This past weekend, after being rescheduled due to some extremely unfortunate events in the city of Boston, Boston Comic Con was held at the Seaport World Trade Center.
Today I would like to talk to you about why Boston Comic Con 2013 was one of the best conventions I’ve ever attended, and why I wish more conventions were like it.
But first, lets get personal. Allow me to indulge myself a little bit here and talk about my convention experience, both as a fan and as a professional. (Or “professional,” anyway.)
One of the first conventions I ever attended on my own (i.e. without parental escort) was ConnectiCon, though I can’t possibly fathom which year it was. I certainly wasn’t writing regularly for any websites, that’s for sure. I went with a friend who was far more into the whole anime convention attitude than I was and we cosplayed as survivors of the Willamette Parkview Mall Disaster (Google it). I used to have pictures, but heck if I can find them.
Anyway, all I remember about it was attending a mock trial, falling asleep during a movie and generally feeling like I was “missing out” – that there was a part of this convention scene that I just didn’t get. I was happy to spend time with a friend, but whatever itch it was scratching for him wasn’t being scratched for me; I was his third wheel.
Which is weird, right? Because conventions are all about inclusion. It’s about coming together in a giant mob and celebrating this thing that you love with people you don’t know who love the same things. It’s such a cool concept, and it didn’t work for me at all.
I would later realize that this is largely because I was attending the wrong convention. ConnectiCon is probably very different now than it was in Whatever Year I’m Referencing, but it also was reaching for such a wide range of fanbases; there were comics, sure, but there was also video games, anime, loads of Japanophiles, mobs of Stormtroopers and general Internet Lovers. (I actually met The Internet there; he gave me One Free Internet). It was like a smorgasbord of interest, and with none of them truly matching any of my own coupled with the fact that I used to be fairly introverted and shy to a point, I definitely didn’t feel the same glow others were feeling.
So with limited convention experience overall after ConnectiCon and a few other misguided attempts to tag along with mates to places, my first professional experience at a convention that was ostensibly geared to me was a few years ago here in the city I live in. I attended Boston Comic Con when it was held in the basement of a hotel next to the real convention center with a head full of ideals, a camera, a microphone, a pal and nothing but optimism. I left having conducted two interviews before feeling generally defeated and worthless, as well as confused how, despite conducting myself professionally, I was given such a raw deal by the convention administrators, the vendors selling their wares and select con-goers.
I won’t go into specifics (we can talk about it elsewhere if you want). It’s a moot point. It was a rough day, though; it was the anti-thesis of the convention experience I felt I’d been promised. I was jaded. And I didn’t go back until this year, which I only decided to do because I had friends attending from out of town that I wanted to spend some time with.
And boy, what a difference a few years make.
So before I tell you why Boston Comic Con was awesome, allow me to take one more detour that will ultimately inform my conclusion. There’s a point to all this, I promise.
Since doing That Whole Multiversity Thing, I’ve had the opportunity to attend numerous conventions. I’ve sat in on panels, appeared on a panel, walked the floors, conducted interviews and all sorts of things that you’re able to do when people see you have a Press badge. It’s been an eye-opening experience, one that very much informs and influences my life; planning to attend a convention now, as an adult, is akin to hearing from my parents when I was younger that they were planning to take me to Disney World — a mix of excitement and unbridled joy because it’s going to be a party and you might meet a mouse or a princess.
I forget who said it – I believe it was Christopher Sebela on Twitter? That sounds right – but hanging out all weekend at a comic convention is like alcohol comic summer camp. That thought stays true in my mind very much to this day.
That said, the Big Con for me and for this website is New York Comic Con. It’s the one that we’ve attended every year since starting the site and every year is something different – but at the same time, New York Comic Con changes too. The first year it was pretty manageable, and there were just two of us there; we did a few interviews, covered a few panels, networked a bit… real up-and-comer stuff. Last year was almost a fire hazard, with crowds so huge you couldn’t walk across the convention floor in less than an hour’s time — something that would take about fifteen minutes the first year I went (although I did get sick this past year, so that didn’t help my mood much). Interviews were still conducted and even a party was thrown, but it was easy to get frustrated and find yourself doing your best George Taylor impersonation from Planet of the Apes.
Don’t get me wrong: I love New York Comic Con. Unless something crazy happens, I’ll go every year and I’m sure I’ll have a blast. But it’s becoming San Diego Comic Con East, and with SDCC looking barely recognizable as a comic book convention to me I’m not sure that’s such a good thing (as someone who has not been to it but has made comments on it — that shiny-eyed idealist of three years ago). You hear from some people that San Diego is still pretty comic heavy and that’s neat, but when the biggest news piece coming out of the convention covered by more than the handful of comic blogs out there is that Bryan Cranston cosplayed as himself and nobody knew, something is definitely a bit off base – and I’m not just saying that to be overly and effortlessly cynical.
