ArlingCon Attracts Superheros, Supervillains and Other Beloved Characters

Ty Randolph drove two hours from his home in Oklahoma this weekend to judge ArlingCon’s Kids’ Cosplay Contest, where children dressed up as their favorite comic book, science fiction or fantasy characters. But this was one contest where the judge may have won the contest had he been entered.

Randolph came to ArlingCon, Arlington Public Library’s annual comics, anime, and sci-fi convention, as The Swamp Thing, covered entirely in green with swampy plants attached to his body.

“I’m what you would call a regular at the DFW-area comic conventions,” Randolph said at the convention, which was held Saturday at the University of Texas at Arlington. “ArlingCon is one of my favorites because I get to work with the kids. It really opens fandom to the kids and helps inspire them.”

Randolph was one of the volunteers with Heroic Inner Kids (HIK), which is an advocate organization whose mission is to inspire those with challenges to realize their inner hero via education, outreach and advocate efforts. HIK, along with the Arlington Public Library, UTA Libraries, and Wild West comics, books and games, helped sponsor this year’s event.

“We work with at-risk kids and also come to events, educational outreach programs and even Make-a-Wish events dressed as superheroes and other characters,” Assistant Executive Director Robert Goodrick said. “Every child has an inner hero and we want to inspire that in others using the legends of superheroes, fairytales and other characters.”

Since beginning the annual event three years ago, more and more characters from comic book, sci-fi, fantasy, and fairytale genres show up every year to visit the 100-plus vendor booths and to attend workshops and panels on everything from the psychology of horror to body painting and wig work.

“The first year, we had about 600 people show up. Last year, that number swelled to 2,000. We don’t have numbers yet this year, but it looks like it’ll be well above the thousand mark,” said Tamera Miller, program specialist with the Arlington Public Library.

To transform themselves into their character is no small feat. Ramon Martinez, a newcomer to the cosplay and comic convention world who traveled all the way from San Antonio, stood on homemade stilts covered in brown-painted craft foam and a papier-mâché mask to look like Groot, the walking tree character from Guardians of the Galaxy. He even had speakers attached to the inside that growled with the character’s catch phrase, “I am Groot!”

“I made it for Halloween and my friend told me that I should come to these shows with it,” Martinez said.

While the costume took him over a month to make, other attendees wore costumes that took even longer.

“It took me about three months to design it and then create it, which I did using leggings and a long-sleeved shirt,” Kristin Nicole, of Bedford, said about her original Harley Quinn outfit.

Nicole attends cosplay and comic conventions all over the nation dressed as one of 30 characters from the sci-fi, fantasy and comic book realms. Her Princess Serenity costume from Sailor Moon took her more than six months to design and create, she said.

“I’ve attended more than 20 conventions just in DFW since I started doing this,” Nicole said. “Both my parents are into cosplay as well. My mom is my manager, we call her “MomCon,” and my dad dressed up as Darth Vader. It’s great to do this together and have a lot of fun.”