ON ANY other day eyebrows would be raised if Batman, Captain America, Chewbacca and Doc Brown’s famous DeLorean were spotted in Portsmouth city centre.
But that was exactly what unfolded as Portsmouth Guildhall welcomed an estimated 3,000 pop culture buffs for the return of its ‘flagship’ annual event on Saturday – Comic Con.
The colour-rich spectacular saw costume-clad fans channel their favourite heroes and meet like-minded enthusiasts as they perused stalls, exhibitions and gaming rooms.
Among those who got dressed up was Paul MacDowell, from Portsmouth, who was Iron Man for the day thanks a £9,000 electronic suit he has been building for nine months.
Controlled by signals triggered by finger movements, the animatronic outfit comprised hidden guns, ammo belts, a jet pack and pop-up visor – much to the amazement of passers-by who rolled up for a series of selfies throughout the day.
‘People’s faces when you walk into a room and move different parts of the suit are brilliant,’ said Paul, 37.
‘It’s taken me about nine months to build this and I’ve spent in excess of £9,000 on it.
‘Most of it has come from Hong Kong and the electrics were upgraded by myself. Each finger has its own function.’
The costume, said 17-year-old reveller Sullivan Welch, from Chandler’s Ford, was ‘incredible’.
‘I’ve never had a Comic Con experience before and I was already into all the geeky stuff so I felt I had to come along to appreciate the art form and people’s passion for it,' he said.
‘The cosplay is incredible and the things people are selling are amazing.’
In Guildhall Square visitors enjoyed live Q&As with writers and stars behind top comics, while exhibitions and stalls inside brought fans’ favourite fictional stories to life.
One new comic book tale cutting its teeth is Fareham dad Dan White’s Department of Ability, which features a host of disabled superheroes on a mission to save the world.
‘It’s very much time for disabled superheroes to show that anyone can be a superhero – and it’s time for British superheroes to make a stand,’ he said at his stall.
‘I love events like this because it gives everyone a chance to be who they want to be as part of a big, friendly community.’
Andy Grays, chief executive of the Guildhall Trust, said as many as 7,000 visitors were expected to attend Comic Con on Saturday and Sunday.
‘It’s a massive day for us and from last June onwards we were talking about who we’d like here today and what we could do differently to 2018,’ he said.
‘The Con is the flagship event for the Guildhall and it's something that is very personal to the Guildhall Trust, because it articulates community and the value we place on artists.’
Mark Hendley, owner of the venue’s Comic Con partner Go Geek, added: ‘We provide an environment where people can be themselves and be relaxed.
‘We believe we can create somewhere people can come along, forget about what’s going on with the outside world and be themselves without fear of ridicule.
‘Cosplay is such a major part of it, but being British, everyone’s a little nervous to push the boundaries – but we say go for it.’
The event also featured costume competitions, an exhibition to celebrate Star Wars day, May 4 and a section dedicated to virtual reality.
You can watch our walk through of the event as it opened at the top of this story.