Q & A 16: Why do you go to comic book conventions?

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?

Anika

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.

Caroline

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.

Jennifer

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.

Sigrid

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?

  • Carolyn

    I go for friends, and I also go for the creators and the shopping. When I’m going to Wizard World Philly, which is in town and to which I never seem to attract any out of town fans, it’s mostly for the chance of fangirling Amanda Connor (if she’s not sick again!) and, well, buying stuff. I am a huge hazard at a comic bargain bin; I’ll buy almost *anything* if it’s 25 cents.

    Anything I’m going out of town for, it’s usually for the friends I’m meeting more than anything else. Although there are creators and things to buy, too.

  • Dan

    The first con I ever went to was one of the WizardWorld shows in Chicago. Some friends and I just decided to go (it was the site of my “I like Xander” comment to Joss Whedon).

    Since then, I’ve gone to some local ones, mainly because my friend likes hunting for obscure autographs. Personally, I just like looking at books and toys that I’ll probably never buy.

  • Julia

    I haven’t been to a pure comic convention in ages. Those were one day affairs, so it was shopping, shopping and more shopping. Only on one occasion (early 90s mind you) did they snag Adam Hughes as a guest and I had him sign a Maze Agency trade. I only learned of his JLA work after the fact. I’ve never been to the big ones, although I’ve been tempted by NYCC and Baltimore. Maybe someday, when I can swing the time and travel and etc costs.

    I’ve been to some bigger science fiction conventions and used to attend MediaWest regularly. For those it’s friends, creators, discussion panels and maybe shopping.

  • I’ve only ever been to local cons and those were mostly about looking around and buying stuff. Now I would like to go to the big cons and sit in the panels and meet the creators. I buy trades almost exclusively now and my toy collecting days are long over so shopping would probably not enter into the equation very much.

    One thing I would like to do now would be to get sketches done. That seems like a fun unique experience.

  • Friends! I am way more likely to go to a con if some of my friends are going to be there, which is why I’ll drive up to North Carolina for Heroes Con. Assuming you people are going again. :)

    I also like panels. I really like panels, even the ones that are just fans asking when characters like Arrowette are going to be in a book again. I attended as many panels at Dragon*Con as I could, because… fun!

    But mostly for the shared experience of so many people who like talking about comics or whatever other geeky interests I have. It’s lot of fun.

  • A

    I go to a con to have fun, meet people and get sketches. I always make sure I go to SDCC because it is in one of my favorite cites, San Diego. Perfect weather and has a couple of my favorite restaurants as well.

    I wish I could go to NYCC this year but there’s always next year…