It was the best of times; it was the worst of times, for popular metro area sports artist Anthony Oropeza, one of the featured performers at Kansas City’s Planet Comic-Con this past weekend at Bartle Hall.
With Luke Skywalker, Deadpool, Spiderman, Wonder Woman and a world of other comic book characters looking on in awe, he worked on a 3-foot-by-6-foot painting of Eric Hosmer’s memorable slide home from Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.
There was just one problem . . .
“I worked on the Hosmer painting all day Saturday, and went home that night, turned on the news and they had a breaking story,” said Oropeza, who was first featured in The Examiner when he created a series of paintings featuring Kansas City Royals stars from the 2015 World Series championship season.
“I’m thinking, ‘Oh great, another shooting or some kind of tragedy.’ Then I find out that Hosmer has signed with the San Diego Padres. At least it wasn’t a shooting, but I’m really going to miss Hoz. Everyone in Kansas City is going to miss Hoz.”
That announcement changed the mood and questions of the large number of onlookers at his painting exhibition Sunday afternoon.
“I had a lot of people come up to me on Sunday and ask if I was going to complete the painting,” Oropeza said, “and that kind of made me chuckle. Of course I’m going to complete the painting. Just because he signed with another team doesn’t diminish all the great things he did in Kansas City.
“If you’re a Royals fan, you’re always going to remember his slide in Game 5 of the World Series, and this painting is going to commemorate it.”
While Oropeza has never met for the former All-Star Game MVP, they have communicated via Twitter.
“I did a piece on Yordano Ventura after he died in that tragic (automobile) accident, and Hoz wanted to buy it,” Oropeza said. “He tweeted me, but was about 10 minutes too late because (Former Hosmer teammate) Jarrod Dyson bought it the minute I showed it on social media.
“I kept in touch with Hoz and he bought two of the Ventura prints.”
Incidentally, Hosmer is changing his number from 35, which he wore in Kansas City, to No. 30. Ventura wore No. 30 and that will be the number on Hosmer’s Padres uniform.
While Oropeza answered questions about Hosmer’s departure, he also had to deal with a bit of stage fright.
“I’m used to painting alone in my basement,” he said, grinning, “and this weekend, I was painting in front of a big crowd. And it’s a little bit intimidating when Wonder Woman, all the Star Wars characters and Spiderman are in the crowd.”
With Stevie Ray Vaughn jamming on his headset, he turned his canvas into a piece that was so realistic you could almost wipe the sweat and grit from Hosmer’s grimacing face.
“It was an amazing weekend, even if we did lose Hoz,” said Oropeza, who is also the creator of “Amigoman” comics, a popular youth comic book series that is published to inspire elementary students to read. “This is something like my 15th Comic-Con and my third down here at Bartle Hall and this is by far the biggest and the most spectacular. If you’re a comic book fan, this is the place to be.”
Oropeza recently attracted some national attention for creating a commemorative piece of Fort Osage High School graduate Albert Pujols’ 600th career home run. Pujols was a National League MVP and world champion for the St. Louis Cardinals who is now playing for the Los Angeles Angels.
“That was pretty cool,” Oropeza said. “I was contacted by Albert’s wife about doing a logo for their charity (The Pujols Family Foundation) and I guess she saw some of my artwork and I wound up doing a piece to commemorate his 600th home run.
“I was really proud of it. My art idol is Stephen Holland, I am trying to get close to his work – like 20 or 30 percent as good as Mr. Holland, and I felt like I was getting close with that piece.
“But, like with Hoz, I never did meet him. A member of their family picked up the piece of art. I hope to meet him some day when the Angels play the Royals in Kansas City.”
• Catherine “Wonder Woman” Mollow and her three children, 3-year-old Pierce, 6-year-old Landon and 13-year-old Tori attended their first Planet Comic-Con with their father and grandfathers, who were dressed as Darth Vader and The Flash.
“This was a Christmas present for the kids, and we all decided to get dressed up for the event,” said Mollow, who made sure to get many photos to commemorate the event. “It’s the best Christmas present ever because it’s something we could do as a family and we’re all having a great time.”
Pierce was a big hit as Batman, Landon wowed onlookers with his authentic Wolverine claws and “battle scars” and Tori sported the same battle scars and added, “When we got the tickets, I just started to scream I was so excited. I didn’t know what expect, and it’s cooler than I ever thought it would be. And my grandpas are The Flash and Darth Vader. They are so cool. Everyone in my family is cool.”
• Talk about cool, the godfather of shock rock, the one-and only Alice Cooper, and other acting, wrestling and sci-fi characters took the stage to sign autographs for the three-day event.
Cooper was generous with his time and made sure to visit with each visitor to his colorful booth. When one fan told him he saw Cooper at Cowtown Ballroom back in 1972, and that his gallows prop was too tall for the ceiling of the converted roller rink, the master of the macabre just laughed.
“I wish I remembered more about the '70s,” the now clean and sober 70-year-old member of the Class of 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said, “but I have great fans to remind me of the good times.”