Hope Nicholson on the Bonds of Comic Conventions and Having Different Perspectives

Hope Nicholson at Fan Expo Canada 2019

We have covered Dark Horse Comics’ Pros and (Comic) Cons at Women Write About Comics in the past, but when I got the opportunity to speak to editor Hope Nicholson at Fan Expo Canada, I couldn’t pass up the chance to chat with her about her own comic convention experiences, the process behind putting Pros and (Comic) Cons together, and what we can expect to see from her in the future.

The cover of Pros and (Comic) Cons, featuring fans getting autographs from creators at a convention

What has been your favorite experience at a comic convention so far?

One that I really remember the best is when I had just published my second book, which was a collection 1940s Canadian comic books called Brok Windsor. I had this boy, who’s about seven years old, come to the table, start flipping through it and I’m like, “Oh, no, it’s gonna be boring. It’s from the ’40s.” He’s like, “No, I know all about the characters. I know Brok Windsor. I know Nelvana of the Northern Lights. I know, Johnny Canuck.” And then he lists all these things—he had read it on the internet. I was amazed! And then he asks, “Can I borrow this?” And I said, “Listen, you can have it!” I’ve never met a child actually interested in 1940s Canadian comics books before. I haven’t met that many adults into it, for that matter. So that was really nice.

And how did you become interested in comics, yourself?

I’ve read them ever since I was a kid. Every time I did anything else, it just kind of kept coming back to comics. I tried to be a film producer for a while, and I immediately thought, “Why don’t I make a movie about comics?” I tried to be an academic. “Why don’t I do an essay about comics?” Then eventually, I thought, “Why don’t I just publish comics?” And yeah, it’s been a really great trip so far.

Growing up, what were your favorite comics?

It’s hard to say. I really did like Elfquest for a while, because it was a very big, epic adventure. But I also liked some of the standard superhero stuff, too. So West Coast Avengers, and Scarlet Witch and the Vision, really big lines. They were very melodramatic, very romance-based. There’s a lot of betrayal. As a kid, it was like, full of so many twists and turns. So, that was really fun.

Where did the idea for Pros and (Comic) Cons come from?

I’d done two anthologies with Dark Horse before. One was The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, which was all romance stories by women in the geek industry. And the second one was The Secret Loves of Geeks, which was an all-gender version, also about love and sex and dating. But when I was looking for people for those books, a lot of them said they weren’t comfortable talking about that kind of stuff, not talking about like their personal relationships, which they kept very close. So, I was trying to think of a project that would be more inclusive of people who didn’t really like to talk about their personal life in that way. And then I thought of the other things that bind us together outside of love and dating, and it was comic conventions. That’s the biggest kind of bonding experience we have. I managed to reach out to friends I’d met through different conventions and a lot of them wanted to be in the book. It was a really fun project to put together.

Did you find that some of the writers felt like they didn’t have anything to contribute because there was nobody to draw their story?

Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s a lot of different experiences in the convention world. And a lot of people aren’t artists, but they are still involved here. Like, they might be someone who’s running a retailer booth, or they might be a journalist, or they might be a publisher. That’s the thing—they all have their own experiences. And even if they’re not drawing comics, I think they still have a story to tell. So being able to tell comics and text stories, to me was really important to get a wide breadth of experiences.

Did you have any favorite story from the anthology?

I really like Trina Robbins’ story. Trina did a story all about her first San Diego Comic Con back in the 1970s. And it was great, because in a lot of ways, it really echoed my experience in the 2010s going to my first San Diego. It’s like, “oh, there’s the Eisner Awards, at the time, I think they were the Inkpot Awards. And there’s, pool parties, and it’s just people having fun, and then also the frustration of when you’re stuck in your booth, and you don’t have a comic wife to help you out when all the other guys do. And so, you have to hold in your pee for hours at a time, because nobody’s going to help you out. It is still a very relatable feeling. It was really neat to see how, in some ways, very little has changed in the last 40 years, for better, or worse. I feel like it helps bring the generations together.

Would you have any advice to share with someone who is new to the world of comic conventions?

Don’t spend a lot of money to go to your first convention—if there’s something local, go to that. Really get in with the community there and start building connections because that’ll help you even when the convention ends. You will have friends to turn to; you’ll have community support. That’s something that’s really important that can come out of smaller conventions.

What can we expect to see from you next?

In addition to the work I do for Dark Horse Comics and other publishers, I also run a small press publishing company up in Canada, [Bedside Press]. And we have a bunch of new books coming out in the next year. One of them is called Science! It’s a middle-grade graphic novel about a young girl at a school for super geniuses. It’s kind of fun.

One of the things I’m really excited about is a prose book. It’s an anthology of indigenous LGBT sci-fi stories. It’s called Love After the End. It’s these really inventive stories that you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the collection because they’re all stories where, because they’re written by indigenous authors, they don’t have the same kinds of tropes that you see in sci-fi books written by other creators. There’s no wars, or colonialism, or conquering nations. It’s just really cool stuff like “Hey, what if this guy had a best friend who was a cybernetic rat?” I’m really excited to get it out into the world.

Louis Skye

Louis Skye

A writer at heart with a fondness for well-told stories, Louis Skye is always looking for a way to escape the planet, whether through comic books, films, television, books, or video games. E always has an eye out for the subversive and champions diversity in media. Louis' podcast, Stereo Geeks, is available on all major platforms. Pronouns: E/ Er/ Eir