I went to a lot of cons this year. So many cons. I attended SDCC for the first time, flew to New York for the second year of FlameCon, did some shopping at TCAF, some press and panels at FanExpo, and covered several of Toronto’s hundred-odd film festivals.
I’m not a fan of cons, generally, especially big media cons that feed the entertainment press mass-produced “scoops” and the fans mass-produced cheap swag. Little cons, though, aren’t perfect either. Too small and a single pass through the con floor, a fifteen minute stroll, and you’ve all but done the con. Too insular and attendees can feel like they’re intruding on a private party. Not just uninvited, but unwelcome. So much of what we treasure about cons is just the people we attend them with and the people we meet. But how cons are designed, who runs them and why, matters too.
So, I don’t always like cons. I’m picky about venues and organization. It’s why I edit our con diaries. But this year was different for me. From the big cons to the little ones, I had more fun at cons this year, got more work done, and made more new friends and contacts than ever before. So what made the difference? What keeps a big con from being alienating and a small con from being dull? I asked WWAC contributors to tell me about some of their memorable con experiences to help me figure out what it is that makes us love a con.
My wife and I were guests at Otakuthon in Montreal this year, and I can’t say good enough things about it! The convention is held in a giant convention center, but there’s just enough attendee-to-space ratio that it doesn’t feel too overwhelming. That’s definitely in keeping with the convention’s relaxed and happy vibe. From our guest liaison to the attendees, everyone was so cheerful and pleasant (even though our French-speaking abilities were subpar–je suis désolé!). We ran four panels, covering everything from empowered pinup to intersectional feminism and female character tropes, and we had such a diverse, attentive audience! The cosplay was phenomenal too! There was so much attention to detail going on! It was an absolutely fabulous experience, and I highly recommend Otakuthon to anyone looking for an excuse to hop over to Montreal!
San Diego Comic Con 2016 (Photos by Tiffani Chien)
I have to say, my favorite con of the year has to be NYCC ’16. It was an amazing time this year, and I couldn’t have asked for better. The other years I’ve been to NYCC were always hectic and filled with drama and chaos, but this year ran way smoother, and I’m thankful. I was recognized by my voice and name throughout the weekend from being on the podcast Comicsbound and writing for WWAC, which was very surprising to me. (Someone thanked me for getting them into Steven Universe. I damn near cried.) We went to the most epic of panels and screenings. The ones that stuck out to me the most were Stranger Things, Legion (if you love the visual style of A Clockwork Orange, definitely check this out), and, of course, Steven Universe (cause, duh. <3). We saw some AMAZING Stranger Things cosplays, and I stole a “Missing Barb” poster from the wall. I met two of my favorite artists and got something dope swag. This year was absolutely an epic con, and I’m already excited for next year.
I love going to conventions, but they wipe me right out. GeekGirlCon is a bit of an exception; not only have I never had a single negative interaction with any of the convention staff, artists, vendors, or attendees, but the atmosphere is a perfect mixture of enthusiasm and inclusion without being tiring. This year was no exception; I had an excellent time attending panels, shopping for comics and prints, and even had the pleasure of helming the Women Write About Comics table for a bit on Sunday with Amanda Vail. It was an incredible opportunity to talk to people about what being a critical fan means, and it was especially great to see how many people were already familiar with the site or who were exciting to check it out as soon as they could. It can be hard to have a meaningful conversation in a busy convention, but the people who stopped to chat with us were curious and passionate about media, and I loved chatting with everybody who stopped by.
The biggest surprise for me this year was FlameCon–the atmosphere was so warm and welcoming the entire weekend, it was great. I really enjoyed the in-depth panels there; they were intimate and able to go far beyond a lot of the 101 diversity panels at most cons I’ve attended. The floor of the con was a mix of artists I’m currently a fan of, artists who I was discovering for the first time, and even an artist who I’ve been following for probably a decade, but had no idea would be at the con. The cosplay was also completely out of this world–I didn’t know I needed a sexy gay Lantern Corp., but they were there and they were amazing. What I really enjoyed the most, though, was how invigorated I felt after the con. While most conventions leave me wrung out and drained, this one left me inspired to get creative. Bonus: Everyone there was incredibly cute, perhaps rivaling SPX in terms of attendee cuteness levels, AND I got to hang out with a big chunk of the WWAC crew.
Toronto’s FanExpo 2016 (Photos by Stephanie Austin)
Back to Megan
As a famous hater of crowds and waiting and waiting in crowds, it will probably surprise a few of you that my favourite con experience this year was SDCC. Over 100,000 thousand people attended the con, and yet, it didn’t always feel like it. Crossing the con floor to get to interviews scheduled with comics pubs was a special kind of hell, but interviews at the surrounding hotels and bars were fantastic, a chance to decompress and get to know someone new. Most of those interviews ran so long I missed TV pressers, and I didn’t mind. The venue was clearly designed with the con in mind, minimizing bottlenecks with its multiple doors and lack of bottlenecks. The fact that the con is so huge it has spilled out to the surrounding area was a blessing, since I could head out for some fresh air without truly leaving the con behind. But maybe most important was all the people I met for the first time or finally met in person.
SDCC is a well organized con, it’s true, but it’s also a That Big Con, the one so much of the entertainment press flocks to year after year. The one where I got to meet WWAC’s Education Editor, Kate Tanski, in person, after knowing her for a decade online. The one where I met the awesome Joe Schmidt of Comics Bulletin, and super-sweet artist Johnnie Christmas. It’s the one where WWAC’s Interviews Editor, Wendy Browne, and Comics Bulletin’s Publisher, Mark Stack, and I drank ginger beer, fell off air mattresses, and giggled through most of Stranger Things. It’s a good con because of the people, but also because the con doesn’t get in the way of the people–or the products–but instead makes it easier to connect with them.
What makes a good con? Besides organization, thoughtfulness, safety, positivity, good guests, good panels–I mean, the obvious–it’s personal. What makes a good con for me is, well, connection.