BELTON — Superheroes, artists, cosplayers and celebrity guests will assemble this weekend for the first Bell County Comic Con, celebrating comic books, pop culture, gaming, movies and fantasy in one convention.
Guests can come dressed in a favorite costume, cosplay or superhero T-shirt to enjoy the family-friendly convention from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Bell County Expo Center, 301 W. Loop 121 in Belton.
Comic Con was brought to the area by show promoter Johnny Huang, a Bell County native who felt it was time to bring a show to the area he grew up in.
“I think Bell County has been ready for something like this, and it’s just weird that no one has done it yet,” he said.
Huang spent the last four years working with the “I Love the ’90s Tour” with Vanilla Ice, and working other conventions. He said he took three months off the tour to work on the Comic Con project.
“What I wanted to do was do a show that we could be proud and excited about,” he said. “A lot of first year shows typically are really small, unknown, zero marketing, not very many guests, if any guests at all, and I didn’t want that. If we were going to do something in Bell County I wanted it to be worth doing.”
After selecting the Expo Center as the venue, and choosing a date that wouldn’t collide with another show, the talent and guests were selected. Huang said he knew some of the talent he booked through other shows he’d worked on, and most of the people he reached out to were very receptive.
The headlining celebrity guest will be Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
“The funny thing about this is, Kevin Eastman doesn’t do first-year shows and this is a first-year show,” Huang said.
He said he worked with Eastman on other shows, and Eastman made an exception when he heard Huang’s pitch. Fans will have the chance to meet the comic creator, and Huang said everyone who waits in Eastman’s line will receive one free autograph.
Visitors will also will be able to meet actor Ernie Reyes Jr., from the original TMNT movies in the ‘90s, as well as the Ninja Turtles themselves.
Other guests will include actors Noel Gugliemi from “The Fast and the Furious,” Sam J. Jones from “Flash Gordon,” Scott Schwartz from the “Ocean’s” trilogy, and many more actors, artists, cosplayers, vendors and booths.
Huang said they also will be giving away a free copy of an original comic book to all visitors.
“Each page of artwork that’s done in the book is actually done by a guest artist at the show,” Huang said. “So all the artwork’s tied in there, and then the first two pages is going to be a program showing who the guests are, but after that it’s all artwork, and the artist's name is on the bottom. The deal we have made with the artists is that if any attendees come to your booth with the comic book, they would sign it for free. So they agreed to that.”
The event will include a car meet beginning 9 a.m. Saturday. Huang said 500 parking spaces at the Expo Center will be allocated for the meet, which will include rare cars, imports, exotics, classics, domestics, muscle cars and more.
There also will be several vehicles from popular films located inside the Expo Center throughout the weekend. Huang said there will be two DeLoreans; an original model, and one styled like the time machine from “Back to the Future.” They also will have the Ecto-1 from “Ghostbusters.”
Huang said he reached out to local police departments and fire stations and said several will bring their vehicles, including Temple Police Department SWAT.
“We do encourage everyone to come out, so our theme this year is ‘Where local heroes and superheroes unite,’” he said.
Huang said local heroes, such as police, firefighters, EMS, teachers, coaches or anyone in the community who makes a positive difference is encouraged to attend.
Huang said there will be a silent auction with items donated by the artists and vendors. He said all the proceeds from the auction will be donated to Aware Central Texas and Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center. In addition, tickets have been donated so patients at McLane Children’s can attend Comic Con, and Huang said they will bring artists and heroes in costumes to do a show at the medical center for the children who can’t attend the event at the Expo Center.
Tickets are available at www.bellcountycomiccon.com. Huang said the tickets have sold better than expected. He said the goal was to hit 5,000 attendees, and the sales surpassed that a month ago. He said tickets will still be available at the door.
Huang said sponsors for the event have helped out, so admission prices aren’t outrageous.
“We’re looking to provide entertainment and service to everyone, but especially for people who enjoy superhero movies, which I think is most people.”
He said members of the team organizing the event have all volunteered their personal time to put the show together.
“It’s pretty interesting,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of awesome people, got to hang out with some old friends, made a lot of new friends and we all have the same goal in mind, which is making the show awesome so that way we can have another one next year.”