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Examiner
  • Jason Offutt: A lot of pretending, a lot of fun

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  • Author’s note: This is the last in a three-part series on my day at Planet Comicon in Kansas City.
    Lacey Ballew, a nursing student from Kansas City, stood in jean shorts and white crop top, “1 UP” written across her chest. She wore a homemade green mushroom button on her head.
    Dressing like that was OK, she was at Planet Comicon.
    Ballew smiled as Rick Drapal, from Lincoln, Neb., snapped her picture, thanked her and moved on.
    “How often does someone ask to take your picture?” I asked the 21-year-old dressed as an extra-life mushroom from Super Mario Brothers.
    She smiled. “About every five minutes.”
    This was Ballew’s first time at the comic book and pop culture convention. She was there with her mother. Diana Ballew. and sister. Misty, 24. Misty’s an old pro. She’s been here twice.
    Ballew wasn’t the only convention goer in costume. Far from it. People were dressed like characters from “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “Dr. Who,” zombies, superheroes, video games, “The Lord of the Rings,” Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Pokémon and, oh my, more Jokers than I could count.
    Four-year-old Jedi Knight Liam Eppich walked by with his father Johnny (Obi Wan) Eppich from Pawnee City, Neb.
    “It’s his fifth Planet Comicon,” Johnny Eppich said, and the two Jedis disappeared into the crowd, presumably to protect the Republic. I was on my way to Celebrity Row.
    The popularity of autograph queues for the celebrities varied. The wait was short for Femi Taylor, Jabba the Hutt’s slave dancer from “Return of the Jedi.” As was that for Sylvester McCoy, a former Dr. Who and the wizard Radagast the Brown in the recent “The Hobbit” movies.
    The lengths of queues for the “Star Trek” stars, however, were right out of Disneyland. The cast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” sat in a line of tables crowed with fans (Patrick Stewart wasn’t there, apparently because he still has a job). At the end of the row sat the biggest “Star Trek” draw. William Shatner, captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
    “How much are autographs,” I asked a man walking away from Shatner’s table with a signed picture.
    “Seventy-five bucks.”
    Yikes. That’s not happening. I have children.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Excuse me,” I said to a member of Comicon security standing at the end of the Shatner line. “May I get a picture of Mr. Shatner signing an autograph for a fan?”
    He jerked his head to the side. “I’ll have to ask him.”
    “Him” was a Cro-Magnon beast I’d thought had become extinct at the end of the last ice age. The giant man shook his shaggy blond head.
    Apparently, no $75, no Shatner.
    A few rows down sat one of my other childhood heroes, Lee Majors. Security led me right up to his table as he signed an autograph for Frank Cardello of Independence. Cardello’s wife Marie stood back to take a picture of them.
    As Cardello started to stand, Majors put a hand on his shoulder and pointed at me.
    “No. You gotta wait for him,” Majors said. “You’re going to be in the paper.”
    Awesome. As the Six Million Dollar Man, I watched Majors battle a robotic Bigfoot and save America from the evils of communism. It was good to know he was a nice guy, too.
    “We’ve been here for three days taking it all in,” Cardello said as we walked away from Majors.
    “We usually dress in costume, so there are people who want pictures with us,” Marie Cardello said. “But there are people we want to get pictures with, too.”
    Just like every one else here.
    As I walked toward the door on my way out of Planet Comicon, I stopped to snap a photograph of Dallas Carr of Wichita, Kan., dressed as Marvel’s Wolverine. He squatted to mock fight 3-year-old Xander Byers of Wichita. And why not? Byers was dressed as the Incredible Hulk.
    “It’s about projecting your childhood along to children who are impressed with superheroes just like you were,” Carr said of the costumes. “It’s just a chance to be a kid again.”
    I can’t wait for next year.
    Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An Epic Beer Run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at amazon.com.

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