Disclaimer: I am very very tired so no promises on how coherent this post will be.
Why am I so exhausted? Because I just worked 4 days at the New York Comic Con, also known as NYCC. And it was awesome.
If you don’t know what a comic con is, it’s a convention that was first established to showcase comic book creators and bring together fans, but which has grown to encompass all types of nerd/geek culture. Video games, TV shows, movies, cosplaying (making often elaborate and amazing costumes based on existing characters), books, everything. Though this was my first time at NYCC, I’m a veteran of Chicago’s big convention, C2E2.
Before I get into what NYCC was like, it’s time for a shameless plug! I went to NYCC to work at a booth for the organization I interned with back in Chicago, Reading with Pictures. They’re an educational non-profit that works to get “comics into schools and schools into comics.” Studies show that using graphic storytelling as a teaching tool helps kids learn, often better than the traditional text-only approach. Be sure to check out their website, Readingwithpictures.org, for more information.
I pretty much LOVE Cons. Though the hours are long and the crowds are large and annoying, not to mention having to line up constantly (lines, the downfall of all cons), the good far outweighs the bad.
I noticed at my first convention many years ago that the average con-goer is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. Generally people at conventions are happy, accepting, and friendly. It doesn’t matter what they do in their daily life, at the convention they’re surrounded by things they love, so of course they’re in a good mood. And Con-goers come in every size, shape, gender, and age. I’ve seen elderly men, elderly women, little kids, grown women who are more passionate about a comic than the stereotypical nerdy guy. The best is the families, spouses who love comics and have passed that on to their children. And the kids are adorable, especially the ones that dress up. Yesterday a toddler Superman holding a Super Bunny waved at me, handed me a piece of candy, and then fist-bumped me. There is nothing better than that.
I love going to conventions because I always have a good time. I can have conversations with random people about any number of random things, and it’s always great. Convention conversations are like speed-dating if it wasn’t awkward in any way and there was no expectation of ever seeing each other again. Just having a good time for a minute or two, then walking away happy to talk to the next person. Yes, I did make some new friends that I am happy to keep in contact with, but I also talked to a lot of awesome people that will now just be great memories of my NYCC experience.
Not to mention all of the cool stuff that’s there. Toys and games and t-shirts and every type of merchandise. But also original art and hard-to-find pieces and ENDLESS rows of comics. The bigger cons, like this one, have bigger items to showcase. The Marvel booth had the car Lola from Agents of SHIELD. Big name creators and actors came for signings and panels. I got to see a Teen Wolf panel with my favorite actor from the show, and hear him, his costar, and the creator talk about their experiences. That’s not something you get to do everyday. Or ever.
My favorite thing about conventions is something that is true of almost every kind. I’ve been to comic cons and Leaky Con (a Harry Potter convention) and other events around different texts, and they all share the same communal feeling. When you talk to people at a place like that, you realize that the other person just gets it. They may not share your opinion or even like the same things you do, but they understand the connection you feel, the draw of loving a book or show or film or comic so much that you dress up as a character from it, or buy merch, or stand in line for an hour to see an actor. They understand the joy in finding other people who like the same things, in having friendships that seem on the surface to be based on liking the same show but are actually based on shared values that the text represents.
Conventions bring people together who otherwise may never have met. They are a bridge for fans to not only buy some new stuff or see a cool artist/creator/actor/writer, but to find each other. Even if just for a moment.