Fans Gather for the Fourth Annual Indiana Toy and Comic Expo


Visitors take photos with cosplayers potraying Star Wars characters at the Indiana Toy and Comic Expo that took place at the Monroe County Covention Center Sunday afternoon. Victor Gan and Victor Gan

A Stormtrooper guarded the entrance to the Monroe County Convention Center. Edward Scissorhands, Harley Quinn, Super-Kids and more than 1,500 other fans gathered for the Indiana Toy and Comic Expo.

Billy Cooper, the founder of the expo, said there were roughly 60 vendors selling goods at the convention 

“It’s a great way to be able to get a lot of vendors that you typically wouldn’t have access to under one roof,” 
Cooper said.

Many of those vendors travel to conventions around the country. They sell comic books, prints, toys, accessories and games.

Aaron Detrick goes to almost 40 conventions a year to sell toys and collectibles.

He said his dad was a rare coins collector, so he followed suit and collected comic books. His passion for characters is now a full-time job.

Because Cooper grew up in an isolated place, much of his time was spent watching sci-fi movies, reading comic books and playing with toys, he said.

Those toys ­— G.I. Joe, Transformers and Thundercats — are again gaining popularity.

Many attend these conventions for the sake of nostalgia, Cooper said.

Some attendees said they had favorite characters as kids. Now they spend months stitching costumes that almost perfectly resemble those characters. Some had favorite toys, and they travel around the country to find those toys for their kids.

Cooper said conventions like this one are multi-generational family events.

Sara Detrick, sells collectibles with her husband, Aaron. Donning one green eye, a belt of plastic skulls, with half her face blue and half her hair red, she was dressed as Mystique from the X-Men comic book series.

Although she has done cosplay for more than a decade, she started taking it seriously five years ago. She said she researches her characters to make the costumes as accurate as possible.

Adults divided themselves based on cosplayer status -- amateur or professional. Out of each section rose the best villain and the best hero.

Parents, many of whom are cosplay connoisseurs themselves, dressed their children in elaborate, hand-made outfits. Kids ages 12 and under competed for trophies. Batman, the Hulk and Captain America all took part. A toddler dressed as Spider-Man refused to blow kisses to the crowd at his mother’s suggestion.

“Spider-Man doesn’t blow kisses,” said Brad Wilhelm, the competition’s host. “He shoots webs.”

Cooper said cosplay has become increasingly popular in recent years.

“It’s getting bigger every day,” he said. “It’s definitely a hobby that’s taken hold with the culture.”

Sara Detrick said anyone could can do cosplay, regardless of body type. The cosplay community is welcoming.

“It’s not about skin color or sexual orientation,” Cooper said. “It’s about escapism.”

For the few hours they’re in their costumes, people get to be something other than themselves. They’re the villain they love to hate or the hero that got them through middle school.

And eventually, their kids can join, too.

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