ACME — The tall man appears in the post-rain mist dressed in futuristic military fashion — scaled, armored and packing serious high-velocity slug blasting heat.
Eyes pop; downtown Traverse City commuters slow to a creep. It's Joe Ritchie underneath the foam and glue but his "Mass Effect" video-game-inspired-costume creates a massive effect.
The glue gun ninja spends months creating convincing costumes, like Alien, Predator and Iron Man. No one gets a sequel; after an appearance at Cherry Capital Comic Con, the costumes get a one-way ticket to Ebay. This keeps it fresh and everyone guessing, Ritchie said.
"I like to come up with something new every year," said Ritchie.
The Traverse City native is 39 — "too old for costumes," he jokes, but just right for the cosplay culture nurtured by comic convention festivals.
Traverse City's Cherry Capital Comic Con, or "C4," has gone from fledgling to full-on in recent years, as organizers strike the balance between big but "not too big." This year's "con" is May 23-25 at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme. The pop culture festival doubled its square footage in the Governor's Hall, but it'll retain an "intimate" feel, said Rob Humphrey, an organizer and comic writer.
C4 has a good reputation for being artist-centric, family-friendly and a supportive place for "indie" comic creators. Plus, people like coming to Traverse City and it's still small enough that "no one gets too cranky," Humphrey said.
"We've become a comics hotbed," Humphrey said. "There's a lot of support for local and indie content. We have fans who support the art."
This year's event features 150 tables, 100 exhibitors and panel discussions ranging from "Pitching Your Comic from Start to Finish" to "Comics to Make Your Kids Smarter."