Comic books. You either read them or you don’t. There’s not a great deal of gray area for people when it comes to reading and collecting comics. It’s a lot like anchovies- you love them or you hate them.
Luckily, I’m not here to write about comic books (or anchovies), but rather a series of events that more and more people can’t help but hear about in the news, on TV, in magazines and all over the internet… a Comic-Con.
First and foremost, just what in the world is a Comic-Con and why is this guy bothering us about it?
To answer your last question first, shut up. Just kidding, I love you.
Actually, I am an anchovy-lover. That’s right. I collect and read comics without any shame. They are great and I thoroughly enjoy them. Yes. Yes.
I have also been to several Comic-Cons, which brings us back to the earlier question: what is a Comic-Con?
Simply put, a Comic-Con is a comic book convention. It’s an event held in a rented out building where the people who sell and even make comic books set up little tables and promote their work.
You pay a fee to walk into this building and have the opportunity to see several comic book businesses in one place selling their books, and also possibly meet your favorite artist or writer (and force them to sign everything you have!). In a nutshell, that’s what a Comic-Con is… but things have evolved just a tad.
Comic-Cons were primarily a large flea market event for comic book collectors, and that was pretty much all there was to them.
With recent interest in comics from hit television shows (i.e. The Walking Dead and Smallville) and films (i.e. Captain America, Blade, Kick Ass and a bunch of X-Men-related titles) Hollywood has invaded the Comic-Cons. Hollywood makes films and from films, merchandising explodes into the market with T-shirts, video games and pretty much anything you can swipe a credit card to. So, when filmmakers took an interest in participating in Comic-Cons, many other subsequent entities were bound to get involved as well.
How exactly has Hollywood come into these conventions?
Through the front door, like everyone else. Just kidding, I love you.
Actually, filmmakers and producers who choose to promote their work at a Comic-Con set up spectacular booths with full Hollywood glam bring in costumed characters from the films and cover the walls with movie posters. And much, much more…
Walking into a modern day Comic-Con is probably completely different than what you imagine.
I was surprised when I stepped inside the Baltimore Convention Center into the Baltimore Comic-Con a couple of years ago. I wanted comics to fly off the shelves and slap me in the face… and then bask in that glory. It didn’t quite play out like that.
So, your expectations may not be entirely accurate and mine were down-right fictional, so what happens at these things?
Let me tell you what I saw.
First, there is a line. Cannot be helped, welcome to Planet Earth, where if there is anything worth doing, there is a line for it.
The line was not without its merit, however.
While waiting, you can enjoy some of Hollywood’s inclusions to these conventions. Large movies screens were showing new movie trailers and enormous posters were hanging everywhere. So there was plenty to distract me while waiting in line.
Hollywood didn’t stop there, of course.
There were people walking up and down the long line, handing out flyers and promotional materials for whatever projects they were affiliated with.
So, we had movies playing, posters to “ooh” and “ahh” at, and now some light reading material! Waiting in line had never been so fun.
There is another thing that is noticed while waiting in line.
The people standing in line with you are, for the most part, normal people who are enjoying the movie trailers and whose feet are getting tired. There are others, though. These people are easy to identify and the first pang of doubt you may have had about coming to a comic book anything, will probably sound off when you see them. These people are the costumed patrons.
That’s right. You could very easily be standing in line right next to Spider-Man or even Wonder Woman.
If these people looked anything in shape and form like the costumed super heroes they are imitating, then everything would be fine… or at least less weird.
What really brings the jaw-dropping looks is when they don’t. At all.
I won’t defend them, I really can’t. It’s only fair to say that if you attend a Comic-Con, you will see people dressed up like characters you may never have heard of and possibly become scarred by what you see.
Welcome to Planet Earth
Once inside, I noticed a fairly even divide with how the convention was established.
Basically, one portion of the floor was devoted to vendors selling comics and other comic-related materials (i.e. shirts, action figures, statues, more costumes- Ah!), and the other portion was filled with people sitting at tables. These people were the comic book writers and artists. You can wait in their line to meet them, have them sign something for you or, in the case of an artist, have them draw a sketch for you.
That was the meat and potatoes of the convention- the basic structure. When I started walking, I realized there was much more going on.
Almost immediately after taking my first steps, I saw two young, pretty Asian girls that were dressed like ninjas. They stood behind a table and were smiling at me. I was pretty sure I had a dream like this once and that I was about to die. Instead, I was shown how the new Ninja Gaiden video game was played and given a free T-shirt and wrist band.
Moving on, I encountered a slew of tables promoting professional wrestling, where large, muscled people made me feel very small.
Internet web sites that promoted how to make a comic, artwork in general and comic-value sites all had their own booths. Camera crews were performing live interviews with patrons and visitors alike. Cast members from movies and television were walking around. A Storm Trooper followed me until I lost him behind a Manga booth. The building was filled with all the things that people enjoy on the internet, while shopping and on television. Movies, games, books, gadgets, celebrities and of course, lots and lots of comics made up the overall experience of this convention.
Other Comic-Cons are bound to be different, you may wonder
I just recently came back from a Comic-Con in North Carolina. Lines, costumed people, video games, Hollywood and that annoying Storm Trooper were all present.
So, maybe these events are not so different.
Comic-Cons are no longer a simple geek gathering event, but have become a widely appealing, and often first glimpse arena of multimedia interests with a comic theme.
It cannot be denied, comic books have been more prominent in mainstream media and it’s only fair that the same media works its way into the comic world.
You don’t have to be an anchovy-geek like me to enjoy one of these conventions and you may just find that something you are passionate about may be high-lighted or even debuted at one of these things.
Whatever you are into, there’s a good chance that a Comic-Con will likely showcase it in one form or another.
I’ve done what I can with you to illustrate what they are like and what to expect, so if you’ll excuse me… I need to squeeze into this costume and go wait in line.