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Get your geek on with the Bangor Comic & Toy Convention

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Get your geek on with the Bangor Comic & Toy Convention (photo by Memorymaker Photography/Soubanh Phanthay)

BANGOR – Are you ready to get your geek on?

The Bangor Comic & Toy Convention is returning to the Queen City. Running October 1-3 in its new location at the Bangor Mall, the convention is bringing a number of iconic pop culture guests to town, as well as a multitude of artists, vendors and enthusiasts. No matter what your fandom, odds are you’ll find something here that fits the bill.

Tickets for the event are available at the convention’s website – www.bangorcomicandtoycon.com – where you can purchase single day tickets or weekend passes. There are also VIP tickets available, as well as family passes.

This is the fifth year for the convention, which allows pop culture lovers from the Bangor region and beyond the opportunity to come together in celebration of the things that they love. And thanks to the hard work of the festival organizers, it’s a chance for people to get up close and personal with some of the figures involved with the creation of those things.

Maybe you’re a comic book lover. Maybe you’re into sci-fi or fantasy. Maybe you’re into pop culture collectibles or cosplay. Perhaps your tastes trend more toward cult films or anime. Or maybe professional wrestling. And maybe – like so many of us – there’s an overlap, a wide swath of cultural ephemera that you’re into.

That’s the joy of a convention like this – there’s room for everyone. So what are we looking at here?

The headliners of this year’s con have to be Jason Mewes, Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson, stars of the cult classic comedy “Clerks” as well as a handful of other entries in filmmaker Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse. Actress Sherilynn Fenn – of “Twin Peaks” fame – will be here as well, as will iconic horror actor Bill Moseley and actress Judith Hoag (April O’Neill from the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film). Professional wrestling legends Mick Foley and Mickie James will be in the building, along with some beloved anime voice actors and comic book creatives.

Oh, and if you’re like me, you’re going to be stoked to hear that actor Noah Hathaway – Atreyu from “The Neverending Story” – is expected to attend. And not just the convention; Hathaway is helping to kick off the festivities with a special early event on Sept. 29 – he’s co-hosting a kickoff during which the film will be screened. The event takes place at the Seasons Downunder Club; tickets are $25.

All that, plus a wonderful collection of vendors and a number of additional events scattered throughout the weekend. Like I said – there’s something for everyone here.

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A Q&A with Bangor Comic & Toy Convention co-organizer Jay Cochran

Jay Cochran is one of the primary forces behind the Bangor Comic & Toy Convention, devoting literal months of his time to assembling a convention that serves the wants and needs of as many fandom communities as possible.

Cochran was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for The Maine Edge via email, talking about the challenges that come with putting together an event such as this one, as well as the passion that would make someone undertake those challenges.

(The following interview has been edited lightly for clarity.)

The Maine Edge: What made you want to organize your own convention?

Jay Cochran: This convention was originally started by our friend Chris [Macmillan]. It was something that we really didn't have here. We have great concerts and other cool events, but nothing really for pop culture and geek fans. So Chris brought this here. When he moved, we didn't want to see it end – we love this event, what it does for fans and the community – and didn't want it to end, so we took it over in 2018. It's become one huge family and we felt we couldn't let the family down by letting this go away.

TME: Can you break down for me what people can expect over the three days of the event?

JC: A whirlwind of things. A chance to meet celebrities, to see amazing artists and vendors and cosplay. Gaming events, panels, food trucks, a beer garden, afterparties where you can hang out with the guests - so many amazing things. Just a weekend to let loose, have fun and let your inner geek out. Plus, a lot happens on the fly, so you never know exactly what you’re going to see.

Last year, we had a surprise birthday party for one of the guests and marched out with “Star Wars” cosplayers with a Death Star cake and surprised them. This year, we have our biggest guest list ever, featuring a “Clerks” reunion, guests from “My Hero Academia,” a company called Feature Presentation that builds movie sets and will be bringing two of them up so you can step inside these sets you've seen in movies or TV shows. So many truly unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

TME: How has the Bangor Comic & Toy Convention evolved over the years? How different is what you’re doing now from what you were doing at the beginning?

JC: I think every year, we get more understanding and build relationships, all of which helps us grow and get more comfortable with the event. Our guest list has been able to grow every year. The events we’re able to add every year allow us to grow and do more for our attendees.

The big difference now is we have moved from the Cross [Insurance Center] to the Bangor Mall, which has allowed us total creative freedom with our event. We've had two months to set the mall and get a better feel for the area. We are having a beer garden for the first time in partnership with Orono Brewing Company. Local food trucks will also be there, and we’re able to work with other local businesses in the mall. We are working with G-Force, partnering with Some Theatre Company to host panels and a live-action “Dungeons & Dragons” event. Also, Maniac Manor will open their haunted house early; some lucky fans will get to do the haunted house with the guests.

TME: Why do you think an event like this is important to host in the region?

