r o F y z a Cr c i m Co s n Co Story and photos by Sean Previl
Itâ€™s an assemblage of some of the greatest heroes and villains in the universe, but instead of tearing worlds apart it brings people together.
Itâ€™s the comic book convention!
“Comic books haven’t lost any of the magic, they’ve gained even more magic...” - Mike Michalski Every year more than 100 ‘comic cons’ take place around the world stretching as far as Comiket in Japan to the four different comic cons we have here at home in Windsor. The conventions are growing, bringing in hundreds of thousands of people, with some of the biggest such as San Diego and New York selling out in minutes. It is difficult to trace the origin of the first comic book convention, but New York’s ‘Comicon ‘64’ in 1964 may have been the first such convention ever held, or at least the first in North America. It started the ideas behind much of what has become the basis of comic cons: putting the consumer in touch with distributors and engagement between creators and fans. Conventions are now being held in more than 30 of the 50 United States and in half of Canadian provinces. Comic Book SyndiCON is one of the four conventions held in Windsor and is holding its inaugural event this August in partnership with St. Clair College’s Family Fun Day. With a focus on its namesake, the SyndiCON provides a free experience for Windsor and Essex County to meet their favourite comic book artists, learn how to draw in the style of different comics and even enjoy some cosplay. “That was our goal: to avoid focusing on the hype, the celebrities and the movies, and zero in on comic books and their creators,” says Mike Poirier, one of the organizers of SyndiCON and co-host of Comic Book Syndicate. Poirier says he’s found some comic-cons have lost some of what made them special, specifically focusing on comics. With conventions featuring more guests from television, movies, anime and occasionally even an adult film actor or two, he says the conventions have become more about money than the art. “Comic books have inspired billion-dollar franchises, but the actual comic books themselves are currently a niche market,” says Poirier. “It’s a bit like the tail wagging the dog.” Even with the conventions becoming bigger and featuring more pop culture stars, everyone can still take away something by attending, especially if they visit the different comic book vendors. Michael Michalski, organizer of Windsor Comic-Cons which runs both Super Summer Comic-Con and Christmas Comic-Con, emphasizes he tries to have his events stay true to the source material. Doing so allows both young and old to be exposed to a different form of the written word. Reaching youth is especially important for Michalski because comics
Windsorites browse through a vendor's collectibles at the Giovanni Caboto Club during Super Summer Comic Con 2
aren’t as accessible as they used to be, when comic books could be picked up in any convenience store. “Comic books haven’t lost any of the magic, they’ve gained even more magic because they’re somewhat of an anomaly to these kids,” says Michalski. “You expose comic books to kids, they’re more magical than ever.” “It’s not work to them, it’s a lot of fun. Before you know it, they’re picking up new words, they’re being exposed to all different subject matter. It’s a fantastic medium all the way around.” Often it can be special guests brought to the conventions who draw in crowds because of their popularity or because their films may be featured as sneak peeks as part of the event. At SyndiCon, people will come to meet their favourite artists from Windsor like Shane Hunter and Cristina Marin. Larger events like Fan Expo often see celebrities including Stan Lee, Neve Campbell and Billy Dee Williams. Super Summer Comic Con here in July featured actors Rob Archer from Lost Girl, and Kevin Duhaney and Jeff Parazzo of Power Rangers Dino Thunder. The performers signed autographs and took photos with fans who otherwise may have been unable to meet them. But for the actors themselves, going to the conventions to meet their fans means just as much to them as it does to the fans. “It’s to get up close and personal with my fans,” says Duhaney, who played the blue Dino Ranger on the show’s 13th season. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be working.” August 2015 - The HUB 33
Left: Cosplayers Rachel Gray, left, and Nhu Tu battle each other during the Super Summer Comic Con 2 Right: Power Rangers Dino Thunder actors Kevin Duhaney, left, and Jeff Parazzo take photos with cosplayer Rob Middleton, during the Super Summer Comic Con 2
Parazzo, who played the white Dino Ranger alongside Duhaney, says he only started attending conventions recently and through them realized how important the shows he’s done became for fans. “You’re nothing without your fans.” For Parazzo and Duhaney it was also about visiting conventions near their home of Toronto. Parazzo says he appreciates having so many events across southwestern Ontario. “It’s nice to be able to bounce around and see cities around you because we never do that, we’re always in the States and stuff, so it’s nice to just stay home,” says Parazzo. While some may feel the events have lost their original flavour, they have provided other benefits, especially to vendors of different pop culture merchandise. From small stuffed Pokemons to superhero masks and yes, comic books, some have found comic-cons a way of earning a profit while being able to sell products they have interest in and be in the heart of a subject they love. “You get to see a lot of neat stuff,” says Sabrina Wiese, an employee of Dice and Stuff, an entertainment company that, according to their website, ‘creates, supports, specializes and produces works of the imagination.’ “When you’re behind a booth you don’t have to worry about the crowds because the crowds come to you…it’s not just about selling, it’s seeing and talking to people and finding out what they like, what they don’t like.” Wiese also says a benefit to being a vendor at comic book conventions is the exposure. People see the products for sale and come up to ask more about For vendors, choosing which ‘con’ to participate in. can depend on the cost and benefits. In Caila Mailloux’s opinion, it can all come down to a
convention’s attendance that will determine if they will be a vendor. Since SyndiCON and Windsor ComicCon are in their first year, Mailloux, who owns Roany’s Collectibles in Kitchener, says it’s difficult to know whether her business would be able to make enough profit from advertising at either event. “We come out to showcase our products but we have a cost as well, so we have do well,” says Mailloux. “It gets harder to do that when you have a $500 table cost. The only time we’ll really put that out on tables is if the show has proven itself for multiple years in a row.” Although actors and artists can be a big draw to the conventions, some people also come to the events to see the creativity of attendees through the ever growing popularity of cosplay. As comic-cons have grown, so too have the number of people dressing up as their favourite characters. Some do it to become another person and be embraced by the fans, while others prefer cosplaying as a way to express their creativity and try something new. People who come to cosplay are often given their own celebrity treatment with many wanting to take pictures with them and show off their own craftsmanship. What began as small events to celebrate comic books and bring fans together with the artists they love has grown into a worldwide culture. With attendance for some of the biggest cons reaching well into the hundred-thousands, people have been coming together yearly to meet their favourite artists, writers and actors, to see films and previews of what’s to come in pop culture, and attend panels on topics including the sounds of Hollywood shows or a look into the past and future of video games. Here in the Rose City the book has opened and the story is off to a great start. It’s up, up and away. Excelsior!
A look into the world of comic cons. This is an update from the original publication due to an editor's change.