Toy Con Santa Rosa, where actors and fans converge

Rohnert Park artist Emily Martin illustrates the "Princeless" series. (Devin Marshall / PD Towns)


Meet little Timmy, the 1950s movie star whose companion was Lassie. And Cissy, the oldest of three orphaned siblings taken in by their bachelor uncle in “Family Affair.”

They’ll be joined Sept. 26 by other iconic actors, local comic book authors and writers such as Tom Yeates of “Prince Valiant” fame, and a legion of fans at the Santa Rosa Toy and Comic Con. It’s back this year for a third incarnation at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors also can expect to find toys and comics from as far back as the 1920s, plus local art, discussion panels, question-and-answer sessions and the chance to get autographs and take photos with actors such as Jon Provost and Kathy Garver.

Provost starred as Timmy in “Lassie” from the late ’50s to the early ’60s and is a veteran at Toy Con. This year he will bring his new autobiography, “Timmy’s in the Well.”

“It’s been great,” Provost said about the convention. “Every year it’s bigger and bigger and bigger. I’ll be there most of the day, signing autographs and photos and my book. It’s going to be a great time taking photos with the fans.

“The truth is, I love seeing the people, because a lot of the attendees dress up in different costumes and things, and that’s always so much fun.”

Voice actress Kathy Garver also will bring her new book, “Surviving Cissy.” She is best known for playing Cissy on the ’60s sitcom “Family Affair,” but many people revere her for her geekier roles.

During the 1980s, she provided the voices of Firestar and Angelica Jones for the Saturday morning cartoon series “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.” And in 1993, she did the voice work for the anime character Enya in “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure,” a video based on the Japanese manga series written and illustrated since 1986 by Hirohiko Araki.

Garver now works for Voice One studio in San Francisco, where she teaches people to develop characters and to create voices for toys. Not everyone knows who she is, but it always makes for a surprise.

“I have people come up to me and say, ‘You played Firestar?’ ” Garver said. “It’s a fun revelation.

“The thing about voiceover is you can look however you want,” she said. “I’ve done anime, where I’ve played an evil character, but I don’t think I look very evil. I also don’t think I look like a superhero with firebolts either.”

Comic artist and writer Tom Beland also will appear at the show and participate in the “Local Comic Artists” panel. He began his career as a paste-up artist for the advertising section at the Napa Valley Register, then worked his way up to doing political cartoons.

Now he lives in Puerto Rico and makes comic illustrations for Marvel, as well as writing and drawing his own books — a graphic novel called “Chicacabra” and an autobiographical series called “True Story, Swear to God.” His work has been nominated for an Eisner Award, known as the “Oscars of the comics industry.”

Beland also has written several issues of “Spider-Man” for Marvel, an especially meaningful series for him.

“Spider-Man comics got me through my parents dying,” he said. “They died of cancer before I got out of high school, and I had some abuse stuff going on, and I would take those Spider-Man books up on a hill, and read for like an hour and a half, study the art. … It was my little break.

“That character means the world to me, so when somebody asked, ‘Hey, Marvel wants you to write this character,’ I was emotional.”

Rohnert Park comic artist Emily Martin of Megamoth Studios also will return this year, as part of the Artists’ Alley. She teaches children’s drawing classes with her husband, Brett Grunig, and is the artist for the “Princeless” series, which stars a strong-minded, brave and intelligent black princess who doesn’t stick around to get rescued by a prince. Instead, she escapes from a tower with the help of her guardian dragon, grabs armor and a sword and sets out to rescue her six sisters from their own prisons.

At Toy Con, Martin will sell volumes 1 and 2 of “Princeless,” as well as the class anthology produced by her students.

“Toy Con is great for me because it is conveniently located,” Martin said. “And it offers a destination for local comic fans and creators — of which there are many in Santa Rosa and surrounding areas — to share their work and fandom. My goal for these shows is to promote my work and meet people.

“Visibility in the convention circuit not only gains readers, but also introduces a creator to some really great, interesting people. Friendships among creators are rewarding for their companionship, but also offer fantastic networking opportunities.”

This year, event organizer Mike Holbrook has expanded the convention to include fans of toys as well as comics.

“A lot of people see the toy thing, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m not into toys,’ ” he said. “They don’t realize it’s the whole convention atmosphere. A lot more people and comic book artists and comic book dealers (will participate) this time.”

The convention has been gathering steam since its 2013 launch, thanks to an impressive lineup of geek and Hollywood icons.

“I’ve had Tyler Mane as a guest,” Holbrook said, referring to the Canadian actor and pro wrestler who played Michael Myers in Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” and “Halloween II.”

“He called me up, telling me he’s going be at the Stockton convention, and I was like, ‘I’m gonna be there, too!’ He’s like, ‘Alright, let’s meet up at the bar.’ Next thing I know, I’m surrounded by ‘Walking Dead’ actors, the guy who played Jason, all these people, and he’s like, ‘You’ve gotta go do Mike’s show! He’s awesome! It’s the best I’ve ever been taken care of by a show!’ ”

Holbrook also manages the Carbonite Chamber, a vintage and collectible toy and game store in the back of Outer Planes Comics and Games in Santa Rosa.

Sonoma County Toy and Comic Con runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday Sept. 26 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road. Admission is $15 at the gate, $25 for early birds who want to be admitted at 9 a.m. For more information, visit