Comic Con to draw a crowd in Dover

Pennsylvania’s Sharon Rose dresses as the character Lady Loki in one of her homemade costumes. She will be one of the guest cosplayers at Saturday’s Dover Comic Con. Her booth will be on Federal Street during the day. (Submitted photo/Dawn Gardner)

DOVER — Getting into cosplay hasn’t been just a hobby for Sharon Rose, it’s changed her life.

An artist and lover of comic books since she was a child, she and her husband would go to comic cons to take in all of the sights and the camaraderie that these events had to offer.

“When I first starting going to conventions, it was just for fun. I wasn’t dressing up,” said Ms. Rose, who lives in Grantham, Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg.

“Then I thought about it, wondering about wearing things that I made and wondering if I could do that.”

Pennywise from “IT” walks with spectators during ComicCon 2018 in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

She said it was during a time in her life when she had been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age.

“It’s a very complex disease, which affects things seen and unseen. It was affecting my weight. I would lose and gain weight depending on what my hormones decided to do. I also became a bearded lady,” she said.

“I didn’t feel confident in my own body. I didn’t recognize myself as an artist anymore. I had graduated into the workforce. I was told I couldn’t make it as a starving artist and I let that fear keep me from who I should be.

“I didn’t feel confident as a woman and thought maybe I could make something for fun that I can wear and transform into a superhero identity. I quickly discovered that it could really change my life.”

From that time in 2012 when she made her first Captain America costume and stepped out on the convention floor, Ms. Rose has become a star in the cosplay community, known for her work in the world of artistry, speaking and judging.

She’ll appear at Dover’s Comic Con Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The downtown area will transform as thousands of people peruse the many attractions. Vendors will line Federal and Loockerman streets, while both The Green and Legislative Mall will host exhibits and presentations.

Ms. Rose will be at Booth No. 74 with other cosplay guests lined along Federal Street near the Biggs Museum.

Kids wait for last year’s costume contest. Registration starts at 10 a.m. on The Green. (Delaware State News file photo)

She’ll never forget the first time she let the world see another side of her.

“I got really serious and put together this Captain American retro costume with all of the foam and things and walked on the convention floor and I didn’t have all of the insecurities. I didn’t see the problems with the weight or the fact that I was bearded. I just thought ‘Oh my God, I’m Captain America. I’m strong and confident.’ It was really cool to see people’s reactions and have kids come up to me and truly believe that I was this superhero,” she said.

“It just brings joy and community. For a lot of us, it’s more than fun. It just affects so many things under the surface.”

Since then, she has dressed and made costumes as Black Widow, Lady Loki and Mary Jane Watson, the girlfriend of Spider-Man.

One of her most recent costumes and the one for which has received much acclaim is the female version of Captain Marvel as seen in the recent Marvel movie starring Brie Larson as Carol Danvers.

She appeared on the web series “Marvel Becoming,” which followed her and two other women as they all constructed Captain Marvel costumes.

“That was really a privilege to do. We are all very different. And I liked that I got the chance to talk about body diversity in cosplay and comics,” she said.

“You don’t have to look like the character and I really wanted to showcase that. It was a really unique opportunity.”

That experience led her to attend the premiere of “Captain Marvel” in Hollywood in costume representing the web series. She went to the event with Katie Coenen of Milford, who co-owns the Red Bandana collectible shop in downtown Milford. They met at the Baltimore Comic Con in 2012.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to get to meet people I’ve watched on the big screen. I got to meet Brie Larson, who called us back for more pictures,” she said.

But of all of the opportunities cosplay has allowed her, the biggest one is speaking out against negativism.

From left, Megan Francis, Heather Schrock and Amelia Bullerjohn at ComicCon 2018 in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“When I first started out, one of my photo shoots as Captain America reached social media. I started reading the comments and one said ‘She looks like she ate Captain America.’ I wasn’t prepared for that and was quite shocked and saddened,” she said.

“But I decided to challenge it with good instead of bad. If some young girl sees these comments and it affects her view of herself or her view of her art, I want to have a voice to counter that. I’ve loved the opportunity to educate and encourage people to keep making costumes.

“People have responded to my work through my social media pages and it’s filled with followers who are very positive and supportive. This opportunity didn’t just fall into my lap. It’s the end result of a lot of hard work. I’ve been very blessed to be able to do this.”

Something for everyone

Now, in its sixth year, Dover Comic Con has developed into one of the biggest and most popular celebrations of popular fandoms in the region. According to event organizers, the last three events each drew about 10,000 visitors, which is once again the expected attendance this year.

Started in 2014 by the Dover Public Library, the convention is a celebration of all things geek — even though many of the things it highlights, like “Star Wars” and Marvel, are now mainstream.

Unlike many large-scale conventions, the Dover Comic Con, which is this year presented by the Delaware State News in partnership with the library, is free and mostly held outdoors.

Ozzy and Venus Fitzcharles as Link and Harley Quinn at a past Dover Comic Con.

The event will again include staples like costume contests, vendors and presentations by professional artists.

Among the other attractions will be a mobile escape room, a video game booth, a pirate ship captained by the one and only Jack Sparrow and photo opportunities with Disney princesses, the Batmobile, a “Jurassic Park” Jeep and a DeLorean like the one featured in “Back to the Future.”

There also will be a chance to learn about live-action roleplaying, which involves mock sword fights, and at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., visitors can watch as Sherlock Holmes races against time to solve a mystery based on an actual New Castle court case.

From 10 a.m. to noon, attendees can sign up for the costume contest, which has two separate categories for children and preteens and for individuals 13 and up. Prizes will be awarded.

Visitors won’t have to worry about finding meals either. About 15 food trucks are scheduled to be set up at the intersection of Federal Street and North Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

With about 100 vendors expected, there will be attractions for almost everyone.

Among the exhibitors will be James Dufendach, an editor with PLB Comics, an independent outlet. A lifelong fan of comic books, Mr. Dufendach has attended every Dover Comic Con so far.

He’s not surprised at the success of the event, noting it fills a niche and has done a great job interesting “a lot of people who wouldn’t normally go to a show like this.”

A resident of Hebron, Maryland, Mr. Dufendach helped start the Ocean City, Maryland, Comic Con, which will be held this year on Dec. 14. He attends anywhere from 10 to 30 conventions a year on behalf of PLB, which was founded around 2006 and saw Mr. Dufendach join about a decade ago.

At the Dover Comic Con, he’ll host a session on producing a comic book. That will be at noon at the Biggs Museum on Federal Street. While it won’t be an instructional course on drawing — there are plenty of those out there, Mr. Dufendach noted — attendees will learn about the “nuts and bolts” of creating a comic.

At Krystal Bussart’s booth, people can buy crafts or paint their own pictures based off popular movies, TV shows and books. A Middletown resident, Ms. Bussart runs her own painting business called Military Gypsy.

Subjects that participants base their art off of often reflects what’s popular at the moment, she said, noting the Netflix series “Stranger Things” is big right now while “Star Wars” always has fans.

Many things once derided as nerdery are now ubiquitous in pop culture, Ms. Bussart explained: “Now it’s cool.”

For more information, visit https://delmarvaevents.net/e/dover-comic-con-19.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com.

Features editor Craig Horleman can be reached at 741-8224 or chorl@newszap.com.

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