As I decompress from ComicCon I find myself faced with a resounding question from people who have never been to a convention or have no desire to go: why? Around that is the why spend the time? why dress up? why spend the money THERE?
It’s not easy to not take that question personally. I’ve never felt the need to ask sports fans why they spend money on season tickets or families why they’d splurge on an all-access Disney vacation. Yet, for some reason, many geeks I know are often asked why go to an event like ComicCon (or DragonCon, or GenCon, or… you know the drill).
San Diego ComicCon is like traveling to a different world. A world where everyone is a fan and obsessed with something (even the celebrities). It’s a land where PR and Marketing men and women try their darnest to excite the consumer. It’s a place where you can proudly display your collection of geek t-shirts and almost everyone gets it, instead of just the folks who work in your IT department. It’s not a place for everyone: it’s hot, there’s a ton of people, you can’t possibly see everything, but the same could be said for a trip to Las Vegas.
For lovers of pop culture, San Diego can quickly become the mecca of their fan experience. As one lady described it on the train as I was coming back from San Diego to Los Angeles, “the first time I went, it was like I was coming home.” Often, when you’re passionate about a comic book, TV show, anime series, or book series, you’re alone in your love in your immediate family and friends. At most you can hope for a small circle of fellow fans. At ComicCon, that circle expands to thousands — no matter how small your particular interest may be. For example, I was thrilled to see Piled High and Deeper (a web comic about graduate school) had their own booth at the con.
Despite the great strides that geeks, nerds, and fans have made over the years to being more accepted and less weird, there’s still a lot of lonely for this segment of people (which I belong to). So, if you were one of these people who felt alone in your love for said movie/TV show/comic/etc. and you found a place that no only loved that movie/TV show/comic/etc. but celebrated it? It would be an oasis. It’s much like the lone Cubs fan in New York City finding a Chicago bar or discovering a dressage club in the middle of downtown Los Angeles.
Almost everyone has a hobby. For some people their hobbies are directly related to things that go on at ComicCon. San Diego ComicCon isn’t just about comics anymore, it’s about gaming, movies, TV shows, collectibles, anime, cartoons, books, and much more. If it’s some kind of creative medium, you’ll probably find it at ComicCon. One of the highlights of my Con was learning about a new webseries about an elderly assassin (Agent 88, check them out and kick in some funds to help them). Not everything at the Con is going to tickle everyone’s fancy, but the chances are that even if you don’t consider yourself a geek per say, there’s something there.
The overall experience of ComicCon is kind of like a theme park without the rides. There’s vendors and experiences around every corner. People got face painting, handed free stuff, got their pictures taken, played free games, and so much more at the convention. There’s even costumed folks walking around for you to take pictures of, like Snoopy, Disney characters… or Doctor Who (ahem, I couldn’t help it, he looked great).
In the end, if you’re still asking why anyone would go to this — it’s a vacation. It’s an escape from reality as much as going to Hawaii or on a cruise. It just happens to have a lot of celebrities that you may not have heard of and be plastered with advertisement for some new shows coming next fall. If it makes us happy, why not?