Comic-Cons, or Comic Conventions, have been an important part of my life. In high school, I was a co-host of a fan podcast for the Nickelodeon show, Avatar: The Last Airbender (not to be confused with James Cameron’s Avatar). I traveled to New York Comic Con in 2008 to do a news package for the podcast and immediately felt at home in a fantastic world of fans in costume, artists selling their work in a place that felt like a Bazaar, and panels where content creators and celebrities answered questions from fans and newcomers alike. Blockbuster superhero films have ushered in an age of nerd culture where people who were once shunned by the mainstream are now the accepted consumers, no longer embarrassed by their interests.
This Sunday was the Syracuse, Salt City Collect-A-Con—a comic book, collectible and games convention that took place at the Regional Market. Comic Conventions like Collect-A-Con are a testament to the societal shift towards accepting nerd culture. There were, of course, comic conventions before the 21st Century, but they were never in the collective media conscience. The comic book world was alien to people who didn’t understand; it seemed to most that comic books were for children and not adults. But now, everyone knows Spider-Man, Iron Man, Batman, and Captain America. Even people who don’t like superheroes can’t avoid them—superheroes are everywhere in media today. Though there are differences between convention attendees of the past and those of the present, the true spirit of the comic convention is alive and well at smaller Cons.
While large conventions like San Diego Comic Con seem more accessible due to the amount of entertainment, video games and A-List celebrities they’ll feature, they can also be overwhelming with their sheer size. If you’re trying to figure out if you like conventions, start small. Smaller, more local, conventions like Collect-A-Con won’t have the big names or brand-name presenters, but they will have unique vendors, fairly priced merchandise, and a greater sense of community.
What’s different now from smaller conventions in the past is that there are more cosplayers—individuals who dress up as their favorite characters from different mediums of entertainment. Collect-A-Con featured fantastic cosplayers dressed as characters from Star Wars, Doctor Who, Ghostbusters and so many more. I even found a cosplayer from one of my favorite shows, The Legend of Korra. It takes a lot of courage to cosplay at a small con—there are fewer people to share the attention—which is a sure sign that the small cons have become a safe space to love what you love without judgment.
Click to see more photos of awesome cosplayers!
The vendors and artists at Collect-A-Con had tables lined up in three main rows, showcasing collectibles, homemade jewelry, custom prints, and countless other collectable treasures. I have a great deal of respect for those who set up shop at conventions; it’s a tough gig. Hundreds of people will pass by their booths, glancing at their art or merchandise and sometimes only a few will stop, even fewer will actually buy. I spoke to one of the vendors who lamented that hardly anyone had stopped by her booth and I responded with some wisdom from other con vendors: “Even if someone hasn’t stopped, it doesn’t mean they won’t come back. You never know what kind of impression you made.” These vendors know the meaning of hustle. Small conventions tend to host artists and vendors who don’t have the funds to go to New York City or San Diego. They work day jobs or attend college, but it’s their passion and love for this culture that compels them to set up shop.
A comic convention is a cornucopia of sounds, sights, and smells (good and bad, I won’t sugarcoat it), with families, friends, and sole attendees who immerse themselves in the culture they love. It’s the best place to people-watch; the joy in everyone is palpable. The joy manifests itself every few moments, like when someone sees an amazing cosplay from their fandom or someone gets that special collectable they’ve been looking for. Even when people look sour or tired or frustrated, I figure it’s just a matter of time before they find their excitement in experiencing a world they love.