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Arts & Culture

Fandom Invasion gives North County a mini pop culture convention

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Allen Freeman
Some members of the Sci-Fi Coalition from a previous event in North County.

Saturday's cosplay-centric event offers panels, gaming, vendors

North County is about to get a mini Comic-Con this Saturday with Fandom Invasion.

Fandom Invasion takes inspiration from Comic-Con but it’s on a much smaller scale, likely to attract hundreds rather than tens of thousands of attendees. But like the massive pop culture convention, Fandom Invasion is fueled by passionate fans who just wanted to put on the kind of event they would want to attend.

The inaugural event takes place Saturday at Escondido's California Center for the Arts.

"It's a celebration of all of the fandoms, whether you're a DC or Marvel or Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who fan, it's got a little bit of everything for everybody," said Shawn Richter one of the event organizers. He believes in the convention with enough conviction to help finance it.

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The event is a labor of love from the San Diego-based Sci-Fi Coalition, a fan club started more than four years ago by president Shawn Alexander Mullen, who is also making a personal financial investment in the convention to see it get off the ground.

The Sci-Fi Coalition made up primarily of cosplayers who dress as characters and attend conventions and often partake in community and charity work. Mullen often appears as a Tusken Raider while Richter, who is the club vice president, prefers Captain America, Batman or the Mandalorian.

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Shawn Richter
Shawn Richter cosplaying as the Mandalorian.

"What we do at the fan club is we support a lot of local events and charities, fundraisers, charitable 5K's, anything supporting children, families, anything like that," Richter said. "A lot of us are cosplayers, not everybody, but a good group of us are, and we attend conventions all over Southern California, whether it's the big mothership San Diego Comic-Con, all the way down to the little hotel cons that we have in San Diego and in between. And since our inception four years ago, we've always thought that it would be fun to have our own convention."

And that's what they did. The convention is being organized and run almost exclusively by Sci-Fi Coalition members.

"From the very beginning, one of our goals was to have the show be very cosplay centered and cosplay heavy, there’s a huge cosplay community in Southern California," Richter explained.

That’s why the convention takes place in the fall when the weather’s cooler and more cosplay friendly for people whose costumes can be elaborate and warm.

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Allen Freeman
Sci-Fi Coalition president Shawn Alexander Mullen (center and without his Tusken Raider mask) at a previous fan event in North County.

For anyone who may not be familiar with cosplay, it takes dressing up as a character one step further from just wearing a costume.

"Cosplay is different than costuming," Richter said. "Cosplay is where you are acting like you are the character, and there's different degrees of that. Sometimes at an event, especially if kids are involved, if I dress up as Captain America, and the little boy thinks I'm Captain America then I am Captain America, and everything I say and do is Captain America. That's kind of the highest degree of that of cosplay. At a convention, there's still kids that you run into that think you're the real one, but also there's ten other Captain America's running around. So it's a little bit different."

The convention was supposed to make its debut last November but COVID-19 derailed the plans. So Fandom Invasion was never intended to arrive so close to a Comic-Con event. But the pandemic also forced Comic-Con to cancel its in-person event and it will be holding a Comic-Con Special Edition on Thanksgiving weekend just a few weeks after Fandom Invasion.

The California Center for the Arts also affords a beautiful venue for cosplay photography. Things you’ll find at Fandom Invasion will be panel rooms, vendors’ hall, 24-foot long gaming truck, and a focus on young cosplayers and artists.