Some of Red Deer embraced its “nerdy” side on the weekend.
While the term was once a bit derogatory, it’s now accepted in today’s pop culture by a certain smartish population segment — young and old — depicting fantasy and fun, with the occasional lightsaber, unicorn and set of black fluffy wings thrown in.
Attendees of the first Red Deer Comic and Entertainment Expo event had a place to check their weapon props that accompanied their costumes representing superheroes and other characters such as Deadpool. Known as “cosplayers”, they also got to check their usual daily identities at the door and replace them with their true inner selves, a Catwoman here, and a Darth Vader or a dragon there.
The expo also included the opportunity for individuals to get their photo taken — for a price — with a number of movie celebrities such as Morena Baccarin (Deadpool, Gotham), Chloe Bennet (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Michael Berryman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Star Trek IV).
“We’re extremely pleased with the turnout, the caliber of the costumes and the excitement that the event generated across Central Alberta. And as for next year — we plan to be back and make this an annual event,” said Ben Marasco, CEO of Brasco Exhibitions.
Robert Bailey, an artist from Stony Plain who was selling his Star Wars and other movie drawings at the show, said comic con (comic convention) shows are getting really big.
“I think it’s an extremely wonderful environment and a fairly new phenomenon. This enables people to dress up, to represent whichever character they want, whether it’s a known character or one that they invent, and to go in an environment where everyone’s having fun.
“Everyone’s free spirit. For example someone in a wheelchair or someone with a disfigurement … can go to a comic con and no one knows if that person is wearing makeup or if they are actually disabled or not … Everyone blends in,” said the 68-year-old.
“People get out of themselves… it’s become almost an addiction with some people. … I mean some people skydive — which I have done 50 times. You cannot be thinking about problems in your life because you are focused on what you are doing. I think that at cons, people are doing that.”
Bailey started doing Star Wars and Indiana Jones drawings about nine years ago, after having done aviation oil paintings and lithographs for many years.
George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, saw Bailey’s work online and asked him if he would be interested in doing Star Wars art.
It was fortuitous because at that time the market for Second World War air combat was dropping off, he said. “I went off a sinking ship onto one that was very big.”
Within two weeks he was meeting with Lucas who originally wanted him to do conceptual work for Star Wars. Bailey ended up producing detailed Star Wars pencilled panels for Lucas, from which large oil paintings were done. Later Bailey continued doing his drawings for sale at comic cons.
A number of stars collect his drawings, including Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy); Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor in Terminator); and Sigourney Weaver (Alien).
“Probably 20 movie stars have quite a collection of my stuff. … It’s a big thrill for me to meet them,” Bailey said. The artist works six days a week in his studio and watches films on the seventh day.
Bailey has a connection to Red Deer.
For the past 10 years he has been taking what he calls a sabbatical here, renting a hotel room every six months just to get away from work for a few days. “I just do nothing.”
He follows the comic con circuit to sell his drawings and will be headed to places like Montreal and New York this year.
“I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing to be a free spirit and to move around and no one looks at you and says you look strange or you are acting strange because everyone’s doing the same thing.”