Hundreds of people are expected to attend Middletown’s first comic book and anime convention next month, “Galactic Con.” The event will feature dozens of vendors, artists, special guests, and people wearing a wide range of costumes, from the “Star Wars” movies to the “Sailor Moon” anime series.

“It’s going to be very big. We’re very excited to bring this type of event to the town,” said Joe Manzo, Galactic Con’s organizer. “We’ll have prizes, a costume contest, pop culture stuff – it’s going to be great.”

Manzo, his wife, Sapphira, and daughter, Lana, moved from Tampa, Florida to Middletown three years ago. They are all avid comic book and anime fans who felt that Middletown was missing something.

“The comic book store that was on Main Street closed down right after we moved here,” Manzo recalls. “We had to go to Newark, by the University of Delaware, to find comic books.”

With time Manzo and his family found more people in the MOT area who were also into comics and anime. Galactic Con will be a way of bringing everyone together, he said.

The fans among us

Kristi Hamm is the owner of Generation Otaku, an anime store in Delaware City. She has been a fan of Japanese comic books and animation since she was in the sixth grade when she started watching “Sailor Moon” on the Cartoon Network. She has since moved on to anime series often unheard of by most people in the U.S.

“My favorite anime is ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena,’ it’s so cool,” Hamm said. “I prefer watching it in Japanese with the English subtitles. Sometimes I can walk away, hear the Japanese, and not miss what’s going on. I’ve learned the language.”

At least four times a year, Hamm attends anime and comic book conventions in cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore to meet other fans. Last August, she attended Delaware’s first convention, the Dover Comic Con.

“At least 1,000 people attended it. It was great to see people enjoy the convention in our state,” Hamm said. “Interest in anime is growing. There are so many genres that kids and adults can choose from.”

Roberto Gutierrez of Middletown is a 30-year-old whose passion for comic books and anime extends to his childhood. He said that growing up in Mexico exposed him to anime series like “NEON Genesis Evangelion,” one of Japan’s most influential series which exploded in popularity in the mid-1990s in Latin America, Asia, and Europe.

“I wouldn’t have had the chance to see ‘Evangelion’ in America, I don’t think. Here, people were watching mostly about ‘Pokemon,’ and ‘Dragon Ball Z,’” Gutierrez said. “Things are changing now and that’s great because the anime story lines are so interesting. I can see how people can get hooked quickly once they find their favorite.”

A chance to get into it

Galactic Con will give people who have always wondered about comic books and anime to ask questions and partake on the celebrations, according to organizers.

“I am most excited for a Comic Con in Middletown because it’s an affordable, family friendly event that will have lots of great costumes and art. I grew up reading comics with my family and hope to the Con introduces lots of families to the genre,” said Sapphira Manzo.

The event will be held March 21 at Everett Meredith Middle School and is being sponsored by local businesses like Half Baked Patisserie, dozens of comic books stores from in and out of the state, and major sponsors like Chick-fil-A. Tickets have been prized reasonably, said Manzo – $3 per person or $5 for the whole family. There are also early bird ticket specials.

For those who want to attend just to see the costumes, Walgreens will sponsor a booth at the show where they can take photos with their favorite characters.

“We started organizing this in September and it’s been a ton of work. More than what I thought,” Manzo said. “We’ll have a good turn out and it’ll all be worth it.”