Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023|
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MAUNA LANI — At age 14, Sam Campos just needed to pass art class.
Given his interest in comics, his Kahuku High School teacher on Oahu challenged him to come up with an original comic book character with a full backstory.
Campos came up with the idea of a local kid who had no interest in Hawaii’s myths or legends, eventually falling into a life of crime. Shot to death atop the Big Island’s Puukohola Heiau dedicated to Kukailimoku, the character gains the god’s favor, Campos said, imbuing him with superhuman strength.
As a result, the young man becomes Pineapple Man.
Campos on Thursday was promoting his comic, “Pineapple Man,” at the third annual HawaiiCon Science Fiction Convention at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel &Bungalows, just miles from Puukohola Heiau.
When he tried bringing “Pineapple Man” to retailers in Hawaii, he said, they were mostly dismissive, saying it was “too ethnic.”
It wasn’t until an appearance on local news at age 26 or 27 that his work started getting him more attention.
After this appearance, “Pineapple Man” was in high demand, even from those who had dismissed him before.
“Everybody wanted it,” he said.
Since then, he’s worked drawing storyboards, designing costumes and working in various other facets of the television and film industry.
In 2014, Pineapple Man became HawaiiCon’s official mascot.
Campos, 46, said he hopes his work shows that youth here don’t need to leave Hawaii to find success.
“You don’t have to go to the mainland to do something that is mainstream,” he said.
Science-fiction fans from across the country attended Thursday’s kickoff in preparation for a four-day event of panels, games, meet-and-greets, costume attire and otherwise otherworldly events.
“We get to celebrate the heroes who inspire us,” Campos told the crowd at Thursday’s welcome event.
G.B. Hajim, HawaiiCon chief executive officer and convention chair, expressed how the convention conveys a spirit of aloha.
“Here, we’re face to face sharing that breath of life and it makes that whole experience very unique,” he said.
Various science-fiction stars will be attending panels throughout the convention as well as providing opportunities for attendees to meet them. Walter Koenig, known to fans of the original “Star Trek” series for portraying Pavel Chekov, was among the stars meeting fans Thursday.
“It’s always been great,” Koenig said of his experiences at HawaiiCon. “Everybody’s very, very friendly.”
This is Koenig’s second HawaiiCon, though he’s visited the islands before in the ‘80s. Koenig celebrated his birthday Wednesday and a celebration in his honor was planned for later Thursday night.
“I feel flattered,” he said. “It’s nice to be appreciated.”
For many attending HawaiiCon, it’s a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones.
David Limburg, visiting from the United Kingdom, was at HawaiiCon as a vendor and also as a big fan of the event.
Limburg said he typically only travels to this sort of convention within the UK. He makes one exception.
“The only place I travel to is HawaiiCon,” he said.
In addition to the great venues and setting, he said, “the people are just the best on planet Earth.”
The event also attracted local fans, such as Anastasia Sumrall,
who’s volunteering for a second year at this year’s gathering. Sumrall said she was looking forward to cosplay, the act of dressing up as fictional characters.
During the interview, Sumrall was cosplaying as Louise Belcher, a character in the Fox animated series “Bob’s Burgers.”
It wasn’t her only cosplay planned for the convention.
She also planned to cosplay — a performance art where people wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent characters — Lydia Deetz of “Beetlejuice” and Jon Snow from “Game of Thrones.”
“I love dressing up,” she said, “being the character you want to be.”
HawaiiCon continues through Sunday.
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