5 Amazing Things You Can Do At A Comic Convention That You Probably Don’t Know
ARTIST, ILLUSTRATOR WRITER
I grew up in Charlotte, NC. I got into comics at an early age and had a wonderful mom who was willing to feed my love of reading and comics. I was lucky enough to also live in a town with an amazing comic book store called Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find run by the legendary Shelton Drum.
Every year Shelton and the team at Heroes would put on Heroes Con. It was the first convention I ever attended and it is probably one of the best conventions period. Now not all conventions are built the same, but this one in particular was very artist focused and it lead to my desire to not only pursue art but my love of talking to and getting to know other artists as well. Experiences like the one at Heroes helped shape my childhood and my love of telling stories and those experience are something I love to share. So that all being said, a little background into my growing up around the convention atmosphere in place I have noticed over the last few years in artists alley and just going to other shows that there are quite a few people that just don’t understand all the amazing things you can do, see, and get at cons. So let’s dive into five amazing things you can do at cons that you probably don’t know.
1. You can buy books.
Now wait a minute. Isn’t this a no-brainer? It’s a comic book convention, there are comic books everywhere. I could go into a whole diatribe into why it seems many people go to conventions and don’t even seem to buy any books but I think part of it is they are just overwhelmed. But I think knowing before you go in how to find what you are looking for is the best way to find what you like.
If you are a book fiend like I am and many others who attend, there are plenty of things to consider. If you enjoy mainstream comics for instance many of the larger vendors have the latest issues at their booths. If you enjoy older books or are looking for books to fill your collection, there are always plenty of vendors with heaps of back issues.
Let’s say you love books but just aren’t into the mainstream comics. You want something unique, you can check out many of writers and artist in Artist’s Alley or for bigger cons some have publisher booths where the publishers show all of the cool and new stuff they are putting out. Yes it can be a visual overload, but take a little time and look around. If something catches your eye ask about that book. That’s the beauty of conventions is that there usually a story for everyone if you are willing to give it a chance.
2. You can get your favorite comics or books signed by the creators
It’s a little known secret that at many conventions, artists and creators who created a lot of those amazing pop-culture icons that kids dress up asor that we see in movies, are sitting right across the aisle from you as you walk by. Perhaps the writer who wrote the death of that character who is played by Hugh Jackman just happens to be signing books not an aisle over. If this kind of thing is your cup of tea check out the convention’s website before buying a ticket. See what creators are coming to the show. If you don’t know thier names, google them and see what kind of work they’ve done. You may be standing next to the guy who first drew Superman without his red shorts and would never know it.
Going back to my gold standard of Heroes Con, they put out a fun little booklet every year that you can get at the convention that has sketches drawn by some of the bigger creators in attendence, along with little bios so you can know the projects they’ve done. They even go so far as to have a rack where you can buy some of the books those creators have contributed just for the sole purpose of getting a signature.
3. Get custom original art and sketches
This is by far my favorite. As an artist I love when people ask me to draw them something. The best part is that there usually are enough artists at conventions that you can find something to fit your budget. Some younger or up-coming artists do quick sketches for free, some do it for a tip and some have a set charge that is generally reasonable. For those with larger wallets you can commission some of the more seasoned veterans to do a piece. It really does come down to the price the artist charges and what you are able to pay but it’s an amazing chance to get a custom piece of art with the character of your choice from the artist of your choice. I’ve even seen some people bring sketchbooks with them and commission artist to draw in their sketchbook. Sometimes the sketchbooks will even be themed with only photos of Marvel characters, or perhaps only photos of characters from the Justice League. Where in the world else can you do that kind of thing but at a comic convention? Not only that but kids really love watching artists draw and I for one love seeing their faces as I draw something they like.
4. Get art prints and other fun tchotchkies.
So you want art, or maybe you just want some cool things like pins or t-shirts. You like unique items and want to show them off to all your friends. Guess what. Comic Conventions have those in spades. Many times, especially in artist’s alley you can find cool, one of a kind pieces that will get people talking. Want a Cthulhu inspired pin. Look! There’s one over there. Want a Spiderman Art print. That guy has one! You can find all kinds of amazing things. And typically if an artist puts it on his table… that baby is for sale. Ask people questions, talk to the artists. They may even recommend someone at the convention if you have something specific you are looking for. Yeah.. these artists talk. The artists in artist’s alley are usually a community and don’t mind helping guide you to where you are going or what you’re looking for.
5. Learn how to become a creator yourself.
Now this is something I don’t see much at smaller conventions or in smaller cities but it’s something valid at any rate that you can totally do. Want to make your own comics, or art or tchotchkies or learn about publishing or whatever. Conventions aren’t just art shows. They aren’t just pop-culture shows. They are gatherings of creative people who share creative tips and tricks. Many conventions have panels on things like self-publishing, or getting your foot in the door, or getting hired by publishers. It’s not just panels about the Walking Dead. But more than that you have a whole group of people who make things. They make things and are willing to share how they made them. What they did to get to where they are. And honestly just simply going up to an artist whose work you admire and asking them questions can not only give you something to absorb, to get inspired by, but sometimes makes them feel special as well.