Staff and Contact

Staff Biographies

Booking and Administration

mark headshotMark Hodges, Co-Owner/Event Director: Mark has been involved in promoting events since 1990 when he started putting on small Christian metal and hardcore concerts at The Ice Pick in Muskegon. Mark was later involved in being one of the instrumental people in the start of the Unity Christian Music Festival and was important in the start of the “A” Stage, an alternative music stage still at the festival to this day. Mark promoted his first comic show in 2006. He also coordinated the Phoenix E.V. film festivals back in 2009-2010 and was the Public Relations Manager for the bi-annual Grand Rapids toy show before starting the Grand Rapids Comic-Con. Mark also owns Rivertown Entertainment, a movie memorabilia company that travels to conventions all over the midwest, and is also an avid antiquer and operates booths at an antique mall. Mark is married to his wife Jennifer.

Favorite fandoms: Star Trek, The Walking Dead, American Pickers, low budget horror and science fiction movies. Contact: 616-281-5930, mark.

Vending

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Jennifer Hodges, Co-Owner/Vending Coordinator:  Jennifer knew conventions was the field for her when she attended her first film festival back in 2008. Since then she has been instrumental in helping her husband Mark with Rivertown Entertainment as well as the Phoenix E.V. film festivals in 2009-1010. Jennifer is contributing many creative ideas that will make the Grand Rapids Comic-Con a unique and fun event. Jenn also is an avid dabbler in arts and crafts and plays the violin in the St. Cecelia Music Hall’s spring orchestra.

Favorite fandoms: Harry Potter, The Walking Dead, Stephen King. Contact: 616-281-5930, Vending.

Will Burgess, Vending Manager: Will has been in convention and events management since the age of nineteen. Since then he’s worked in key management and charter positions for the Northern Michigan Anime Convention, Shuto Con, and Phoenix E.V. Film Festivals, and most recently as Chair of JAFAX, among several other events. He has also been a contributing writer to a major Japanese pop-culture news site, under the pseudonym “Kip”. At conventions, Will is also an active cosplayer, along with his wife, from a range of genres including comics and games, and participates in hosting panels, game shows, and other interactive events. Will graduated from GVSU with a degree in Journalism and Business Administration. He currently works as an I.T. Manager for a major power sports business, and attends car shows, enjoys Grand Rapids-made craft brews, and does photography in his downtime.

Favorite Fandoms: Steampunk, Anime, Homestuck, Classic Cars

Guest Relations

anicia latterAnicia Capozzoli, Community Relations  and Guest Coordinator: At an early age, Anicia learned to appreciate the nerd world after going to the premier of Star Wars. That year, the most wanted item on her Christmas list was a remote controlled R2D2, which slept soundly each night tucked in her bed. Being a part of the staff fulfills two passions Anicia has, Community Involvement and Event Planning. For years she has been actively involved in both of those areas by serving on planning committees, holding board positions and has been instrumental in planning many community events and fundraisers. Her most current projects consist of Co-Director of Juice Ball, Dia del Sol annual fundraiser, Founding Board Member of Kitchen Sage, and Advisory Board Member for Grand Rapids Young Professionals.

Favorite fandoms: Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel Superheros, Buffy. Contact: 616-540-3998,  anicia@grcomiccon.com

Holly Capozzoli, Guests Manager:  Holly has been a video game enthusiast since the day her dad brought home an original PlayStation. From that point on, she continued to fall in love with the art and creativity incorporated in the video game world. Later in college, she discovered anime and cosplaying with her favorite animes being Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online, and she cosplayed some of her favorite characters. Working the Grand Rapids Comic-Con starting in 2013, Holly is a fairly new member, but that only amplifies her passion and excitement for the years to come.

Favorite Fandoms: Pokémon, anime, Lord of the Rings, and Nintendo GameCube

Staffing

sara gesterblumSara Gensterblum, Staffing Coordinator: Sara grew up playing video games, watching anime, and immersing herself in sci-fi and fantasy worlds, all of which she still does in her free time. In college, she attended her first convention and fell in love. She has worked on AlmaCon since its beginning, including the 2013 show, which she Chaired. She continues to help out as Volunteer Coordinator for AlmaCon 2014.

