Arts & Culture, Broward, Travel

Comic-Con Culture Shines in Sunrise, Florida

Groundbreaking big-budget superhero blockbusters such as ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and comic conventions across the country, which means it’s that time of year, summertime. The sun shines brighter this year on the second annual Sunrise Comic-Con being held at the Sunrise Civic Center in Sunrise, Florida. Even more fans of comic books, pop culture, and collectibles gathered for six hours of entertainment such as vendors, meeting artist, authors, and cosplaying.

Amazement doesn’t quite cover it. It’s as if someone took their spark of wonder and poured on kerosene. The smile attendee’s show on the outside can’t adequately reflect what they feel on the inside. It’s like every neuron of the brain is trying to fire in both directions at once. Kids and adults stare in awe at the giant white robot with flickering green lights.

International award-winning cosplayer and prop maker Bennie Albert cosplayed as the seven-foot-tall ‘Gundam Unicorn’. The ‘Gundam’ series is a Japanese science fiction series that feature giant robots and ‘Gundam Unicorn’ is a 2006 novel within the ‘Gundam’ series by author Harutoshi Fukui.

Since Albert has started cosplaying in 2011, Albert has won over a dozen awards and is a five ‘Best in the Show’ cosplay winner. Albert is also a judge, guest, and panelist for comic conventions. It took Albert five to six months creating his ‘Gundam’ outfit.

“The lighting was the hardest part to work with. All the wiring was a hassle,” said Albert. “This particular one has cost me at least 1,000 dollars to put together.”

Albert wants people to know that ‘Gundam’ is more than just mindless action. “It’s not just about giant robots fighting each other. It’s about connecting and trying to solve conflicts without having to go to war.”

Albert ended by saying he is looking forward to the planned ‘Gundam’ movie and that ‘Gundam’ might finally get the mainstream popularity recognition of ‘Transformers’.

Zap. Pew. Joystick. “Round One, Fight!” Sunrise Comic-Con also offered 60 plus open-play video game sessions, such as ‘Super Smash Bros.’ They also offered classic arcade games such as ‘Pac-Man’, ‘Donkey Kong’, and ‘Galaga’ from Flynn’s Arcade & More.

‘Champloo Gaming’ hosts ‘Super Smash Bros.’ tournaments in various locations throughout South Florida. Russell Klein of ‘Champloo Gaming’ is a lifelong video game fan.

“Forever. That’s how long I’ve played video games and my favorite would probably be Super Smash Brothers,” said Klein.

Klein also believes the recent remarks about video games and violence is not true. “It’s just a distracting from the real issues. It’s very clearly not true.”

After saving the world in ‘Avengers: Endgame’, Tony Stark somehow made some time to stop by the Sunrise Comic-Con. Tony Stark cosplayer Michael Lippa spent a year getting his suit costume made from China to embrace Iron Man.

Lippa has spent six years cosplaying and this is his first time at the Sunrise Comic-Con.

“I added a few of my own lighting effects to the suit. I’ve been going to cons for eight years,” said Lippa. “The cosplay community is getting bigger and better every year. Even this event, I could see them expanding it into two days next year.”

Lippa believes Iron Man is the persona of a real superhero because Iron Man is an average human being using a device he created to help people.

“He doesn’t have superpowers, so a guy just using something he created to help people is what it means to be super,” said Lippa.

Lippa has a new $8,000 cosplay suit coming and he wants Iron Man fans to keep in mind a famous movie quote Lippa believes could speak for the Iron Man movie character. “To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’ll be back!”

Some people may scoff at the idea of people loving to wear and create costumes of their favorite superhero or pop culture characters. While it may be a hobby for most, quite a number of people may turn their cosplay talents into a career.

For 25 years artist, sculptor, prop maker, set builder, and Godzilla fanboy Jessie Melero has been creating art. Melero unleashed his dark side by cosplaying as Darth Maul from the ‘Star Wars’ universe. Melero described his Darth Maul character as an on-and-off type of project, but Melero does this professionally and full-time. Melero is a professional prop maker, costume maker, and body painter. Melero has done this type of work for such organizations as Café 27, Bikes and Beauties Magazine, the Broward County Library, and the Voodoo Lounge.

Melero mentioned he’d like to see less body and race shaming in the cosplay community. Such as, people portraying characters of a different race that’s not originally the character’s race.

“I’d like to see a lot less shaming and more respect to race, gender, and sometimes I think people take this too seriously this is all about having fun,” said Melero.

One of Melero’s most rewarding experiences would be Rumpelstiltskin from ABC’s ‘Once Upon a Time’. Melero explained he loves seeing the positive reactions and everybody wants a picture with that particular character.

“I see myself going bigger, better, and doing new creative stuff,” said Melero.

One individual who is getting creative and inspired by these cons, comics, and cosplayers is Adriel Kaplan. When Kaplan isn’t reading comic series such as ‘Scarlett Spider’ or streaming Amazon’s ‘The Boys’, Kaplan is in the process of creating his own comic book series.

Kaplan has been going to comic cons since he was 12 years old, now at 23 years-old, Kaplan has taken his love of cons and superheroes to create ‘Kaptain Komix’.

“It’s about a kid who settles in another universe and he gets duplicated,” said Kaplan. “He gets in some comical accidents while being a superhero and he fights the guy who gets him into that other universe. There is a plot twist, but I’m keeping that to myself.”

Kaplan is writing, drawing, and editing the entire series himself. His narrative was 60 to 80 pages and he is editing the story before he fully crafts his characters.

“During the edits, I take out cringy jokes or any continuity errors and I plan on digitally drawing these characters,” said Kaplan. “I rough sketch, use Photoshop, and Adobe Design, for the final layout of these characters.”

Kaplan ended by saying, “Great food at the Sunrise Comic-Con and I love the idea of we’re all creating a creative world.”


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