First Big River Comic Convention draws thousands, raises $1,700 for Kids in Motion

Superheroes, villains, mythical creatures, artists and fans filled Tabernacle of Praise Church for the first Big River Comic Convention on Saturday, April 13, beginning a new tradition for the community and making a difference for Kids in Motion.

The all-day event stemmed from Darin Logue's dream to share his love of comics. His wife and event co-organizer Debbie Logue said they are looking forward to making the convention a local tradition. The event raised $1,700 for Kids in Motion which is under the umbrella of Douglass Community Services and is a United Way agency. Vendors at the convention lined two floors, and activities included a Cosplay Contest, comic drawing demonstrations, a board game construction presentation, a dance performance by members of Karen's Dance Academy and guest appearances by Bob Hall, an artist for Marvel, DC and Valiant comics; Dan “The Beast” Severn, an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Hall of Fame mixed-martial artist and champion professional wrestler in Japan's UWF, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF); and Bishop Stevens, who has starred in several movies, TV shows “The Walking Dead,” “Empire” and “Chicago P.D.” and competed as a pro wrestler. Stevens said he was excited to see so many fans from different walks of life having fun together.

“I can be sitting next to anybody who likes sci-fi, and I've been on 'The Walking Dead' and 'Empire' and I've done the show 'Chicago P.D.,'” he said. “It actually opens the door for everybody sitting at home who may say 'I watch this show, I watch that show.'”

He said a few moments ago, he heard a sci-fi fan of his steampunk Salem Tusk character chatting with an “Empire” fan.

“That's a conversation that you never would have happen any other time, so that's really cool,” he said.

Cole Painter and Taylor Painter, 11, visited with Stevens as they viewed the booths.

“He's a great guy, really personable, real easy to talk to and very appreciative of everyone who comes to talk to him,” Cole Painter said. “... I think Hannibal needs more stuff like this. I'm really enamored by the whole thing.”

Taylor Painter said it was awesome to meet new people as they toured the event.

Just after 3 p.m., Stevens said about 4,000 fans had visited since the convention opened at 9 a.m. Large conventions like “The Walking Dead,” Wizard World and Comic-Con receive large-scale financial support, and he said he Hannibal's event was successful without that level of financial backing.

“I've been to a lot of these — I do these probably once a month and when I'm not filming — and I can truly say, they have probably almost broken records for small, independent conventions,” he said.

Severn echoed Stevens' comments about the strong showing for the convention. “I know that with this being their first event, who's to say what event number two — how much more that's going to explode,” he said.

A Chevrolet Tahoe parked outside was fully transformed into the Ecto-1 from the movie “Ghostbusters.” Mike Myers from the “Halloween” movies mingled with superheroes, characters in full steampunk attire and fans of the various genres amid rows of colorful tables lined with figures, artwork, comics and other items.

Stevens said Mayor James Hark presented Darin Logue with a key to the city. Flashing lights and loud cheers signaled the Cosplay Contest which included characters like Batman, Loki, Thor, Superman, and competitors in steampunk outfits. Hunter Niffen, 5, received the Mayor's Award for his portrayal of Thor. His mom, Jenna, accompanied him, dressed as Hela.

“He loved it, he really wanted to do it so bad,” she said. “They talked me into it, so I decided to go up there and give it my five seconds of fame. He loves it. I just like doing things for him, and making him happy and excited about this kind of thing.”

Debbie Logue expressed her gratitude and plans for making the Big River Comic Convention a tradition.

“The show of support today from the community was overwhelming,” she said. “We did not expect the number of people to turn out who did. We appreciate it so much, and you're definitely going to see us again in 2020 — two days next year.”

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com