The original – San Diego’s Comic-Con International – opened in 1970 to celebrate the comic book and sci-fi/fantasy genre.
Since then, comic cons have exploded across the country, celebrating a fringe, but fiercely loyal, piece of pop culture.
Traverse City’s first comic con emerged six years ago when customers began bugging Top Comic owner Michael Akerley to start one.
Akerley, who had recently become friends with Marvel Comics writer Daniel Way, met with Way and local radio DJ “Cartman.”
Three months later, the first Cherry Capital Comic Con was born.
Now renamed C4, the convention has moved to bigger digs and will be “blowing up” May 23-25, Akerley said.
“This year, we moved it to the much bigger Governor’s Hall in Grand Traverse Resort, and changed the name - boom! - to reflect our expansion,” he said.
“STAR WARS” @ C4
“Star Wars” fans, get ready: The main stage features the non-profit 501st and Rebel Legion, with movie-quality costumed characters that include Stormtroopers, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader.
Formed to help raise money for charity, this year the Legion will be working to benefit the local Walking with Giants Foundation, Akerley said.
“We have recently lost C4’s biggest fan,” he said, referring to 9-year-old Matthew Litchfield, a “Star Wars” fan who died after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. “This organization was close to the family’s heart.”
In terms of fans, C4 welcomes them all, Akerley said.
“Comic book writers and artists, movie memorabilia, gamers, comic retailers, ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Star Trek’…we have it all,” he said.
In addition to the “Star Wars” gang, the crew from the new Northern Michigan zombie movie “Thaw of the Dead” will be attending on Saturday, bringing along – what else? – some zombies.
The Thaw of the Dead crew will also be participating in a panel to discuss their moviemaking project, just one of many meetups, lectures, and signings that are part of C4.
Akerley said C4 is a great way to meet many of the brains behind the pages, including DC Comics writer Charles Soule, who is C4’s guest of honor.
Soule is the current writer of “Swamp Thing,” “Red Lanterns,” “Superman/Wonder Woman,” “Thunderbolts,” and more.
FREE SNEAK PEEK
Also on the schedule for the 2014 C4 event are Marvel Comics artists Ryan Stegman and Dennis Hopeless, DC Comics’ Freddie Williams, illustrator Bob LeFevre, comic book colorist Megan Wilson, and Detroit cartoonist Joe Cooper, among others.
On Friday, those hoping for a sneak peek can come in for free, Akerley said.
“If you have never been to a comic con, here is your chance to see what it is all about,” Akerley said. “Everyone that shows up from 6pm-9 pm on May 23 gets in free.”
EVERYONE CAN ‘GEEK OUT’
The preview night is only one element of how Akerley says they’re really “rolling out the red carpet” at this year’s C4.
“Cherry Capital Comic Con is about the fans, and we want this year to be about them even more,” he said. “We are making it easier to share and treasure the moments at C4 as they happen.”
The appeal of comics, Akerley said, is they’ve got a punchy, bang-pow appeal that bridges all age groups.
“The memories of these mediums tend to get passed down from generation to generation,” he said, “so we just want to provide a place where everyone can geek out.”
C4 will take place May 23-25 in the Governor’s Hall at Grand Traverse Resort. There is no age limit to attend; Fri., May 23 is free; tickets start at $10 beginning Sat., May 24. For more, visit cherrycapitalcon.com.