The classic cars, hot rods and Ghostbusters’ Ectomobile were very cool. The Deadpool, Beauty & the Beast, Beetlejuice and “Star Wars” Mandalorian costumes were fantastic.
But none could hold a lightsaber to the Predator-in-his-spaceship getup that 11-year-old Emmanuel “Manny” Yerena tooled around in at the Graffiti-Con gathering at Modesto Centre Plaza on Sunday. Mounted on its bow is a 36-inch-long Xenomorph skull (that’s the “Alien” creature, for those unschooled in the sci-fi classic). On its wings are lighted display cases holding other skeletal trophies.
And in the cockpit, occasionally switching between two rubber masks — the Predator’s helmet and its fanged, fearsome face — was Manny.
The spacecraft fits around the wheelchair the Lathrop boy uses because he was born with spina bifida and is immobile from the waist down, said his mother, Monica. Despite its extraterrestrial look, the ship was built in Lathrop by a Magic Wheelchair team composed of Manteca Unified School District teacher Scott Myers, his family and students in the be.next video game design academy he leads on the Lathrop High School campus.
Magic Wheelchair is a not-for-profit organization that “builds epic costumes for kiddos in wheelchairs — at no cost to families,” its website says. Myers said his team worked on the ship for a couple of months — “mainly the last week with the real heavy work” — for its unveiling at Graffiti-Con.
So wide is the wingspan that the ship barely made it through the double doors from a quiet hallway into Centre Plaza’s Arbor Theatre, where Manny’s family, friends and other conventiongoers were awaiting his arrival. Manny sat quietly — Predators don’t appear to talk, after all — as Myers spoke of the project and urged the audience to reach out to Magic Wheelchair either as volunteers or to be recipients.
His spaceship pushed by an adult Predator, Manny then entered the convention areas, where people of almost all ages gathered around for photos and fist bumps. “Whoa, that is cool,” a man said to himself as the ship rolled into the main hall.
One who wasn’t so sure about getting close was his 2-year-old sister, Samantha. She occasionally ventured within a foot or so, especially when Manny was changing masks and she could see it was indeed her brother in the ship, but then drew back.
Manny has been a big fan of the space monsters and warriors since he saw the 2004 “Alien vs. Predator” when he was 7, he said. He then saw a Predator spaceship at a Magic Wheelchair event and, when asked if he wanted one built for him, readily accepted.
When you have your very own intergalactic vehicle, you have to get a lot of use out of it before you outgrow it, so Manny and his family are planning to roll it out for Halloween and the Lathrop Christmas parade. Monica Yerena said she’d really like to also get her son to a theme park event like Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights.
And, judging by the enthusiastic reception Manny and his costume received Sunday, perhaps there will be more comic-con appearances on his horizon.