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Get your nerd on: RobCon gears up for 34th year

Jonathan Roberts • Jun 24, 2019 at 10:58 AM

For 34 years, RobCon has provided comic book fans in East Tennessee with a yearly convention right in their backyard.

Getting its start in the 1980s, it’s grown from a tiny venue with “maybe five vendors” to the Meadowview Conference Resort and over 35,000 square feet of comics, games and collectables, as well as some big-name special guests.

The one thing organizers pride themselves on though, is having something for everyone or, as they say it, having “all things nerdy.”

“It’s a labor of love,” said Diana Simpson, who has been part of RobCon since 2002. “It takes a lot of work.”

That work hasn’t been for naught though — evidenced by the continued growth since RobCon’s inception.

“The first show happened at the Cameo Theater in Bristol, then the mall in Bristol, then we were in Viking Hall,” Simpson said of RobCon’s venue growth. “It’s kind of been stepping up to Meadowview for a long time.”

And while the show has gotten exponentially larger, it hasn’t changed much over the years in terms of layout and theme. Simpson saying they like to keep things consistent — with a very art-focused show, though she described their method to planning as bringing “something for everybody.”

This year, however, there are some new features, starting with an expanded focus on gaming and a cosplay contest Sunday where the winner will get $250. There will also be a kids cosplay contest on Saturday, though it’s not going to be as serious or competitive as the adult contest. 

“Sunday is our cash contest, so it is a big deal for us because we’re one of the biggest cash prizes in this area,” Simpson said.

Perhaps the biggest draw for this year’s RobCon is a special guest lineup that features the likes of Butch Patrick, who played Eddie Munster on the 1960s T.V. show “The Munsters”; Jackson Bostwick, the original “Captain Marvel”; George Lowe, the voice of the title character on “Space Ghost Coast to Coast”; Carey Means, the voice actor of Frylock from “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”; several high-profile comic book artists and more.

“George Lowe is just so much fun and Carey Means randomly starts talking like Frylock and it’s just awesomely weird,” Simpson said. “I’m very excited for Jackson Bostwick, and Eddie Munster is probably the one I’m most excited for.”

Last year’s RobCon brought in 3,700 visitors, and this year, Simpson is expecting more than 4,000 attendees but said she’s hoping for 6,000, which would put RobCon in the upper echelon of comic conventions in the region.   

RobCon 2019 kicks off on June 29, with the first panel, titled “Comics in Film,” beginning at 11 a.m. There will also be dozens of vendors on hand, as well as replicas of the Mystery Machine from “Scooby Doo,” the Ecto-1 from “Ghostbusters” and the genuine goblin head from the Stephen King movie “Maximum Overdrive.”

Tickets are $15 for Saturday, $10 for Sunday and $20 for a weekend pass. Kids under 12 are free. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.robcon.org.

“It’s just pure nerdery, and I love it,” Simpson said.

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