Favorite fandoms: Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels, Pokémon, Anime. Contact: staffing@grcomiccon.com

Matthew Makmatthew makowskiowski, Staffing Manager: Matthew’s prideful love of geek culture spawned from spending his Saturday mornings with the X-Men, Batman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spider-Man and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Boxes upon boxes of action figures, comic books, rubber masks and plastic weaponry later, Matthew still stays connected to his nerdy roots, and occasionally breaks out his nun chucks when he doesn’t want to adult. While attending the 2015 Grand Rapids Comic Con, Matthew’s first Con experience ever, he became enamored with the fun, inviting and inclusive environment that encouraged everyone to fully embrace their passions and individualities. While he was only able to attend the last two hours of the final night of the Con that year, that was all it took for Matthew to want to dedicate his time, talents and energy to creating the same vibrant experience he had at Grand Rapids Comic Con. Matthew is currently a public relations/social media specialist at Grand Valley State University by day, and a superhero-in-training by night.

Favorite fandoms: Marvel superheroes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Harry Potter

Gaming

kristy easonKristy Eason, Gaming Coordinator: A gamer from the moment her father first placed an NES controller in her hand, Kristy is a firm believer in the adage that “growing old is required, but growing up is optional.” Some 20-plus years later, she is still playing games – video, board, tabletop, and otherwise. A blogger and marketing writer for a PC gaming company by day and a maniacal Game Master by night, Kristy enjoys weaving stories and connecting people through a love of gaming. When she’s not playing board games or immersed in raiding on her dragoon in FFXIV, Kristy enjoys singing, reading a good fantasy novel, writing, cuddling her cat Miza (much to the cat’s chagrin) cosplaying, and making jewelry.

Favorite Fandoms: Star Wars, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Final Fantasy, Disney. Contact: gaming@grcomiccon.com

Hannah Troupe, Gaming Manager: Hannah’s love of cosplay and theater started early, with making costumes to dress up and act out scenes from movies. As she grew older and realized that dressing up as your favorite movie or book character could be done for more than just Halloween is when the real love and pride of showing your inner geek (or nerd if you prefer) started. When Hannah isn’t working or playing board games with friends you can find her with a crochet hook or knitting needles in hand listening to an audio book, watching Netflix, a favorite TV show or movie. The 2014 Grand Rapids Comic Con was her first convention and she has been hooked since. She is excited to join the band of merry people this year to share her passion with others.

Favorite Fandoms: Lord of the Rings, Firefly, Star Wars, Harry Potter

Programming

jon-deboerJon DeBoer, Programming Coordinator: A lifetime gamer and comics fan, Jon discovered anime, fan conventions, and nerd culture in college and jumped in with both feet. When Jon is not working at his day job as a computer programmer, he can usually be found getting himself involved in something related to geek culture. Jon was the head of the local anime convention JAFAX for nine years. He also ran an anime & manga program at the Grand Rapids Public Library for a number of years, and he volunteers for Comprenew when he has time. Jon was thrilled to expand his involvement in the excellent Michigan fan convention scene by joining Grand Rapids Comic Con staff in 2015.

Favorite Fandoms: Anime & Manga, hard sci-fi, classic film, indie comics. Contact: programming@grcomiccon.com.

Brittani Stickler, Programming Manager: Brittani’s complete nerdery started at a young age when her parents decided to take Mortal Kombat away because she started to think she was a real ninja. From there her ninja prowess was channeled into a love for the Power Rangers – so much so that she was the Pink Ranger for several Halloweens. Brittani attended her first con, the GR Comic Con in fact, in 2013 and instantly knew she wanted to be a part of it. Though new to conventions, she brings with her a love for several fandoms and a want to share that love with the community. Nothing makes her happier than seeing the joy in others when they are able to come together and talk with likeminded individuals. Brittani has a background in working for a local entertainment venue and absolutely loves planning events!

Favorite Fandoms: Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Supernatural, Outlander. Contact: panels@grcomiccon.com

joshua courtadeJoshua Courtade, Film Festival Manager: Joshua is a local filmmaker who has written, produced, and directed three feature films, dozens of short films, and several internet serials, including the Hank Danger series and the award-winning comedy ‘Twenty Years Later.’  He has worked in Los Angeles, but is proud to call West Michigan his home.  He also teaches at Compass College of Cinematic Arts in Grand Rapids.  His films have played at festivals all over the world.

Favorite fandoms: The Muppets, DC Superheroes (especially Superman and Batman), the Universal monster movies from the 30’s, ’40s, and ’50s. Contact: Film.

Avi Forstein, After Hours Manager: The Jewish Ham of West Michigan, Avi is a 100% USDA-Grade A geek and proud of it. When he is not engaging people in arguments of pop culture, he is hosting Geeks Who Drink Pub Quiz at various locations in Grand Rapids. Avi is very excited to be a part of Grand Rapids Comic-Con as it allows him to learn more about all the awesome forms of geekdom in the world, admire all the wonderful cosplays/costumes fans show off and most of all, gives him more opportunities to show off his Burgess Meredith Penguin costume.

