If one had walked through downtown Knoxville from July 12 to July 14, they’d have quickly found themselves surrounded by Batmen, Wonder Women, Stormtroopers and more as the city’s passionate geek community made their way towards the Knoxville Convention Center.
Last weekend saw the return of Fanboy Expo, Knoxville’s largest comic book, anime and film convention. A fixture in the city’s schedule since 2012, the three-day event featured numerous cosplayers, art vendors and celebrity guests.
Fanboy is a place where attendees can celebrate a shared love of and appreciation for their favorite movies, shows, games and anime. That appreciation takes many forms, each one different from the last.
“That’s the good thing about a con, you’re never the weirdest one here.” Red Hood cosplayer Rhys Rousseau said.
Cosplay is one such way fans express their love for their favorite characters. The art of costuming and roleplaying as fictional characters has garnered a sizable following in the west, and that following was out in full force on the expo floor.
The 2019 expo was Rousseau’s second year cosplaying at the event. He enjoys how the art form lets him step into the shoes of some of his greatest heroes.
“It’s an opportunity to break free and become the character, or one of the characters, who you idol most,” Rousseau said.
You’d never be far from an Avenger, Superman or any number of inhabitants of alternate universes while wandering the spacious halls of the convention center. You’d also never be far from the event’s plethora of art and merchandise vendors.
Throughout the three-day period, fans had the opportunity to meet various industry celebrities. Cartoon enthusiasts saw influential voice performers like Tara Strong, Steve Blum and Dante Bosco. Fans of 80’s and 90’s television were treated to Jason David Frank and Richard Dean Anderson. Wrestling fans had the opportunity to meet “Sergeant Slaughter.”
However, this year’s special guests were Paul Reubens, known for his role as Pee-wee Herman, and Bruce Campbell, known for his performances as Ash from the Evil Dead movie franchise.
In between meeting celebrities like Bruce Campbell and Dante Bosco, attendees would walk through the rows and columns of painters, sculptors and artisans occupying every corner of the event’s convention floors. These creatives help attendees celebrate fandom in another way, through merchandise.
Whether it’s a poster of a beloved game’s logo or a hand-made plush doll of a famous superheroine, fanboys and fangirls were spoiled for choice when it came to merchandise for them to hang on their walls
Amanda Piercey, a self-taught artist and long-time con-goer, was one of the artisans providing such merchandise.
“I wanted to be able to share art with other people, people who told me they’d like to own things I made and hang it up on their wall,” Piercey said.
Piercey sold original artwork for video games and cartoons at Fanboy, art that she acknowledged not everyone would appreciate. She maintains that giving fans something that they like is worth the hassle.
“You have to be accepting of the fact that not everybody is going to be pleased by what you have to offer,” Piercey said. “But you also get to have the opportunity to share it with all kinds of people.”
Art also shared the space with other memorabilia, like props, collectors’ items and comic book stands, as well as independent authors and comic book writers advertising their work.
As the days progressed, attendees dispersed across the convention floor, sought out friends, made new ones and browsed merchandise.
Fanboy Expo will host a second, smaller convention this October known as Fanboy Expo 2.0. Fanboy Expo proper will return next July.