HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Like any great sci-fi epic or superhero story, The Huntsville Comic & Pop Culture Expo started from humble beginnings. "The first year Jeremy [Long] put this on, it was in the Jaycees building at John Hunt Park," recalled Spinner Rack Comics owner Steven Hinton. "Very small."
Long remembers the 2016 festival well and agrees it's a far cry from where the convention is held now - the Von Braun Center. "We're a three day show and we take 150,000 square feet of the VBC," he said.
With more people from all walks of life flocking to the Rocket City on a permanent basis, the convention has grown exponentially, gaining its own fandom from visitors as well as residents.
"It's growing right along with the city. The city is expanding like crazy," said Josh Olive, owner of Haven Comics in Madison. "We're very proud to have the expo here in Huntsville. I'm very glad to be part of it.
This year's expo is boasting special guests from comics, television, and the movies. Stars like "Megaforce" and "Rocky Horror" alum Barry Bostwick, and the big kahuna of the far reaches of the galaxy, Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.
The convention offers people a chance to escape into cosplay. Declan Cross showed up to Friday's opening dressed as The Mandalorian. "I'm a bank teller," Cross said, "so every day I'm in business casual, filing people's money away. But in my free time, this is what I get to do."
It's even inspired some to build businesses supporting fans of animation, art, acting, and fantasy role-playing. Terina and Layla Curtis are co-founders of CheerWeeb, an online apparel and accessories store.
"We put our love of cheer and anime together, and that's what we have," explained Terina. "It was me, my two sisters that mostly got my mom to actually make the store with anime in it," added Layla. "She was probably just going to do cheer for most of it, but we were able to convince her to do anime and we got her to watch some of it."
"While it started with comic books and that's kind of the core, it's blown up into so much more," observed Hinton.
The 8th Annual Huntsville Comic & Pop Culture Expo runs through Sunday, April 23.