If you go
› What: Cleveland Geekster toy- and comic-collecting convention.
› When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8.
› Where: Cleveland State Community College gymnasium, 3535 Adkisson Drive, Cleveland, Tenn.
› Admission: $5 adults; free ages 12 and younger.
› Website: clevelandgeekster.com.
Under all that bulky, blaster-resistant body armor, the stormtroopers of the Galactic Empire likely don't smell too grand when they return from skirmishes against the Rebellion. And after facing off against the forces of Cobra, G.I. Joe agents like Hawk and Flint could undoubtedly do with a shower before being debriefed.
But to toy and comic collector Ashley Raburn, there's nothing like the smell of these pop-culture icons — in action figure form, at least — to get his blood pumping and his excitement piqued.
"That smell means I'll have a great day," says Raburn, who in 2014 started Geekster, a one-day toy- and comic-collecting show.
"That [smell] means I'll be exploring," he adds. "I'll envision myself as Indiana Jones looking for that diamond in the rough I've been looking for for years. It tells me there's a chance I'll find a Holy Grail in this room of shelves and tables."
On Saturday, Oct. 8, Geekster will return to the gymnasium at Cleveland State Community College, where it was moved in 2015 following a more-enthusiastic-than-anticipated response to the inaugural show.
When Raburn, Rob Alderman and Ryan Faricelli founded Geekster, they wanted to support the collecting community and pass on their own lifelong love of collecting as well as fill a niche in Cleveland, which hadn't hosted a toy and comic show in more than a decade, Raburn says.
The first year, 48 tables' worth of comics, toys, arts and crafts were crammed into The Venue Creekside, attracting a crowd of 400, more than double what organizers anticipated. Last year, the event moved to Cleveland State, where its table count increased by 75 percent and its attendance by 25 percent to about 500 people.
Raburn says he hopes the addition of board-gaming demos and a role-playing game session this year will help attract an even bigger crowd.
"It would have been fantastic to have 700 people show up, but I don't want to put a number on the growth we're expecting this year," he says. "I just want there to be growth."
Aside from the addition of gaming, Geekster attendees will encounter the usual chaotic free-for-all of tables laden with 70 years' worth of comics and piles of vintage and modern toys. There might not be much that's new this year, but Raburn predicts attendees will still be drawn in by the thrilling prospect of the buying, selling and trading to get just the right piece for their collections.
When you're on a quest to find just the right item, he says, the prospect of digging through all those wares is more than enough incentive to show up.
"There's something about the atmosphere at shows like this," Raburn says. "There's an energy in the air. There are people wheeling and dealing and wanting to get things before someone else does. It's like a treasure hunt."
Contact Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsVonNoog.