Unbridled fandom returns to Suffolk

Published 9:36 pm Saturday, April 28, 2018

Jeb Raitt and Ward Farlow wore armor that shined under clear skies Saturday morning. Their armor was made of titanium, leather, plastic and other materials that helped prevent rust or dents. The combinations worked well against the hacks and thrusts they threw at each other in the ring.

“The armor weighs you down a bit, but you just get used to it,” Farlow said in full regalia. “Sometimes I’ll even go for a jog in my breastplate.”

The sparring was arranged outside the North Suffolk Library by the Barony of Marinus, a local chapter of the international Society for Creative Anachronism, which researches and recreates the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe. Farlow was dressed like a Roman soldier between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D.

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The glaives, swords and other weapons were made from pliable wood and other material meant to prevent serious injury. Raitt, who’s been doing recreational fights with SCA for 45 years, said his worst injuries have been two broken finger tips that happened 10 years apart.

They described these armored bouts as “stress relieving.”

“There’s a lot of stress in the modern world, and this gives us a safe outlet for it,” Raitt said.

“Plus, it’s fun,” Farlow added.

Historically accurate combat was just one event at Suffolk Public Library’s third annual IconiCon, a pop-culture extravaganza with vendors, games, workshops, art, costume contests and other expressions of fandom. More than 800 people stopped by the convention on Saturday, many of whom were wearing costumes for the occasion.

“We’ve gotten a lot of compliments and some really good feedback,” Suffolk Public Library Collection Strategy Supervisor Karen Nelson said while dressed like Wonder Woman.

Vendors’ tables filled the lobby with Funko Pop figures, original artwork and detailed wands, buttons and jewelry to satisfy any nerdy cravings.

“We thought like five people were going to show up, but there’s been a lot, and they’ve been so nice and friendly,” Logan McKinney of Virginia Beach said at a table with fellow artist Alexis Andrews.

Visitors were dressed as characters from “Harry Potter,” “Black Panther” and countless other video game, television, anime and comic book mythologies.

“We had Deadpool singing “Careless Whisper” for karaoke,” said Community Relations Coordinator Angie Sumner in her bold Superman shirt.

The 501st Legion, an international charity organization of Star Wars cosplayers known for their impeccably crafted costumes ranging from Stormtroopers to bounty hunters, roamed the library and fascinated fans young and old.

“Lots of children have come up to high-five the First Order Stormtrooper,” said 501st Legion member Joshua Ehrhardt.

One of those Stormtroopers was Angela Brown, designated TK-75392.

“It’s wonderful,” Brown said through her iconic black-and-white mask. “They come up and hug us. They love us troopers.”

The children also loved the towering, full-scale Dalek that wheeled around and robotically shouted “Exterminate!”

“They love to play with it, especially when it gets moving,” Head Dalek wrangler and Builder Richard Siebigteroth said. “They’ll tap it from behind and watch the head spin 360 degrees.”

There were tabletop games and a “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” video game tournament. The children’s area was transformed into a superhero academy where kids made masks and capes. Anime played non-stop in the non-fiction section and people enjoyed “Super Mario Kart” on the Super Nintendo.

For some visitors, the convention was nostalgic.

“It’s really fun just hanging out with my son, and it’s bringing back a lot of memories,” said Kurt Giometti of Suffolk, dressed as the Riddler and holding new “Dungeons and Dragons” purchases to enjoy with his son, Louie, 9.

For many others, Saturday was another opportunity for cosplayers to bring out their best creative impulses.

John Lindsey, 17, of Suffolk, came dressed as the skull-faced Reaper, his favorite character from the video game “Overwatch.” Lindsey said he likes the atmosphere of a convention that’s filled with detailed costumes.

“I really enjoy seeing what people have made,” he said.

Chesapeake cosplayer Kenny Hodgins, 22, was able to realize a childhood dream of being the Red Ranger from his lifelong fascination of “Power Rangers” and the Japanese superhero genre.

“I grew up with “Power Rangers,” and I think that lessons I took from that made me a better person,” Hodgins said.

Cosplaying allows fans to become embody their favorite characters or immerse themselves into their favorite worlds. Alyssa Lopez and Leo Rivera came from Virginia Beach with well-crafted suits straight out of the “Destiny” video game series.

Lopez MacGyvered hers from gym gear, motocross equipment and other paraphernalia. Her 3D-printed “Ghost” robot from the game was secured to her shoulder with safety wires.

She’s been cosplaying for 14 years. Last year, at Tidewater Comicon, she was dressed as a female “Pennywise” the clown from the horror film “It.”

“I can find any character I really enjoy and make it my own,” she said.