LINCOLNTON – Heroes and villains alike will gather for a cause at Lincolnton High School Saturday, July 20, for the third annual Be a Hero Lincolnton Comic Con sponsored by GameSwap.
The event will benefit Communities in Schools of Lincoln County (CIS).
What started as an art auction with a superhero theme hosted by Fausto Coffee each year has exploded into a full-fledged comic convention that attracted more than 2,000 people in 2018.
“Originally, long before I ever got involved, this was a smaller art show held at the coffee shop to raise money,” GameSwap owner and manager Mike Payne said. “There was always a superhero theme and people would dress up, so it was always a fun time, and the event started to outgrow the coffee shop. That’s when I approached the CIS board about evolving into a comic convention and going even bigger.”
CIS, a nonprofit comitted to surrounding students with a community of support to empower them to stay in school and achieve in life, works in each of the county’s four middle schools and three of its high schools. The organization operates several grant-funded initiatives, including an after-school program, and mentors students.
“Initially, I had no idea what Communities in Schools was until I attended one of the art shows at the coffee shop,” Payne said. “I’ve been involved with a lot of groups, but I’d have to say Communities in Schools is one of the best I’ve ever worked with. Everybody involved has been fantastic and just great to work with. It’s probably the least stressful environment you could ever ask for. Then I got to see and experience the work that they do in the community and it’s an amazing service that they provide.”
The inaugural Comic Con attracted 1,400 people to the James W. Warren Citizens Center in 2017.
“Going into it, I honestly had no expectations,” Payne said of the first year. “When the day came we were more than thrilled with the turnout and the reception from the community. We realized that day that we had already outgrown the Citizens Center.”
The Lincoln County Board of Education approved holding Comic Con at Lincolnton High School the following year, when the event raised more than $5,000 in support of CIS.
As always, the big draw for this year’s event is the cosplay costume contest, which will be judged by Lincolnton’s own Alterations and Sew Much More.
“I’m always amazed by the number of participants in the costume contest and their creativity,” Payne said. “I was one of the judges the first year, and it’s a hard job because of the talent that the participants display in putting their costumes together.”
The Comic Con will also feature a number of area vendors and artists set up throughout the venue, as well as some special guests from past years.
Some of those familiar faces include director Worth Keeter, who’s best known for his work on the original “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” TV series, and Gregbo Watson, a professional illustrator and comic book artist who’s done work for Marvel. Other returning vendors include area groups that investigate Bigfoot sightings and the paranormal.
New faces this year include husband and wife Barry and Catherine Jerald, best known for their roles in the hit television series “The Walking Dead.”
Also new this year is the Joel West Memorial Cup Arcade Tournament, honoring West, a pioneer in the arcade gaming industry who attended the first two Comic Cons as a special guest. Participants in the tournament will test their skills in the classic arcade game Rally-X.