Ed Catto: The San Diego Alternative

Anissia Croft Pres of Camillus ConThe business world, the SyFy Channel, California, ComicsPRO, Hollywood, pop culture and everyone on planet earth who loves entertainment has spent the last week been focusing on Comic-Con International. And as you may know, it’s still often referred to as San Diego Comic-Con. It’s a gloriously bloated beast of a show, overcrowded and overwhelming. And I just love it.

For change of pace, let’s pause to celebrate the front line of Geek Culture on a smaller scale. Specifically, let’s look at the hard-working folks who create, build and manage one of the nation’s many small comic conventions.

IMG_8964Last week I had the honor of attending Camillus Con, the Finger Lakes New York nerd and geek culture celebration. You may not be familiar with this one, but they’ve been doing it for a while. In fact, this convention was celebrating its fourth birthday.

Camillus is one of those gorgeous little upstate towns with an undercurrent of creativity and fan passion. And both were on display for this show.

Camillus Con President Anissa Croft (“Like Tomb Raider,” she said with a mischievous grin as she spelled her name for me) is charming and infectiously energetic. And she’s quite a cosplayer. She explained how the show has grown and figuratively pitches a tent big enough to include cosplayers, anime fans, comic nerds, artists, artisans, quidditch players and even the local library.

Modern MythosCosplay was in full force at this show. Oh, there were the standards, like Power Girl and Spider-Man, but as a less frenetic, less crowded show it allowed all the cosplayers to have a little more fun acting out as they posed for snapshots. And beyond the standards, there were so many cosplayers with both strong costuming skills and big smiles.

A few highlights from the people who made it happen:

Modern Mythos Comics & Collectibles is run by a longtime collector. He was selling comic book back issues in the dealer’s room. He explained that his collection had grown too large and the time has come to start selling it. (I certainly know how that goes.) His loss was my gain – especially in picking up three gorgeous comics with wonderful Dave Stevens covers.

Ling TangLing Tang is an artist with a delicate flair and a myriad of images to sell via her studio, Illusions of Grandeur. She was warm and friendly, and like so many convention exhibitors, just as eager to chat about the topics du jour (Pokémon Go and Dungeons & Dragons), as she was to shift into selling mode.

Syracuse NerdJames P. McCampbell lets everyone know he is a Syracuse Nerd and proud of it with his shirt. His artwork displayed his passion and his salesmanship reinforced his own boundless enthusiasm.

While some of the mid-tier comic conventions try to position themselves as the cure for everything that’s “wrong” with San Diego Comic-Con, it seems to me that if you don’t like big shows then smaller conventions with heart, like Camillus Con, are the way to go.

Until they too get huge, of course.