It’s going to be funny someday when we tell future generations that comic cons used to be “uncool”. Kids in the future probably won’t believe it when they read or hear that, at one point in our lifetime, there was only one comic con every year, that one in San Diego.
The movie, comic, video game, and anime fans of tomorrow won’t believe any of that, because they’ll only know comic cons for what they’ve become in the last couple of years—a cultural phenomenon that has risen far above the stereotypes of “nerdy” or “geeky”.
Okay, so they are kind of nerdy. And they’re certainly populated by geeks, but that’s not a bad thing anymore. The genres of fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes, and the like have become so wildly popular that it’s practically abnormal not to be a fan of them.
As their popularity has grown, so have comic cons. They’re all across the country, now; nay, more accurately, all across the world! People flock to these sprawling, whacky celebrations of genre entertainment, with attendances jumping each and every new year.
It’s gotten to the point where I attended two different cons in the span of a week…
As I spent a week in New York City, I made three different stops at the grandiose New York City Comic Con, which is now estimated to be the most-attended of any comic con in North America (surpassing even San Diego Comic Con). When I came back home to Buffalo, New York, I spent a couple hours on a lazy Saturday afternoon at the Buffalo Comic Con, which was making its debut inside the Buffalo/Niagara Convention Center in downtown Buffalo.
I went from biggest con on this side of the Pacific, which had so many people that was almost suffocating to wade through the crowds, to an upstart con which was easily the smallest I’ve ever attended.
But there wasn’t a lack of passion or enthusiasm at either—even the dinky Buffalo one—which confirmed to me once and for all that comic cons aren’t going anywhere but up.
That’s largely because comic cons have expanded to include far more than just their namesake. Sure, every con will still be littered by stalls selling vintage comic books, and Western superheroes of the Marvel and DC variety always have a huge presence, especially at a smaller event, like Buffalo’s. But go to a bigger con, and Spiderman and Batman are suddenly outnumbered.
At the larger conventions that I’ve attended, such as Wizard World Comic Con in Philadelphia and Toronto Fan Expo, it’s actually been video games that have stolen the show, and it’s no surprise what with how much video games have broken into mainstream culture in recent years. At comic cons, there are always gaming tournaments happening, cosplayers dressing up as their favorite video game characters (there are a million Links no matter where you go), and vendors and artist alleys are dominated by video game-related merchandise.
It should be mentioned, though, that games from the opposite side of the Pacific get the most of the limelight. Certain Western franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Halo always find their place, but the gaming presence always have a heavy Japanese vibe.
Where there’s Japanese love, then, there’s sure to be plenty of anime love going around, and you’ll find loads of that at larger comic cons. Japanese media has definitely gained a lot of ground in America over the last few years, but, naturally, another country’s entertainment hasn’t quite hit it mainstream in the States.
So when anime fans have a place to converge, they jump at the opportunity. Comic cons offer them a place where their favorite shows and movies get just much representation as anything Star Wars, Marvel, or DC does on a regular basis here in America. At a con, anime is no longer a niche interest—it’s practically the norm. Dragon Ball Z, Gundam, Naruto, Attack on Titan, Sword Art Online, and everything in between is out in full force.
You can also bet that, no matter what con you visit, there will be at least one—if not, dozens—of people dressed as a character from the wildly popular Tokyo Ghoul. Seriously, those Ken Kaneki masks are everywhere.
There’s even pro wrestlers who show up at comic cons! Most of the time it’s retired stars of the 80s and 90s who tap into the nostalgia that fans had from the WWF days, but modern-day performers like John Cena have also been shown to make an appearance from time to these at the conventions.
It’s probably only a matter of time until UFC fighters start adding their names to the lengthy celebrity rosters at these things. Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey is bound to show up at a comic con at one point or another, especially given her very open affection for both Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon.
And if Rousey ever starts dressing up as a Super Saiyan while challenging visitors to Pokemon battles on their 3DS’s, there will be a line from that comic con stretching all the way to another one in a different city.