To All The Cons We’ve Loved This Year

Supergirl Panel at SDCC 2018. Photo by Cori McCreery

We all have different criteria for what makes a convention. Some people love the huge rush of large venues like SDCC. Some like quieter, smaller things. With 2018’s convention season having finally wound down, we figured it’d be a good idea to talk about which con each of us liked best, and why.

Cori McCreery: I had some amazing con experiences this year, between Emerald City and SDCC. Especially my SDCC; it was full of moments that were amazing. Between meeting the first Supergirl and mingling with press and creators at the DC Press Breakfasts, to being on my first panel, I had a great weekend. But nothing will top what happened on Saturday. Not for this year, and probably not for my life. I was given the opportunity to interview Melissa Benoist and the rest of the Supergirl cast, which was a big enough deal for me to begin with, and something I knew I’d have trouble keeping my composure during. I’d cried after interviewing Helen Slater, so I had little faith that I would hold it together while interviewing Melissa. WBTV upped the stakes though, when they sent out a press release an hour before the press room, though. The press release announced the casting of Nicole Maines as the first transgender superhero. I started crying before I even got to the room. I pulled myself together and managed to maintain composure through interviewing Jesse Rath and David Harewood. Amazingly, I only cracked a little while interviewing Melissa. Then we interviewed Mehcad Brooks, and I mentioned that this is the first time I get to see myself as a superhero, and Mehcad looked at me and asked me how that made me feel. And dear reader, I was done. Every pent up emotion from a long and hard weekend came out, and I openly bawled in the press room. Mehcad stood up and gave me a big hug. Nothing will ever top that. I finally felt represented and was comforted by one of the actors from my favorite TV show.

Emily Lauer: This year I attended three different cons, all in New York City: the NYC Feminist Zine Fest, FlameCon, and most recently New York Comic Con. Going in this order, it felt like watching the idea of a convention expand. The ZineFest was held in two rooms of a campus building and felt vibrant. FlameCon was in its first year at a new venue, taking up multiple floors of a midtown Manhattan hotel, and felt both official and counter-cultural. NYCC was, of course, overflowing the gigantic Javits Center and was overwhelming in almost every possible way. While I had a great time at each, I realized that for me, how much I enjoy a con experience will be shaped by how difficult it is to feel a sense of discovery there. I don’t care very much about branded swag, and I actively avoid pushing through crowds and waiting in lines. Therefore, most of NYCC is not what I go to a con to get. However, it is still possible to have the small con experience inside the larger con. Down in the bowels of the first floor of the Javits, in Artist Alley, creators sold tablefuls of their own comics, prints, custom sketches, and more, and that was where I wanted to be. I had the same excitement talking to the creators there that I had talking to the creators tabling at the ZineFest and at FlameCon, and while it was more difficult to find, it was just as rewarding when I did find it.

Kate Tanski: Rose City Comic Con has been my favorite con of the year now, two years running. It’s hard to beat the chill, relaxed atmosphere and the sense that not only is everyone welcome but there’s room for everyone, including families. Portland is home to Image, Dark Horse, and Oni Press, and more than a few comics creators, which makes it feel like a hometown con in a lot of ways. The laid-back nature of the convention (which features luxuries like a local coffee roasting company just outside the exhibit hall and a partnership with a local microbrewery that brings beer inside the exhibit hall) seems to put attendees, artists, and guests at ease, which makes them more willing to chat and take time in their responses. Some people (Nola) have said that it feels like ECCC ten years ago, and that’s a great way to describe it. RCCC is at that moment where it’s large enough to attract some of the bigger publishers, but small enough to still have space for independent creators, and that gives it a fun vibe that makes you remember why you started going to comic cons in the first place.

Zora Gilbert: On Sunday of SPX this year, a wildly tall person with floppy hair and gangly limbs visited our table. They went over our books (queer historical fiction, mostly) with reverence, picking them up and flipping through them in silence. Finally, they looked at me and my tablemates and thanked us for making queer work that was visible, loud and unashamed. It wasn’t just us, either, they said. They were shocked at how many queer creators and queer books were at the show, and were profoundly emotional at the sense of belonging that we all allowed them to experience. That moment is the reason I love the show. The fact that this con—an indie comics expo that tends towards the progressive, but makes no explicitly branded political claims—is a place where people can be rampantly, unapologetically, and carelessly queer, is incredible to me. SPX reminds me that I have a duty to improve not just my craft but the world around me, in steps as small or large as I can take. This year’s Ignatz awards carried the same tone, too: Carol Taylor and Ben Passmore set the tone for one of the funniest, most impactful award shows I’ve ever seen, tossing bras and condemning R. Crumb (respectively), while expressing unquestionable joy at the work on display. SPX is a place where we can jointly celebrate how far we’ve come in our craft and as a community, while also knowing that the work isn’t, and will never be, over. I can’t wait to go back.

Wendy Browne: The Toronto Comics Arts Festival has come to hold a special place for me. I was used to big conventions like Fan Expo Canada and SDCC, so it was a culture shock to walk into the Toronto Reference Library and discover such a wonderful vibe that was way more focused on actually appreciating the comic industry than on dollars. Each year since my first visit three years ago has been a different experience. Last year, I took my daughter, and we hung out in the kids specific programming areas. This year, I tabled with Bleating Heart Press, promoting Secrets of the Goat People and more.

I do still love big cons, though. Fan Expo Canada is always my favourite convention, because I’ve been apart of its growth for 20 whole years, playing various roles along the way and watching it expand from a wee thing in the back of the South Building of the MTCCC, to the monster that it is today. This year, my brother brought my girls to the show while I was working, and it meant so much to me to have them see what I do every year when I vanish for five days. Now they want to volunteer too. Finally, there’s SDCC. This was my third year, with my first year being twenty years ago, and my previous visit, two years ago. WWAC covers a lot of ground during this event, and I love how well the team works together and our fun times. I also really love that this is a place where I can meet so many of the people whom I’ve only known as email addresses or twitter handles. It’s a big, exhausting event, but the fact that it takes place in such a beautiful city means that I can also take some time to be a proper tourist when all the interviews and and panels and gatherings are out of the way.

Nola Pfau: Prior to this year, my experience with conventions was limited to only Emerald City, a con that I certainly enjoy, but that has become more and more difficult to attend with each passing year, as it grows and grows. ECCC is the kind of con now that it’s easy to get FOMO while you’re at it, because there’s just so much going on that it’s impossible to catch it all. Even sitting panels most of a day is exhausting, somehow. By contrast, I expanded this year into attending both Rose City Comic Con and Geek Girl Con, each a step down in size from the one prior. I enjoyed RCCC, but I really found that GGC was my jam; it’s small, more indie-focused, relaxed, family friendly, and I don’t think I’ve seen a higher concentration of queer and trans folks in one place before in my life. I really, really enjoyed it, and the fact that it’s close to home is all the better.

Was there a particular convention you enjoyed in 2018? Tell us in the comments below!

Nola Pfau

Nola Pfau

Nola is a bad influence. She can be found on twitter at @nolapfau, where she's usually making bad (really, absolutely terrible) jokes and occasionally sharing adorable pictures of her dog.