BOARDMAN — Celebrities, local and national memorabilia collectors, and local cosplay participants are gathering this weekend at the Holiday Inn South to have fun and perhaps buy and sell a few of their wares.
The Mahoning Valley Comicon 2022 hosted its first event under the sponsorship of Doomsday Toys and Comics of Niles.
Travis Bowen, co-owner of Doomsday, said Saturday more than 800 people are expected over the two-day event that includes more than 60 tables of vendors.
“The celebrities are our big draw,” said Bowen, who opened the Niles store with partner Pete Strineka of Howland several months ago. “This is our first experience doing something like this in the area, although I’ve attended many Comicons in the past.”
Among the celebrities meeting guests, telling stories and posing for pictures was Deep Roy, whose acting credits include being the Oompa Loompa roles in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” along with “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “NeverEnding Story” and “Transformers.”
Roy said it was a pleasure working for famed director Tim Burton on the Willy Wonka remake.
“He wanted me especially for the part, that then expanded to three, seven and eventually to all the roles,” Roy said about the 165 roles, which still stands in the Guinness Book of Records. “I had to do my own dance moves.”
Another celeb manning a table was J.J. Cohen, who was one of six actors to appear in all of the “Back to the Future” movies.
“I was originally the choice to play Biff Tannen,” Cohen said. “But Eric Stoltz (the actor who started filming as Marty McFly) was the same height as me and that wouldn’t work too well.”
Cohen said by the time producers fired Stoltz and got the man they wanted — Michael J. Fox — Cohen said he had been recast. Actually, Cohen played a variety of roles, unlike the other actors who played in all three parts of the trilogy.
After being seen as 1955 high-school punk Skinhead in the first film, and as a member of Biff’s entourage in 1955 and alternate 1985 in the second movie, Cohen appeared at the close of the third film as a member of Needles’ gang.
Cohen said sticking with “Back to the Future” lost him a role in “Once Broken,” which was Jim Carrey’s film debut.
Cohen’s Hollywood resume includes a role in “The Principal” with Lou Gossett Jr., who he calls “the most impressive performer he ever worked with.” He also played the Wildcats leader in the “V” series.
The actor said he loves to interact with his fans and some of the proceeds he makes goes to his charity of Children’s Hospital of Nevada. Roy also shares his take from the weekend with the Make A Wish Foundation.
“It’s all about the kids in need,” he said.
A local vendor, sponsored by the local Star Trek club, is sharing proceeds with another celebrity guest, Ming Chen, a New Jersey native who was one of the stars of “Comic Book Men” a series that had a seven-year run on the AMC cable network. Chen said the show was sort of like “Pawn Stars” and focused on collectibles and cosplay.
“At the end, being fond of this nerdy stuff has paid off,” Chen said noting that he grew up with school “friends” making fun of him and calling him a nerd. “Now I am living a dream as a geek.”
Chen said he finds people who used to make fun of him always asking about a certain celebrity he knows or getting a popular collectible.
“All of a sudden, I’m the hit of the parties,” he said with a laugh.
Dan Lowery of Champion was on hand at Comicon displaying his two creations, the “Lost in Space” robot and an R2-D2 robot from “Star Wars.”
Lowery said he built the “Lost In Space” robot over two years from wood, acrylic and fiberglass parts in the basement of his Champion Avenue home.
“The head was made from blown glass,” he said.
The Star Wars robot was a 3D printer creation, Lowery said, which is controlled by an Xbox 360 game controller.
“I have three 3D printers and the dome was a slow process — taking eight days to print,” he said.
Lowery credits his wife Becky, who accompanied him to the show on Saturday, with “putting up with and supporting his hobbies.”
Another local celebrity, Lisa Neeld, greeted fans with her husband, Jim Infante. Neeld, the Mineral Ridge High School graduate who gained fame as a Mrs. Playboy Playmate in the early 2000s, said she still lives in Cortland and works as a model and actress.
“It’s so good to see everyone,” she said.
On today’s schedule, Neeld will conduct a question-and-answer session about cosplaying, independent films and returning to her role as the star of the “Girl 2,” which she said is filming in Trumbull County this summer.
The show, according to Bowen, is split into four sections with the main ballroom, the lobby and Mill Creek Room featuring vendors. The talks, performances and costume contest will be taking place in the Event Room down the hall from the Mill Creek Room of the hotel.
Bowen said he plans on having a show in 2023. For more information, check the website at www.mahoningvalleycomicon.com.
WHERE: Holiday Inn, 7410 South Avenue, Boardman
TIME: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today
HOW MUCH: $10 admission
Event Room Schedule
Noon — Heroes of Cosplay with panelists Knightmage, Andi Serpenti and Ahhchew Cosplay.
1 p.m. — Dan Gorman, question and answer, licensed Topps card artist.
2 p.m. — Former Playboy model Lisa Neeld, question and answer.
3 p.m. — Costume contest with $250 in cash prizes for adults and children age 17 and younger