Central PA ComicCon and Zenkaikon bring the imaginative world of cosplay to Central PA this month
Face it – you’ve always been curious. Maybe you’ve heard about comic conventions – comic-cons, as they’re called – in the news or seen some photos in your Facebook feed. To the unfamiliar, these playful, costume-clad gatherings might seem, well, weird. But once you step past that comfort zone threshold, we’re confident you’ll find that the people behind the masks and face paint are truly regular ol’ people who just like to have a good time. Don’t believe us? Then we formally challenge you to check out Central PA ComicCon and Zenkaikon this month – two local conventions centered around the world of fantasy, imagination and art.
Central PA ComicCon
March 14 and 15
Wyndham Garden York (2000 Loucks Road, York)
But the current Rochester, NY, resident decided to take her appreciation of comics to new heights more than five years ago when she organized the RocCon – a large-scale comic, sci-fi and anime convention in Upstate New York. That convention proved to be so successful that she started looking for other places in the region to hold a similar event.
Her research led her near to her childhood roots – she created the Central PA ComicCon in York three years ago. This year marks the third ComicCon held at the Wyndham Garden, with Lurye calling the event a “labor of love” that takes most of the year to organize.
“Everybody likes to get away from their regular world,” Lurye says. “And it’s everybody from college kids to working professionals who come in costumes and enjoy the show to become somebody else.”
This year’s ComicCon features two dealer’s rooms with artists, authors, comics and more; three panelist rooms with several different workshops; gaming tournaments (both board and video games); and an ’80s-style arcade room. There are also cosplay contests on Saturday and Sunday (judged by Victoria Cosplay), a Saturday night masquerade and dance party and martial arts demonstrations.
Some of the celebrities on hand include Alex Saviuk – the comic book illustrator best known for his work with Stan Lee, penning The Amazing Spider-Man comic strip for Sunday newspapers since 1997 – and actor Theodus Crane, who played the character “Big Tiny” on the mega-hit AMC show The Walking Dead. Crane also headlines an after-party comedy show at the hotel with local stand-up comedians Rubi Nichols and Shane Gillis.
“The guests are getting bigger and bigger, and we already have guests lining up for the show next year,” Lurye says. “And the names will continue to get bigger as we get bigger.”
<< PHOTOS: Relive the magic from the Central PA ComicCon. >>
Lancaster County Convention Center (25 South Queen Street, Lancaster)
Created in 2006 with the merger of two Philadelphia-based conventions (the Zentrancon and Kosaikon), Zenkaikon moved to Lancaster in 2013 and has been steadily growing – hosting more than 4,000 attendees last year.
Kristyn Souder, communications director for Zenkaikon, says “word has spread that we have a great event,” with local businesses going out of their way to accommodate the welcoming and diverse anime community. Souder says she first attended Zenkaikon in 2007 after getting involved in anime as a student at LaSalle University years before.
“We usually think of cartoons in the U.S. as kids shows,” Souder says, “but a lot of [anime] has some really deep themes and things in them that appeal to a much broader audience.”
This year’s installment of Zenkaikon features everything from live action role-playing events and a cosplay burlesque show to artists selling their wares and karaoke competitions. The convention also hosts some of the biggest names in anime art and voiceovers, including Richard Horvitz (Alpha 5 from the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers), Rikki Simons (GIR from Invader ZIM) and Trina Nishimura (Mikasa Ackerman in Attack on Titan).
The real standout event of Zenkaikon is the cosplay masquerade, with participants creating a staged show involving their costumes, including musical numbers, choreographed dances and comedy sketches. There’s also the Hall Cosplay Contest with handmade costumes judged on the makers’ craftsmanship.
Souder says she’s always impressed by the cosplay competitions, with some of her favorite entries being someone dressed an elaborate character from the video game Halo and a group of people from the anime series Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
“We get some pretty amazing costumes, so it’s hard to pick just one,” Souder says.