It was a curious scene to the unaware bystander. It was a milling crowd of humans who appeared to don parts of machines.
Metal masks swooped to cover one part of a man’s eye and cheekbone as he swept soundlessly over the carpet in PVC platform boots with buckles crawling up the sides. A slip of a girl darted by soundlessly with a leather skull-cap and eyes covered by mechanical telescope lens. And many others like them made up the attendees for Saturday’s premiere event, Ama-Con.
The all-day comic, anime and steampunk convention took place in the Civic Center’s Heritage room and is a first of its kind for Amarillo, a fact that was not lost on attendees.
“It’s really good that the friends of the library brought this in,” says Sheree MacDonough, who brought her two daughters, ages 10 and 12, along with her. “My girls read those anime-style comic books – Manga! That’s it! And they just love them, so this is a way of showing them that their books can come to life.”
Sheree is a 38-year-old stay-at-home mother. She is the last person one would find at a comic convention, but the self-proclaimed ‘soccer-mom’ seems at ease as she chats with another woman and cranes her neck occasionally to check on her two girls as they flit around the convention room.
“Oh sure, at first I thought it was a bit weird,” she says with a slight shrug of acknowledgement, tucking her white handbag underneath her arm before continuing.
“But then you start just looking at things, and while I certainly wouldn’t wear any of these outfits, I sure can admire them. A good outfit takes work to put together, and these took work and imagination – look at how detailed some of them are!”
Sheree spreads her hands around her in demonstration; crowded booths of vendors that cater to the steampunk-lover, the comic book reader, or the anime escapist surround her in testimony.
“Amarillo has a lot of ‘nerds’ – if I can really lump them into that category,” says Selah Danby as she flips the red cape of her striped Japanese anime-oriented costume out of the way.
“All those ‘weird’ kids in high school who read those ‘crazy anime books’ and are obsessed with them? They have crazy imaginations and they grow up into adults who still have those imaginations and no place to have fun with them. This is a good thing to have. Let the big kids blow some steam off!”
With a wild array of booths, vendors and costumes, it’s a dazzling display before the spectator who takes the scenic route around the convention set-up. Rows of chairs are pushed to capacity as cos-play contests, belly dancing shows and workshops are hosted in succession throughout the afternoon.
Several heavy-hitting stars of the comic book world were also present: Color artist Chris Summers, who has done work for Motion Comics, Chris Holm, who authors a steampunk comic series of pets who occupy post-apocalyptic San Antonio, and the author of the smash series “Lil’ Depressed Boy”, S. Steven Struble made appearances.
Local vendors, Recycled Entertainment, Shaolin Shadow Comics and Gamequest, which cater to all levels and types of ‘geeks,’ also set up their wares for browsing and information. Other vendors came from further away, with steampunk shop Turner’s Tokens coming from Austin and Airship Isabella, a traveling group of artists, making a stop on their international tour.
While no official announcements have been made for a repeat convention, the rave reviews from the community hold a hint for the future. The Amarillo Steampunk society announced that they will hold meetings and events for throughout the year.
According to a release issued on the official Facebook page, the local steampunk group, Iron Shark Crew, received official status as an Airship, evidence of a growing foothold taken by the underground niche.
by Sarah Clark
Sarah is a senior at the University of Texas and plans on attending law school once she receives her B.A. in political communications. She is a former editor of the AC Current and is addicted to the rush of publications. She is currently held captive by her two dogs, iPhone and never-ending to-do list.