Marc Alan Fishman: How To Lose Your (Convention) Virginity
On a recent jaunt into the social media interwebs, an old foosball buddy of mine asked that I help him discover the creepy, crazy, wacky world of comic book conventions. By proxy, I assume he also means sci-fi cons, pop culture cons, and possibly the auto show. In any event? Todd Burrows, I got your wonderfully tattoo’ed back. Consider this your introduction and survival guide all rolled up into one easy to read article. Forgive me though, this ain’t Buzzfeed, so don’t expect 10 glorious animated gifs for scrolling.
Let us assume you’re not a comic guy, but this whole comic thing is mildly intriguing to you. Perhaps a person you used to know back in high school is now a small indie publisher, and you think it’d be neat to see him again. Perhaps that publisher from time to time uses his or her friends in model reference shots, and you think that maybe you’d like to see yourself as a superhero or nefarious villain. And maybe, just maybe, you think dipping your toe into the waters of these new-fangled cons would be a good way to know if all your intrigue is just a waste of your time. I know, that’s a lot of supposition. But I digress. The question is simple: Why Go To A Comic Con?
Since the first time I’ve stepped onto a convention floor, I’ve never once felt on the ‘outside’ of the industry. Once your badge is flung around your neck – be you a complete noob or a working professional – you’ll find most every con filled with folks in the exact same situation. In the pair of decades I have considered myself a fan, I’ve not once found a fellow con-goer not willing to lend an opinion, give a bit of backstory, or make an education recommendation on a good read. It can be daunting, no doubt, to jump in head-first to a world you think you don’t know. But lucky for you? Comics have permeated TV, movies, and pop-culture now for so long, there’s little to no chance you haven’t been introduced already without even knowing it.
There’s literally so much to do, you’ll exhaust yourself trying to do it all.
First timer to a con? Let me give you the skinny. A large convention (say perhaps… C2E2 at the McCormack Place south building in Downtown Chicago, on April 25th thru the 27th?) will have a main exhibitor floor, a dealer area, small press, the artist alley, panel rooms, and an autograph area. In order… The exhibitor floor contains all sorts of things to waste your time at. Large exhibitors like Marvel and DC will showcase upcoming books, host signings with their top talent, and typically display movie and TV props from recent outings. You’ll also find a plethora of video game developers, celebrities, and other miscellaneous extraneous pop-culture brethren all looking for a few minutes of your time.
Beyond them, the small press area will contain those up-and-coming publishers (not unlike certain bearded guys I know) who want to show off books and products you’ve probably never seen prior. The Artist Alley (where I know some bearded guys will most likely be…) is a lengthy bit of real estate where each individual artist – be they a penciler, inker, colorist, writer, or a little bit of each – sets up shop. New con attendees (especially those new to comics themselves) are always blown away by the talent typically hidden amidst the 6 foot expanses. Here, seasoned pros sit shoulder to shoulder with those testing the waters of their creativity. Above all else, between the small press and alley, you can spend an entire day discovering people who will no doubt feature a book, a print, or some piece of brik-a-brak that speaks entirely to your milieu.
There’s also the dealer floor and panels. Basically these exist as a universal balance. One (the dealer room) is built to tap you dry of any tangible cash you have on your person. Through the display of literally every comic, action figure, DVD, model, prop, toy, etc. you can think of (and some even, gasp, marked down from retail!) it’s literally like walking through Toys R Us and Borders high on meth. The other (the panel rooms) are places you can go to discuss, learn, debate, and enjoy the culture of comics… without having to spend a dime! I kid though; the panel rooms (and subsequent sessions) represent some of my favorite reasons to attend a show. At panels in the past, I have learned how to be a digital inker, how to approach the business of becoming a publisher, saw sneak peaks of a years worth of forthcoming fiction, and seen (at a medium distance) those people I admire the most.
It’s literally a world unto itself.
Comic Cons are truly a unique experience. It’s hard to not simply ladle platitudes, and generalities here. Each con has its own energy. C2E2 in Chicago is a clusterfuck of pop-culture, slicked up to the nines. In contrast, the Baltimore Comic Con feels like a meeting of the comic cabal, wherein even the wettest initiate is given entrance to a secret society with no initiation fee short of one’s own fandom. Last week I spoke of Dan Con, the INDYpendant Show, and Kokomo-Con. All three of these shows exist on a truly personal level; attending them grants you unfettered access to the truly indie-est amongst the industry. If you are one that would see a show of local bands rocking out? This is exactly that. Except our rock comes twenty pages at a time.
So what are you waiting for?
An invitation? OK. Come on out to the next convention you see! Open up your heart and mind to a world where words meet pictures on sequential pages. Explore fiction that speaks directly to the likes and dislikes you already have. See that our industry is so much richer and deeper than capes, cowls, and cacophony. It’s a world where the new talent is a stone’s throw from the legendary. It’s a world where D-list SyFy stars are treated like the Gods they play on the silver screen. It’s a world where everyone shares a bit of friendship just by being in proximity with one another. Like attending a sportsball game in your home stadium. But people aren’t as drunk. Most importantly though? Comic conventions are a place where you can see those with real passion pursuing a medium the unknowing public tend to write off. We’re a friendly, creative, inviting bunch… and we just need one more human host, and our evil plans will be complete.
I mean… uhh… there’s candy. So, you know, come on out!
- Marc Alan Fishman: 2014 – A Comic Odyssey (comicmix.com)
Photo by PatLoika