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What's the Big Deal about Comic Conventions?

Updated on July 15, 2012
Fans dressed up at the Chicago Comic Con
Fans dressed up at the Chicago Comic Con | Source

by Christopher Peruzzi

I know what you’re thinking.

Comic books are for geeks, nerds, and people who are most likely to go to the prom with their mothers. People who go to comic conventions have lost every hand hold on reality and do nothing but talk about theoretical battles between The Hulk and Superman or whether the Justice League is a better team than the X-men or Avengers.

And they’d be half right. These guys, for the most part, are geeks. However, while they may have a secure IT career or blog to the point of distraction, they are relatively normal folk. Most of the professionals you’ve encountered have that secret geek persona that is impossible to divorce from their core personality – which also puts them right at home at a comic convention.

For some of you outside this group, you may wonder why someone named your production webserver Boromir, Merry, Frodo, or Bilbo.

I could spend pages and pages describing the types of geeks out there, but I’m sure you’ve had an inkling that your friend who has that unhealthy fixation on Star Trek (Trekkies or Trekkors), Doctor Who (Whovians), Star Wars (they still don’t have a name), and Lord of the Rings (LOTR for you people new to the game), is one of them. If you want the lowdown, you can always purchase I Love Geeks: The Official Handbook by Carrie Tucker.

What’s more important is that you’ll have to be patient for any PC problem you might have at work during the week of a comic con – because that’s where your geek went.

Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory at the San Diego Comic Con
Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory at the San Diego Comic Con | Source

What's a Comic Convention, Anyway?

Okay, you’re not one of us. You obviously either don’t know or are dating a geek and you need to know what’s in store.

Fair enough.

A comic convention is a huge city money maker that is held many times for multiple days where scifi fans (some say SyFy but I’m of the opinion that that abbreviation was a marketing ploy from an empty suit that just didn’t “get it”), comic book aficionados, horror, zombie, vampire, fantasy book fans, and the new upstarts into anime and manga, gather to meet their favorite writers, illustrators, and cult movie star actors in one place. And when they are not doing that they are meeting with many of the comic book dealers and buying as much geek merchandise and collectibles as they can – at a discount.

It’s hard to describe to an outsider why these things are so awesomely cool.

The major comic cons are broken into four major activities:

  • Comic Book Writer areas – Yeah, this is the uber cool area. You can meet and talk with some of the best authors in the biz. The majority of these guys are just down to earth. You can ask them almost anything and, provided that you’re not an arrogant douche, they’ll give you an honest answer. A few years back I got to meet Peter David (Captain Marvel and legendary Incredible Hulk writer – among other things) and he really was a gentlemanly scholar. Other writers such as Denny O’Neil, Tom DeFalco, and Danny Fingeroth, were equally approachable.
  • Comic Book Illustrators – Once again, uber cool. These guys are insanely talented and once again, if I were a budding young artist, I’d ask them lots of questions on technique and what it takes to get into the industry.
  • Panels and Discussions – This is the reason you go. All depending on the size and attraction of the convention, you have some major players on these panels. Now, I like to write. I write some fiction and I’m always interested in what you should do to make your stories more interesting. The panels are groups of writers, TV stars, and comic book executives that will let you know what’s coming down the pike within the industry. The panels are up front discussions where, again, you have an opportunity to ask these guys questions and get an informative, if not entertaining, answer.
  • Books and Merchandise – You know you’re not going to leave this place without spending a ton of money. If you are a collector and are looking for that missing issue, this is the place to get it. If you are looking for a good graphic novel at a discount, you’re at the right place. If you’re looking for that TARDIS coffee mug your best friend has been torturing you with for the last year, congrats – you can buy your own. If there’s a deal to be made on a T-shirt or any kind of scifi stuff, you’ll find it here.

The New York Comic Con

A markerJavits Center, New York City, NY -
Javits Center, 655 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001, USA
get directions

The location of the New York Comic Con. Easily accessed by cab, train, or bus in the area.

What are the Biggest Comic Cons?

There are three major comic book events in this country.

The biggest comic book event, by far, is the San Diego Comic Con. People come from all over the world for this ONE WEEK extravaganza. And the fans go all out. They come in costume or dressed as their favorite characters either drawn or in films. Other people come with their camera and autograph book. The panels are insanely good. It is not unheard of to get the entire cast of True Blood, The Big Bang Theory, Fringe, and Burn Notice all under one roof. This is where the legends assemble and where you’ll probably get a sneak preview of everything thing that’s coming over the next year.

