Expect a lot of Star Wars action at this weekend’s Granite State Comicon

Last modified: Thursday, October 01, 2015
What started as a small gathering of comic book enthusiasts 12 years ago has become so popular it’s taken over an entire hotel.

Double Midnight Comics will host its annual Granite State Comicon this weekend at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester.

When it first started, Granitecon took up a 8,000 square foot space in the convention center for a day. Now, the two-day bonanza boasts more than 60,000 square feet of exhibits, workshops, games and contests.

This year there will be 106 vendors and about 100 artists who will exhibit their work, said Chris Proulx, co-owner of the comic book store. About 8,000 visitors are expected to attend during the weekend.

Family-friendly fun

Proulx said one of the goals of Granitecon is to keep it a family-friendly event. Children under 10 get in for free, and for a second year, there will be a kid’s convention with its own space.

“It’s a really great place to take your family and have fun,” Proulx said.

Emily Drouin, who created the Eplis comics and founded Kid Con New England with her husband, Jeremy, will run the kid zone.

“(Granite State Comicon) is a very family-friendly event,” Drouin said.

It was one of the first conventions she attended, and she said it drew her to illustrating and planning the kids’ conventions.

She starts the planning process for the kids zone with a lesson plan to organize workshops and activities.

Drouin will lead cartooning lessons and provide coloring sheets. She said the instructions are pretty simple, so anyone can participate, but she’ll have alternatives that are harder for older children.

“I love inspiring future artists,” she said. “It’s very rewarding.”

Also in the kids’ area, cosplayers will take photos with the children, and Sherry Sharke of Chamillion Colors will paint faces.

“It’s always great to see the kids have fun,” Proulx said.

Drouin saw the need for kids to have their own space, since conventions can be overwhelming for them. Also, in the convention hall, tables aren’t always arranged by age appropriateness; sometimes a children’s author could be stationed next to a table display with adult themes. The kids con sets apart a space just for them. Two years ago, she set out to create that sort of area at the Rock Comic Expo. Since then, she’s run kid cons at dozens of conventions and other events. In June next year, she will lead Kid Con New England, a stand-alone event to inspire literacy through comics, at the Concord Holiday Inn.

Local flair

Organizers approached planning Granitecon by taking a slice of big city conventions and scaling it to fit New Hampshire so that local people could attend, Proulx said.

“There wasn’t anything in the area,” he said.

The convention allows people to showcase their work locally and attendees can forgo the big-city cost. A Granite State Comicon weekend pass is $30 pre-ordered, compared with $100 for the Boston Comic Con.

Science-fiction author Kurt Springs won’t have to go far to present his Dreamscape Warriors series.

Springs, who teaches anthropology at Manchester Community College and the University of New Hampshire, plans to just bring his books and promotional materials downtown. Since last year, he’s also added a multimedia presentation made by his brother that includes book trailers, music and reviews.

“It’s a different dynamic . . . at a comic con,” Springs said, comparing it to visiting bookstores. An advantage is that people are more likely to be interested in your genre. Alternately, there are a lot of other authors and artists competing to sell their work.

He’s happy to talk about writing, but if you ask too much about his books, he might direct you to read the back cover. Springs’s brother warned him that when he talks about the stories, which follow a family of genetically engineered humans 1,000 years in the future amid an interstellar civil war, he gives away too many spoilers.

Springs started writing episodic stories in high school and later had an agent help him try to publish a novel. It wasn’t until 2004, while he was enrolled in a Ph.D. program, that he started plotting his sci-fi series. His first book Price of Vengeance was published in April 2014. This May, he published the second installment, Promise of Mercy.

Special effects

A Merrimack man plans to bring vehicles remodeled to look like Jurassic Park jeeps to the event, Proulx said. With Jurassic World on track be one of the biggest movies this year, he said, it’s a great display to have at the convention.

This year, special guests include Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars movies; Noah Hathaway, whose acting credits include Battlestar Galactica and The NeverEnding Story (He was Atreyu.); Cindy Morgan, who appeared in Caddyshack and Tron; Ricco Ross and Cynthia Scott from Aliens; and Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island. A full list of guests and exhibitors is available online.

Proulx said it was great to have Williams come during a year when the Star Wars franchise is so huge. “As a Star Wars fan, I’m pretty excited about it,” he said.

To add to the Star Wars fervour, 501st New England Garrison, a Star Wars costuming club, has planned a big, interactive surprise exhibit. Even Proulx isn’t entirely sure what they are going to show up with.

And of course, there are the things that aren’t planned on, like what the attendees show up wearing.

“I’m always excited to see the costumes people come up with,” Proulx said. Cosplayers work on their outfits months in advance.

Some are doing mash-up costumes, mixing Disney princesses and Marvel heros.

“We just want people to come in and have fun,” Proulx said.