IMPERIAL – Imperial Valley resident geeks, nerds, and pop culture buffs gathered at Ricochet last weekend for the second annual Imperial Valley Comic Con, the only pop culture convention in the Imperial Valley.
Larry Ochoa came from Yuma with his daughter for the day. To see Josef Rubinstein, Marvel Comics artist for Wolverine and the famous Infinity Gauntlet image on the Avengers comic cover, had him excited even more.
“It’s great, it’s nice, and there’s so much cool stuff compact in one area,” said Ochoa. “I see so much potential … and I think it can only go up from here.”
The Imperial Valley Comic Con was started by Ruben Najera, owner of Metahumans Comics in El Centro, who was inspired by his own experiences at conventions in San Diego, Anaheim, and Chicago. Najera wanted to create something that could become an Imperial Valley staple.
He added that since last year the convention has been coined “The Little Big Show” for all of the big names and activities it packs. The convention doubled in size this year in both attendees and celebrities.
“This is one of those few events where all ages can come and find something that they like,” said Najera. “There’s nothing cooler than being in a building where everyone is excited and loves something in common.”
The Con hosted celebrities, local artists, cosplay, and had exclusives for Con attendees, who also had a chance to win San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon tickets through raffles and giveaways.
Artists showed their work through a platform not normally available to them in the Valley.
Tijuana artist Jesus “El Kartun” Pedroza premiered his original comic character the “Scarlet Spirit” at IV Comic Con for the first time. Old Superman comics inspired him to create his own character and bring that passion to life.
“To me, comic books and movies are just stories being told, so I’m hoping … I can write better than what normal people could,” said Pedroza.
Najera also gave free passes for Sunday’s session to the students of a Southwest High School English class in El Centro. It was his way of giving back to his old school.
“It’s a great way to bring the community together and to all join together on something we love,” said Elizabeth Huerta, one of the Southwest students who received the free pass.
This year’s celebrity guests included Marvel artist Josef Rubinstein, World Wrestling Entertainment’s Vickie Guerrero, former Power Rangers Tracy Lynn Cruz and Blake Foster, plus others. According to Najera, this was the first time so many celebrities have been in one place in the Valley.
Many residents were ecstatic to see something so big come back. Jonathan Ramirez of Brawley said it is a convenient location, especially since most people must travel pretty far in order to go to one.
“For people who have to travel miles, we have a convention here at home now and we don’t have to travel as far,” said Ramirez. “Now it’s right on our doorstep.”
“This comic con has been fun,” said attendee Alan McCalmont from El Centro. “My little brother is a Power Rangers fan and I plan to get autographs for him and his kids.”
The smaller venue also gives people a chance to really talk with the special guests one on one, something that is hard to do at a bigger convention.
“Hearing what the show did for them and how it inspired them is what brings me back for convention after convention,” said Tracy Lynn Cruz.
“It’s eye-opening, the impact it has on people,” said Chris Reid, who with his Power Rangers Ninja Steel partner Caleb Bendit, was experiencing his second convention.
Sunday, there was a cosplay contest with cash prizes, a first for the Imperial Valley according to Najera, and a video game tournament.
Most comic conventions are inspired by the original San Diego Comic-Con, started in 1970 when a group of comic, movie, and science fiction fans decided to create the first comic book convention in Southern California. It was held in the Grant Hotel’s basement in August of 1970; over 300 attendees packed in the small space.
Since that day, it has grown to have an enormous following with thousands of people attending every year, but not everyone is able to attend. This dilemma spurred the creation of small conventions for pop culture fans around the country, like the Imperial Valley Comic Con.
“This is Imperial Valley’s comic con, not Metahumans’ con,” said Najera, “This is for everybody, we do this for the community.”