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A Comic Con comes to Camden

Will serve as ‘companion’ to Bishopville LizardMan Fest

Posted: February 15, 2018 3:37 p.m.
Updated: February 16, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Provided by John Stamey/

Cosplayers dress up as Stormtroopers from the Star Wars franchise during the August 2017 Cape Fear Comic Con in Wilmington, N.C. They might be seen again at the inaugural Camden Comic Con coming to the Shrine Club on March 3 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Cosplayers, actors, wrestlers and even some animals will take over the Camden Shrine Club from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 3 for the first-ever Camden Comic Con.

Comic con is short for comic book convention, a term that has expanded to cover a variety of usually one- to three-day festivals celebrating at least something -- if not everything -- to do with science fiction, fantasy, superheroes and even Bigfoot.

The Camden Comic Con is the creation of John Stamey, a Myrtle Beach resident who grew up in Morganton, N.C., off I-40 east of Asheville.

“We had three TV stations growing up,” Stamey said. “On Saturday afternoons, it was wrestling, more wrestling and then Shock Theater.”

Hence, his love for wrestling and horror.

Camden Comic Con will feature World Championship Wrestling legend Papa Stro Maestro, a long-time friend of Stamey’s, along with other legends of professional wrestling. Also scheduled to be on hand are illustrator and artist Gregbo Watson, actor and director Tom Gore, snakes and exotic animals from the Eastern Exotics Wildlife Foundation, author Ronald J. Rossmann, Bigfoot hunter and author Matthew Delph, actor/puppet master Nick Vernon, Antler Hill Arts (musicians) and author Hector Miray.

Champion cosplayer Misty Yates should be there, too.

Cosplay -- a contraction of “costume play” -- consists of dressing and using makeup to portray a favorite character from virtually any genre. Yates, for example, is known for pretty exactly transforming herself into DC Comics’ Harley Quinn, who’s often paired with

The Joker.

Aside from meeting these very interesting people, Camden Comic Con goers can come dressed up and enter a cosplay contest, partake of a virtual reality arcade, play tabletop games, attend a Game of Thrones roundtable and other panels and seminars.

Attendees March 3 can also have Stamey draw a caricature of them. That’s how the former Coastal Carolina University computer science assistant professor got into the business of comic cons in the first place about four years ago.

“I started doing caricatures with a partner and these comic cons were a great place to set up,” he said. “I looked around and said, ‘I can do this.’”

His first con went well, but not his second, thanks to Hurricane Matthew.

“I had dozens of vendors, but only about 200 people showed up,” Stamey said.

But he pushed on and the cons he’s put on have grown in size from one to the next, he said, with attendance often in the thousands. Stamey also hosts a weekly podcast, Comic Con Stars, which he puts on as “Dr. John.”

“One day last year, I was talking with a guy on my podcast who pointed out that the 50th anniversary of the Patterson-Gimlin film was coming up,” Stamey said, referring to footage of what was allegedly Bigfoot shot in 1967 by Robert Patterson and Robert “Bob” Gimlin. “We put together Bigfoot Day 2017 only eight weeks later.”

That festival takes place in Kingsport, Tenn. Others Stamey has organized have, and continue to be held in, Cape Fear, Charlotte, Jacksonville and Wilmington, N.C.; a steampunk (think Victorian Era aesthetics linked with science fiction elements) festival in Raleigh; and, now, the LizardMan Festival & Comic Con coming up in Bishopville June 9-10.

“It’s kind of in place of the old Cotton Festival,” Stamey said, noting that festival disappeared after flooding one year and being cancelled due to hurricane conditions the next. “I went to the folks there and said, ‘How about a Lizard Man festival?’ And they said, ‘Well, why don’t we have a Lizard Man festival?’”

The LizardMan Festival will be previewed during Camden Comic Con. Many of the same people will be participating, but the festival will be a three-day event, actually kicking off Friday, June 8 with a welcome by the Lee County Chamber of Commerce and speakers, including Delph and Lizardman: The True Story of the Bishopville Monster author Lyle Blackburn.

Festivities will continue on June 9 with various activities, including a street fair and chili cookoff. Things will, hopefully, wrap up June 10 with a tour of the “Lizard Man Trail,” including Scape Ore Swamp, one of the more famous Lizard Man sighting spots.

Stamey said he hopes people will come to Camden Comic Con as a way to get revved up for the LizardMan Festival. That’s one of the reasons, he said, he chose Camden -- it’s proximity to Bishopville. He also plays golf at the Camden Country Club, and raved about the course there.

Tickets will be $10 for adults. Children 12 and under will get in free. Stamey’s also giving away free VIP passes, including 45 he gave to the Chronicle-Independent to hand out. He said the idea is to get as many people to come to support the vendors who plan to be at the con. According to the con’s website, 6-foot tables for vendors are $75 each, with discounts for vendors who want to use two or three tables. Artists $35/table, also with discounts for two or three tables.

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