Lexington Comic and Toy Convention fills Rupp Arena with celebrities, fans

McKenna Horsley

While the men’s basketball team won the SEC championship in St. Louis, comic buffs, cosplayers and a slew of celebrities descended upon Rupp Arena this past weekend.

The 2018 Lexington Comic and Toy Convention began on March 9 and concluded on March 11 in the Lexington Convention Center. LCTC is one of the largest comic conventions in Kentucky and started in 2012. This year’s line-up of celebrity guests included actor Chuck Norris, Star Wars’ Ian McDiarmid, Gotham’s Camren Bicondova and Arrow and Doctor Who’s John Barrowman. 

Attendees stood in line for hours to get autographs, photos and seats for Q&A panels with their heroes. Official ticket sales numbers have not been released, but the 2017 convention saw over 25,000 attendees with less floor space than this year’s event. On Saturday, some lines were capped due to long wait times.

One of those long lines belonged to Matthew Mercer, who voiced McCree in “Overwatch” and plays in Geek and Sundry’s “Critical Role,” a live-streamed internet show where he and other voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons weekly. 

Lauren Chapman, a graduate student at Eastern Kentucky University, was most looking forward to meeting Mercer before the convention’s doors opened on Sunday.

“A lot of times it’s just really hyped-up atmosphere,” she said about comic cons in general.

Chip Holland, a Danville native and veteran LCTC attendee, said that this year’s convention seemed much bigger to him than previous events. He first came to LCTC with his life-sized R2-D2 replica of the iconic Star Wars droid about two years ago. Holland built the moving robot because he dreamed of having one as a kid and after seeking advice from the R2-D2 Builders Club. 

“I had to learn a lot of new skills, but our group has a lot of people that know more about some of the things than I do. We help each other out and anybody that wants to build one, the group is out there to make your dream come true,” Holland said. 

Holland often stays a few feet away from R2, allowing a small crowd of fans to interact with the beeping robot and pose for a picture as he controls it. 

Another avid Star Wars fan in attendance was Dan Blitz, who came from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to meet some of the franchise’s actors at the convention. Almost every Star Wars film was represented by the various cast members. In addition to McDiarmid, who played Emperor Palpatine in six films, Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian in “The Empire Strikes Back” came to Lexington during the weekend.

Blitz attended LCTC dressed as a Stormtrooper from the Star Wars universe. He was one of many “cosplayers,” or attendees who dress up as one of their favorite characters from a book, TV show or movie, throughout the weekend.

“This is actually commercially-available. So, if you go on the internet and start looking around, you’ll find that this is licensed by Disney and LucasFilm,” Blitz said.

Attendees weren’t the only ones who enjoyed LCTC. Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” commented on the spirit of the convention during his panel with fans.

“This convention has been great and the reason it has been great is … the truth about people in a certain region of the country is incredibly true. People have been thoughtful, they have been patient and I commend you and I thank you,” Frakes said.