Comics, Characters, Cos-Play and Games

The Valhalla Inn plays host to role-players, cos-players and fans of all kinds

Pop-culture in Thunder Bay got a giant boost in October 2015 with its first ThunderCon and TGG Game Expo, which experienced overwhelming success, and now is the time for the 2016 event, being held October 22 & 23 at the Valhalla Inn.

Jess Petro, the instigator of ThunderCon, who came up with the idea for a comic style convention, began with only ten vendors at a venue at the waterfront. Hoyt Nowak, owner of Thunder Games and Gifts (with a shop at 843 Red River Road), who partnered with Jess, wasn’t the only one interested in taking a big part. So many people wanted to get involved that the venue had to be changed, leaving Jess only 5 months of planning time for the ever growing contributions of ideas, talent and space required for vendors, games, performances and panel discussions. 

Jess settled on the Valhalla Inn and as soon as the doors opened for the event it was clear Jess’s dream had been realized.  “It was nuts!” Jess exclaims. “This exceeded all expectations I had.” 

Not only was attendance huge, selling out all the basic passes with nearly a thousand paying customers, Jess estimates that almost half the people attending dressed up in some manner. So it was the party atmosphere that stole the show. If you were there, you walked amongst Batman, Daenerys Targaryen, Black Widow, Warf, Kick-Ass, Predator, Poison-Ivy, Dr. Who, and any number of characters. If you plan to attend this year, take the opportunity to dress up, but you best keep your distance from the Expendable Crew Member. 

“It’s a community with likeminded interests,” says one vendor who sells pop-culture toys and games. And one speaker at a podium described how before the Internet was born, and before these kinds of events were common, many serious fans of particular TV shows, movies, and games thought they were all alone. Finding friends who shared their ferocious excitement used to be difficult. 

Today this sharing is not a problem and what aids this world of fantasies is not only common interests, but a bigger dimension. Star Trek generated crazy fans and inspired young people to take an interest in astronomy, engineering and science. So much so that even fans from Thunder Bay have run down to Cape Canaveral to watch Shuttle launches and interview astronauts and scientists, including Bill Nye. 

These dreamers certainly act on their interests, forming fan and game clubs and societies. They play incredibly intricate and dynamic games. They role-play, cos-play and fabricate amazing wardrobes. The local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronisms is certainly one. Their elaborate costumes and weaponry were in action on stage for mock combat. 

Even if you’re not a huge fan of this kind of popular culture, you can’t help but be swept up by the enthusiasm and variety. The people represented here are of all ages and races and genders and cultural backgrounds, and these fans and gamers are the nicest people in the world. 

About Duncan Weller

A writer and visual artist, Duncan Weller is a Governor General's Award winner who lives in Thunder Bay. You can visit his website at His latest two books are a novel, Flight of the Silk, and an expanded edition of the award-winning children's picture book, The Boy from the Sun.

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