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By Brie Handgraaf
Fans of comic books, anime and manga won’t need to drive far to be immersed in various fandoms as a church brings the experience of comic con to Wilson.
“There is a Lutheran pastor in Chapel Hill that works with Ultimate Comics, so I thought he might know of another church that had done this, but nope,” said Ascension Lutheran Church Pastor Zach Harris. “We want to grow the church and if you do the same thing over and over, but expect different results, you can’t expect to get different results, so I’ve tried to come up with different ideas and this is pretty out of the box for a church.”
Harris noted that the three-day event focuses on community outreach more than growing the congregation, with all the festivities free and open to the public. Free Comic Book Weekend will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at 2512 Nash St. N. The festivities continue at 11 a.m. Sunday with an hour-long comic-themed service and activities running until 5 p.m.
Arkham Comix will be handing out free comic books. Harris said attendees can also receive a free HeroClix collectible game piece, attend a variety of panel discussions, chat with area artists and community groups and even take part in daily costume contests. Artist Louis Small Jr. also is giving out free signed prints for attendees donating six or more canned fruits, vegetables, meats, toiletry items or $10 to the Veterans Residential Services of Wilson.
“I’ve spoken with a lot of people through the years who are interested in comic books, manga and anime, so I wanted to be a facilitator to helping put together a comic con in Wilson,” Small said. “A lot of people talk about going to shows in Raleigh or Charlotte, and North Carolina has more comic cons than most other states, but we want to bring that here.”
Small, who teaches classes on drawing comic books, has a group of artists ages 9 to 15 who are participating in the event and will have prints for sale.
“Pastor Zach always does sermons around comics and he thought it’d be cool to do something more, so I said we’d donate a ton of comics,” said Arkham Comix owner Tiffany Young. “Any time we have the opportunity to do something with or for the community, we’re going to do it. Hopefully it will be an opportunity to reach people who don’t usually get to go to events like this.”
Harris, whose office is dubbed the “Bat Cave” because of all the Batman memorabilia on the walls, often incorporates his love for geekery into his sermons. He said while some might perceive the science fiction themes as anti-theological, he takes a different approach.
“The geek-minded community is often ostracized from the general population, but the church is all about reaching out to the disenfranchised, so this is a perfect event for the church to have,” he said. “I know some of these people will have never come through the door of a church before and we get one chance to make a first impression, so here it is.”
For more information, visit facebook.com/arkhamcomix2/ or http://alcwilson.org/.