by Michael Feliciano
Move over San Diego Comic-Con, the Richmond District’s very own comic book, film and cartoon convention blasted its way into town over the weekend of Sept. 16 – 19, at the historic Balboa Theater.
The inaugural Balboa-Con was a fun-filled fest where local comic book artists and illustrators were able to exhibit, sell and share their talents with fellow artists and fans alike. A few seasoned pros were also in attendance promoting a new independent comic book project with Q&A sessions, and there was a stand-up comedy performance by San Francisco based comic Mike Capozzola.
Throughout the weekend, the theater also screened a slew of popular comic book films, including the original superman and batman films, “Captain
America,” the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and classic cartoons.
The convention was created and organized by Malcolm Johnson, a graphic designer and cartoonist who moonlights as a staff member at the movie theater. When the manager of the theater first approached him several months ago about organizing its next event, Johnson knew he wanted to do something different to provide the community with a fresh and fun experience.
“I wanted to add something more to just watching comic book movies. I love seeing people interacting with artists who work so hard on their artwork and, as an artist myself, any chance you get to show off your stuff is a great feeling,” he said.
To help launch the event, Johnson commissioned a few of his former classmates from the SF Academy of Art University, who gladly accepted.
“Artists are generally kind of shy so these conventions are a great way to meet other artists and network” Johnson said.
Two of those artists were Ronald Shaw and James Hagan. Shaw was new to the convention circuit, but he posted his art online before coming to Balboa-Con, where he was able to present original artwork he made specifically for the event.
Hagan has presented his artwork at dozens of conventions over the past few years and he accepted a last minute invitation to be a part of the first-ever BalboaCon.
“Everyone stopped by the table and checked out the art and we had good conversations,” Hagan said.
The popular performance art known as Cosplay, where fans dress up as their favorite characters, was also on hand at Balboa-Con. William Fong, a local resident and 3D-printer by trade, has been participating in Cosplay events for years. When he saw the notice for Balboa-Con, he jumped at the chance to show his latest work, a meticulous and innovative cos
tume of Peter Quill, the main character of the popular comic book film “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
“This started out as a hobby, but it’s turned into something much bigger and I love doing it,” Fong said.
The costumes are created from scratch, and can cost thousands of dollars to create. No expense is spared.
“Some of my costumes cost more than
my car,” Fong said.
But, the most rewarding part is being
able to share the experience with his young son, he said, who shares the same passion as his father. Together, they have attended expos and conventions all across the state, most notably dressed as ghostbusters.
Johnson said Balboa-Con created the type of community connections and positive experiences that he hoped to achieve
with the convention.
As the last screening of the debut
Balboa-Con came to a close and the remaining guests filtered back out onto the streets of the Richmond, Johnson reflected on the convention’s success.
“It was great to see people come out and support local artists and I was pleasantly surprised with the positive reception we got from everyone,” he said. “Who knows what exciting things we’ll see at next year’s Balboa-Con?”