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Cosplayers pose for a photo at the Ohana Comic Con's Elk Grove event in October. The first Hanford-Visalia Comic Con comes to the Kings County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Feb. 3. 

Contributed by JR Tiangco

The first-ever Hanford-Visalia Comic Con is this Saturday at the Kings County Fairgrounds. 

Comic cons are ground zero for everything people love about fandom. You can track down collectibles, chat with old or new friends about who would win a fight between Yoda and Wolverine. Or just be yourself — by cosplaying as someone fictional. (Cosplaying, for the uninitiated, is dressing up like a favorite character). 

Comic cons have become big business in our age of mainstream geekdom.

What started as small events for hardcore fans of the genre has become multi-million big business. The San Diego Union Tribune estimates that the economic impact of the largest annual comic convention, the San Diego Comic-Con, is somewhere in the range of $140 million every year.

It seems like movie franchises, comic book runs and television shows can be made or broken before ever being released, depending on how comic con fans respond to their previews and casting announcements.

Though, in the case of the SD Comic-Con backlash against Ben Affleck being cast as Batman, sometimes those fans are incredibly, shamefully wrong in retrospect.

My first comic convention experience was long before they were hosting the likes of Robert Downey Jr. or any of the Avengers. I was in high school in the late ‘90s and a small group of collectors and vendors collected together in a small hotel’s meeting room to buy, sell and trade comics.

Rest assured, it was just comics at that time. You’d have an easier time finding the Holy Grail than you would finding a T-shirt with Jason Voorhees on it or a Deadpool poster back in those days.  

I was there looking for anything related to my favorite comic book character, The Maxx, a giant purple, mentally ill superhero that may or may not also be a giant Australian rabbit.

I guess I should back up a bit so that I can confess something that has always shamed me.

My local comic shop was a place called Troll & Unicorn that never had any Maxx back issues in stock. No matter how often I went, I could never find any of the older issues. But the owner, Heather, told me that if I attended the comic con, she’d use her contacts to get me the entire run — provided, of course, I pay for them.

When comic con day came, I was so excited I arrived early — so early I was there before Heather. While browsing some long-haired fellow’s comics, I found them. All the old issues of “The Maxx” I needed — even the terrible cross-over issue with “Gen 13.”

So I bought them all.

By the time Heather showed up with copies of every issue of Maxx — even the terrible cross-over event with Spawn and Sonic the Hedgehog — I was nearly out of money and definitely had a complete Maxx collection.

I told her I never had much money to begin with and re-bought an issue of “The Maxx” No. 8 (the awesome cross-over event with Pitt) from her out of guilt.

I still have all those comics and read them regularly, despite the fact that after 20 years, they resemble ancient papyrus documents and, though not directly, I have Heather and Troll & Unicorn to thank because without a neighborhood comic shop, I would have never even known who The Maxx even was.

Well, at least until 2028, when it’s revealed at the San Diego Comic-Con that he’ll be played by Ben Affleck in “Avengers 15: The Revenge Sonic.”

Parker Bowman is a staff reporter for the Hanford Sentinel, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ Parker_THS.  “Valley Vertigo,” named after the classic Hitchcock movie about obsession, is a weekly column about pop culture obsessions and anything else that may pop up throughout the week. 

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