LAS CRUCES >> A large crowd of comic book fanatics, gamers and pop culture aficionados â€” many dressed in costume for the costume contest â€” showed up Saturday for the three-day Las Cruces Comic Con at the Las Cruces Convention Center.
It’s just the second year for the gathering, put together by Troy Stegner of Zia Comics.
Tommy “Tiny” Lister, an American character actor best known for his roles as Deebo in the “Friday” movies, President Lindberg in “The Fifth Element,” and as a retired professional wrestler named Zeus, was one of the headliners.
“This is my first time in Las Cruces,” he told the Sun-News. “The people are really nice, and so many of them know the characters that I’ve played in movies â€” ‘The Dark Knight,’ ‘The Fifth Element,’ and most of all, everyone has been talking about Deebo from ‘Friday.'”
He confirmed that another “Friday” movie is in the works.
“We’re shooting a new ‘Friday,’ starting in February. The name’s going to change, and it will be basically become a new franchise,” Lister said. “But Katt Williams, Chris Tucker, Ice Cube, Mike Epps, John Witherspoon, Terry Crews, me â€” everybody’s back. We’re putting all of the characters from all of the previous movies together, and we’re going to give you the best ‘Friday’ yet.”
Lister said he’s working on several other projects, too.
“I have a new movie coming out with Disney called ‘Zootopia,’ a $200 million animation franchise. It should be coming out next March 4. And there’ll be a new a film with Josh Hutcherson, James Franco, Ashton Kutcher and Courtney Love â€” that will be coming out next year,” Lister said.
Lister said he felt honored to be included in Las Cruces’ second annual comic con.
“I’m really happy to be here, and be among my fans. After 32 years, and more than 200 movies, I’m just happy to be here,” Lister said.
Another of the convention’s headliners was David Zayas, best known for playing detective Angel Batista from Showtime’s “Dexter.” He also had roles in “Oz,” “The Expendables,” and played Sal Maroni in “Gotham.” Zayas, a retired New York City police officer, is no stranger to southern New Mexico, he said.
“When I was in the U.S. Air Force, I was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base for two and a half years,” he said. “I was 18, had come from the Bronx, and arriving in Alamogordo was certainly a culture shock. But I came to love this area. This isn’t my first time in Cruces, but I haven’t been here in 32 years. It’s changed a lot. I’ve always liked this area. I have good memories here.”
Zayas said that he’ll always feel a connection to New Mexico.
“I don’t feel like a stranger here,” he said. “You never lose that. When you come back â€” I shot an episode of ‘In Plain Sight’ a few years ago in Albuquerque â€” it felt so familiar, I felt that same energy.”
The El Paso Ghostbusters, a group of guys from El Paso who are a self-funded, nonprofit charity group worked the comic con floor.
“What we do is we dress up as Ghostbuster characters, and we work closely with El Paso charities, we go to conventions and parades, and sometimes we just go to birthday parties. We’re more than happy to suit up for a good cause,” said Jose Illarramendi, a member of the trio. His fellow Ghostbusters are Danny Burke and David Lardizabal. He said they’ve been Ghostbusting for five years.
“We’re more than happy to be out here today, and we’re having fun with it â€” just celebrating Ghostbusters and Star Wars. Our favorite part is seeing all of the young fans, who see you and get excited â€” they want us to turn on all of our gear. It’s a lot of fun,” Illarramendi said.
“I came last year, and had a lot of fun, so I’ve been looking forward to coming back this year,” said Tyler Tucker, 21, of Las Cruces. “I shop at Zia Comics fairly often, and they’re one of the sponsors of the event.”
Tucker, who was dressed as Rumplestiltskin from “Once Upon a Time,” said that he was impressed with all of the costumes.
“All of the merchandise is really cool, but so are the costumes of people who put more effort in than me,” he laughed. “There are so many great costumes around. It’s a really fun event, and a lot of people showed up. It’s a little better organized this year, and there are a lot of people.”
Vince Chavez of Las Cruces was at Comic Con with his 8-year-old son, Daniel, who wore a Batman shirt.
“We just came out to check out the show,” Chavez said. “Daniel’s interested in these sorts of things, so I thought it would be a nice way to spend the day. There’s a lot of great stuff out here.”
Michael Harris, of El Paso, also was enjoying the convention.
“I’m a big comic book guy, a big fan, and I’m really enjoying it,” Harris said. “It’s really nice. For it being a smaller Comic Con, they put in a lot of good work here. I’m a little surprised â€” to see this many people so enthused, so many wearing costumes and showing their support.”