SCHENECTADY -- The Schenectady County Public Library was alive with 'cosplay' Saturday, as enthusiastic fans dressed as their favorite characters from comic books, movies, books, cartoons and video games.
"This is the first time we've really focused on cosplay," said Leah LaFera, chairwoman of the committee that organized Electric City Comic Con 2019.
Saturday marked the fifth annual Electric City Comic Con. LaFera was instrumental in organizing the annual tradition at the Schenectady County Public Library. She said the "core value" of the convention is connecting new readers to illustrators and authors. The convention featured more creators than prior years with its "artists ally," which had about 15 comic book artists, many of them selling their own graphic novels as well as prints of drawings of popular industry characters from franchises like Marvel, DC and Star Wars.
LaFera, whose day job is librarian in charge of adult programming, said adding a new emphasis on cosplay -- short for costume play -- was a natural evolution for the Electric City Comic Con.
"As you can see, we have a ton of cosplayers that come out for this event. We were seeing every year, just an enormous amount of people, almost everyone who comes is dressed up," she said.
One cosplayer, Addy Conley from Niskayuna, dressed as "Princess Mipha," a character from "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wind" video game. Conley participated in a cosplay panel, where he shared her insights on some of the elements of effective cosplay. Addy is the secretary of the Upstate New York Cosplay Society, an organization that she said has hundreds of members living in the Capital Region.
"We've been around for about 11 years. We help out at Genericon at RPI, we help out at Albany Comic Con. We help at events where people don't know how to run cosplay contests," she said.
Conley said the art of cosplay can be about self-expression, showing devotion to a particular character or fictional universe, or about showing off one's craftsmanship in creating elaborate costumes.
"You've just got to have the courage to make that leap and try it out," Conley said.
Lavonne Tucker of Schenectady said her choice to dress as "Raven" from the Teen Titans cartoon show was to honor her love for the character.
"I've been watching that TV show since I was a kid, and I recently started watching it again," she said.
LaFera said the Electric City Comic Con typically attracts about 1,500 people, and she believes Saturday's event likely exceeded that total, possibly for a new record for the convention.
Females seemed to outnumber males at the event. Tucker said she thinks cosplay is a factor in why so many women of all ages love to come out to comic book conventions.
Her friend Annie Bradt, who dressed as a male character, Darth Vader, agreed.
"Halloween is the only other time you can dress up like this, besides conventions," Bradt said. "Darth Vader is awesome. He has the force. He's been popular for at least 30 or 40 years. George Lucas is my favorite director. James Earl Jones did the voice, and he's the voice of Mufasa in the Lion King."
Electric City Comic Con 2019 also featured the typical staples of a comic book convention, vintage comic book dealers and toys, both for sale and display.
Scott Ferguson, a Schenectady County sheriff's deputy, provided security at the event, and displayed some of his personal toy collection, including the original 12 Kenner Star Wars figures and several Six Million Dollar Man figures.
"Some of them are stuff I had as a kid, and some of it is stuff I've collected over thirty years of collecting," he said. "The Star Wars stuff is definitely my favorite. I saw the movie 12 times in 1977."
One of the artists at the convention was Zack Giallongo, an illustrator and author of several Star Wars licensed graphic novels including "Star Wars Ewoks: Shadow of Endor" and "Star Wars Doodles." Giallongo said "work for hire" projects for major companies like "Star Wars" owner Disney often isn't as lucrative for artists as their own creator-owned projects, like his graphic novel "Broxo," which is about teenage barbarians.
"The advantage of doing something like Star Wars it is opens up the rest of my work to a much larger audience," he said.
Giallongo acted as the host for an event called "Iron Cartoonist" at the Electric City Comic Con. The event featured three artists competing in a series of drawing contests, each based on a challenge, such as drawing a specific celebrity in a scenario chosen by members of the crowd.
Artist Melody Often, creator of the "Trinadot" graphic novel series, won the five-round contest, receiving high praise for her rapid-fire portrayal of actor Steve Buscemi playing the part of a plumber.