If you’re in west Wichita this Sunday, you might see Spider-Man, Batwoman or The Joker.
Fans of superheroes and villains – many in costume – will gather for the second annual Air Capital Comic Con at the Sedgwick County Extension Office. The event, which is free to attend, is a chance for comic and pop culture enthusiasts to mingle with local creators while browsing a wide selection of comics, collectibles and memorabilia that will be for sale.
Derby resident Don Woodworth, 43, said it’s a lifelong love of comic books that prompted him and his brother, Drew, to found and organize the event last year.
“It’s a combination of the artwork and the stories,” he said about his attraction to the art form. “For me, it’s a type of storytelling. You get involved with the storyline, and the artwork enhances that. A lot of that affinity goes back to my childhood when I read Batman and X-Men. Comics have really gone a long way now. It’s not just Spider-Man, Superman and Thor now. It’s really grown to where it’s anything that you’re interested in.”
Comics are more than just imaginative characters and riveting stories, Woodworth said. There’s a whole culture that has developed around their celebration, and one that has a lot of fans in the Wichita area. He noted that while Kansas City has a strong convention presence, there had been a void locally. The first Air Capital Comic Con, which took place last fall, was organized in three months and attracted over 550 people. This year’s event will build on that foundation.
“Last year we didn’t have a lot of time to advertise and get the word out, but we had a great turnout. Our vendors were happy, and we received good feedback from attendees. This year we’ve had a lot more time to plan. We’ve rented out the whole space, doubling in size from just the half that we rented before. We have 27 guests who are creators, writers and artists. We have 17 different vendors who will set up on 28 different tables. We’re also doing panels this year.”
Of the guests who will be attending, Woodworth said that Jim Rugg of Pittsburgh, Pa., stands out in part because of the volume he’s had published. Among his most popular books and comics are The Guild, Supermag, Afrodisiac and Street Angel. He has exhibited in several galleries and has won numerous awards.
“He hasn’t had a lot of exposure yet in this area, but I really feel like our audiences will dig what he’s doing and connect with the work,” he said.
Other creative guests will be coming from Lawrence, Kansas City and Oklahoma. There will also be many artists from the Wichita area who will be exhibiting and selling. A sampling of drawings from the artists who will attend will be included in a commemorative booklet that can be purchased at the event.
“This event has really opened our eyes as to how many different types of creators there are here in Wichita,” Woodworth said. “It’s a platform for them to get their work more known.”
There will be four panel discussions that will take place at staggered times throughout the day. The first, at 11 a.m., will include a spotlight on writers with Jae Byrd Wells, Chip Reece, Brett Jones and Robert Collins. That will be followed at 1 p.m. with “All Things Jim Rugg” and then a 2 p.m. comedy show by Beard and Bean. A 3 p.m. spotlight on how to utilize the fundraising website Kickstarter to fund creative projects will round out the series.
The event is family-friendly, and Woodworth said that people of all ages turned out last year. Other aspects include board game demos, door prizes and vendors who will have comics and related paraphernalia covering a broad spectrum of comic culture. Of course, there will also be a parade of costumes.
“With a comic book convention, it’s not just comics. They’re more of a pop culture event,” Woodworth said. “At our show, we’ll have a costume contest. People like to dress up as their favorite characters and create their costumes.”
If you go
Air Capital Comic Con
What: A comic book and pop-culture convention with vendors, costumes and panel discussions
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Sedgwick County Extension Office, 7001 W. 21st St.
How much: Free admission