Comic conventions, or “comic cons” for short, have come from humble beginnings. San Diego Comic Con International, the most-attended comic convention in the world, started in 1970 when a small group of fans put together the first “mini con,” a one-day convention held at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. The convention saw about 100 attendees and the interest prompted the first three-day convention in August of that same year.
Now, 44 years later, San Diego Comic Con has reported attendance upwards of 130,000 people, and New York Comic Con, now going on its ninth year, may surpass San Diego’s attendance numbers and become the largest convention in North America. Last year, Lance Fensterman, the Senior Global Vice President of ReedPOP who runs New York Comic Con and a couple of other conventions around the world, said they had sold 151,000 tickets for the event.
This weekend alone is playing host to multiple comic conventions around the world including London Super Comic Con, Indiana Comic Con, and for the first time ever, Wizard World is bringing the nerdy party to downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, with sci-fi legend William Shatner in tow.
Wizard World, one of the most prominent names in comic conventions in North America, now hosts 25 comic conventions a year across America. It seems the culture is only continuing to grow, with companies striving to bring the best celebrities, activities, vendors and artists to their conventions, even though San Diego is still hailed as the “Nerd Daddy” of them all.
Some people wonder, though, what makes comic conventions such a popular attraction. Aside from a fan’s opportunity to meet some of their favorite celebrities from television shows and films, or their favorite artists or writers from comic books, what is the draw?
Over the past couple of years, no one can go to a theater without hearing about the newest superhero film coming out that will star some of Hollywood’s most popular actors and actresses. What used to be taboo, being called a “nerd,” “dork,” or “geek,” are now widely accepted terms of endearment that most people are more than happy to wear on their sleeve. Even Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in the Star Trek reboots is more than happy to express his geeky side.
People have grown up not to care what other people think, whether they wear a Star Trek shirt or dress up like Darth Vader from Star Wars to go to the convention. Attendees have found a very accepting place for them to express their passion for comics, television, and films, and companies have realized that the conventions make for great marketing. But the popularity of these conventions isn’t just growing on North American soil, as evidenced when ReedPOP made their announcement that they would be holding a comic con in Shanghai, China. Lance Fensterman talked excitedly about the companies foray into international conventions.
“China is a massive frontier for ReedPOP, a huge market and boundless community of fans that we are eager and enthusiastic to build events for. Geekdom is a universal language and we’re sure that the Chinese people will celebrate fan culture in their own unique and amazing ways.”
Despite issues in the past at some comic cons, including complaints about overcrowding, which is probably the biggest problem most conventions face, thousands still flock every year to their local convention to meet their favorite celebrities, see new trailers, buy some comic books, or spend time sitting in panels and listening to actors answer questions from their fans. With Marvel and DC driving such a huge fanbase to the theaters and reaching people on more than just a comic level now, it seems that comic cons can only grow larger as they begin to offer their fans more and more.
[Images via ComicBookCast / Daily Mail / neeksandgerds]