Monte Johnjulio is captain of his own enterprise.
The New Bedford native and Wilmington High School graduate — dressed in a Star Trek uniform — was one of nearly 200 vendors taking part over the weekend in the 10th annual Youngstown Comic Con, a celebration of fantasy and sci-fi culture that attracted over 5,000 visitors.
The “con’ — short for convention — is one of the largest of its kind in Ohio, and Johnjulio brought his wares from North Carolina to be a part of it for the fifth straight year.
Johnjulio supports himself entirely through his RetroSteamStudios, traveling each weekend to artist and vendor conventions. RetroSteam specializes in props, costume pieces and weapons from the Steam Punk genre of sci-fi. Props and weapons Johnjulio has created have been used in films and videos, and he hopes to expand his line soon with retro-style, classic sci-fi ray guns and cannons and video game-style weaponry.
“I have been doing stuff like this my entire life,” Johnjulio said. “This is just the natural extension of what I have always done.
“I do some custom and casting on each piece. Everything is hand painted and each piece is unique.”
The two-day event at the Covelli Centre featured toys, collectables, T-shirts and original artwork by both local and regional artists, as well as a seemingly infinite number of comic books. Prices for the latter ranged from books that were 3 for $1 to rare editions that cost more than $500 each.
Fans lined up for autographs from the various guests. Those guests included Jason Mewes, star of the movies “Clerks” and “Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back,” and legendary comics artist Jim Steranko. Other guests included Darryl Banks, Graham Nolan, Arthur Suydam, as well as the three stars of “Comic Book Men.”
One of the most popular events was the Cos Play, which involves people dressing up in elaborate costumes of movie, comic book and television characters. The convention abounded with superheroes, Anime and Star Wars characters. Among the more unique costumes were Alice in Wonderland, Frankenstein and Pennywise, the clown from “It.”
Nick Devengencie from Niles created and wore the extremely detailed Pennywise costume. He said he has many hours into painting stitching and weathering the costume. In the end, Pennywise was one of the most popular photos people took at the con. Devengencie said he loves the character and he loves meeting all the people.
It is likely that elaborate costuming was already in his blood. Devengencie’s father, Dusty, was also walking around in an elaborate, handmade Batman costume.
The Youngstown Comic Con is sponsored by All-American Comics in Boardman and Niles. Organizer Greg Bartholomew said that he has seen the Comic Con go from a small local event at small venues to one of Ohio’s biggest cons held at the biggest venue in the area. Even with the huge venue, Bartholomew says he is forced to turn additional vendors away each year because there just isn’t the room for them.
He already is making plans for next year’s 11th annual event.