In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.
Why do you go to comic book conventions?
I started going to cons for one reason and one reason alone — shopping. I live in a city that barely counts as a city and the passable comic and comic paraphernalia stores are nearly an hour away (at which point, I may as well go to Boston or New York, right?). So as much fun as getting the autograph of the guy who played Dr. Bashir on Star Trek Deep Space Nine (before he changed his name!) may have been, the truth is I came for the Dealer’s Room.
But once I was there, I was hooked. Not by the excess of stuff to buy, not by the opportunity to chat with “stars,” and not by the workshops, as fun and actually informative as they are. No, by the costumes. I am honestly just as happy to dress-up and go hang out with a slew of other dressed-up people as I am to “go to the con.” I love taking pictures of superheroes and I love posing for pictures as a superhero. It’s fun! And that alone is worth the price of admission.
I go to cons primarily to spend time with my friends, something Jennifer and I wrote about last fall. As far as the attractions of the conventions themselves, though, my favorite part is almost sure to be a panel. Not the ones where editors and writers sit in front of the room and field questions about which C-list character is going to be resurrected in which D-list title (though those can be fun). I love to go to craft panels, particularly ones featuring writers, where they speak to some aspect of the creative process. I spent three years in a creative writing program, and I’ve been to my share of “literary” readings and conferences, some of which have been transcendent experiences. But I’ve rarely encountered such a group of enthusiastic, hard-working, and just plain interesting writers as I have in the comics industry. I never fail to come away from a con with some piece of unexpected inspiration, if only just the realization that I’ve seen a group of people who are working at something they love and having a great time.
Other than the social reasons Caroline mentioned, I have two other major reasons to go to cons. The first is my love of window-shopping. I’m not exactly a big spender — I’ve even been called cheap on more than one occasion — but growing up in New Jersey, I’ve spent large portions of my life wandering around malls with my friends, walking into stores to look at the merchandise and using that merchandise to spur and guide the conversation. It’s especially fun to do this in a comic shop — to rifle through back issues and laugh at ridiculous covers, to “ooh” and “ahh” at statues and explain, in painstaking detail, the history of a depicted character a friend isn’t familiar with. So comic-cons, being, in many ways, massive comic book shops, are the perfect opportunity to engage in that kind of window-shopping and conversation, with friends I don’t see as often. If I have nothing I especially need to be doing at a con, I’m guaranteed to be on the floor, simply wandering past the different vendors, and taking it all in.
But the other major reason I go to cons is a bit more altruistic. I go to cons to tell the creators of the comics I love just how much I love those comics. I’m a firm believer in the worth of a good compliment, and of sharing my appreciation of people who have impacted my life in some way. I don’t meet creators to get things signed — though I’ll usually bring an issue along for politeness’ sake, and to have a conversation-starter. But I don’t talk to the creators for my own benefit. I talk to them out of an intense desire to explain why I enjoy their art and writing, or at least to say that I do enjoy it. Some writers and artists may get that kind of feedback all the time, but I’m sure even the most jaded creators prefer a heartfelt compliment to signing 50 comics someone plans to sell on eBay.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, given these two reasons, that my absolute favorite part of any con is Artists’ Alley. As a place where I can share my appreciation of creators I love at some tables, and window-shop for comics covers and art as I pass others, it’s the best of both worlds.
I still don’t think of comic book conventions when I think of going to con. I came to conventions via science fiction and fantasy fandom. Minicon, Wiscon, CONvergence. World Fantasy. Relaxacons like Supercon or Omegacon. The only comic conventions I’ve been to are local — Fallcon and Microcon. (Oh, and Fiddler’s Green, which was a one-time local convention for Neil Gaiman.) I go to conventions to talk to people. I go to conventions to see my friends. I go to conventions to volunteer, to participate in the community of fandom. I sit on panels, I work operations, I badge.
My relationship with comics conventions is starting out differently. I’m going as a comics-blogger, as a comics-writer. I watch the tables wondering how to improve the presentation. I try to think of decent interview questions. I try to watch the crowd to figure out how they are deciding where to stop. I’m still, I think, going to be attending comic conventions for the same reasons I go to SF/F conventions — to talk to people. Volunteer. Participate.
What about you? Why do you go to comic book conventions?