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Underrated: Smaller Comic Conventions

As 2021 begins, I wanted to revisit a column from a few years ago. Hopefully this year will see the safe return of conventions, and if it does, let’s make sure we enjoy the smaller ones as well.

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Smaller Comic Conventions

If you’re reading this then I have no doubt that you’ve heard of the cons that run across multiple days, but on the off chance I’m wrong take a few minutes to google San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con or C2E2 as an example of those multiday conventions. Now the three that I’ve mentioned are also well known for having a ton of industry reveals emerging from the various panels, as well as an imperial fuckton of guests and exhibitors all competing for your attention and money.

These major conventions are usually full of a great expansive mass of humanity pouring over comics and, let’s be frank, pop culture in all its lovely various forms that can be both exhilarating and incredibly overwhelming. They are a place for thousands of fans to gather and share a love of all things geek, but can often be tough to navigate, expensive and very crowded – and sometimes they may not be the best place for a person to experience their first con – which is where the smaller conventions can often be the unsung gems of the comics world (at least on paper) by allowing fans to get a feeling of what a con is like, albeit on a much smaller scale.

There’s something that should also be said for the conventions that have a specification, or are geared to one form of fandom over another; whether that’s comics, anime, gaming or Star Trek. These are also going to be far more accessible to those who want to avoid the crowds while still getting a con experience.

C2E2 Show Floor

For logistical reasons, I don’t make a point to travel to every con I can get to regardless of size, the smaller ones do have some advantages the larger ones don’t.

  • Firstly it’s unlikely you’ll be overwhelmed at the size of the convention. By their very nature these events aren’t geared toward an army of fans which means that you’ll be able to swing a cat if you so choose [editor’s note: Don’t swing a cat].
  • The admission is usually pretty affordable.
  • Because the cons are smaller, and usually in small to medium sized cities and towns, more often than not it is easier to find accommodation and parking near the venue itself.
  • You can see everything on offer (assuming you don’t arrive ten minutes before the doors close). Although there is always the chance that what’s on offer for you to buy isn’t great, you’ll never leave thinking that you missed the best buy of the con because you didn’t go down every aisle. That said, if there are any panels during the day, you may still want to plan at least a part of your day if you intend to attend said panels.
  • They can often have the feel of a craft fair about them as exhibitors who can’t afford to travel to larger events can show their products. I picked up an interesting modge podge display piece that had pages from an old comics pasted over a block of wood for a friend at a con last year (that I never took a photo of before giving it to them). Smaller conventions often have lower exhibitor fees, which means you’re more likely to see small scale creatives in attendance.
  • They’re often put together out of love and not always for a profit (this may not always be a good thing).

I’m aware that the smaller cons have a drastically different flavour than the larger cons  and while that flavour may or may not be to your liking, I’ve noticed that there really aren’t as many folks talking about the smaller cons in general verses the industry giant ones (granted for obvious reasons), and I wanted to express some love for the single day conventions that we don’t always talk about after we attend – myself included – but are often the surprise hits of our summer convention season.

Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover more comics that aren’t cracking the top 100.