It was Bryan Harris’ profound love of pop culture that first drew him toward the Capital City Comic Con — C4 — but it was the annual event’s community that ultimately encouraged him to become a co-owner of the local operation that brings Hollywood stars to Lansing.
“I’ve always loved conventions,” said Harris, who became a C4 partner in 2017. “Conventions are a place where everyone fits in. No one is weird or strange or what-not because we all are. It’s where my people are. I bought into the company because I wanted to be a part of building a place for all of us geeks to geek out together.”
This year’s stacked show features a reunion of several co-stars from 1986’s “Aliens” and the 1970s’ “Peanuts” cartoons. Another 2022 attraction is actor/comedian Tom Arnold (“True Lies”), who is also performing a VIP-only standup show at 9 p.m. Saturday (July 9) at the Radisson Hotel Lansing.
“Tom Arnold is a legendary comedian, actor and writer,” Harris said. “We had an unexpected opportunity to add him and we couldn’t be happier. Tom is with us all weekend for autographs and photos.”
Outside of Hollywood, notable comic creators attending include former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter and artist Bob Hall (“Avengers”). Wrangling this list of acclaimed talent is a far cry from Harris’ day jobs and accomplishments.
Harris, 44, a Troy native, moved to East Lansing in 1996 to attend Michigan State University, and he “more or less” stayed here ever since. His background is diverse. He is a civilian employee of the U..S Army, formerly worked at MSU in environmental health and safety, has a B..S in physics and an MBA and is nearing completion of a master’s in environmental management.
Recently, he’s kept busy rebuilding C4 back into its original, in-person status. The locally grown con, which launched in 2015, was completely derailed by the pandemic. Though, Harris said the C4 team, which includes co-owner Tim Hunt, is happy to finally return to the Lansing Center after being canceled the last two years. Being centrally located, Harris said the con draws from across the state, but he’s excited to see some familiar faces, as well.
“It feels good to be back in the saddle,” Harris said. “I’ve made so many great friends over the years, people I would never have known if not for C4. We have something for just about everyone. We do our best to build a show that’s a smart business decision for our B2B customers and a great value for attendees, which ultimately will result in a profitable business for us.”
This year, along with curating a roster of celebrities that locals can snap photos with, C4 is also offering shopping for attendees, contests, kid’s activities, cosplay groups, informative panels, plus some after-hours events.
A local talent connection on the bill this year is Flint-based comic artist Jason Moore, known for his work on “Elvira.” And while being an artist often means doing solitary work, he said C4 offers a nice change of pace.
“It’s a fun, family-friendly show,” Moore said. “I enjoy connecting with fans. It’s fun discussing art when they’re looking through my portfolio or asking for a custom piece of artwork and seeing their enthusiasm as they describe what they want. It’s hard to pinpoint one or two things because I really enjoy all aspects of conventions, but if I had to nail it down to one single thing, it would be connecting with fans of my work.”
Another local highlight is the public wedding of Shamus Smith (aka the Lansing Batman) and Katie Whittaker (the Capital City Wonder Woman) at 2 p.m. Sunday (July 10). However, “Wonderbat the Wedding” is not just for entertainment purposes.
“This is not a normal wedding,” said Smith, 48, of Leslie. “It’s more like a production. Afterwards, we’re going off to a private reception, then our honeymoon in California.” This is the second marriage for both. Smith’s five children and Whittaker’s four children will be in the wedding party. Smith’s father will be the best man and Whittaker’s biological mother will be the matron of honor.
The couple, who met five years ago in Grand Rapids, has since gone on to lead the League of Enchantment, a Michigan-based nonprofit consisting of 100 cosplayers who work with hospitals to bring joy to sick children.
Dressing up as Batman has helped Smith cope with PTSD. In 2015, Smith was driving on Laingsburg Road when 3-year-old Wesley Krupp ran out into the road. Smith slammed on the brakes and swerved but couldn’t avoid hitting him. This child’s mother, Ashley, performed CPR and revived him.
“All of us were a mess,” Smith said. “I couldn’t sleep for a week.”
Fortunately, Wesley survived and is doing better today. However, his injuries included a shattered pelvis and fractured skull, a brain bleed and lacerated spleen. After Wesley was released from the hospital, Smith visited him, which began the healing process for both. Smith gave Wesley several superhero toys, including Batman, his favorite. At a benefit dinner for him, Smith asked Wesley’s mom if he could attend as Batman, which he did.
“They forgave me,” Smith recalled. “It was a turning point in my life. I learned a lot about myself and the people who would stand beside me when going through all that. They picked me up. I dealt with PTSD because of it. I’m better now. I can speak openly about it without a panic attack. It was a pivotal change in my life.”
This sparked his involvement in the League and taking part in community events like C4.
“I realized there’s a need for this. I realized the power of what we do,” he said. “I wanted to do more. I’ve visited kids in the hospital and in hospice, trying to give them happiness in those moments. I’ve coordinated with groups all across the country. I’ve trained with Homeland Security. It’s been unbelievable.”
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