On Sunday, Sarah Biernacki, 11, plans to spread green body paint on her face, slide cardboard triangles around her upper arms and slip on a shirt with a Styrofoam ball glued on the back to resemble a backpack.
Dressed like the evil alien mastermind Invader Zim from the former Nickelodeon TV cartoon of the same name, the Huntington sixth-grader will head to Manhattan for Kids Day at New York Comic Con, confident that there, fellow comic-book and science-fiction enthusiasts will recognize her character immediately.
"I want to go because I really like comics," she says. "I just wanted to go to a place where a lot of people are like me."
Comic Con is a four-day festival devoted to comics, science fiction and pop culture, with discussion panels featuring movie, TV and comic-book stars, a floor of vendors selling related gear and devotees arriving dressed as their favorite pop-culture icons, including Marvel superheroes, action-movie stars, supernatural horror-film creatures and video-game beings. A large percentage, like Sarah, proudly make the costumes themselves.
"It's sort of like a really big Halloween," says Rachel Dvoskin, 18, of Melville, who attended during her junior and senior years in high school at Friends Academy in Locust Valley, and is coming home from her freshman year at Northeastern University for this year's Comic Con, which kicks off tomorrow at the Javits Center. She's gone as Tavros the troll from the Web comic Homestuck and as Cecil the radio host from the podcast "Welcome to Night Vale."
Sunday is the day with the most activities devoted to children, and a special kids' admission price of $5 (adults, by contrast, pay $45). All 5,500 Kids Badges have sold out, says Brien McDonald, director of publisher and studio relationship at ReedPOP, which organizes New York Comic Con. "We try to concentrate our best kids' content on Sunday," McDonald says.
"The thing that's really fun and interesting for kids is our family HQ," McDonald says. That's the "headquarters" set away from the fray of the show floor. It offers interactive activities, including folding "Star Wars" origami, learning the art of Harry Potter wand dueling and making superhero masks.
Scheduled panels and events of interest to children that day include a presentation by Jeff Kinney, author of the pop-culture "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books. The latest Wimpy Kid book, "The Long Haul," comes out Nov. 4. DreamWorks will be showing a trailer for the upcoming movies "Penguins of Madagascar" and "Home."
"It's a jam-packed day," McDonald says.
Sharing as a family
The Cavanaughs of Ronkonkoma -- Carolyn, Sean and their kids, Colin, 9, and Logan, 6 -- plan to ride the train to the city in full regalia. "We're probably not going to be the only weirdos in costume on the LIRR that day," Carolyn says.
Cavanaugh and her older son went to thrift stores to find items for his costume -- he's going as Gambit, a Marvel Comics superhero and part of the team known as the X-Men. Colin says his costume came out "awesome -- everything my mom makes is awesome."
Colin decided that Mom should go as the Marvel Comics mutant superheroine Squirrel Girl. "He always finds her hysterical because she can control all of the squirrels and make them attack people," Carolyn says. Logan is going as Rocket Raccoon from "Guardians of the Galaxy," and Dad is going as Deadpool, a Marvel comics antihero.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing the people from 'Star Trek,'" Colin says. "My dad really, really, really, really likes 'Star Trek' and I'm starting to get into it."
Carolyn Cavanaugh spearheaded her family's trip to Comic Con. "I told my husband that for my 40th birthday this year I wanted to go as a family," she says. "The fact that we can share this as a family is amazing."
WHAT Kids Day at New York Comic Con
WHEN | WHERE Oct. 12 at the Javits Center, 655 W. 34th St., Manhattan
COST $5 kids ages 6 to 12, $45 adults; sold-out but check for last-minute availability; newyorkcomiccon.com