'Plastic Crack' and The Kindest Vader Turn Up at Wizard World Comic Con in Boise 

click to enlarge The cosplay game was strong on the second day of Wizard World Comic Con.

Harrison Berry

The cosplay game was strong on the second day of Wizard World Comic Con.

The man in the extremely lifelike Darth Vader costume had just taken a photo with a fan, and asked if it was a good snapshot. Standing in the middle of the Wizard World Comic Con on July 14, the Dark Lord of the Sith was surrounded by stormtroopers and Imperial officers, and it says a lot that the American Film Institute's third-greatest cinema villain was happy to pause for photo ops with Star Wars fans, children and amazed passersby.

click to enlarge - Calvin Blitman of All About Games said he spent about eight hours painting figurines for the game Shadespire. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Calvin Blitman of All About Games said he spent about eight hours painting figurines for the game Shadespire.
Comic conventions are some of the most welcoming places on earth. Manga junkies, tabletop gamers, cosplay enthusiasts—everybody is happy to be there and to meet new people. They came from all over the U.S. to see their favorite celebrities and dress up in often home-made costumes, and generally seemed stoked, yes stoked, to hang out in downtown Boise during the hottest part of the summer.

Wizard World, which continues until Sunday, July 15, has brought some standout talent to the City of Trees: William Shatner of Star Trek and Boston Legal; Star Trek: The Next Generation cast members Denise Crosby, Marina Spirits, Brent Spiner and John De Lancie; members of the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Charisma Carpenter and James Marsters.

The convention also brought hundreds of vendors selling everything from comic books and plush dolls to katana swords and board games. In one sales area was bookshelf containing only the first volumes of long manga series, which had been set up so that potential readers wouldn't be intimidated: Some manga series span hundreds of published volumes. Calvin Blitman manned the booth at the All About Games corner on the second floor of the Boise Centre, where about a dozen people were playing loaner games, chatting and making purchases.

click to enlarge - Left to right: Leah Betts and Katie MacMaster dressed as characters from The Handmaid's Tale. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Left to right: Leah Betts and Katie MacMaster dressed as characters from The Handmaid's Tale.
Blitman said he had spent about eight hours the night before painting figurines for a game called Shadespire getting them into "table-top quality" condition, and will likely spend another eight hours at some later time retouching them so they meet his personal standards. He said he can be shy, and joining a gaming community helped him socialize with people who liked the same things he does.

"We often joking call [board gaming] 'plastic crack,' but honestly, it's one of the best things I've done in my life," he said.

There was plenty of room for the locals at Wizard World—in one of the main staging areas, representatives of the Boise Philharmonic pitched tickets for its upcoming Pops Series featuring music from the Star Wars movies—but the shadow of a tense political climate cast even here. Dressed as handmaidens a-la The Handmaid's Tale, an award-winning dystopian novel adapted into a hit Hulu series of the same name, Leah Betts and Katie MacMaster knew their red cloaks and Puritanical head-coverings were sending a message.

"Walking through Boise, I felt like an ominous presence, you know what I mean?" said Betts. "It's a reminder to everyone else" that outside the convention, access to women's health care, workplace protections and other hard-won gains for women are under siege.
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