Jet City Comic Show attracts aliens, warriors, superheroes to Tacoma

Brian Meredith doesn’t know why, but he says there’s something about Tacoma and the comics subculture that really clicks.

Meredith, who along with his friend James Taylor organized Saturday’s Jet City Comic Show at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center, said it might be Tacoma’s more relaxed vibe, or maybe a culture more accepting of idiosyncrasies.

Whatever it is, he said, the comics convention has found a happy home here.

“It just works,” he said. “There’s been a buzz about this for weeks.”

The comic show filled the exhibition space at the convention center Saturday, attracting several distinct groups in the comics subculture. Most obvious were the costumed pop culture fans, dressed as aliens, warriors and superheroes.

Kelsey Hutchinson and Jay Motoyoshi were among the most convincing, appearing in startlingly realistic Star Wars garb that included full face paint.

“We like to go to conventions,” said Hutchinson, who lives in University Place, “and this one is one of the best. A lot of the others are bigger, but we like it better because it still has a small, intimate feel.

“I mean, there is Peter Beagle, sitting right there,” Hutchinson said, pointing across the hall. “You could go up and touch him if you wanted to.”

Beagle, author of “The Last Unicorn,” was among the celebrity draws at the show, along with actors Dirk Benedict (Lt. Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica film and television series) and Richard Hatch (Capt. Apollo in Battlestar Galactica).

Benedict and Hatch sat behind a folding table at the show, relaxed and chatting with fans just a few feet away from Michael Berryman, a horror genre actor who’s made a career of playing deformed bikers, sadistic undertakers and other creepy characters.

There were the vendors, too, selling everything from vintage comics to original drawings, T-shirts and detailed maps of Middle Earth.

And there were artists, successful and struggling, exchanging tips on practical aspects of the craft: drawing, securing funding, self-publishing and promotion.

In smaller meeting rooms, there were serious seminars: Journalism and Comic Art, where Tacoma-based journalist Kevin Knodell, cartoonist Matt Bors and illustrator Keith Badgley reflected on using the cartoon medium to communicate topics as traditionally foreign to comics as wartime atrocities.

“People love visuals,” Knodell said. “You can use them to recreate people’s memories, and that is very cool.”

Next door, journalist and comic book scholar Andrew Watt, looking professorial despite his X-Men T-shirt, explored the history of comics, including how racial minorities and young people have been portrayed through the decades.

“We try to have something for everybody,” said organizer Meredith. “This is a complicated subculture with many facets, and we’re all very supportive of each other.”