Wilmington Moose Lodge, 4610 Carolina Beach Road. A growing national trend anchored by longstanding conventions like the one in San Diego, comic cons are mass gatherings of fans of comic books and graphic novels and the artists behind the work. 

The local event is one that arose organically from the supportive network of vendors and visitors within the con circuit, organizer John Stamey said.

Stamey, who still remembers with fondness the first time he saw Eartha Kitt as Catwoman on the late-60s “Batman” series, is certainly an eager fan, but his foray into comic cons came about in a roundabout way.

An insurance salesman by trade, he came across a caricature artist who was applying for a job with his company. Rather than partner in that field, Stamey ended up helping back the budding artist, and the two created Carolina Caricatures in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Growing the business to a team of five artists, the duo decided to get in on the comic con market. And as they traveled around the region, Stamey heard a common theme.

“Everybody was complaining there wasn’t a comic con in Wilmington, so I decided to give it a shot,” he said. “It has been a lot of fun promoting this thing.”

Typically, “fun” wouldn’t be the adjective used to describe the stressful challenge of organizing a large-scale event from a state away, but Stamey said the nerd culture is a bit unique. He’s had a heaping portion of help from Wilmington businesses like Memory Lane Comics and Cape Fear Games, and said the general reception has been nothing but positive.

“As much work as it is, it’s kept my blood pressure down,” he said. “The people are nice. The fans are nice…they’re typically intellectual and very respectful of each other. They’re all very supportive. I’ve made a lot of good friends.”

'Walking Dead' alumni will hold a zombie workshop the Sunday after the Cape Fear Comic Con.
‘Walking Dead’ alumni will hold a zombie workshop the Sunday after the Cape Fear Comic Con.

Those friends – folks he has met through his travels – are among the notable guests coming to the Cape Fear Comic Con. Take Gregory French, a seasoned walker on the insanely popular zombie drama, “The Walking Dead.” Stamey chatted with him at a convention and mentioned his Wilmington event. French, a South Carolina native with friends in the Port City, jumped at the chance to make the trip.

And he went one step further. French has offered up his Z-List Zombie Stunt School, a project with fellow walker Michael Koske and make-up and special effects artist Sean Krumbholz, the Sunday after the con. That school will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the lodge, with a class fee of $75.

The con will also feature a zany array of talent, including Hillburn Associates artist Lyle Pollard, who has done work for Marvel and DC Comics, former “The Muppet Show” producer Andrew Hiller, body paint artist extraordinaire Tiffany Beckler, who is set to appear on the Game Show Network’s “Skin Wars” on April 20, and legendary wrestler Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant.

WWE Wrestlemania 32 costume designer Matt Hayward will be on hand, as well, to lead a panel discussion on cosplay with the group, Dark Matter, and head up an all-ages costume contest.

An art auction will be held during the all-day event, with proceeds benefiting the Cape Fear Literacy Council.

“We were introduced to them, and the connection made a lot of sense because the literacy council has found that comic books are a great way to help adults who don’t read very well,” he said. “A 65-year-old man who struggles with reading doesn’t want people seeing him read ‘Dick and Jane,’ but he doesn’t mind them seeing him reading a comic book.”

Stamey, inspired by the positive and supportive “serious business” of comic cons, is already looking ahead to future local themed events. He has also begun planning a Halloween con on Oct. 29 and 30 that will include a costume-making workshop.

In the meantime, he plans to make some appearances – with maybe a zombie or two in tow – to Memory Lane Comics and Cape Fear Games the day before Cape Fear Comic Con to hand out free VIP tickets.

The con runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and tickets are $5. Click here to see a full schedule, as well as celebrity and vendor lists. For updates on this and future events, visit Cape Fear Comic Con’s Facebook page.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.