Batman, Nightwing and the evil Dr. Doom were at Veteran’s Park during Summerfair on Sunday, but they weren’t there to battle.
Instead, the costumed comic book characters posed for pictures, played games, gave out anti-bullying literature and even painted the faces of some young Summerfair attendees.
“It’s costume community activism,” said Mark Carpenter, dressed as Marvel Comics’ supervillain Dr. Doom.
Carpenter was joined by Neil “Uncle Nacho” Stanford, who was dressed as Batman, and Richard Greyson, who was dressed as the DC Comics’ superhero Nightwing.
The nonprofit group, which has about 20 members, is known as the Super Heroes of Montana and was formed in early 2013.
They work to fight evil by doing good works, Greyson said. “It’s a community service organization.”
This summer, the super group has hosted anti-bullying and family self defense classes, they helped clean up after Laurel’s July 4 show and they helped out at the Relay for Life. They also made an appearance at the Billings Head Start graduation, handing out their graduation certificates, making masks and capes.
“They made their little capes for being ‘super friends’ and I got to put capes on them,” Greyson said.
SHM has been known to visit sick children in the hospital and, each Christmas, one of the members dons a white beard, a Santa Claus hat and a Batman costume and brings presents on home visits to needy families who have applied for assistance through their website.
To raise funds for next year’s service projects and to have fun with other cosplayers enthusiasts from around the area, the heroes are planning an event in the North Park Auditorium on Aug. 2. The Magic City Fantasy Con Presents: Mini-Con will be the first cosplay convention in Billings.
Cosplay is short for costume play, a hobby where people dress up to represent a fantasy character.
The one-day event will feature costume contests, seminars about how to make comic books, more than 20 vendors and performances by musicians and burlesque dancers.
For Billings cosplay fans, having a convention in town makes a lot of sense.
“Billings is growing, and there is that sub culture and that fandom that is not served,” said Kelly Everitt, an organizer whose favorite alter ego is villain, Harley Quinn. “It’s not just people that are heavily into it like we are.”
Many from Billings travel across the state to attend a popular cosplay convention hosted in Missoula, and organizers believe the Billings event will attract people
from the Dakotas as well as Wyoming, who don’t have cosplay events to attend.
People come from long distances to go to conventions, Stanford said. “We’re hoping that this is so successful, that we can make it three days next year.”