Pros and (Comic) Cons
Colleen Coover (cover), Hope Nicholson (editor)
Dark Horse Comics
May 29, 2019
Disclaimer: A copy of this publication was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Comic conventions and festivals can be as fun as they are overwhelming for attendees. My first comic convention was well over two decades ago and since then, I’ve participated in various events in various capacities: from attendee to exhibitor to press to staff. Inside or out, I’ve looked at cons from both sides now, but my experiences can still vary vastly from industry people for whom conventions are truly their livelihood. Pros and (Comic) Cons offers insights into that world from more than forty different perspectives. Industry insiders and creatives such as Trina Robbins, Brian Michael Bendis, Kieron Gillen, Greg Pak, Jenn St-Onge, Tim Seeley, Chris Arrant, Amy Chu, and so many more share their stories and anecdotes in the latest anthology compiled and edited by Hope Nicholson.
Earlier in the year, several of the contributors to this book, including editor Hope Nicholson herself, shared their three stars and a wish for the world of conventions, detailing the things they loved about the events and the things they wish they could change. You can get a taste of what Pros and (Comic) Cons has to offer with this focused roundtable, but it only scratches the surface of the many-faceted perspectives each of these comic industry folks has to offer.
Varying in format from essays to sequential art, the contributors offer a lot of their stressful and even embarrassing moments, usually rounding things out with a cute anecdote or moral of the story. Anthony Oliveira shares a helpful “Queer Guide to Comic Con,” including step-by-step details on cosplaying, while Brian Michael Bendis’ “Only At…” is a subtle reminder to attendees that comic creators are at a convention to do their job and, as much as you might love their work, being respectful of their time and personal space is always the better option.
Some of the stories are more like retrospectives, looking at how the comic convention circuit has evolved over the years. Some take, like Diana Schutz’s “Only Lonely Madmen,” take us back to the way things were. Schutz’s essay was originally written in 1992 during the Portland Comic Book Show, which happened to have the American Continental Circus performers preparing for their own event outside the convention doors. Fascinating for the content and the descriptions of Sergio Aragonés’ iconic mustache, and even featuring a sketch from Aragonés himself, “Only Lonely Madmen” is also notable for the various fees Schutz mentions. Imagine paying $67 for an exhibitor’s table now…
There are stories about the anxiety of conventions that are swarming with people, but often, these stories end with bright moments of friendship—and, for Amy Chu, even love. Nicholson herself opens the anthology speaking about her favourite part of conventions, which is saying goodbye. The parting waves have become “a comforting ritual, a closure to moments of companionship with friends but a promise that we will meet again. I joke that comic conventions often feel like summer camp, in that intense friendships are formed, only to lapse into occasional online interactions, until the time of the next con when they are renewed again with hugs, banter and meals shared.”
Greg Pak laments about being a writer in the artist alley and the deadlines that continue to loom even as creators sit at their tables: weird sketch requests, the ticking clock versus the massive crowds that make panelists late for their panels. There are dance floors and pool parties. There’s never enough hand sanitizer. There’s some sexism going on. The negative elements slip into many of the contributions—understandably so. Comic conventions are a sardine can of problems for all kinds of reasons. But the tie that binds all of the pieces together is that, no matter how stressful conventions are, there are so many reasons to love them because of the connections that they help form. Whether business, personal, or just a passing touching moment, these pros have a lot of good memories and experiences to share.
Just remember to treat them respectfully and show a little empathy next time you’re requesting a sketch of Superman eating cookies while riding a murderous chicken.