Fan Con in Kodiak brings together popular culture enthusiasts

Kodiak Public Library hosted the island’s second-ever popular culture convention, Fan Con, on March 22 and 23. Attendees competed in video game tournaments, watched movies, made various crafts together, and heard from a published author. KMXT’s Brian Venua stopped by and has this story. 

The library had several games set up and hosted tournamets for “Mario Kart 8” and “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.” (Brian Venua/KMXT)

Libraries are usually known for being quiet. But last weekend, the Kodiak Public Library was anything but, as dozens came out for Fan Con. Volunteers in blue shirts walked back and forth, running various booths and announcing when events would start. 

One popular booth was manned by Guy Bartleson from the village of Port Lions. He brought some of his most valuable pieces from his decades-old comic book collection to show off. 

Guy Bartleson has comics of the first appearances of both Iron Man and Thor, estimated to be worth around $10,000 each. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

That’s just a small fraction of his stash at home though. Bartleson also sold comic books at the convention. Most went for as little as 50 cents to a few dollars a piece. 

“A lot of the stuff I brought too is duplicates and triplicates and things I picked up over the years,” Bartleson said. “I might find a collection that has some books I really like and I’ll buy the whole collection.”

He even gave some away, especially to kids to get them excited about reading. 

That type of enthusiasm is the whole point of the convention, said Bayli Berry of the Kodiak Public Library. Fan Con is her brainchild. 

“We had a whole planning committee this year, they were fantastic – really helped up our game from last year,” Berry said. “And then we have lots of volunteers that you’ve seen wearing the shirts and library staff as well that I’ve roped into this.”

Entrance was free and included video game tournaments, movies, and shopping. There was even a painting tutorial hosted by Grand Slam Toys & Games, a local store located downtown. 

Similar conventions have become increasingly popular for franchises like “Lord of the Rings” and Marvel Cinematic Universe movies as a way to connect old fans and find new ones with TV shows like “The Rings of Power” and “Loki”. But events like these are often in bigger cities and Kodiak residents would have to fly and pay for hotels on top of any entrance fees.

Berry said she wanted to keep the local event as accessible as possible.

“There’s a lot of people that can’t afford to get off island, can’t because of work,” she said. “And so to offer something that’s here and free/accessible to everyone was kind of a key tenet for us.”

Locals weren’t the only ones in attendance, either. 

The featured author this year was Heidi Lyn Burke, who goes by H.L. Burke on her books. She’s from Oregon, and this was her first time in Alaska. It was also her first time as a solo featured author for an event. 

“I’ve done author events before but I’ve never had one that actually flew me out before,” Burke said. It makes me feel a little bit like a celebrity, which is not something you get a lot as a small, independent author.”

H.L. Burke’s work includes both novels and novellas. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

Burke gave a talk about writing as part of her visit to Kodiak, as well as ran a table promoting her work. 

She first started seriously publishing a decade ago and she’s already published 46 books, mostly about superheroes. Burke said she’s been to a few bigger conventions before but working smaller ones, like Kodiak’s Fan Con, gives her more opportunities to connect with people.

“I like interacting with people and talking about writing and you always meet a couple people who are interested in getting into it, and you can talk to them about how it happens,” Burke said. 

Other booths included various kinds of fandom-themed merchandise for sale like stuffed toys or earrings. 

But Berry, the organizer, said she’s just happy to see people coming together to have fun.

“I am excited to see people that I normally wouldn’t see in the library come and discover that we have this really great resource in Kodiak and also really excited to see more cosplayers this year. Last year we only had a couple but this year I’ve seen some really cool ones,” she said.

Berry said she hopes to continue growing Fan Con and have another event next year. 


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