Kansas City celebrates ‘normal’ return of Planet Comicon, if there’s such a thing when it comes to pop culture

Captain Carter cosplayer
Captain Carter from Disney’s What If series was a popular choice among some Comicon attendees.

Donning their favorite cosplay costumes, fans by the thousands flocked to Planet Comicon 2022. The Kansas City-based pop culture convention didn’t miss a beat with its second gathering in eight months. The pandemic threw a wrench in the con’s usual spring time frame when it was canceled in 2020, and rescheduled a couple of times in 2021.

It seems like yesterday that Lisa and I met Irene Bedard, a Native American actress known for Smoke Signals and Disney’s Pocahontas. This year, we were geeked to sit in on a panel featuring actors from the DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, one of several CW network spin-offs from the Arrow franchise. Sitting a few  feet from actors Jes Macallan, Courtney Ford, Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Brandon Routh, we felt fortunate to be among more than 500 fans filling the grand ballroom at Bartle Hall. It’s always fun to hear fans’ questions about programs, and see their enthusiasm for the cast.

Jes Macallan laughs during a panel on DC's Legends of Tomorrow
Jes Macallan laughs during a panel on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Our panel was one of a couple dozen over the weekend, ranging from classic science fiction and fantasy shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation to animation and voice-over acting.

Of course, celebrities find their way to Celebrity Row, where they’ll pose for photos with visitors or autograph photos, for a price. Celebrities appearing at this year’s show included Ralph Macchio from Karate Kid and Cobra Kai, Gates McFadden and John de Lancie from Star Trek: TNG, pro wrestler Sgt. Savage and actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar.

Characters, Mercury capsule

The main floor of the exhibit hall hosts the real action. Roaming the space, fans dressed as characters such as Captain Carter from Disney’s What If series to those from Star Wars and horror flicks It, Friday the 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street. Of course, there’s plenty of anime, Marvel and DC Comics costumes, as well as furries (people dressed as animals). You never know what you’ll see at Planet Comicon, and that’s half the fun.

Wheelchair attendee displays her Captain America shield
Comicon attendee shows off her Captain America shield.

This year’s con included a special exhibit featuring Liberty Bell 7, the second Mercury space capsule to orbit the earth. Piloted by Gus Grissom, the Liberty Bell 7 had an issue after splashing down into the Atlantic Ocean when the escape hatch failed to open. Grissom escaped from the Liberty Bell 7 before it all to the ocean’s floor.

The capsule’s recovery in 1999 – after 38 years underwater –  featured a joint effort between NASA and the Cosmosphere center in Hutchinson, Kansas. The Mercury ship is the only capsule not owned by NASA, after the agency agreed to let Cosmosphere keep it after its recovery.

Liberty Bell 7 rocket capsule on display
Liberty Bell 7 rocket capsule on display.

Vendors and exhibits

Checking out vendors and exhibits is a must during Comicon. A stop at the Ghostbusters display includes a close-up of Slimer and the famous ambulance-converted Ghostbusters vehicle. Lots of memorabilia to dig through there.

Zuul stands on top of the Ghostbusters car
Life-size figure of Zuul stands atop the hood of the Ghostbusters’ vehicle.

A universe unto itself, Star Wars remains a favorite at Planet Comicon. From the 501st Legion leading con visitors through the hallways to several exhibits and interactive displays, it’s easy to spend several hours exploring all things Star Wars.

Two Jawa characters pose with Gregoo from "The Mandalorian."
Two Jawa characters pose with Gregoo from “The Mandalorian.”

Comic book and graphic novel illustrators staff their displays, and do a little work, while mingling with fans. It’s a blast to watch the talented artists create life on the blank pages of paper in front of them. I’ve always been jealous of their talent (I can draw stick people).

Vendors fill several spots at Bartle Hall. T-shirts, comic books, figurines, memorabilia and more can be found at Planet Comicon. People stood 12-deep while waiting to check out light sabers at one booth. Another booth – Origami Giant – is an Omaha-based paper cutout light boxes featuring popular movie franchises, such as Marvel, DC Comics, Star Wars and Jurassic World.

Marvel characters in a origami light box
Marvel characters in a origami light box.

Ever thought about getting a 3D model of yourself? You can, and Kansas City’s 3DHQ would love to help you with it. We sampled it when I stepped inside the company’s 3D screening room. A few seconds later, your 3D picture has been taken. The company processes your photo and within a short time your model is ready to be viewed. They had several 3D models on display, including the Kansas City Superfan, a man who is routinely seen around the city in a Superman outfit. I actually saw him over the weekend at a bus stop, waiting for his ride.

3D model of a man who dresses as Superman and wears the outfit around Kansas City
Kansas City’s “Superfan” is showcased as a 3D model.

Planet Comicon came with its own PEZ. Though, not the sugary treat you may think. Planet Entertainment Zone featured all types of booths and attractions, from Boulevard Brewing tastings to virtual reality games and pinball machines. Solid State Pinball Supply had a couple dozen vintage pinball machines available for interactive play. Plenty of adults and families lined up behind the games, to pull the plunger and send the metal ball bouncing around the play area, racking up points. Located near 29th and Troost Avenue, the arcade is a must for old-time gamers and newbies wanting to check out the scene.

People playing pinball
Dads and sons, as well as individuals, enjoy playing classic pinball games.

The three-day event included a cosplay costume contest Saturday night.

With so much to see and do during Planet Comicon, some people prefer to visit all three days. Con-goers can purchase passes for the entire event or single-day tickets. Mark your calendar, as Planet Comicon return to its annual spring session, with the event scheduled March 17-19, 2023.