PHOTOS BY: FRAN RUCHALSKI
The Collective Con is an event overflowing with curiosity and talent. The word “Con” is an abbreviation for the word convention. However it could just as easily stand for the word constellation. Gathered in one building were stars, a galaxy of fans and a solar system of artists. The night before the convention, I attended “An Evening With Kevin Sorbo” held at Rain Dogs in 5 points. The setting of the Rain Dogs was made for dancing and candle lit conversations. In the theater area of the cage Kevin Sorbo showed his dedicated fans “The Apple” one of his directed works from the famed TV show “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.” He spoke openly about the action, planning and thinking behind the various scenes of the episode. He also gave the crowd insight into his stunning career and the new projects that were just on the horizon. But more importantly, when he spoke, it was with a kind, strong and genuine spirit. He treated the audience like family. He shared laughs and shook hands like it was a reunion. He wasn’t acting, he was honestly glad to be there.
I received the same sensation from Robin Lord Taylor who plays “Oswald Cobblepot / The Penguin” from the hit TV show “Gotham.” During his Q&A panel hosted by Patty Hawkins, he readily addressed the fair amount of Gotham cosplayers in attendance. There was a high regard for the fans and even a deep hug for one of the “Penguin” cosplayers that allowed Robin Lord Taylor to borrow his umbrella as he performed his signature limp from the Gotham show. Candice Patton, who portrays Iris West from the hit TV show “The Flash”, didn’t give away any spoilers about the new season at her panel but she did give fans her great appreciation. Mark Patton (Jesse Walsh from the horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge), Janet Varney (the voice of Korra from the animated series The Legend of Korra,) Cristina Vee (the voice of Sailor Mars from the animated series Sailor Moon) and Robin Atkin Downes (voice of Kaz Miller from the video game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain) weren’t just there… they were in the moment with their fans. They autographed, took photos and smiled as if they were happy for the chance to connect with the public. Which to me, was the most interesting point to consider at the entire event. The celebrities came out to meet their fans. They desired to see the people that have been supporting them in their endeavors and show that same support right back to them.
Collective Con is a festival, a parade and a celebration. Just one stroll around the event will prove this to be true. On one side Spiderman could be taking selfies. On the other side the Tardis from the TV series Dr.Who could be curiously investigated. There was an area for teens and parents alike to go head to head in the video game Smash Brothers. Gandalf from “The Lord of the Rings” could be seen observing the paintings in the section for artists called “Artist Alley.” It may appear to be Halloween in Spring but it’s really a Fair of Icons. Admittedly this was my first time at a comic book convention, I looked for the true meaning of the show and I found it. Passionate people wanted to share their vision with other people. I talked with Will Cobb, a young designer that created Will Power Props. He spent all of his money on a 3D printer and started following his dreams. I marveled at Brenda of Southern R2 builders, “R3-T7” model constructed from sheer human drive and admiration for Star Wars. I met the smiling J.E. Shannon, a local author that was very excited about her debut urban fantasy book “Awakenings.” I saw the sci-fi drawings of local comic book creator Josh Rudloff. His “Dan in Space” series is up to issue five and still growing. I was drawn in to adoration that Summers of “Summers Pop Art” had for comics. This lead her to crafting her hero themed art pieces. I saw the canvas work of Official Nehs from Orlando. He gathered comic book inspiration then expressed it with action packed brush strokes. I listened to comic writer/script writer M. Zachary Sherman (Marvel, Executive Outcomes and Seal Team 7) give professional advice for scripts, views on current states of the comic/film industries and state honest answers to fan questions. Walter Ostile (Cubicles, Shiver Bureau), Seth Mann (Magneto: Not A Hero, Gambit), Larry Watts (Army of Darkness), Adam Bryce Thomas (Sonic the Hedgehog), Jason Sobol (Marvel, DC, Star Wars) and so many more comic book creators were there in close contact.
The cosplayers were in rare form truly embodying the TV, Anime and movie personas they love and care for so much. Cecil Grimes, Candy Keane, Ivy Cosplay, Shane Morris, Siren Croft and Jennifer Ann brought their cherished cosplay characters to life. They professionally enacted and united the essentials that made their figures of fiction seem so real. I spoke with several cosplay groups namely Mandalorian Mercs, Umbrella Corporation Jacksonville 219th Brain Surgeons, Gotham City Rouge’s Gallery, The 501st Legion Florida Garrison and Jacksonville Ghostbusters. They had a rooted enthusiasm in the characters they represented. Not only that, they do charity work with a number of organizations making appearances at hospitals, schools and ceremonies. Costumes and concepts leave impressions on children for a lifetime. When those kids grow up to become adults they display this impression to the next generation. Added to this were the nights bubbling with music from acts such as “Of Montreal with Tomboi and Le Orchid,” ‘Random Encounters” and “BEEB$ and Her Money Makers.” In my opinion Collective Con creators and producers Mark Yokan, Jason Lewis, Christopher Major and Max Michaels outdid themselves. They brought together different facets of fantasy, creativity and culture into our city. They made Collective Con, A Home of Heroes.