The Ultimate Comic Book Trade Show and Expo at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie on July 25 and 26 will be taken over by comic book, sci-fi and fantasy enthusiasts of all ages for two days of games, signings and general pop-culture geekery. Fans are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite character; but even if they don’t wear a costume, every ticketholder will be a bit of a hero. That’s because a portion of all ticket sales will go to support the Highland Public Library and its new building project.
The convention is the brainchild of library director and longtime comic fan Julie Kelsall-Dempsey. As she explains, “I have always had an interest in graphic novels and comics. Several years ago I worked on a grant with the Highland Middle School to bring an illustrator down and have the students work on their own comics.”
Over the years the library itself has hosted presentations from local authors and illustrators, so hosting a full-blown convention wasn’t that much of a stretch. “I always thought it would be cool if we could have a comic-con in the library,” Kelsall-Dempsey says.
The community’s response was “phenomenal”; initial interest was so high that even before the first convention had been held last year, it had to be moved from its planned site at the library to the larger community room at the Highland Fire District. Unsurprisingly, the convention was a huge success. “I believe it was the first ever held in this area,” Kelsall-Dempsey recalls.
This year’s convention promises to be even bigger. Having outgrown the Fire District’s community room, the library staff set its sights on the civic center. With a larger space requiring a larger staff and a larger payment up front, iHeartMedia stepped up to organize the event. “IHeartMedia has been very generous in the collaboration.” Kelsall-Dempsey explains. “They had the means and staff to do all the organizing and booking of really great guests.”
The biggest guest this year promises to be Sam J. Jones, the star of the cult classic Flash Gordon, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year (younger audiences might be more likely to recognize him from the comedy Ted). In addition to Jones, confirmed signings include comics pros Todd Dezago (Perhapanauts, Sensational Spider-Man), Joe Sinnott (Fantastic Four, Avengers) and Fred Hembeck (Marvel Age), as well as acclaimed fantasy author C. L. Schneider (The Crown of Stones: Magic-Price).
For attendees who prefer their celebrities with a little more horsepower, the iconic DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future will be displayed on Saturday, and the equally recognizable Batmobile driven by Adam West in the 1960s Batman TV series will take its place on Sunday. The cars’ sponsor, Friendly Ford, will also unveil a custom-designed Captain America Mustang on the last day of the convention.
In addition to the cars and signings, local vendors will be on hand to allow fans to peruse their merchandise. The vintage shop Rosendale Retro will be on hand to offer ticketholders a journey through pop culture past. Ryan G. Browne of ZombiePetz.com will take care of all zombie-related needs; local artist Jim O’Riley and CarrieBerry Buttons will both be on hand to show off their portfolios. And of course, the October Country comic bookstore will be there, because what would a comic-book trade show be without comic bookshops?
On the more playful side, there will be a cosplay contest for attendees who register online in advance and want to show their love for a character. The Dragon’s Den will also supply several tabletop, board, and video games for fans who wish to unwind or play with their friends.
Ultimate Comic Book Trade Show & Expo, Saturday, July 25, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday, July 26, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Mid-Hudson Civic Center, Civic Center Plaza, Poughkeepsie; www.highlandlibrary.org.