WARNER ROBINS -- For once, Houston County residents didnt have to hit the road to enjoy all of the aspects of a comic book convention.
The convention came to them.
About 500 to 700 people showed up Sunday at the Courtyard by Marriott to take part in Warner Robins Comic Con, the first major comic book convention held in the city in years, organizers said.
The convention provided the opportunity for people to dress up as their favorite characters, meet people in the comics, film and publishing industries, take part in a Magic: The Gathering gaming tournament or simply shop for those hard-to-find comic books and toys.
Samantha Bundy, 24, dressed as the Transformer robot Soundwave, attended the convention with her mother, Denise. Bundy said she usually goes to three conventions a year, but has to travel far outside Middle Georgia to attend.
I wanted to support something local, she said. This is better than driving all the way to Atlanta or Orlando. ... Theres a lot more going on here than I originally thought.
Mario Russo, who co-sponsored the event, didnt know what to expect. He operates a comic book store and a convention in McDonough, but decided to give Warner Robins a look when one of his customers who works at Robins Air Force Base encouraged him to do so.
This is my first convention (I organized) outside my homebase, he said. (The customer said) Warner Robins needs a show. We havent had one in 15 years.
So Russo got together with Mike McDaniel, who owns the Heroes & Villains comics store in Warner Robins, to see what the interest would be.
I would have been happy with 300, Russo said. Weve gotten about 500 to 700. Weve been so busy, we havent had time to count.
Fortunately for organizers, there were a lot of people in the industry with local ties to bring in as guests.
Matthew Smith, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., has written some graphic novels and is currently writing the comic book series, Simon Says. Having grown up in Macon and Crawford County and with his mother still living in Warner Robins, Smith said he was glad to come in for a visit. He, in turn, brought in Macon-based artist Ray Snyder, who has done a lot of the inking for various DC Comics series.
I hadnt heard anything about it, Snyder said. But then I thought, Why not have a space? ... The turnout seems great. Hopefully, it will bode well for the future.
Smith also said he didnt know how many people would show up.
Im really impressed with the turnout, he said. Ive gotten to see a lot of old friends and made some new ones.
Michael Koske, also of Warner Robins, was another featured guest. He has appeared as 40 different zombies over the course of 13 episodes and one webisode for the hit TV series, The Walking Dead, which films in Atlanta and surrounding areas.
Because hes buried under makeup that takes two or three hours to apply, Koske usually describes to people how his zombies end up getting killed to point out in which episodes hes appeared. In the opening episode of Season 3, he was too close to actor Andrew Lincoln during a scene at a prison with a stunt weapon and knocked unconscious.
People see my pictures, and I tell them what scenes I was in, Koske said. They say, Oh yeah, that was you!
Other convention guests included comics artst Michael Geraci, who is currently illustrating Iron Man 3 preludes for Marvel Comics; Theodus Crane and Don Teems, also Walking Dead zombie performers; Eisner-award winning artist Joe Pruett; artist Chris Hamer; and author Joanne Padgett.
Brandy Yentzer, who helps run Heroes & Villains and was a co-organizer, ran her booth in a homemade Wonder Woman costume.
I hope we do another one that will be even larger, she said. This is going way better than expected. The locals really supported us. They really pushed for it. We wouldnt have had this number of people without the locals.
Russo said hes already planning for a second convention in Warner Robins, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 29.