Where can someone meet or be his or her favorite superhero or villain from comic books, movies, anime, or novels?
At Fandom Kissimmee!
This annual event was recently hosted by the Kissimmee Parks and Recreation Department and sponsored by Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) at the Kissimmee Civic Center in downtown Kissimmee. Admission was free, and imagination was abundant.
This family event was replete with cosplay (costume play) characters, both professional and amateur, from a variety of genres. Captain America (Marvel Comics) paused in the lobby to pose for photos with smiling children, and Obi Wan Kenobi was spotted near the exhibit hall with a storm trooper (Star Wars). Meanwhile, Cuphead (video game) and Mina Ashido (My Hero Academia - Anime) were waiting in line to register for the cosplay contest. For those who preferred to attend as their everyday alter egos, there were plenty of activities in which to participate sans costume. Throughout the event, there were breakout sessions covering such topics as “Why I write Science Fiction” with author, Gary Roen, and “The Monster Panel” with writer and filmmaker, Jeff Carroll. And, for those well versed in the comic and sci-fi universe, there were trivia contests to test their knowledge.
Kissimmee’s Director of Parks and Recreation Elizabeth Harris said that there is more to this topic and type of event than meets the eye.
“The number one leisure activity in the world is still one thing - reading. With literature and comics and all these things the authors are doing, they are prompting the children to read, which is the most wonderful thing,” she said.
She adds that it also fosters creativity and provides a foundation for many family activities.
The main exhibit hall was filled with an array of vendors with displays of toys, collectibles, books, and the like. Authors sat at their booths enthusiastically promoting their publications and discussing their hypotheses with attendees. And there was a movie-like set where children could don a cape, wave a wand and be photographed in the world of Harry Potter, as did Rafeef and her brother, Waleed.
Rafeef exclaimed, “I like when he (Harry Potter) is casting a spell! It’s an adventure!”
Her brother had a somewhat pragmatic observation.
“I am very interested in the car,” he said of his experience on the set.
For some at Fandom Kissimmee, cosplay and the world of science fiction is not only an avocation, but has become a vocation. Belle, or PikachuBelle (her stage name), a Fandom Kissimmee vendor from Ocala, has been traveling and selling her handmade Pokemon Pikachu merchandise for 20 years. She drives a Pikachu themed Volkswagen, and is even in the Guinness Book of World Records for having some 21,000 Pikachu collectibles. What started with a single plush toy she won at a theme park years ago has become her passion.
Cosplay Multiverse vendors Veronica Figueroa and her husband, David Foy, of Kissimmee, became interested in creating their own costumes after attending a cosplay party last year.
“We wanted to learn how to make our own cosplay costumes and display them at the house. We went on YouTube and started learning and started making our own patterns and costumes. We started learning how to sew.”
Their interest grew into their business. They now teach others how to make their own costumes, and are vendors at comic book conventions like Fandom Kissimmee and will soon be teaming up with local charities to visit children’s hospitals.
As one walked the aisles, the setting was reminiscent of a movie scene where characters from distant galaxies assembled at a central gathering place, strolling about as if shopping side by side with a time-traveling gladiator and Wonder Woman (DC Comics) was the norm. Emphasizing that this event was meant for all ages, Henry Baker, of Ocoee, a gentleman dressed as the pirate, Graybeard, said, “You are only as old as you act.”