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StocktonCon features Manteca High graduate

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StocktonCon features Manteca High graduate

Manteca High graduate and Marvel comic book artist Ramon Villalobos, 27, is the lead artist for this weekend’s StocktonCon.

Photo contributed/

POSTED August 8, 2014 1:30 a.m.

STOCKTON – Calling all superheroes, wrestling fans, movie buffs and gamers.

StocktonCon returns to the Port City this weekend with an expanded format and beefed-up lineup. For the first time in the event’s short history, the activities will be spread out over two days at the Stockton Arena.

Guests can purchase one- or two-day passes for $12 and $20 apiece at the door, respectively. The doors open Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. Children under the age of 12 are free with a paid adult. 

In the last three years, the pop culture festival has outgrown its original venue and its spot on the calendar. Its rise has been fast and meteoric – not unlike the superhero phenomenon sweeping Hollywood.

In 2012, StocktonCon was unveiled to the world at the Spanos Center on the campus of the University of the Pacific. Back then, organizer Mike Millerick and his staff held their breath, hoping to get at least 500 visitors.

“That first year we had it we didn’t expect much. We knew if we had 500 people show up that we’d be able to do it again the next year,” said lead artist and Manteca High graduate Ramon Villalobos, whose artwork has graced StocktonCon’s promotional material the last three years. 

This year’s poster features Wonder Woman – her hair wild and untamed – lassoing a member of the the Fantastic Four with the Stockton Arena in the background.

“When I got to (the Spanos Center), there was a super long line,” Villalobos added. “I was like, ‘Wow, I guess we’ll do it again next year.’ ”

All told, upwards of 4,000 people attended the inaugural, one-day StocktonCon, turning the school’s basketball facility into a phone booth.

In 2013, StocktonCon invaded the Stockton Arena, and its still-growing popularity has forced officials to add a second day to this year’s format.

The success can be attributed to its diversity, Villalobos said. It’s not just a showcase for comic book collectors and the science-fantasy crowd, though there’s plenty to see and do for those of that ilk. The festival will also trumpet real-life, in-the-flesh entertainers. Legendary wrestlers Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Mick Foley will make an appearance, along with cameos by actors Danny Glover, Lorenzo Lamas and Todd Bridges.

“It’s a lot bigger than comic books. It’s video games and movies. There will be some wrestling stuff this year,” Villalobos said. “It’s encompassing a lot of different things. It’s cool that so many people are interested in it.”

Count Villalobos – a member of Manteca High’s Class of 2005 – among this weekend’s special guests. 

The 27-year-old will have comic books and prints featuring his artwork on display. He’ll also do commissions for those looking to purchase custom drawings of their favorite superheroes. 

Villalobos says he recently wrapped up work on Marvel’s Original Sin project. His part included illustrations for five issues of a Young Avengers series. He was also one of five artists to be selected by Marvel for its “What if: Age of Ultron” series, where he put interesting spins on some of today’s mainstream superheroes.

Imagine Spider-Man with a belly … or Zen Hulk … or a sea-faring Wolverine. Villalobos was tasked with creating those looks.

“That’s the hardest part of it. The fun part is drawing things that look cool,” he said. “The hard part is to make them tell a coherent story that is clear and clean to people.”

Villalobos will stay busy long after this weekend, too. He and friend Dennis Culver are collaborating on a creator-owned project for Dark Horse Comics of Hellboy and Sin City fame. The storyline follows a Mexican gunfighter and wrestler in an apocalyptic world. Eventually, the protagonist – Romero Muerte – finds himself wrestling the Devil.  

His ability to illustrate has been a boon to StocktonCon. 

Millerick discovered Villalobos after seeing one of his drawings for sale on eBay. He messaged Villalobos on Facebook and invited him to be a member of his production team. Together, Millerick and Villalobos have traveled near and far – to comic book stores and conventions – searching out ways to improve the pop culture festival.

“I feel pretty fortunate. I’m really happy that he took a chance and let me be the one to give the convention its own look,” Villalobos said. “Before the show, all people have to judge it on are the posters and the fliers. That’s kind of a big risk. I’m happy that it’s all worked out.”

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