Non-believers told him he was in fantasyland and needed a reality-check. But lifelong superheroes fan Steve Eyre brought his comic-book world to life in Marvel-ous fashion at the weekend.
The Mosborough businessman launched his first ever convention for over 6,000 fans of the genre. Going from zero to hero was a superhuman achievement for the lone crusader.
The World Of Superheroes Convention, Steve’s new breed of comic-con, proved an interactive feast of gaming, augmented reality experiences, role play entertainment - and a cornucopia of cosplayers.
As American police cars wailed on the forecourt, an army of Storm Troopers rampaged and Darth Vader posed for Sheffield sculptor Andrew ‘Stoneface’ Vickers.
The superhero and sci-fi buffs who take fancy dress to another level turned out in their costumed and caped droves. WOSCon’s event turned Sheffield University Students’ Union and Octagon Centre into a multi-coloured movie set.
The force was with Sheffield’s own cosplayers, but other fans in their finery came from as far away as Europe. One intrepid addict came all the way from the United States.
“Not many people see their dreams come true - but that really happened to me over the weekend,” said Steve, aged 54, who runs eight businesses with his brother Craig, including Attercliffe-based Sterling Commodities Ltd, a special metals specialist.
“I’ve been a superhero comic book fan since the age of nine and I’ve always wanted to put on a comic-con in my home town. It was an astonishing success and I’m finding it hard to come back down to earth.”
Steve first turned his hobby into a business four years ago when he launched WorldofSuperheroes.com, an online fan site and vintage comic and memorabilia store. The website united followers across the globe in the virtual sense - and Steve decided to do it in reality.
“People said it wouldn’t work - that we wouldn’t get enough people there - but we did,” he said.
“The cosplayers made it a visual spectacle. We had hundreds of kids as young as two in costume and our eldest cosplayer, an 81-year-old from Somerset, came as Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, complete with his own long white beard.
“The fact that there was a total of £10,000 to be won in our cosplay competition – the biggest-ever prize value for cosplayers in Europe – brought them from all over the country and abroad.
“One girl came from America with her Powergirl outfit, and other cosplayers came from France, Ireland and the Isle of Wight.”
Local charities benefitted too. Free admission was given to supporters of Grimm and Co, a writing and mentoring charity helping children in Rotherham, Sheffield Hospitals Charity, Sheffield Children’s Hospital and Talbot Special School at Norton.
The real Darth Vader, actor David Prouse, signed his Stoneface doppelganger and all visiting celebrities - including Games of Thrones star Ian McElhinney - signed Stoneface’s Paperboy statue, made two years ago from rare vintage comics worth £30,000.
Both items will be raffled off for charity.
Steve may now feel like a super-man, but he happily concedes he couldn’t have brought WOSCon to life without the help of the creative team at The Brand New Idea and his family.
One super-visitor to WOSCon was a hero deserving of VIP treatment.
Aidan Jennings, aged nine, triumphs over autism and cerebral palsy every day.
Dressing up as his favourite comic-book and movie characters is his way of escaping from the difficulties life has dealt him.
He arrived at WOSCon flamboyantly dressed as The Joker, the character created by DC Comics and played by Jack Nicholson in the 1989 hit movie Batman. Even his walker had been customised with a Gotham city makeover.
WOSCon boss Steve Eyre and his team swooped to give the Rotherham schoolboy special treatment.
“Aidan has been into superheroes since he was tiny. WOSCon was his third comic-con - and his favourite,” said proud mum Kim, who hand-makes Aidan’s outfits and has even converted his wheelchair into a Batmobile to match one of his outfits.
“He loves the fact that he can be anyone he wants to be - there are no limitations on him. And when he’s mingling with other cosplayers he feels he can be himself.”