I consider the next two comic cons to be good runners up. There’s the New York Comic Con which is the second biggest money maker for the city. It usually lasts about four days – Sunday being the best day for bringing the kids. While it is not on scale as its west coast counterpart, it is certainly not worth missing if you’re in the area. Typically, it’s held in the Javits Center in midtown by the West Side Highway. The New York Comic Con is good because, really, it's where most of these writers work and it’s where you’ll see the most literary action. If you’re looking for the celebrity angle, go to the San Diego one. However, if you want to meet writers and artists, come to this one. It's held in October.

The third is the one held in Chicago. This one gets a mix of all of them. You get a lot of cult heroes that visit this one. The 2012 one will have Stan Lee, William Shatner and Bruce Campbell as part of their VIP experience. It is held in August.

Final Thoughts

Geeks around the world have had a hard time growing up. Do yourself and do them a favor, don’t hassle them about their going.

They’ve been cursed with knowing that they know what’s really cool and no one believes them. Comic Cons are where they can congregate and truly partake in their passions. There is so much to do and more than not, with even a week allocated to a con, there’s so little time.

Even if you plan meticulously, very few people can go through the rigorous physical endurance of being at a convention for days. I can take about three days before I’m physically exhausted and most of the time, I’ll stay home on the last day to rest for work. This is after three days of carrying a back pack of my geek made spoils and autographed graphic novels.

It takes a lot out of you.

I mentioned the three biggest comic conventions around – that does not mean there are not others. Only last month, I went to a small comic convention in Asbury Park. Among the guests were the cast of Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men. It was a great time and a good excuse to get together with fellow enthusiasts to discuss where we think the industry is headed and why some writer took the direction he took with a specific character.

Good deals on comic books and merchandise, meeting experienced writers, meeting cast members of great TV shows, and meeting fans that are as passionate as you are about the medium – you can’t beat that.

As for me, I got some of the best writing advice from the 2010 New York Comic Con Fantasy writer’s panel which had (among them) Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files), Joe Abercrombie (The First Law Trilogy), and Brendan Sanderson (Wheel of Time). They helped me look at my writing differently and that, in itself, was worth the price of admission.


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    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      I lived in San Diego and Comic-Con was/is a huge revenue generator for the city. However, I really had no idea what it was all about. Thanks for the explanation for those of us that exist outside the loop! :) Voted up and useful.

    • cperuzzi profile image

      Christopher Peruzzi 5 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      It really is a great experience. I'm glad your first was the SDCC.

    • KateWest profile image

      KateWest 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I attended my very first Comic-Con this year. As a newbie, here are some things that surprised me: It took MONTHS to get a ticket, getting a member id, getting up early to log on the website, not getting in, trying again during badge re-sale, etc. Then there's the hotel registration. Everyone talks about how big it is (I'm talking Nerd Mecca - SDCC) but you can' be prepared for how much there is to do and how much planning is involved. I like to be spontaneous in my travels and there really isn't room for that in San Diego. Also, I was only able to snag ONE ticket - and for Sunday only. So that severely limited my activities. I decided to forgo the panels (boy, they're not kidding about the horror lines for Hall H) since most of them will probably be broadcast on YouTube later and for my first time, I wanted to limit the lines. Well you can't avoid that. A line to pick up your badge, a line to get in, a line to buy t-shirts, etc. All that said and done, however, it was worth every minute to me. It's amazing and magic and even though I just wandered the convention floor, I felt I had a full experience, ran into some crazy fascinating people and resolved to try and go again next year. I'm no fan girl, but I do dabble. :)

    • cperuzzi profile image

      Christopher Peruzzi 5 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      Kirkman has brought a lot of attention with not only comics but zombie fans. It's writing and fandom like that that make a convention worth going to.

      Another good title he put out is his Invincible line. It's worth a read if you can find them.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 5 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Interesting information!!! I used to collect comic books when I was younger...Archie, Batman, Spiderman...etc. I think that with shows like the Walking Dead, might help to lure some of this generation into the world of comics and Anime seems to draw more in each day. Perhaps in the future, going to conventions, won't be considered a "geek" type of thing.