Ed Catto: Think Globally, Geek Locally


ww-craft-at-rocconThe madness that is San Diego Comic-Con gave way to the easy fun of Baltimore Comic-Con. Now Geek Culture gets ready for the last big comic convention of the year, New York Comic Con, with anxiety and anticipation.

But it’s not really as simple as that. There have been plenty of really good conventions each and every week. And there’s more being planned.

So even though I was still a little “space happy” (as Mr. Sulu once said) from the Star Trek: Mission New York Convention, I put on my favorite convention shoes and made my way to the Rochester Comic Con – which they call RocCon.

A little background: I grew up in the rolling countryside of the Finger Lakes. But these last few years – it simultaneously seems like both a lifetime and the blink of an eye – I lived in the metro NYC area. There I did become a little snooty and jaded. I almost went into RocCon with a chip on my shoulder and ready to peer down my nose, in classic “city mouse” fashion, to be amongst the “country mice” of Rochester.

But, you know what? It was a lot of fun. Everybody seemed to be enjoying it.

“It was the best one yet!” said Josie Walsh, a three year RocCon veteran who’s just 16 years old.

The vendors seemed to be doing well. The artists and authors seemed to do well. The fans seemed really happy. The food trucks enjoyed brisk business. And unlike other cons, I didn’t find any long lines that would discourage fans.

img_0244Guest Who?

There were some fun guests there. Talented comic artists like Mark Texiera, Mark Sparacio and Joe Orsak are fun for a fan like me, but it went beyond that. For example:

  • Julie Millillo is a cosplayer and author, and was promoting both skills at her booth. She also has a lovely singing voice, and thrilled fans by singing in an auditorium presentation.
  • Lou Ferrigno was there. In any given year, I think I see him more than I see my own brothers. But evidently, the fans haven’t tired of him. They loved him and couldn’t get enough.
  • Vic Mignogna is an actor who appears in Star Trek Fan-Films. That’s a fascinating geek subgenre. I was looking forward to speaking to him and learning more about how it all works. But I didn’t get the chance. As a vocal talent of many anime series, fans mobbed him throughout the show.

The Craft of Crafts

There were quite a few booths with entrepreneurs looking to create something in geek space and get a “seat at the table”. Their enthusiasm was infectious and I couldn’t help but root for them to succeed.

“Speaking with the artist/creators selling geek culture wares was inspirational. They are a welcoming community that I am proud to support,” Lisa Walsh, a sixth grade math and ELA teacher at Jamesville DeWitt Middle School near Syracuse.

julie-millillio-rocconBut local Geek Culture didn’t stop at the Rochester city limits, or come to a halt on that Sunday night.

Buffalo Comic Con

The following week, the nearby city of Buffalo hosted its own comic convention. It’s been going on for 17 years, run by Queen City Bookstore’s Emil Novak. He’s a great guy and I love this description of him from Art Voice, a Buffalo mewspaper:

“Seriously? There’s another Comicon? Who’s organizing it? Has to be, should be, and is Emil Novak Sr., Owner of Queen City Books in Buffalo, and the most logical person in this city to do something like this…. And Novak has comic book ink running through his veins. (Seriously, Dracula took a bite of him once and spit out a mouthful of black India Ink.)”

Clearly, they respect Emil and they revel in the homegrown aspect of this convention. And in the article, Emil talked about how he works to make the Buffalo Comic Con an easy, affordable alternative to the bigger shows.

young-fans-at-rocconThink Globally, Geek Locally

That’s the big idea here. There’s enough Geek Culture to go around for everyone. And there’s enough fun, excitement and revenue to make it all work in these “secondary markets.”

That sounds pretty snobby, doesn’t it? “Secondary Markets” is something a big city guy says. I think we need a better adjective to describe all these fantastic mid-size and small comic conventions. There’s your homework assignment – come up with a good phrase before the experts do.

In the meantime, support your friendly neighborhood comic con.