Caped Crusaders, Vampires & Sci Fi Stars

A young caped crusader

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Avid fans of graphic heroes, fantasy and science fiction tend to be typecast as adult superfans – from teen-agers on up, serious enthusiasts and collectors deep into adventure comics, movies and video games.

For them, there’s Valley Con, the venerable sci fi and fantasy event that’s been held in Fargo-Moorhead since 1975. But this month the spotlight turns to its more casual, all-ages counterpart: Comic-Con, celebrating the superhero in everyone.

“We do everything we can to make Comic-Con family-friendly. It’s a perfect place for parents and grandparents to bring the kids,” says organizer Tony Tilton, who has masterminded the spring event since 2010. While the Covid pandemic disrupted plans last year, he’s promising a bigger and better Comic-Con at the Ramada Inn April 17 and 18. (Meanwhile, ValleyCon will be back Oct. 17-19.)

While the older, larger autumn event focuses on movies, books and games, he says, Comic-Con is weighted toward comic books. From the grand old men of the superhero universe, Superman and Batman, to Marvel’s costumed crimefighters like the Fantastic Four, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, next week’s event guarantees fun for every comic fan.

“And deep down, we’re all comics fans,” Tilton adds.

The weekend actually includes two events. In addition to Comic-Con, the Kids Fantastic Film Festival opens the festivities on Friday from 4:30 p.m. to midnight and again from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The junior version of the film festival that’s usually a part of Valley Con features short works created by film-makers in their teens or even younger.

Its adult counterpart, the Fargo Fantastic Film Festival, runs from noon until midnight Saturday and 11:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday. On the schedule are 120 independently produced documentaries and dramas in the horror and sci fi genres that were selected last year from 400 to 500 entries. Originally intended for Valley Con, they were held over due to Covid postponement, and so have been added to Comic-Con.

As for the big event itself, doors open at 10 Saturday morning. The day’s highlights range from lessons by the Aurora Lightsaber Academy of Grand Forks to visits with Jamie Coker the guest of honor. Kip Marvig of Comic Junction presides over a game tournament on the first day. Gaming also takes place in the Nintendo Lounge, with cash prizes for the winners.

Cosplay is a big part of Comic-Con, Tilton notes. The popular Kids Cosplay Costume Contest is at 2 p.m., with teens and adults taking their turn at 7:30, both Saturday. The Andrew Held Live Auction will offer a chance for prime collectibles that evening, both in person and online; proceeds are dedicated to Sanford Children’s Hospital.

Panels, demonstrations and workshops on the comic art form take place both days. The large vendor trade show is also open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 to 4 Sunday.

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