Crowds at Cobo celebrate all things comic

Alex Nester
The Detroit News

A four-and-a-half foot Spider-Man perused stands of art and T-shirts with his father and sister. Standing nearby were two Tusken Raiders, straight from a galaxy far, far away, and near them, Shaggy and Velma from "Scooby-Doo."

Thousands of cosplayers and comic junkies will fill Cobo Center this weekend for Imaginarium's second Michigan Comic Con. 

"I saw Spider-Man on YouTube and I got (the costume) a few months ago," said Sawyer Scott, 11, of Brighton. "Seeing all the cosplays and that kind of stuff is just pretty cool." 

In addition to artists, vendors, and other exhibitors, celebrities like Val Kilmer, who took over Michael Keaton's role as Batman in "Batman Forever," David Henrie from Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place," and Matthew Lewis, who started as Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter film series, can be spotted around the event and are available for photos and autographs for a fee.

Detroit's own stars Walter Jones and voice actor Rob Paulson also will make appearances at the convention throughout the weekend. Jones is best known for his role through the '90s and early 2000s as Zack Taylor of the "Power Rangers," and Paulson for giving life to the pizza-fanatic, crime-fighitng turtle Raphael in the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cartoon from 1987 to 1996. 

Over 370 exhibitors with hand-made art and jewelry, comics or fiction books, and stickers line the halls of the convention center, where stars and costume-clad attendees alike will pose for photo-ops and share their love for all things comic. 

Author Melissa Grzanka from Owosso said the glowing irises of an elvish race in her books were inspired by the internal energy evoked in tai chi classes. 

She displayed four books of the fantasy series she wrote called "The Myatheira Chronicles," named after the world in the book she created.

"I tell everybody that the series itself is kind of a combination of 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Game of Thrones,'" Grzanka said.

The series is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Her first book has alone sold over 10,000 copies, and she sells them for a discounted price of $20 at comic cons. 

Derek Whitaker of Louisville gave up his day job as a truck driver on a bread route to spray paint characters like Goku and Vegeta from "Dragon Ball Z" or Elsa and Anna from "Frozen" on canvases to sell at comic cons across the east coast.

"I drove 15 hours a day for three years," Whitaker said. "This is more fun. Big time." 

 At a recent comic con, he met the voice actors for the characters from "Dragon Ball Z," who all bought Whitaker's spray-painted renditions of their characters. 

"I'm a big Marvel fan, but I watch 'Dragon Ball Z' more," Whitaker said. "I've been watching it since I was in diapers." 

An arcade is also available for attendees to enjoy, as well as the con's "most beloved event," the cosplay contest, on Saturday.

But attendees need not wait until then to spot themed costumes from a variety of popular comic books, movies, shows, and games.

Jorge Torres, dressed as the Night King from "Game of Thrones," said he dipped his head into a bucket of silicone and breathed threw a straw for an hour an a half to make his cloudy-blue, horn-studded mask. 

Alec Larry, right, of Clawson, dressed as Silk from the Spider-Man comic series, talks with fantasy author Emily D.E. Bell, left, of Ferndale, owner of E.D.E. Bell Fantasy Fiction.

"It's cooling too," he said. "This one's more comfortable than my Darth Maul one." 

He said his friend spent two months crafting the costume, which Torres said he wanted to look as realistic and accurate as possible. 

Alec Larry from Clawson dressed as Silk, Spider-Man's female counterpart. An avid Harry Potter fan, she said she is most excited to see Matthew Lewis and purchase commissioned art from the vendors. 

"I'm really into fiction books, especially Harry Potter costumes and I'm dressing as Slytherin tomorrow to see Matthew Lewis," Larry said. "In fact, I'm coming here for Matthew Lewis." 

She also said she was a fan of the "Sailor Moon" manga series.

"That's childhood right there," Larry said. 

Ecorse native Kayden Bates dressed as Monet, a half-bird, half-human character from the anime "One Piece." She donned a green wig and crafted taloned feet over her shoes by cutting strips from a yoga mat and painting them brown. Bates strapped two white feather-coated cardboard wings to her arms.

Kayden Bates of Ecorse portrays Monet, from the anime series 'One Piece.' Monet is a half-human, half-bird from Greek mythology.

"I used to watch ('One Piece') when I was younger and I just got back into it because my best friend is really into it," Bates said.

David Levian of Byron Center and his friend Michael Benson of Portage wore Tusken Raider costumes from "Star Wars." Levian said he attends many events outside of comic conventions dressed in the metal-faced, gauze-draped costume.

Levian and Benson are members of the 501st Legion, a charity organization that dresses in Star Wars-themed costumes to visit kids in hospitals or attend birthday parties.

Friends David Levian, left, of Byron Center, and Michael Benson of Portage  portray Tusken Raiders from Star Wars Episode Four, 'A New Hope.'

"If you're interested in something like this you find somebody that's in the group and you start asking a lot of questions," Levian said. "And my wife actually got in before I did, so that was an easy in for me." 

Jaimie Kautzmann, social media and press organizer for The Imaginarium Agency, travels across the country with the organization to host comic cons in cities including Chicago and Tampa.

This is the second time Imaginarium has brought the show to Detroit. More than 12,700 attended last year's event. 

Though dressed professionally, Kautzmann said she wishes she could have worn her cosplay costumes, which resemble characters from a plethora of movies, comics, books, and shows. 

"It's a really great opportunity for people to show of their work. A lot of people make their own costumes and embody the characters," Kautzmann said. "It's really great, especially for those who tend to be more shy; they can be somebody different from themselves." 

The Michigan Comic Con continues through Sunday at Cobo Center. 

"For me, I used to be such a closet nerd," Kautzmann said. "To be able to be here and be with other people who feel the exact same things as you do, it's exciting for many."