Empower Comic Con delivers a message to teens

Ryan Thompson

A recent comic convention united and engaged geeks of all types in cosplay, or costume play, gaming and the arts. Charity DeLay, as well as other event creators, organized the Empower Comic Convention at the Capital Plaza Hotel on Feb. 20 and 21.

“Become worthy, pick up the hammer and then pass it on to the next person,” DeLay said.

Empower Con used the symbol of Thor’s hammer to promote empowerment for less represented members of the geek culture, including this year’s theme, women. As of 2015, Jane Foster now wields the hammer in Marvel Comics, which helped shape the theme for the convention’s message.

“It’s very easy to forget to be who you are or to stand up for who you are, and I know super heroes are a great way to get that message across,” said DeLay.

The comic convention raised money for Connie’s Closet, a charitable organization aimed at helping local teens “dress to express” by providing clothing and other resources to help young people from sixth grade through high school feel more confident.

“There’s a lot going on in the world of these kids that we can’t fix or make better,” DeLay said. “But we can help stand up for them and make sure they’re comfortable in their own skin.”

In correspondence with the theme, Empower Con brought in three female celebrities to the Capital Plaza, Lindsay Wagner, famous for her starring role in “The Bionic Woman,” Gigi Edgley, stage actress known for her work with Jim Henson Company, and Naomi Grossman, writer and star of hit solo show “Carnival Knowledge.” All three women gave photo opportunities and hosted panels during the event.

The convention featured a number of talented Midwest artists including Brianna ‘Bri Pi’ Crozier, watercolorist, Chelsea Mann, illustrator, and Rianna Melton, duct tape designer.

Kansas authors such as James Young and Suzanne Dome, and a Midwest cosplay group, Another Castle Creations, hosted panels.

The Iron Brothers of Topeka also attended the event and brought plenty of energy with their Iron Man and Warmachine costumes. Eric Collins’ cosplayed as Red Dalek, a villain from BBC series Doctor Who, and entertained convention goers throughout the event.

Boom Comics, a Topeka board game and comic book shop, presented a spread of comics featuring female protagonists, including the new “Thor” series, in celebration of Empower Con’s theme. Amanda Lynn Chainmaille offered a wide variety of unusual homemade items including chainmail neckties, scale mail pouches and dog tags made from real comic books.

“It’s about being who you are and being proud of who you are,” said Michael Leary, co-owner of Amanda Lynn Chainmaille.

Nikki Blackburn, an event organizer, encourages people to make the trip to conventions such as Empower Con, saying it is a great way to meet new friends.

“It’s really cool to see a convention that emphasizes empowering not just women, but everybody,” said Blackburn. “Everybody enjoys comics and everybody enjoys games.”