Special guests, artists, exhibitors come together for Monroe Pop Fest

Kurt Anthony Krug
Special to The Detroit News

    After attending one of the larger, pricier comic-cons in 2013, Gary Pillette decided he would host a con that was smaller and affordable, so within several months, the Monroe Comic-Con was born. 

    Now called the Monroe Pop Fest, the show returns this weekend at the FMB Expo Center in Monroe (see sidebar). This is the first Pop Fest since the pandemic. 

    “It feels great to be back with our con family and nerve-wracking at the same time, but everything is worth it when the fans come through the door,” said Pillette, who runs the show with his wife Dawn. “We offer a full day of fun for the best price around. (There’s) a great variety of vendors, artists, crafters, guests, cosplayers and exhibitors. Plus, we try and make it all inclusive to every fandom.” 

    This year’s main guest Doug Jones – best known as Capt. Saru on “Star Trek: Discovery” and the Amphibian Man in 2017’s Oscar-winning “The Shape of Water” – loves smaller cons because it gives him the chance to mingle with fans more.

The many faces of actor Doug Jones. Jones has spent the majority of his 35-year career playing monsters and aliens.

    “The lines aren’t quite as long. It’s a bit more family-friendly. It’s the kind of environment that’s not so stressful,” said Jones. “I’m looking forward to making contact with the public again. I’m face-cupper, hugger, and head-patter – I’m gonna miss that. I’m pretty sure that’ll be forbidden. Seeing people, smiling at them, making human contact in the same room – I’m so looking forward to that. These are the people who have supported my career and watched all the things I’ve been in for the last 35 years. I love connecting with them; it puts purpose behind my work when I’m on-camera.”

    Jones will appear Saturday only. This is his first appearance at a con since the pandemic and first appearance in Michigan since 2019. He said he really likes Michigan. 

    “I’m a Midwesterner,” he said. “I grew up in Indianapolis, which isn’t that far away from Detroit. I feel I’m amongst my people.”

Other Pop Fest guests include “The Crow” creator/artist James O’Barr, Detroit Red Wings alumnus Darren McCarty, Eugene Clark (“Land of the Dead”), “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” actors Abraham Rodriguez, Jazz Baduwalia, Rorrie D. Travis, Brennan Mejia and Will Shewfelt, as well as local comic book creators. 

Brennan Mejia, who played the Red Ranger on "Power Rangers Dino Chargers," makes his first appearance in Michigan at this weekend's Monroe Pop Fest.

    This is Mejia’s first time in the Detroit area. Mejia played Tyler Navarro, alias the Red Ranger, on 2015-16’s “Power Rangers Dino Charge” and 2020’s “Power Rangers Beast Morphers.”  

    “I grew up watching ‘Power Rangers,’ so I am extremely thankful to be part of the legacy,” said Mejia. “I am looking forward to meeting new fans. I love to hear their stories about how the Power Rangers inspired them, since it also inspired me. ‘Power Rangers’ fans are truly special with hearts of gold, who love to uplift and support one another – just like the Power Rangers themselves!”

    Dirk Manning, the creator/writer of the supernatural horror comic “Tales of Mr. Rhee,” enjoys attending Pop Fest.

“Gary and his team always keep such a strong focus on comic creators and comic book culture,” said Manning. “Are there some crossover guests every year? Sure. However, comics and those who create them always remain in the forefront, and this helps support the local, regional, and even national comic book scene."

“We’re looking forward to just having (the show) again,” said Pillette. “For all the hard work, (it’s) always worth it, seeing the fans and con family again.” 

Monroe Pop Fest

5-9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday

FMB Expo Center, at 3775 S. Custer Road in Monroe

Tickets: $6 in advance; $10 at the door; $20 in advance for a 2-day VIP pass and $25 at the door; free for children 5 and younger

COVID-19 Protocols: Masks, sanitizing stations and social distancing are essential.  Masks are highly recommended for everyone regardless of vaccination status and will be mandatory in some areas.

Visit www.monroecomic-con.com for more information.