Though it is called El Paso Comic Con – or EPCON for short – owner Troy Stegner considers it less a convention of strictly comic books and nerd culture, but a convention of popular culture as a whole. The three-day celebration will take over the El Paso Convention Center April 21-23.
Sure, comic books, sci-fi and video games will be covered, but this year’s convention really has expanded to more of a Barnum & Bailey’s something-for-everybody-type of convention. It not only plays to the crowds who love all things nerdy, but it will also pull at the heart strings of ’90s kids with promises of Power Rangers and Attitude Era WWE.
Alamo Drafthouse will even host a lounge for convention goers to relax, charge devices and even get a massage.
Here are five things to look forward to at this year’s convention:
1. Celebrity Guests
One of the biggest draws of any convention, the list of celebrity guests this year is pretty diverse. Samoan WWE wrestler Rikishi will be there, along with the 1970s “Incredible Hulk,” Lou Ferrigno, actress Dina Meyer of “Beverly Hills, 90210” and the “Saw” movie franchise, actor Martin Klebba of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy, Nicholas Brendon of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series and Alan Tudyk of the TV show “Firefly” and “Stars Wars: Rogue One.”
For Tudyk, EPCON is a return to his place of birth, El Paso. Other celebrities include comic book artists and writers like Kevin Eastman (co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Chris Claremont (X-Men comics) and cosplayer Yaya Han.
Maybe after seeing the astounding cosplayer Ms. Han on the convention floor, you’ll want to learn how to play dress up for a living and will need some tips as to how to take it to the next level. There will be classes on lighting and airbrushing to improve your cosplay game. Maybe you could learn a thing or two for Halloween! Lighting and airbrushing classes will also be held for those into miniature figurines. Power Play Lighting will be there to present their ready-to-use lighting kits to enhance your miniatures.
Several tournaments will be held at EPCON. Dave & Buster’s is bringing in three different games for tournament play: Dirty Drivin’ (a monster truck racing video game), Pump It Up (a Dance-Dance Revolution-like arcade game) and Guitar Hero. In addition to those, the classic tabletop role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons will have a tournament and for the first time, Warhammer 40K Independent Tournament Circuit will be played.
“We’re bringing in people from out of state to play in this,” Stegner said. “It’s a decent-sized tournament for miniature war gaming.”
There will also be a costume contest. Registration ends April 20.
4. The Society for Creative Anachronism
In lieu of a regular Renaissance Fair being held in the city, EPCON is probably the closest thing you’ll get to a beginner’s look into what this medieval recreation group is truly capable of.
As far as “pop culture” goes, this is far from it. In fact, it takes the nostalgia factor seen throughout the convention to the Black Plague extreme. Convention goers will have a look into what they have to offer, from a class on leather making to a demonstration on medieval combat and weaponry. An intro seminar to the group takes place at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
5. Artist Alley/Vendors
An El Paso Comic Con wouldn’t be able to call itself a comic con if not for the comics and the kind of memorabilia typically available at one. A wide array of comic book artists, writers and publishers will be there to present and sell their work.
EPCON also partnered with DeadBeach to offer a beer specific to the event: Hoptonite, a New England style IPA with citrus.
Offering just about everything from art to action figures, there will be so many vendors to sift through that you’re almost guaranteed to walk out the door with something in your hand.
Whether you’re new to comic cons or a seasoned geek, the variety of entertainment at this year’s EPCON guarantees a unique experience.