Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Fans flock to Convention Center for comics and more

Peter Mongillo
Evan Norman, a student at Austin's the Art Department, makes a sketch of Brittany Hammond at the convention.

The world of fantasy has descended upon Austin this weekend as the Wizard World comic convention takes place at the Convention Center. The event, which organizers say is expected to draw 15,000 to 20,000 people, is the first comic convention in Austin in recent years and includes appearances from "Six Million Dollar Man" Lee Majors and "Incredible Hulk" Lou Ferrigno, among others.

The convention kicked off Friday afternoon as a steady stream of fans shopped for comics and sought autographs from their favorite artists. Like the higher-profile San Diego Comic-con, Wizard World extends beyond the world of comics, bringing together elements of horror, science fiction and fantasy from film and television, as well as a few seemingly unrelated areas, such as professional wrestling.

While the various celebrities — such as Walter Koenig, who played Chekov on the original "Star Trek" series — were clearly the main attraction inside the center's main ballroom, many of the costumed fans were a sight to behold as well. Various characters from "Star Wars" — including at least one person dressed as the evil Emperor Palpatine, several as bounty hunter Boba Fett and one very realistic R2-D2 robot — mingled with the crowd.

"I decided to dress up, because when is this going to happen again?" said Albert Hood, one the people dressed as Boba Fett. Hood is a member of the Austin Fan Force, a local "Star Wars" fan group.

Hood was looking forward to seeing Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi"), who will take part in a question-and-answer session today . Ray Park, who played Darth Maul in "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace," is also scheduled to appear today .

There were several Ghostbusters in attendance as well, including Monica Kruse, who was there with other members of the Dallas-Fort Worth Ghostbusters, a chapter of a national fan club that focuses on raising money for charities.

Kruse, who was decked out in the familiar brown jumpsuit, complete with homemade proton pack, said that dressing up made their charity work more fun. "It's something I always loved as a kid, and a lot of kids get a real kick out of it."

Kruse and many of the other Ghostbusters at the convention were looking forward to a special screening of the film with "Ghostbusters" star Ernie Hudson, taking place today .

The first panel of the afternoon Friday featured comic book artist Greg Horn, who has worked on several titles for Marvel Comics, among others. Horn discussed the process of creating digital art, encouraging aspiring artists to illustrate on paper before turning to computers.

Ferrigno followed Horn. He fielded a variety of questions about the Hulk, including how he felt about the contemporary film adaptations (he's not a fan) and whether he liked the original comics.

"Every once in a while, I'll come across one of those comics, and it'll bring me right back to my childhood," Ferrigno said.

Local comic book writer Matt Sturges, whose credits include "Jack of Fables" and "House of Mystery" for DC Comics, will be on hand Sunday to discuss his experience in the business.

Another familiar Austin personality in attendance will be Harry Knowles of "Ain't It Cool News" fame. Knowles will talk about his new role as editor of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland.

pmongillo@statesman.com; 445-3697