Favorite Fandoms: TV game shows (especially “Press Your Luck”), Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Power Rangers. Contact: afterhours@grcomiccon.com

Michelle White-Burgess, Costume Contest Manager: Michelle has been a nerd since she was a kid watching Pokemon and Card Captor Sakura. In 2007 she decided to try her hand at patterning and sewing her own cosplay. She was in charge of the costume contest for NMACon 2011-2013 and at Grand Rapids Comic Con since its first year. She runs a number of anime-centric panels and is the panel director at JAFAX. Michelle graduated with a degree in Plant Biology from Grand Valley State University and currently works for a local landscaping company in hopes of one day becoming a real-life Poison Ivy.

Favorite Fandoms: Anime, Cartoons, and YA Fantasy Audiobooks

Graphic Design and Social Networking

kary franciscoKary Francisco, Social Media Manager and Graphic Design: Kary is fairly new to working the convention scene, but is no stranger to nerdy activities. She has attended several conventions as well as been involved in Video Game and Anime clubs throughout school. Kary recently graduated with an Associate in Arts degree, and with her skills, enjoys creating numerous works of fandom art. Kary worked at the first Grand Rapids Comic-Con as a volunteer, and is excited to be more involved in the coming years.

Favorite Fandoms: Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, Pokemon

Charity

valarie saundersValarie Saunders, Charity Coordinator/Programming Manager: I always have been fascinated with comic books and cartoons, even at a young age. As I grew, I also became interested in horror movies. Then I met someone just like me just not fond of the horror movies. When our son was born the house was full of the sights and sounds of X-Men, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and all the other great shows that were on. Our love for comics, cartoons, and anime became a project. In 2005, my husband, our son and I completed a replica of the Mach 5 from Speed Racer. It was awesome! In 2009, I went to my first comic book
convention, Dragon Con in Atlanta, GA. We brought the Mach 5 to the parade and I’ve been hooked to the scene ever since. As a family, we go to many conventions, from the small ones to the massive. As our son has grew up he became interested in the same things we were in to. I love that we can share our passion with our son, nephews, nieces, and friends. Our son has his own interests, than he’s been teaching me, Anime, and now I also love to play video games, especially with our son. I’ve been helping out with GRCC since its first convention and I am glad to now be part of the family.

Favorite Fandoms: horror movies, Wonder Woman, and Star Wars

With Us In Spirit

brian haskinBrian Haskin: Brian has been playing video games since he was old enough to operate an Atari joystick. In college, friends got him hooked on tabletop RPGs, and showed him the world of board and card games beyond Monopoly and Uno. In turn, he hopes to share the joy and inspiration that games can bring with attendees at this year’s con. When he’s not gaming or working on GR Comic Con, Brian is an IT technician at The Geek Group. He is also a department head for JAFAX and a member of the Grand Valley Renaissance Festival.

Favorite Fandoms: Anime, Star Wars, Mass Effect, 90s cartoons.

Contact

Grand Rapids Comic-Con

c/o West Michigan Convention Ventures LLC, 2256 20th St., Hopkins, MI 49328. 616-281-5930.

Contact List

Our general email address is grcomiccon@gmail.com. You may write there, or if you have a specific question make sure to write one of the department heads listed below.

Mark Hodges, Event Director, mark

Jennifer Hodges, Vending Coordinator, Vending

Anicia Capozzoli, Community Relations Coordinator, anicia@grcomiccon.com

Jon DeBoer, Programming Coordinator, programming@grcomiccon.com

Kristy Eason, Gaming Coordinator, gaming@grcomiccon.com

Sara Gensterblum, Staffing Coordinator, email staff

Brittani Stickler, Fan Panel Manager, email panels

Joshua Courtade, Film Festival Manager, Film

Valarie Saunders, Charity Coordinator, charity@grcomiccon.com

Avi Fortstein, After Hours Manager, afterhours@grcomiccon.com

Legal

West Michigan Convention Ventures LLC is a family-friendly organization that strives to create PG to PG-13 style events with programming for adults and children of all ages. We will strive to eliminate display materials at our events that are overtly violent or sexual in orientation for the protection of all children attending. If we ever host an event that will not adhere to these policies we will make it quite apparent in all our advertising for that specific event.
West Michigan Convention Ventures LLC does not discriminate against any employee or fan on the basis of race, creed, age, handicap, sex, religious affiliation, national origin, or sexual orientation.
The official charity of West Michigan Convention Ventures LLC is Kitchen Sage. We are not accepting any applications from any other non-profit organization for fundraising opportunities. Nonprofit organizations may submit programming ideas but they can not be designed for the purpose of fundraising or to push any social, religious, or political agendas as defined by West Michigan Convention Ventures LLC.