Thousands attend Arkansas Comic Con – many in costume – hoping to see their flesh-and-blood favorites

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It was just after noon on September 10 and a group of young men and women were marching north on Scott Street in downtown Little Rock. A few of them were dressed in costumes – wigs, clumsy shoes, trench coats, fishnet stockings.

“You all have to go to some kind of party,” said a man as he cycled past.

He had no idea.

The group was heading to the Statehouse Convention Center, where Arkansas Comic Con had taken over for the next two days. Nearly 20,000 fans of everything from “Star Wars” and horror films to manga and video games to wrestling and comic books attended the event.

There were appearances from actor-director and North Little Rock native Joey Lauren Adams, Joe Pantoliano and Tom Arnold; voice actors Tom Kenny, Tara Strong, Brianna Knickerbocker, Zeno Robinson; and others. Comic book artists Steven Butler and Jeremy Clark were among those greeting fans, drawing and selling their work. There were panels on pop culture, anime, “Back to the Future,” and costume making; the music of the Emulators and the Sturgis Quartet of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra; cosplay contest; and vendors selling everything from costume accessories and posters to comic books and various geeky trinkets.

Oh, and people watching were off the hook.

This last part was due to the cosplayers present; men, women and children strolling through the crowds decked out in homage to their favorite characters – or characters they had invented themselves. We saw Jason from “Friday the 13th”, two guys with cardboard chainsaws on their heads emulating the manga character “Chainsaw Man”, Ash from the series “Evil Dead”, various princesses and princes, a satyr from 20 years teetering deftly on cloven hooves and a 12-year-old boy dressed as a hybrid between a pirate and a cat.

Here are some of the cosplayers we spoke to amidst the crowd of fanboys and fangirls. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Dakota CashionParagould: Padme Amidala, ‘Star Wars’ – “I made it myself. It’s a cape in the front and a dress in the back. This part will turn into a veil. It’s based on Queen Amidala’s travel dress. I’ve been a “Star Wars” fan all my life. I saw “Episode 1″ when I was 4. It’s amazing to be able to see everyone’s costumes and everyone’s so interactive about their costumes. I also love seeing all the performers and vendors.”

Lauren WrightLittle Rock, Sukuna, “Jujutsu Kaisen” manga series, accompanied by her sister, Lorings of Fatewho was dressed as Giyu Tomioka from ‘Demon Slayer’ — “This is my first comic con, so being able to see the voice actors and seeing everyone dressed up was a lot of fun. I got that [outfit] on line. I love Bryce Papenbrook. He’s a voice actor and does a lot of anime that I watch. I attended a few panels, including his, and also went shopping.”

Fate: “It was really fun. The best part was meeting my favorite voice actor, David Matranga. It was really cool.”

Conner Freeman, 19, of Hot Springs was dressed as Gorou from the game “Genshin Impact” at Arkansas Comic Con. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)
Conner FreemanHot Springs, Gorou, “Genshin Impact” game – “To be honest, I just like to cosplay and see what merch is. Where I’m from, there’s not a lot of merch out there. anime or cheesy stuff, other than basic stuff from Barnes & Noble or FYE (For Your Entertainment, aka fye.com). I didn’t make this. I bought it from a website. I I’m pretty happy with it, but not at all. The top didn’t really fit the way I wanted. I asked my friend to style my wig. I’m here with a few of my friends. It’s my first Arkansas Comic Con, but I went to Spa Con [in Hot Springs] for a few years. I started cosplaying a few years ago. A lot of characters that I cosplay, I like their design or their personality. I like to imbue those characteristics myself.”

Trysta MintonLaurel County, Ky., Satyr – “I made it myself. The inspiration was because I wanted these [points to her footwear, which are hooves that she wears like high heels]. I actually got my first job and used my first paycheck to buy them on Etsy. They are very heavy up front. I love dressing up and seeing everyone’s costumes and how you can be anything you want.”

cedar cartCabot, was at Comic Con with his father, Chrisand younger brothers Otis and Jasper, who were dressed as Mario and Luigi video game characters – “I’m a ‘purr’, it’s like a pirate but a cat. It’s a bit more like a ‘werecat’ ‘ because there’s a full moon tonight. Her name is Buttons. She’s like my time-traveling cat. I took some scraps and put this whole costume together.

Chris“My wife is the performer. She’s a professional stilt walker and there’s a lot of makeup and stuff like that. [Cedar] been doing this for a few years now.”

Cedar“For Christmas, my mom said to me, ‘I think you’re going to like cosplay,’ and she gave me a bunch of cosplay stuff. That’s how it started.”

John StoutBastrop, La., Imperial Inquisitor, “Star Wars” – “I use a $17 speaker from Amazon [to create voice effect]. It’s not a voice changer, but having the mic so close, if you want to talk in depth, it picks it up very well. I’ve been a fan of ‘Star Wars’ since it came out [in 1977]. I decided to enter the contest today. I did all of that except the lightsaber. This is Baby Yoda from the “Mandalorian” TV series. I captured it and froze it in carbonite like they did for Harrison Ford’s Han Solo character in “Empire Strikes Back”. I go all over the comics, from Florida to Dallas to New Orleans. I go to everyone I can because I love it so much. It took it to a whole new level when I started building my own [costumes] and see people’s reactions and the joy they got out of it.”

Photo Little Rock’s Sean Riordan (left) and Benton’s Ben Faver were Mario and Luigi from the Super Mario video game at Arkansas Comic Con. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)
Sean RiordanLittle Rock, Mario and Ben FaverBenton, Luigi — “We’ve been to several of them before. We dress up as those characters. We’ve been there as Wreck-It-Ralph and Fix-It Felix once. It didn’t go as well fine.”

Well: “The first time I took him to a comic con, he was like a kid in a candy store. It was the Saline County Comic Expo. We made our hammers. It’s a two-by-two board and we used black plastic flower pots from Home Depot, we put two on each end and used another piece of plywood to nail them together and cardboard to cover them.

Sean“We like to do that and have people stop and want to take a picture with you. It’s fun.”

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