By Heather Regula, Correspondent
Thousands of people descended on the Bell County Expo Center to attend the first ever Bell County Comic Con on Saturday, August 5 – Sunday, August 6. After months of logistical planning, Johnny Huang and his team successfully delivered a unique event to Central Texas. Comic Con enthusiasts traveled from near and far to partake in the weekend’s festivities.
The blistering hot temperatures did little to deter Comic Con attendees from standing in line to gain entry. Mia and Miranda Kraan, of Temple, scooped up a refreshing son-cone while their parents waited in line to obtain a ticket for Mia.
“This is the first time I have ever been to Comic Con, and I am super excited! I saw a guy with an awesome Deadpool costume, and I can’t wait to get a photo with him,” said Mia Kraan. “Today is the one-month anniversary for my boyfriend and I. We thought this would be a fun thing to do in celebration of that!”
Once attendees gained entry to the Expo Center, they were able to mill around, pursuing various vendors, or they could get in line to visit with a variety of celebrities. To call David and Kenneth Tolleson, of Killeen, “wrestling fans” is an understatement.
“We came here today to see the wrestler, Sting. We are huge fans of his, and we are so excited to be here,” said David Tolleson. “The big Comic Cons are too far away for us to get to them. It’s perfect that Bell County had one and we got weekend passes.”
While all of the celebrities traveled from outside of Belton for the Bell County Comic Con, attending this event was a homecoming of sorts for Mike McFarland. Best known for his voice-over of the character Master Roshi in Dragon Ball Z, McFarland grew up in the Central Texas area.
“I graduated from Temple High School in this Expo Center, and I attended quite a few rodeos and 4th of July celebrations here,” said McFarland. “I’ve participated in many Comic Cons all over the country. It’s really neat to come back here for a Comic Con.”
Many Comic Con attendees were so grateful for the opportunity meet childhood heroes. Chris Saltmarsh, of San Antonio, traveled to Belton for Comic Con.
“I grew up watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so I loved seeing them here. I heard through the rumor mill that Flash Gordon was going to be at this Comic Con, so I knew I had to come up and see him,” said Saltmarsh. “Flash was always the coolest – I’m so glad to be able to meet him today.”
Ernie Reyes, Jr. has been particularly supportive of Johnny Huang’s mission to bring an affordable Comic Con to the Central Texas area.
“It’s great to see Comic Con for to Bell County. It’s awesome because so many people don’t get the chance to travel to the major cities to attend Comic Con,” said Reyes. “Everyone I have met today is very nice and truly happy to be here. This is a fantastic event.”
The legendary Kevin Eastman was one of the headline guests, and he participated in a meet-and-greet with fans. Eastman is the co-creater of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
“I have the best fans in the world – I love coming to these Comic Con events. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around for 34 years now,” said Eastman. “Many of the fans here today are passing their love for the Turtles, to their kids.”
The Bell County Comic Con was not the first rodeo, err Comic Con, for Andrew Gerome, of Austin. He is a self-proclaimed Comic Con junkie and has been attending Comic Con at various locations since he was 16.
“I am a father now, and I brought my two sons, ages three and six, here today. It’s super cool to see all this still so popular. My boys love this as much as I do,” said Gerome. “It’s important to me that my children aren’t afraid of this kind of stuff. I love this costumes and the atmosphere that a Comic Con provides.”
While the Comic Con concept isn’t new, the idea of hosting it in Bell County is what makes it original. Central Texas has a population unique to this area. The numbers speak for themselves – the first ever Bell County Comic Con was a success – as raved by the celebrity guests and the attendees.