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Springing into Action

Tulsa Pop Culture Expo is not merely an annual convention celebrating all things pop culture; it is also a springboard for making a positive impact on Tulsa throughout the entire year.

Article
Rob Harmon
Photos
Marc Rains
Posted
October 28, 2018

Supergirl once said, “If I’m going to be a hero and prove to everyone that I know what I’m doing, I’m going to need practice. Start small, get better. And to do that, I’m going to need your help.” After talking to Arthur Greeno, co-founder of the Tulsa Pop Culture Expo (T-Pop), and Emilee Waite, one of the convention’s most ardent supporters, we’re pretty sure this sums up Tulsa’s fastest growing pop culture convention.

After a small, but highly successful first go in 2017, T-Pop looks to make a splash on the entire pop culture convention scene in its second year at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center Nov. 2-4.

“I wasn’t alone,” Greeno says about the convention origins. “It’s not only my fault.”

Greeno, a local businessman and owner/operator of multiple Chick-fil-A locations in the Tulsa area, says that he and a couple other pop culture enthusiasts — including Ron Veit and Pat Loveless — saw the need for a large convention that was locally driven and decided to do something about it. Considering how other similar conventions have chosen to come to Tulsa and at other times not to, Greeno and his friends thought about building something that was, without question, committed to Tulsa and not entirely about the bottom line or flashy movie and television star guests.

To start with, Greeno and the group see the organization not merely as an annual convention celebrating all things pop culture, but as a springboard for making a positive impact on Tulsa throughout the entire year. Waite, who has only missed one or two volunteer meetings since the early planning stages of last year’s expo, says that it’s the volunteers and the organization’s focus on serving Tulsa that separate the conference from others.

“I couldn’t be prouder,” Waite says. “We spread love and plant a seed around town that makes others want to work with us. It brings something unique to Tulsa that the other conventions haven’t. Others blow into town, make a ton of money, then blow out, and it kind of leaves behind nothing. With T-Pop, the expo is just an extension of what we’re doing for kids throughout the year through T-Pop Kids.”

Tulsa Pop Kids, the organization’s benevolent arm, sends cosplayers dressed as superheroes to raise the spirits of sick children at local hospitals. They also organize comic book drives, donating thousands of comics every year to schools to promote literacy. Their army of volunteers will be providing convention support throughout the weekend in many facets, including the contribution of cosplayers who will be giving the expo the kind of atmosphere required that every good pop culture convention should have. This year’s T-Pop Expo certainly plans to pack a Hulk-sized punch in the three-day event. The event partners Tulsa Pop Kids with two other pop culture organizations: XPO Game Festival and OKPOP.

The XPO Game Festival is providing the convention’s eSports tournament, as well as an assortment of indie game competitions and retro game participation opportunities.  A cool streaming lounge will be available for entrants, as well as innovative gaming workshops and panel sessions related to streaming and creative game development.

OKPOP (aka Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture), the exciting project looking to open in 2020 across from Cain’s in the Tulsa Arts District, expects to educate attendees on the creative spirit that Oklahomans have exhibited in pop culture over the years. Many forms of pop culture, including film, music, video games, graphic novels and comic books have been contributed to by countless talented Oklahomans (some of whom will be in attendance at the expo), and OKPOP plans to highlight those people during the expo this year.

One of those talented people is Steve Erwin, comic book creator for DC Comics.

In 2007, Erwin was inducted into the Oklahoma Cartoonists Hall of Fame in The Toy & Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, Okla., after a career in the industry, stretching back to the mid-1980s. Erwin has contributed his art to some of the comic book versions of Star Trek as well as a Terminator comic series. In 2015, Erwin penciled the art for Citizen of the Galaxy, the first ever adaptation of a Robert Heinlein book into the graphic novel form.

Another notable comic artist visiting T-Pop is critically acclaimed novelist and Eisner Award-nominated comic book writer Christopher James Priest. Although Priest has been in the comic book industry for close to 40 years, he has risen to new heights in popularity for one of his latest contributions, the Black Panther series, which has served as the platform for the 2018 major motion picture of the same name.

But this year’s Tulsa Pop Culture Expo guest list is not limited to comic book industry stars. In fact, the names of the guests planning to attend T-Pop this year have been so big, convention-goers from all over the country are coming to catch a glimpse of or take a picture with their favorite stars. One big guest is John Schneider, star of The Dukes of Hazzard, Smallville and The Haves and Have Nots. Another is Zach Callison, the voice of Steven Universe. Other notable stars include Karen Gillan (Dr. Who, Guardians of the Galaxy), Summer Glau (Firefly, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Arrow), Sean Gunn (Gilmore Girls, Guardians of the Galaxy), Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster from The Munsters), as well as Larry Wilcox, Robert Pine and Erik Estrada from the TV series CHiPs.

Possibly the most unique guest appearance at any pop culture convention in recent years will be the appearance of C. Thomas Howell, star of one of the most famous movies ever shot in Tulsa, The Outsiders. Howell and the expo are offering an “Outsiders House Movie Tour” where Howell himself will narrate a VIP tour, guiding ticket holders around town to various film locations, including the house where much of the film was shot.  

LOCATOR
Tulsa Pop Culture Expo
Renaissance Hotel
6808 S. 107th E. Ave. | Tulsa
tulsapopcultureexpo.com
Nov. 2-4

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