Doctor Who fans will have a photo opportunity with a replica TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space). (Submitted photo by Dover Public Library)
DOVER — In early August, maybe you’ll see the Batmobile roll into Dover. And, around the next corner, you might see the Ecto-1 of “Ghostbusters” fame. Maybe you’ll see Darth Vader or Super Mario. And, maybe you’ll see a long line at a time machine. Really. All of that is happening as part of the Dover Public Library’s Comic Con on Aug. 8. “We will have all these things that are geeky, nerdy and fun,” said Kerri Hollyday, a library assistant at the Dover Public Library. “It’s cool to be geeky and nerdy.”
The Dover Public Library has tapped into an audience hungry for comics, anime, manga and more. This year’s Comic Con, the library’s second, has expanded into a mini-festival that will extend over to the Biggs Museum, Delaware Heritage Park and a few downtown blocks, including part of Loockerman and Federal streets and North Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard by Legislative Mall. All this started two years ago, really, when Ms. Hollyday and Katy Goff, the teen librarian, held a “cosplay” event that attracted more than 100 teens dressed as their favorite fictional characters to the library’s multipurpose room. So they thought, why not try a Comic Con? For many local children, they never have the opportunity go to the big conventions held in metro areas. “Our kids don’t have to travel like that,” said Ms. Hollyday of the library’s regular teen loft patrons. “This would give them a little taste of the experience.” Teens and adults have found the library to be a great place to enjoy Japanese anime and graphic novels, discuss science fiction and play games. In many ways, it has proven to be an interesting social center for kids with similar interests. “When we started talking about having a comic con, we said we thought it would be great if we had 500 people,” said Ms. Hollyday. “And, it would be a hoot if we had a thousand.” Instead, 2,500 people showed up. “We did not see that coming,” said Ms. Goff. The duo, and others on the library staff, are now quickly approaching the second Dover Comic Con. And, it’ll be bigger and better. Indeed, there will be a 1966 Batmobile and Ecto-1 as part of the festivities. An artist is loaning his life-sized statues of Spiderman, Batgirl and Harley Quinn for display. Groups coming include characters in “Star Wars” and G.I. Joe costumes, the Delaware Ghostbusters, the Haunt Squad and the First State Potion Masters (Delaware’s first Harry Potter Alliance Chapter). The Delaware Anime Society will host showings of brand new anime. The library’s Teen Loft will be dedicated to Japanese arts and crafts and take on the name of the Otaku Outlook. “Otaku,” said Ms. Hollyday, represents the name for people obsessed with all things Japanese, particularly anime video and manga graphic novels. The library will host 50 artists, some with connections to major comics and some who are self-published. At various venues, there will be panel discussions. “We have a lot of kids here (at the library) that are just crazy talented and it’s good for them to see that there are people who are making a living creating art,” said Ms. Hollyday. The event also draws in a little Dover history with an interesting twist. The folks at Delaware Heritage Park are planning “Dr. Who meets Caesar Rodney.” No doubt the folks interested in that also will enjoy a little time travel in the TARDIS, the “Dr. Who” time travel machine that looks like a British police telephone booth.
For Ms. Hollyday and Ms. Goff, last year’s Comic Con did more than entertain. It was interesting, they said, to see the reactions of so many people who were entering the new Dover Public Library for the first time. It opened in the fall of 2012 and immediately saw a big jump in cardholders and interest in its new programs and offerings, including the Job Center and the Teen Center. For the latter, there recently was a Delaware State University professor using games as a means of introducing teens to computer programming. “Having an event like this was a good platform to show people all the resources we have to offer,” said Ms. Hollyday. “Hey, this isn’t your mother’s library anymore. The whole day, we heard a lot of people say they didn’t know libraries were like this, and a lot of local people that came had never been in the new library before. It was exciting to see new faces in the library.” The teen offerings consistently bringing in the kids. Every Friday night, 25 to 30 young people are there for anime showings. Every Saturday afternoon, about 50 kids visit the Teen Loft.
For the upcoming Comic Con, the library staff said it needs volunteers more than anything to make the second event another huge success. “We really, really need volunteers,” said Ms. Goff. The needs, she said, range from putting wristbands on guests to checking the costumed guests’ play weapons that must be plastic, foam or cardboard. Volunteers must be 17 and older. Each will receive a T-shirt. (This year’s event features Dover Comic Con T-shirts designed by Nicholas Coll, a library assistant.) This year’s event rapidly is approaching and it appears the Comic Con organizers have thought of pretty much everything. “It’s getting closer,” said Ms. Goff. “We’re a little nervous, but we’re very excited.” They just have to remember to put up the signs again to let the unsuspecting library visitors know what’s going on. “Last year, there were some people that weren’t sure if they had entered a dream or what when they saw Darth Vader walking by and then there’s Mario from Super Mario,” said Ms. Hollyday. Ms. Hollyday, now in her third year, said there have been a few times when she has had to stop for a reality check. “Sometimes I just have to take a minute and laugh,” she said. “We’ve been in meetings and I have said, ‘Did anyone here think that we’d be talking about this?’ I never thought that when I got hired at the library we’d be discussing that we’d put the Batmobile here and the Ecto-1 here, and the TARDIS will go here.” “And, where are we going to put the life-sized statues,” Ms. Goff chimed in.
For more information on the event, visit www.cityofdover.com/comic-con/