Getting conned never felt so good.
Central Valley geeks and pop culture junkies will gather for two days for the first-ever Modesto Con this weekend. The convention will celebrate the world of science-fiction, comics, fantasy, superheroes and more July 9 and 10.
The convention was dreamed up by a group of local pop culture enthusiasts, performers and promoters more than a year ago. Together they’ve put together two days of celebrity guests, panel discussions, cosplay contests, artist appearances, vendor booths and the like.
Modesto Con board member Brandi Brown said holding a pop culture convention was a natural fit for the hometown of George Lucas:
“We’re the home of ‘Star Wars.’ I know that sounds so cliché. But we are the center of the biggest geek universe that existed and probably will ever exist. Everyone has heard of ‘Star Wars.’ ”
Much like the internationally acclaimed Comic-Con in San Diego, Modesto’s smaller-scale event will feature celebrity guests as part of its draw. For its first year the headliners include veteran character actor Doug Jones and “Flash Gordon” star Sam J. Jones.
Doug Jones is know for his character work in films like the “Hellboy” franchise, in which he played the amphibious Abe Sapien, “Pan’s Labyrinth” as the supernatural fawn and creepy Pale Man and “Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer” as the Silver Surfer himself.
Sacramento native Sam J. Jones (no relation to Doug Jones) rose to stardom in the title role of the cult 1980 sci-fi film “Flash Gordon.” He has since made a pop culture comeback playing himself in the Mark Wahlberg comedy “Ted” and its sequel last year “Ted 2.”
“We feel very lucky we have the Joneses,” said Modesto Con board member and longtime promoter Middagh Goodwin.
Many of the other celebrity guests have Central Valley roots as well. Actor and stuntman James Weston II, who has roles in the “Star Trek” reboot, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “The Matrix Reloaded,” lives in Manteca.
Two other featured guests are Modesto natives who have made names for themselves in the comic books world: Allen Passalaqua, a professional comic color artist, and Ethen Beavers, a professional comic book artist.
Also appearing will be filmmakers behind the web series “Supergirl/Unburdened,” independent comic publishers Alpha Q Comics and Chunky Girl Comics, writers Dez Demise and Dennis Knight and Central Valley-based cosplayers Margarita Marie Guzman and Avery Klemm.
The freshman event will include more than 100 other vendor and artist booths. Several cosplayer groups, short for costume play, will also attend including the “Star Wars” based groups 501st Legion Central California Garrison, Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club and Rebel Legion, “Star Trek” themed 1701st Fleet and The Royal Manticoran Navy.
Many of the groups also took part in the NorCal Cosies, a small one-day cosplay convention in Newman put on by the Modesto Con organizers in January.
But for Modesto Con, Brown said organizers wanted to make the event broader in scope.
“The thing about geekery is it encompass all kinds of things and a lot of it overlaps,” Brown said. “You could be into comics, but still also be into movies, pop culture, novels, anime – all those things go together. So why not offer something for everyone to enjoy no matter what form of geekery that is.”
Brown, who has done cosplay for five years, said the area has a thriving community of pop culture enthusiasts and cosplayers. Those include many involved in relatively new cosplay group Central Valley Costumers, which formed in 2014.
After years of going to conventions in the Bay Area and surrounding areas like StocktonCon and Grape City Con in Lodi, Brown said people were eager to have their own event closer to home. As part of that they wanted to make sure the ticket prices were kept low to make it accessible to all.
“Our common interest is doing something positive for Modesto,” Goodwin said. “We are all part of Modesto. We’re actors, performers, artists, cosplayers. We’re in the community and trying to make it better for everyone.”
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, July 9-10
Where: Modesto Centre Plaza, 1000 L St.
Tickets: $4 advance; $5 door; children 12 and under free