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The day sped by faster than a speeding bullet.

Saturday, April 9, marked the first Verde Valley Comic Expo held at the Cottonwood Recreation Center.


As soon as 10 a.m. struck, the side entrance was taken by a swath of sequential action.

“As soon as we opened the doors, people started flooding in,” said Jan Marc Quisumbing — “The Janimal” — as he put the finishing touches on his own table.

Quisumbing, along with the Cottonwood Public Library’s Anne Roberts, organized the event. Roberts had said she expected nearly 100 people at the onset, but had begun to think the number would go higher as the word spread.

Her prediction would prove true, as nearly 310 people showed, according to Quisumbing at the close of the expo.

One of the highlights of the expo was the cosplay. Phoenicians came up dressed in full Marvel and DC regalia.

The Green Lantern, who would give his secret identity — Kyle Rayner — but preferred to stay in character, said the expo may be smaller than the large conventions of big cities, but that helped to make his group more approachable as they gladly posed with fans in action sequences straight from the panels. Throughout the day, motorists on Sixth Street could see the cosplay spill outdoors as Bishop hunted Jean Grey and Deadpool and Wolverine tested which had the better healing factor.

Rayner said at bigger conventions one of the biggest challenges was sensory overload, but at times, there was enough color packed into the center that it began to resemble other places he’s attended.

As to why he chose the Green Lantern as his hero, he responded with what surely came from the same tome as the Lanterns’ oath.

“You’re only as strong as you think you are. Fear is the only thing that can hold you back. Giving up is certain death,” he said.

The costumes didn’t end at the professionals either. Residents attended with hard plastic abs that put the most dedicated gym buffs going through the main entrance to shame. And, contrary to some popular beliefs, the expo was not a boys’ club, as Fiona [“Adventure Time”], several renditions of Harley Quinn, Batgirl and more all perused the loop of artists and vendors. Those who came with a costume were entered into a raffle, while those who didn’t still had a chance to participate as Quisumbing’s wife, Gioia, painted youths’ faces everything from Spider-Man to kittens.

The circle of tables proved more packed than a locomotive at times, requiring several passes to get to some artists as other fans got their chance to speak with creators on their process. The Civil Air Patrol Cadets were there alongside library Teen Council volunteers to make sure everything went smoothly and provide refreshments outside as the otherwise stormy day provided plenty of yellow sunlight for Kryptonian and non-Kryptonian alike.

It was also a time for artists to mingle and exchange tips for success. Hearing the discussions between fan and creator, one could tell that the strive to get their art out, and not make a quick buck, was the creators’ main goal.

Creator work ranged in style, from the dark and fantastic “The Creation,” by Dez Demise to the action-packed and outrageous “King!” by Thomas Hall and Daniel Bradford.

And not just comics were for sale. Original art commissions, prints, originals from previous work and even buttons were spread out across each space, spilling over to the next at times.

The same could be said for the vendors, as Cottonwood gave the Verde Valley not one, but several comic shops to choose from. Currently, there is no dedicated store that sells current editions and other fan fare.

Ken Brown, owner of Drawn to Comics in Glendale, said it was a great opportunity to promote the medium in a new market, giving out Sesame Street comics to some of the younger children in attendance.

“In the city, you don’t have much of an opportunity to expose kids to comic books. To give a kid that first comic book moment is what it’s all about,” he said.

In addition to the frenzy of activity on the main floor, a partition held the organized events for the day, kicking off with a meeting of the Northern Arizona Cartoonist Association. Later on was a sketch-off as well as a screening for a sci-fi film and a talk with artist Dave Beaty, who has worked for both Marvel and DC, the industry’s two largest American publishers.

Check the library’s website for more events and activities it hosts, including the beneficiary of the expo’s admission: The Summer Reading Program. Quisumbing can be found online at  thejanimal.com. Check Larson Newspapers' print version of the April 13 Cottonwood Journal Extra for a collector's edition front cover. Check out our Facebook gallery by photojournalist Zack Garcia here.

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