In the early days of the San Diego Comic Convention aka SDCC aka Comic Con International, you could walk down artist alley and see the likes of Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, John Romita Sr., Neal Adams, Jim Steranko and on and on. It was smaller and in a more intimate venue than the expansive San Diego Convention Center. Media promotion was rare and the biggest movies to debut were films such as Howard the Duck and Return of the Living Dead. Over the years SDCC has changed quite a bit. It’s now a media frenzy where big Hollywood deals are made and blockbuster films are promoted and debut. Areas where you would once see fans sitting and reading the comics they had purchased along with the ocean view are now blocked off to make room for E Channel and Entertainment Weekly to interview movie stars posing for photo ops. Table space at SDCC can potentially cost thousands. Saying that SDCC has become a monster is putting it mildly.
Unfortunately, this monster is no longer all that friendly to the small comic book retailers or to new, Indy comic creators who are just starting out. More and more these comic book creators new and old, fans and retailers alike are heading to comic conventions that have a less hectic and claustrophobic atmosphere, little to no media attention and more laid back and family friendly. Conventions such as Heroes Con in Charlotte, Wondercon in Anaheim, Baltimore Comic Con, Dragon Con in Atlanta and so on have become the new hot spots for fans, creators and retailers. These conventions have quickly become the new fishing holes whose secret location has been revealed. One of the newest comic book conventions to throw it’s hat into the ring is the North Carolina Comic Convention or NCCOMICON.
|The historic "Tobacco District" in the heart of Downtown Durham.|
Started in 2010 by Alan Gill and Eric Hoover, the first venue was an outlet mall in Morrisville, just a short drive south of Durham. This year the show has been moved to Downtown Durham, at the Durham Convention Center. Located in the heart of the trendy Historic Tobacco District of renovated, brick tobacco warehouses that now house art galleries, pricey condos and restaurants that would put San Diego‘s gas lamp district to shame. It is also just up the street from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and is right next door to the historic Carolina Theater, home to the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. A much larger and appealing location for the young convention although you wouldn’t know it from the crowds of people that were packed in on Saturday. At one point on Saturday, the crowd became so huge that the exhibit all had to be closed due to having gone over capacity. It is a young convention and there are still many organizational issues and bugs to work out but this is nothing new to comic conventions.
|Durham Convention Center|
|Carrie Kelly Robin with slingshot|
|Sunday traffic at the NC Comic Con|
|The Batmobile at NCCC|
|Who knows what evil lurks at NCCC? The Shadow knows!|
I envied them that experience and it made me recall my own fond memories of my first few conventions and the friendly people I met who welcomed me into the world of comics. It was heartening to see so many young fans of both genders and of all races showing an interest in comics and gaming and art and cosplay. This hobby is filled with old men(like me) and it is in desperate need of younger blood if the comic culture is to survive in the long term. We have to be inclusive and welcoming to these new fans, young and old. If anyone has to prove anything it’s the longtime fans who need to prove that this is an awesome hobby that welcomes any and all who would show interest. Another factor in the survival of the comic book culture is a fun, energetic, welcoming, friendly convention. The North Carolina Comic Con certainly meets that description. I look forward to 2013.