June 24, 2018
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Writers, artists, transformers attend Bangor comic book event

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Optimus Prime created a sensation the moment he lumbered into the lobby of the Bangor Civic Center.

People whipped out their cell phones and cameras to snap pictures of the most famous Transformer ever to grace screens large and small.

“I’ll take you all on,” Ray Maddocks, 39, of Morrill said as he struggled Saturday in the bulky homemade costume to make his way into the second annual BangPop Comic Book and Pop Culture Convention.

Maddocks and his friend Elmer Nickerson, 38, of Searsport dug out the costumes they made seven or eight years ago for Halloween to show off at the event, which is designed to bring a slice of big-time comic culture displayed at events such as the Comic-Con International in San Diego to the Queen City.

“The comfort factor is not high,” Maddocks said of his costume made of wood, Plexiglass, PVC piping, coffee cans, plastics bowls, a couple of angle brackets and other odds and ends. “But he’s one of the most liked Transformers, the head of all the good guys.”

Nickerson dressed as Megatron, the leader of the “bad guys” in the “Transformer” animated television series popular in the 1980s along with a line of toys and comic books. Recently, the characters were revived for two popular films, the latest of which opened this summer.

The robots in the series and the toys transformed into vehicles and weapons. Maddocks and Nickerson’s costumes weren’t able to make that conversion.

Wearing costumes of favorite characters is all a part of the comic book convention culture, according to Gibran Graham, who organized the first BangPop last year. The event was such a success that he expanded it to two days this year.

“The goal was to bring a piece of what I and others see happening in other parts of the country to Bangor,” Graham of Bangor said. “Comic books have moved into mainstream pop culture. People may not be able to go to San Diego, but I knew if there was something nearby, they would come.”

More than 300 people had come through the doors by 1 p.m. Saturday, the same number of people who attended the day-long show last year, he said.

The two dozen or so vendors at the event included comic book sellers, artists and writers.

Israel Skelton of Litchfield started sculpting large props such as Thor’s giant hammer, for himself a few years ago. Today, he sometimes provides low-budget, independent films with props.

Skelton’s meeting author Joe Hill, Stephen King’s older son, at last year’s BangPop event led to his biggest job so far. Hill commissioned Skelton to make sterling silver “Ghost Keys” from Hill’s graphic novel, “Locke & Key,” to send out as Christmas gifts. That led to Skelton making 500 of the keys in pewter for this summer’s Comic-Con International in San Diego.

While all the vendors at the Bangor show had a Maine connection, not all created what would be considered traditional comics or graphic novels. Philippe Guillerm of Hope sold his children’s comic, “Bobby the Buoy: The Maine Adventures.” Printed in bold colors on glossy paper, it tells the story of what happens when a lobster buoy decides to take a few too many chances.

Guillerm, a native of France, also is a sculptor. He said Saturday that he plans to write another book about Bobby’s adventures in Canada.

“In Europe,” he said, “the comic book culture is very highbrow. Every bookstore sells comic books and novels.”

Mark Ricketts, a veteran illustrator, who makes his living from his home in Bangor, took part in BangPop. He has done illustrations for McGraw Hill and Playboy and written for Marvel and Dark Horse comics.

He’s well-known in graphic-novel circles and even contributed a piece to one of Mike Mignola’s “Hellboy” books, according to a story published by the Bangor Daily News in 2007. Ricketts also designed Lumber Jill, the logo for this year’s BangPop festival, whom he described as a female version of Paul Bunyan.

Ricketts said that he welcomed the opportunity to be a part of the festival.

“Bangor needs more events focused on youth culture,” Ricketts said. “This can be inspirational for kids. I learned mythology and developed an interest in science through comics. Some people might think it’s junk, but that’s not true at all.

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