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Commentary: Wizard World Ohio Comic Con goers suit up for comic community

The best time to visit a convention is early on the evening it opens. Not the best time to attend, but to visit.

If your desire is to sit in on the Q-and-A sessions, to get your photo taken with the celebrities, to watch the crowds shuffle through the aisles of booths, then by all means, go on the main day (Saturday) of the Wizard World Ohio Comic Con. But if you want to talk to the artists, Friday night is the time to visit.

Ohio Comic Con was held Friday through Sunday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Friday marked a relatively quiet start to the event. If there were lines at the artists’ and vendors’ stalls, they were short. The air in the hall was cool and dry, the vendors were cheery and talkative, the costumed visitors were complimenting each others’ costumes.

Bane sat at a table in the food service area inside the hall, his mask off, eating French fries with his son. Batman, Catwoman and another Batman walked nearby. I saw two Catwomen, Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, the Joker, Magneto, Harley Quinn, Superman. Dozens of costumed characters walked the floor, and for every fully costumed character, there was at least one Con-goer wearing a part of a costume, or clothing associated with a character, or carrying a prop.

Jerry Milani, spokesman for Ohio Comic Con, said although definitive numbers of attendees were not gathered, “thousands of people” attended the convention.

Even as the air inside the hall grew warm and sticky Saturday and the floors grew crowded, the attendees were in a good mood.

I watched a clone trooper and a Mandalorian mercenary from Star Wars run across the concourse to join another Mandalorian, just so a kid with crutches could have his picture taken with them.

In every direction were non-costumed Con-goers asking for permission to take photos of cosplayers, who are people wearing costumes, acting the part of their characters. Sometimes the cosplayers asked passers-by to take a photo of the cosplayers.

If this event took place just 10 years ago, there would be a stack of film for sale at every stall. Now, instead of film, stalls sell comic books and comic book protectors, posters and poster protectors, autographs and autograph verification services.

“We realized, after we bought a couple of autographs from autograph shops, that the FBI reported that up to 90 percent of autographs were fake,” said Christopher Owens of Genuine COA, an autograph verification service that witnesses autographs for when photographs aren’t enough.

Debra Anderson of Genuine COA said some people seek autographs as proof they attended the event.

“If you look at the pictures online, it doesn’t prove that you were there, it just proves that somebody saw him signing something,” Anderson said.

Comic book sellers occupied many stalls, covering folding tables with box after box of carefully preserved comics. Potential buyers picked through the wares for sale, occasionally purchasing books for prices anywhere from dirt cheap to extortionate.

But not everyone was there for the autographs or the merchandise. Mixed in among the sellers and buyers were charities and fundraisers.

“For this event, we’re raising money for the Heroes Initiative. They provide medical care for comic creators who don’t have it,” said Aaron Einhorn of the Heroes Alliance. “We’re trying to turn our love of superhero costume into a way to give back to the community.”

At the other end of the hall, the Michael J. Fox Foundation was selling pictures of attendees in a “Back to the Future” DMC DeLorean and soliciting donations for the Foundation’s Parkinson’s research.

For a short while, a girl dressed as Mario was driving the car-turned-time-machine.

Jeffrey Hughes, an illustration major at the Columbus College of Art and Design, came to wear his costume. Dressed as the Sinestro Corps version of Scarecrow from the DC comic “Blackest Night,” Hughes chose his costume for its uniqueness.

“I knew nobody else would wear it,” Hughes said, and while there were other Scarecrows at the Con, none of them bore the Yellow Lantern of the fear-mongering Sinestro Corps.

There was little fear to be found at the Con, despite hordes of villains stalking the convention center. Many adults brought their children, and one family of Avengers entered in the costume contest Saturday night. They didn’t win the prize for best team, which went to a Batman, Robin and Scarecrow Arkham Asylum trio that danced “Gangnam Style” on the stage. Best in Show at the costume contest went to a 7-foot-tall Predator, but the run-away favorite was a cosplayer painted head to toe as Darth Maul that proposed to his girlfriend.

Wearing only flip-flops and Hawaiian-print shorts, the cosplayer took a knee and popped the question as he and his girlfriend stood on the stage. She said yes.

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