Billy Cooper, the founder, organizer and “master brain” of the Indiana Toy and Comic Expo, created the event for his late father.
“It was a way to keep me busy after my dad passed,” Cooper said.
The event is an expo filled with vendors that sell comics, toys, games and artwork. It finished its fourth year in Bloomington on Sunday at the Monroe Convention Center.
Cooper said that his father would give him comics to read and gift him action figures whenever he received good grades in school, and he wanted to spread that happiness to the community in a family-friendly way.
Many vendors were set up in the convention center selling artwork, jewelry, board games and, of course, tons of comics and toys. There were two cosplay contests, a custom action figure contest and a podcast panel.
There was also a silent auction. Cooper reached out to the Foundation for Autism Resources (FAR) to donate all of the money earned in the auction to the charity. FAR helped Cooper’s nephew Hunter receive resources that he needed.
“We’re a virtual organization, which costs a lot less than having a brick-and-mortar building. That way, all of the money that comes our way goes to the kids,” Shana Ritter, executive director of FAR, said.
FAR serves nine counties in Indiana and is a federally recognized nonprofit. According to Ritter, children in need received 25,000 hours of therapy last year.
Ron Braun, creator of the “Once Upon a Platypus" comic series, went to the expo to promote his comic. The comic features a young girl meeting a platypus that has amnesia, and they go on adventures.
Braun, from Brownsburg, Indiana, traveled to meet others and sell merchandise and comics at the expo. He debuted his platypus plush and two inch buttons as well.
“This is my favorite show to come to, Billy is awesome and there’s a good mix of people,” Braun said.
Kristina Arwood, an artist from Evansville, Indiana, creates buttons, prints, stickers. She said she looks forward to this event each year to catch up with her friends who are also vendors.
“I get to be set up by buddies I don’t see often,” Arwood said. “It’s good company, and it’s close to home.”
Tyler Frazee, co-owner of local shop Vintage Phoenix Comic Books was set up at the expo as well. Frazee said the event was a great way to drum up business for his shop.
“This con draws in a lot of families and kids, and it’s a perfect way to wrap up the summer," Frazee said.
The event allowed many local artists to show off their recent work, and many local businesses to cater to new customers.
Food trucks were also onsite to provide food to people attending the expo. Cooper said this event is a way to reach out to the community and let families have a good time without breaking the bank.
“When I see people leave with smiles on their faces, it’s all worth it,” Cooper said.
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