What I want when I go to a Comic Book Convention is simply to attend an event that truly celebrates the positive nature of comics. This industry (like most big business enterprises dominated by cold, emotionless giant corporate overlords) certainly has its downsides and weird behaviors and poorly conducted businesses and whatnot, but when you attend conventions and things go right you get this big warm fuzzy feeling of joy, this large affirmation that this thing you dedicate such a big part of your life too is worthwhile. It’s something that deserves celebration of all kinds – art, cosplay, panels, discussions, all of it.
And when you go to a convention that gets it right, that understands these things, it’s such a joy to experience. There’s just something about being an unabashed comic fan and walking down aisles looking at art you’ve never seen or creators you admire, getting a chance to meet and talk to them and hear what they have to say about their craft with no pretension. You get a chance to interact with them on a personal level, and the people around you feel it too for this shared experience of overwhelming positivity that is worth a memory in itself.
And best of all, you get to see the next generation of fans have a glimpse of the future that awaits them. We may talk about our present comics world with a sense of pessimism or bitterness, but looking at kids stare wide-eyed at all the art in front of them and get excited to be walking about the convention floor with its toys and its comics… it’s really hard not to look at something like that and just smile, to share in their excitement. They don’t want to go home; they want to be a part of this world, and they can be if we let them.
Turns out I’m actually an optimist.
So with ALL of this in mind, it’s without a shadow of a doubt that I can tell you that Boston Comic Con this year is one of the most positive con-going experiences I’ve ever had — and I spent most of it sitting/standing behind a table. It was a con that maybe slightly dipped into the Hollywood/celebrity world with autographs you had to pay for and appearances from Hobbits, but it was largely about comics and comic creators (both local and worldwide). There were so many talented individuals in attendance that where other cons sometimes section off their artists, this convention was just one huge Artist Alley. And on top of that, it featured a bevy of great signings and panels, all of which were managed effectively and without having too much of the floor gummed up as people couldn’t get by one another.
It was like the convention I dream of sometimes (on those rare nights where I dream of conventions). Companies weren’t trying to out-announce one another. There were no panels you had to queue for two hours in advance just to get a spot in the back. No one was fighting for exclusive swag, no one was pushing through crowds and waiting for an hour in the queue for the bathroom. People who wanted to meet Scott Snyder or Terry Moore or Mike Mignola or any number of comic superstars got to meet those superstars and thank them and shake their hands. Adults were acting like kids and kids were dressed as Jake the Dog or an Ewok or little Doctor Whos and it was all damn adorable.
People were just geeking out over comics.
How damn cool is that?
And you know what? Boston needed it. We did. The city as an entity is doing pretty well; we’re a proud town and the whole world knows it. Boston Strong, etc. But on a certain level, Boston Comic Con getting cancelled was sad; I honestly couldn’t have given the tiniest of cares at the time due to the horrors that were happening that were so much more important in every way, but when the dust settled and the city began to pick itself back up again, the exact thing you’d think that would be a good idea – for everyone to get together and celebrate what they love together, even if Boston isn’t a big comic town in the traditional sense – was something that we couldn’t do at more than a Sox game.
Getting Boston Comic Con, getting this second chance to do the convention and for us nerds to unite under one roof? We needed it. And it felt wicked good.
Like I said, I spent a good deal of time behind a table, sitting with Joe Eisma and Charles Paul Wilson III and talking to people about “Morning Glories” (I write a thing in the back of it, doncha know) and comics and other guests and all sorts of things. But whether I was taking a break to walk around and meet other people or just hanging out in one location, the reason everyone had gathered under one big roof was pretty clear.
It was just One Big Warm Fuzzy, and I sound like a sap for saying so but its true. This was a Comic Convention like the one I’ve always wanted to attend.
I also saw someone dressed up as Cerebus, of which I took this crappy cell phone pic:
So that was pretty cool.
Paul Pope recently said that a random DC executive a handful of years ago stated that comics are for 45 year olds. Clearly that DC executive wasn’t walking around at the right convention to see just what a broad range of fans this medium has and the exact type of awesome people who will get dressed and go out into the world to celebrate it without the tiniest bit of shame or care that someone out there might not understand them or this. Because screw that; comics are fucking awesome so lets celebrate.
The next convention both I and Multiversity will be attending will be New York Comic Con 2013. Here’s hoping that it hits the same notes as Boston did this year.