By Caroline Black
We’re all fans of something. Comics, movies, books, TV shows—each one offers us a unique escape into the fantastic world of another’s imagination.
Collecting a bunch of memorabilia is one thing, but getting suited up and meeting the people behind it all is a very different thing. Conventions are a place to meet other geeks and see another level of greatness that develops when minds collide. If you’ve been setting up a bucket list, these are some conventions you definitely need to visit before you get too old. If you think you’re too old, go anyway.
It wouldn’t do to simply list “Comic-Con” because there are actually two major convention centers. Even if you’ve been to one, it’s highly recommended that you visit the other. For now though, let’s take a look at what each has to offer.
- San Diego
The original site for Comic-Con was in San Diego, California. It was started in 1970 and continues each year to date with over 100,000 attendees each year coming to the four day event. Since the original, tons of new parties have gotten into the act. Comic books may have been the foundational element, but now the convention also hosts film previews, video games, and anime. The sheer amount of geekery that descends upon Comic-Con International makes it a top pick. It’s one of the few places you can visit and be almost certain to meet some of the authors behind the magic.
- Tampa Bay, Indiana, & San Francisco
The other branches of Comic-Con include Tampa Bay, Indiana, and San Francisco. Each has its unique charms, and while none of the three are quite as old or as large as San Diego’s, they still get a huge turnout each year. Famous authors, artists, actors, and cosplayers attend the three regularly, giving convention attendees a great reason to travel to each different one.
While Comic-Con has a very broad range of interests, Megaplex is extremely focused. It celebrates what have become known as “furries,” people that dress up as anthropomorphic creatures. If that’s your thing, this convention’s a no-brainer. Even if it isn’t, visiting is still worth the trip. The events are entertaining, and it’s good to see what other geeks are getting into. Megaplex is a worthwhile visit if nothing more than for the experience and entertainment.
MegaConThough less famous than Comic-Con, MegaCon attracts a huge audience each year. In 2014, there were close to 80,000 attendees, and it has since grown. The recent MegaCon featured some big time guests, including Stan Lee and William Shatner to name a few. As a whole, the content format is virtually identical to Comic-Con. All different kinds of media are presented, with the chief difference being the location in Orlando, FL. Conventions are traditionally held between February and March, but the last few have been hosted closer to the summertime. Pack your costumes and bring your singing voice because one of the big features at the convention is a karaoke cosplay contest.
While some of the American comic conventions are huge, the Comiket (also known as the Comic Market) is considerably larger. Several hundred thousand people attend each year, traveling from all around the world to meet in Japan (usually in Tokyo). Due to its popularity, Comiket is held twice a year. The focus of Comiket is a little different. Its media is almost exclusively printed (comics) and the overwhelming majority is done independently. Dojinshi authors (self-publishers) gather to sell merchandise, promote their work, and contribute to the growth of a market outside of large publishers. As you might expect, there are thousands of cosplayers. It may not even be accurate to describe this event as a convention. The sheer enormity of the event is truly a sight to behold, the likes of which you’ll never forget. It might rightly be called a “spectacle.”
Dragon ConWith a name like Dragon Con, you’d expect lots of dragons. While you might run into a few, the convention is just as diverse as its cousins. Seated in Atlanta, Dragon Con typically draws in over 50,000 people, each looking for something unique. Whether you’re there for the sci-fi such as Star Wars or Star Trek or you’ve come for more traditional fantasy, they’ve got it. Similar to other conventions, you’ll have the opportunity to look ahead and see what famous artists or writers will be attending so you can plan your trip accordingly. One distinct difference about Dragon Con is that it’s run as a for-profit event. The vast majority of the “Comic-Con” scene runs as a non-profit, so this sort of makes Dragon Con different. That being said, the stands aren’t incredibly different in nature, but every convention hosts unique content each year.
Tips for the ConsSome have visited conventions, others haven’t. If you’re one of those who have never gone, there are a few things you might want to know. We’ll include some useful tips for veterans as well.
- Bring water! (You will get thirsty)
- Everyone shares the same WiFi, so use a VPN
- Have a bag or backpack to store your goodies in
- Dressing up is worth the effort
- Avoid traveling to conventions alone
Most conventions just require common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to go through the checklist before going. There’s going to be a lot of cool stuff for sale, so it’s only natural to bring a bag to carry it all in and money to spend.
Installing a VPN (short for Virtual Private Network) on your devices isn’t first on many checklists, but it’s essential if you’re going to bring your phone or tablet. Huge conventions with unprotected WiFi mean lots of opportunities to get hacked if you don’t have a VPN to encrypt your connection.
While cosplaying might not be for everyone, it truly completes the convention experience. Between the fun of putting the costume together and actually interacting with other people while dressed up, don’t miss out on it. It’s not embarrassing when thousands of others are doing the same thing. Think about bringing a buddy. It might compliment your costume to have someone else dressed up with you anyway, and also it pays to have an extra set of hands nearby if you buy a lot of merchandise.
Similar but DifferentAfter looking at so many different conventions, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that each has a slightly different variety of things to offer. Their varied locations mean the settings will always have something special to offer no matter which convention you head to.
By far the most unique would probably be Comiket, but it would be a waste to suggest that is the only one worth visiting. So long as you can afford the time and cost of travel, all of these conventions are worth visiting. So grab your backpack of goods and prepare for an adventure.
Have you already started your adventure? What conventions have you visited and what were they like? We’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below!
About the Author: