Comicpalooza: From Literally Nothing to Texas’s Largest Pop-Culture Shindig

The celebrity guest list for Comicpalooza 2017 includes Amy Jo Johnson, who played Kimberly Ann Hart (a.k.a. the Pink Power Ranger) in the original 1993 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series.
The celebrity guest list for Comicpalooza 2017 includes Amy Jo Johnson, who played Kimberly Ann Hart (a.k.a. the Pink Power Ranger) in the original 1993 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series.
Photo courtesy of Comicpalooza
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When John Simons sought to bring a legitimate comic con to Texas for the first time since the early 1980s, it took some legitimately hard work.

“Houston had a terrible reputation. It was really hard with people in the industry — the vendors, exhibitors, agents, guests and all the people that you need,” says Simons, CEO of Startling Events, which puts together Comicpalooza. “The people of Houston were always behind it…but it was essentially a sales call.”

The first Comicpalooza, in 2008, took place in the lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in Katy — and it was only a signing related to the release of The Dark Knight.

Comicpalooza 2017 will take up more than 1.1 million square feet of the George R. Brown Convention Center with exhibit space, panel discussions, a “maker’s space,” cosplay, gaming and a heavy-hitting list of celebrities that includes Chuck Norris, who Simons says hasn’t posted up at a comic con since 1974.

You know, small potatoes.

While people will focus on cosplay and celebrities – as they should, because Amy Jo Johnson (who played the Pink Power Ranger), Anthony Mackie (Sam “The Falcon” Wilson in the Marvel Universe) and various Walking Dead alumni are scheduled to be in the house – there’s 2,000-plus hours of stuff to do. (By the way, Simons confirms that Comicpalooza will return to the Memorial Day slot in 2018, which will also be the festival’s tenth anniversary).

There will be PC gaming tournaments, including Rocket League (Friday), Overwatch (Saturday) and League of Legends (Sunday). Comic-book fare includes vendors selling rare and unusual finds as well as portfolio reviews for aspiring authors and artists. Comicpalooza’s film festival will showcase Amy Jo Johnson’s The Space Between. There’s also pro wrasslin’ and Houston Roller Derby exhibition matches.

Simons is especially stoked on the maker’s space, which showcases technologies such as robots. This year, there will be a 3-D printer on site, where “you can scan yourself and make a full-size copy of yourself,” says Simons. (Send that life-size facsimile to your ex. We’re sure he or she will love it.)

What has it been like to go from literally nothing to an attendance-breaking record of 43,800 folks in 2016?

“Amazing. Rewarding. I’m very grateful,” says Simons.

Comicpalooza is scheduled to take place from Friday, May 12 through Sunday, May 14 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas. Admission costs $10 to $275. For more information, check out comicpalooza.com.

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