Characters come to life at Wildcat Comic Con

As people age, many forget the importance of creativity and imagination.

But there is a growing subculture of people who never seem to forget the importance of these things, regardless of their age or where they are in life.

Many of can be found at a comic con – a convention that celebrates comic books and other arts, such as manga (Japanese genre of cartoons, comic books, etc.), anime, costume play (known as cosplay) and more.

It was in this spirit that Wildcat Comic Con was created last year, and after a turn out of more than 600 attendees at Pennsylvania College of Technology’s campus, it was game time again, as fans in costumes lined up bright and early Saturday morning to sign in for the event.

In 2012, Wildcat Comic Con joined a small but growing list of 14 comic cons in the United States. Word spread quickly about Wildcat CC; the event went from only hosting 10 vendors last year to hosting 38 this year.

Owner of America’s Most Wanted Collectibles, Joe Figured, noticed the heightened attendance and energy while he oversaw his tables full of comics in the vendors’ area at the field house.

“I heard that there were four times as many pre-orders for tickets as there were last year,” Figured said.

“[This year] there is a lot more variety in vendors and costumes,” he said, as a pair of Star Wars Stormtroopers with blasters passed by.

Naturally, with the craze that is AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Figured had an entire section of “The Walking Dead” comics for sale. Predictably, there were many undead attendees, thanks to the craze.

“Independent comics are growing. There are a lot of independent artists here and one of them could produce the next ‘Walking Dead,’ ” he said.

One of those independent artists at the comic con yesterday was Tom Pratt, a Montoursville native and co-creator with his wife, Kambrea Pratt. Their creation is Shadowbinders, a truly modern publishing company. Generally, a publication starts out in print and gravitates to online, but Shadowbinders experienced the process the other way around.

As Pratt munches on a piece of chocolate covered bacon, he explains why he is enjoying Wildcat Comic Con.

“I’ve never seen something like it [Wildcat Comic Con] before. I like Wildcat because it’s different; education and libraries are its focus,” he said.

True indeed, that underneath all of the cosplay shenanigans lays an important theme at Wildcat Comic Con – education.

Many of the vendors present and sessions held yesterday focused on the educational and creative value of visual imagery. The first keynote presenter was Michael Bitz, creator of the internationally renowned literacy initiative called The Comic Book Project, which engages youth in the process of writing and designing comic books.

Also present in the vendors’ area was Brodart books and library service division, a local library supply company.

Ann Gardner, a collection development representative from the division was on site at the table, and said that so far they had had a busy day with a lot of inquiry.

“We’re hoping to get interest in our graphic novel line,” Gardner said, adding that librarians and educators were many of those who were stopping by the table.

Comic books seem to be one of the few print mediums that are not being negatively affected by the digital revolution. Almost every vendor and presenter at the convention showcased their technological savvy; animators and illustrators showed their computer-generated creations, ranging from goretastic killer clowns and zombies to happy-go-lucky children’s adventures, and Michael Bitz hosted a Google Plus hangout session and discussion over a digital projector, between con attendees and comic book industry experts all the way in Australia during the opening ceremony.

Whatever reason an attendee had to be there – a specific interest or to simply escape for a while – Wildcat Comic Con offered something for everyone.

“I love it except for waiting for the grown ups to stop talking,” said Dea Kipp, as she paged through her new Pokemon comic book with her brother, Thaddeus Kipp, both of Jersey Shore, as they took a break outside of the field house on the grass. Dea wore a lovely Sailor Mars costume, from the Japanese manga series “Sailor Moon,” and her brother was dressed as the almighty Captain America. Though, he left his shield in the car because it was too much of a pain to carry around.

See Sunday’s print edition for full photo spread.