“We should do something for them, they do a lot, and we forget that,” says Lupe Ochoa, speaking of the soldiers stationed on Ft. Bliss. “This is a hard thing to do. This was good for them. SoldierCon gave back to them a little of what they give for us.”
And so it went, as SoldierCon was held at Freedom Crossing – the mall located on Ft. Bliss – earlier this summer, to the rave reviews of attendees, exhibitors and the public. But what exactly is SoldierCon?
Simple, it’s the three Cs: Comics, CosPlay and Cars. And SoldierCon is the brainchild of Carlos Molina, a former Captain in the United States Army.
“SoldierCon, what it is, it was an idea that started about two years ago,” says Carlos Molina. “I do several events here on Ft. Bliss. For the last five different car shows, we’ve organized the car shows. Two years ago, we started working with Todd McFarlane and his group. We wanted to do some Spawn-themed vehicles.”
While working on the Spawn themed vehicles, he was approached by the people that allowed him to put on the car shows. They asked if he would be willing to put together a Comic Con.
“At that time, at that moment, I didn’t know how big these events get,” recalls Carlos. None-the-less, he agreed to set it up and run the show.
“I further learned that a Comic Con is ten times harder than a car show,” said Carlos. So how did the car shows start?
“I’ve been building vehicles, gosh, ever since high school in the early 80s,” Carlos said. “I created Projekt Cars, when I was in the military, as a venue for a way of getting products to soldiers overseas.”
While working on working on Projekt Cars he learned about SEMA, Special Equipment Manufacturers Association, which hosts a large expo in Las Vegas each year, and the largest car show in the world.
“They [Projekt Cars] started building cars for SEMA,” said Carlos Molina. “Through this process, I helped other people acquire sponsorships to build their vehicles as well.”
“The way the car portion with SoldierCon is I didn’t want to do a cookie cutter Comiccon, I wanted to involve a lot of different aspects. So, the car show portion is just one of the aspects of SoldierCon,” says Carlos.
SoldierCon had a lot more than just cars on display. There was cosplay, comic books for sale, cards, and more. This was an event that had something for everyone. There was even a runway show for those who were dressed as their favorite characters!
“The reason why we are doing this,” says Carlos about SoldierCon, “for the military spouse that has three or four kids. When there’s something going on downtown, it’s like a logistical nightmare just to get over there. This, SoldierCon, allowed people just to walk just walk across the street to Freedom Crossing.”
Carlos Molina grew up in a military family, so he knows what it’s like, the hardships faced by families who can’t travel far for events, for soldiers who can’t leave base for one reason or another. Having the event hosted on post is a boon for these families, the military community and those interested in showing their support to, and for the military.
“I don’t get off base much,” said Miller, a soldier stationed at Ft. Bliss. “I don’t have a car and go with friends when they go out to the comic shops in town. Having this here, that was good. I was able to check it out and pick up a few things.”
“The next SoldierCon probably won’t be until next year,” says Carlos. “But, in the meantime, we are doing different events. A month from now we are going to do a car show and we’re going to have a booth with a log of the Cosplayers that were at SoldierCon, letting people know about CosPlay and they are going to be signing posters and posting with cars.”
“I see the future of SoldierCon, is hopefully, not only doing it here at Ft. Bliss, but other instillations,” says Carlos. “I also see mini-events throughout the year. Having a CosPlay at Wet N Wild, a CosPlay expo where it’s focused just on CosPlay.”
Both SoldierCon and Carlos Molina have a bright future before them. If any of the comments I had from a few attendees reflect the general view, then we’ll be hearing more of SoldierCon, and related events in the future.
“I like comic books and the related culture,” says Tobias. “I’ve been to more than my share of Comin Cons, and this is right there with the best. Being there, on base, it was even better for me!”
“Often times,” shared Michael Smith, “I have had to miss several conventions I wanted to attend simply because I was on duty into the early morning hours. Having this here, on base, is something I think should have come about long ago. I’m glad that Ft. Bliss is pushing the envelope on this and I hope it grows to other facilities around the world.”
How can you go wrong with Comics, CosPlay and Cars with a focus on the military community?
You simply can’t.
As mentioned above, the next event is going to be at Wet-N-Wild Water World during the American Hero Salute event. Why not take the time to head on over and see what they have to offer? You will be surprised.
Also, look for upcoming events from SoldierCon. I know I’m looking forward to the next CosPlay event. Got to get my “Dr. Who” on!
Photos courtesy Jeremy Wright/Soldiercon