Northern Iowan

RodCon 2018

SOFIA LEGASPI, Staff Writer

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Over 3,000 geek culture fanatics traveled across campus, Iowa and the Midwest to attend RodCon on Saturday, April 7. This is Rod Library’s fifth year hosting the Comic Con-esque event.

“I think that fandom and geek culture is becoming more universal,“ said Caroline Francis, RodCon planning committee member. “Things like the Marvel Movies that have been really huge […] are really drawing in whole families and people that didn’t know they were nerds, basically, to be nerds a little bit.”

Francis creates handmade “geeky” jewelry and gifts. She was one of the 41 vendors in the “Artist Alley,” where RodCon visitors could purchase and browse through fandom artwork, handicrafts, collectibles and more.

RodCon also featured a Kids’ Zone, a silent auction, door prizes, a “swag table” of freebies and caricatures by illustrator and cartoonist Chris Moore.

“I got free comic books for my classroom!” said Jayd Brown, a junior spanish and dual elementary and middle-level education double-major who was getting her caricature drawn.

Brown said her roommate forced her to go to RodCon. In the end, she was glad she came.

“I think my favorite part has been seeing all the costumes and how I have absolutely no idea who any of these characters are or what’s going on, but seeing how animated people are and excited,” Brown said.

Outfits ranged from young children in superhero capes to grown adults sporting intricate anime cosplay — and everything in between. Several popular Marvel and DC Comics heroes were present, including Black Panther and Wonder Woman.

Other fans dressed as characters from lesser-known anime and web comics. A rendition of painting sensation Bob Ross even made an appearance.

Top contenders in the costume contest included a UNI-themed Stormtrooper, a group of “Legend of Zelda” characters who performed a miniature skit and a Dalek from “Doctor Who.”

Twenty-one-year-old Alex Andria was attending RodCon for the second year, cosplaying as Princess Celestia from the TV show “My Little Pony.” Complete with feathered wings, her homemade costume took about two weeks to complete.

“It’s kind of a way for me to open up who I am inside,” Andria said. “I like to make stuff, and the intricate details and everything, and sewing. [It’s a] chance to show off my talents and then being able to wear it and have people reference back to what I do.”

While the costume contest was one of the event’s highlights, other activities throughout the day included an escape room, Quidditch, video games and board games, a spaceship simulator, sword-fighting and demonstrations from various university departments.

“We really are interested in making RodCon more about involving other departments on campus and drawing them in,” Francis said. “We had the Pep Band play [. ..] Chemistry’s doing a demo of Harry Potter potions. Our keynote speaker is doing information about Lolita fashion and cosplay, so we brought in the textiles group and art and things like that. The museum’s involved; theater will do some improv.”

The Half-Masted Improvisation Troupe delivered a high-energy performance early in the day.

“Usually we don’t get to make pop culture references,” said Rachel Smith, Half-Masted member and senior studio art major. “It’s really fun to just say what’s off the top of your head to connect with the audience on that level of ‘nerdom.’”

RodCon speakers and panelists covered topics such as gender in comics, 3D printing, anime, comics in the classroom and more.

“It’s been really cool to see comics grow and develop and become more inclusive, but also seeing that translate to film and TV,” said communication studies instructor Sade Barfield during the “Black Panther and Beyond” panel. “Comic fans are so diverse and to see them represented as different skin colors, body types, genders and sexual orientations is so freeing and amazing.”

As the face of pop culture continues to evolve and grow, so will RodCon. Next year’s convention has already been scheduled for March 30.

Francis voiced the planning committee’s hope to expand the event to other buildings on campus in the future.

“We’re getting almost too big for our space. It’s just such a great problem to have because we want people to come, and I think that’s really the goal,” Francis said. “We want to keep doing it every year. We want to bring in better and better guests and want people to come up and see what the library’s about and also what all of this stuff is about that they might really love and they never knew.”

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RodCon 2018