JC: For us, it's important because of what it does for the community. There is really nothing like this in the state. Outside of this, you have one convention in New Hampshire of similar size and then after that you have to go to Boston, Rhode Island or Connecticut, which are all huge conventions. There are so many amazing and talented local vendors, artists and creators here in the state and one of the best ways to get their business out to people is this event. It also does so much for the city and businesses. Hotels are hurting, local businesses and restaurants are hurting – the traffic this event brings in helps in all of those areas.

TME: What are some of the challenges you have faced in organizing the event, both in general and specific to this year?

JC: As far as challenges every year, I think it's trying to make sure we hit on something for everyone. We try to make sure we cover all areas of fandom, so we have something for the whole family to geek out about and be excited for. Plus, there’s always the challenge of guests having to cancel, leaving us to find good replacement options.

This year would be Covid. This event was supposed to happen back in 2020. We started working on this and announcing guests back in the summer of 2019. For instance, we announced Mick Foley at a local wrestling event with Limitless Wrestling in the fall of 2019. So we’re going on two years of trying to make this event happen. The mix of navigating Covid, as well as the changing of venues, have been major obstacles and challenges.

TME: What does the timeline look like for putting something like this together? How long have you been working? And how many people?

JC: Typically, it works out to about eight months’ worth of planning. We normally have our event in April and then take a couple of months off to readjust. Then, we start planning for the following year – you need to get most of these guests locked in far in advance, due to the fact that they are doing multiple conventions throughout the year. Of course, locking in a venue early is key as well. The last two years have been very trying considering the shutdown and the multiple reschedules we have had to do. The event taking place in October has actually been in the making for over two years now.

We work as much as we possibly can. There’s a lot of planning involved and any spare time that we have gets divvied up between family, regular jobs and preparing for the convention.

Will Hesketh and myself co-own and operate the convention alongside a very loyal team of volunteers. We can typically expect to have anywhere from 20 to 50 people helping us out but there is a core crew of around 15 people that consistently help us any chance they can. We cannot thank those people enough. They make it just as much the BCTC as we do.

TME: Who are some of the guests for this year’s con that you’re particularly looking forward to having?

Honestly, I am internally freaking out over the fact that we have a “Clerks” reunion happening at our convention. I think I’m one of many that is extremely excited to hang out with April O’Neil herself, Judith Hoag, for the weekend. Having Mick Foley and Noah Hathaway – Atreyu [from “The Neverending Story”] – is mind-blowing as well. We handpick each of the guests invited, so we are extremely excited and fortunate to have all the guests we have coming.

TME: Name a few of your influences – what was your gateway pop culture?

I grew up in a household with a father that absolutely loved taping movies from VHS or from television onto the VCR. Movies and pop culture have just been a big part of my life and I’m a huge sucker for ‘80s movies and music, and ‘90s-era cartoons made me who I am today; you can decide if that is a bad thing or a good thing. I have been collecting comics, memorabilia and collectibles for as long as I can remember.

TME: The once-derogatory “geek” has been reclaimed and turned into something much more celebratory. To your mind, what exactly is a geek?

JC: Like you said, it is definitely more celebrated these days. I never understood how being a “geek” was so bad before. I think the idea of collecting and getting very involved in pop culture and similar things has just finally become accepted as a fun thing to do. There are so many hobbies out there, but for some reason this one was always looked down on or associated with a negative unhealthy lifestyle. I think with the new world of people freeing their minds of negative energy and being comfortable expressing themselves has made it so much easier to present yourself as a geek. 

When people ask me what our convention is all about and kind of have a negative tone to it, I simply ask, “Do you not enjoy hanging out with like-minded people expressing yourself in a positive way and having fun?” Because that’s really all this comes down to.

TME: What advice would you give to someone who is attending their first con?

JC: If you are attending your first convention, just try to remember that it is all about having a good time. Make sure you plan for a hotel in advance if you’re going to need one. Think about how far the hotel is from the convention venue. Be well-rested and fed because it is draining, but in a very good way. You are going to be walking around a lot and interacting with many people.

When it comes to meeting celebrity guests, while it costs money to get photos or autographs, it is free to wait in line and get up there and introduce yourself and at least meet them. You can pretty much go up to any one of the vendors, artists or guests and start a conversation.

Support people by buying their products if you feel so inclined. Make sure to plan out your weekend because typically with schedules you may not be able to cram every single thing happening into your weekend. Just remember, get out of your head and have a great time!

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There’s something joyful about the idea of people coming together to celebrate the things that they love. Passionate fandom can lead to community, an opportunity to find others who delight in the same books or films or TV shows or whatever that you do. Events like the Bangor Comic & Toy Convention provide everyone with the chance to connect – connect with those who make the things they love, those who love the things that they love, or both.

In trying times, any shared sensibility can be a welcome respite. No matter what flavor of geek you might be, you’re sure to find someone who shares your tastes here. That’s always incredibly valuable, but perhaps never more than it is right now. Ultimately, though, just listen to Jay Cochran’s advice – get out of your head and have a great time. The rest will take care of itself.

Excelsior!

(For more information about the Bangor Comic & Toy Convention, you can visit their website at www.bangorcomicandtoycon.com or find them on Facebook.)

Last modified on Sunday, 26 September 2021 12:02

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