By KAYE THORNBRUGH
COEUR d’ALENE — Captain America, Jack Sparrow and Gandalf walked into a convention.
It could be the setup of a joke, or the beginning of a good cross-over movie. But on Saturday, it was real life, at the second Lake City Comicon at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.
“It gives me the freedom to do whatever I want,” said Jonathan Swindle, who came to the event dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.
He staggered and swayed around the Jacklin Building, speaking in an English accent, never breaking character.
“I’m just trying to help people have a smile and a laugh,” he said.
The practice of dressing up as a character, especially for events like comic conventions, is known as cosplay, a portmanteau of “costume” and “play.” The hobby has becoming increasingly popular and increasingly visible in recent years.
Cosplayers mingled with other fans at the comic book and pop culture show, which featured 75 exhibitors selling comics, collectibles, art, toys, gaming supplies, handmade crafts and more.
“You’re going to get a lot of different ages, backgrounds and cultures, and people celebrating things they love,” said Nathan O’Brien, the founder and organizer of Lake City Comicon. He’s also the founder of Lilac City Comicon, held each June in Spokane. “The goal is just to have fun and see things you’ve never seen before.”
Cosplay was a major component of Force Academy, a show put on by the Coeur d’Alene-based group Creative Art and Magic.
During the show, an actress dressed up as Ahsoka Tano from “Star Wars” helps children to build their own lightsabers, teaches them the ways of the Force and then guides them as they face the villainous Kylo Ren.
Loren Roberts, who came to the event dressed as Harry Potter, said Force Academy was dreamed up three years ago. Originally featuring only “Star Wars” characters, the show now incorporates heroes and villains from other franchises, including the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the “Harry Potter” series.
“We bring joy to everyone, whether you’re a kid or an adult,” she said.
The show is designed to entertain and empower kids.
“We thought of a show that could teach kids something important, that they don’t have to be afraid of anything,” said Lilah Roberts, who plays Ahsoka Tano in the Force Academy show.
She said she’s drawn to Ahsoka because the character is fearless and independent. Cosplay gives her a chance to try on that persona herself.
“It’s very freeing,” she said. “Anyone can be anything they want.”
In 2018, around 1,300 people attended the first Lake City Comicon. The high turnout was a pleasant surprise to O’Brien.
“It surpassed everybody’s expectations,” he said.
O’Brien said he wants to establish Lake City Comicon as an annual, affordable event for all ages.
“We want to give people something to look forward to year after year,” he said.