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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.

Underrated: Smaller Comic Conventions

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.

C2E2 sign

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.

Boston Comic Con 2015, Snyder, Lee, and a lot of Cosplay!

bcc1“Welcome to the geekiest place on Earth”

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of stepping into the transformed halls of the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, MA as it became hallowed ground, Boston Comic Con. For three days this piece of property became a haven for geek and nerd alike as they celebrated like no others. I am proud to say that I was not above the fray and Sunday I joined in the festivities as well. Now I have been to a few Comic-Cons before but this one was something special.

I like many of the folks, went in with the intent of meeting the Man among Gods in comics, Stan Lee. That’s right, Stan Lee. You heard me correctly. To realize that I was going to be sharing the same air as the man who brought us Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, X-Men, The Hulk and so much more, was a distinct honor. To say I was jacked was an understatement. However that was the main event, and there was oh so much more to go.

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One foot in the door and it was apparent that I was nowhere near the vicinity of Kansas anymore. The “cosplayers” as they are referred to, not only took it up a notch but they kicked the damn thing off! These costumes were great! They absolutely had to take a lot of time and it’s very hard to not give credit to that fact. Kudos to them all. (Especially you Mr. Freeze, just plain cool)

fb901df7-916f-4e13-9bc3-abae078f2670  417ee6e3-c5ca-42f5-ad75-0f14ada0a9de f0aacb05-7d35-46ae-84ec-19f68d2dd598

Countless cosplayers weren’t the only ones who were turning heads this day. I had the great pleasure of sharing the Con with not only close family (you catch him on his own blog at Steven’s Sport Central) but also a very good long time friend Jon Costanza from Arlington, MA who would give both his arms and then some for his passion of comics. (Not to mention he has some of the coolest ink I’ve ever seen) Jon and I had the chance to meet one of the all time greatest and current scribe on DC Comics’ main Batman title: Scott Snyder. 

Scott S1I have been lucky enough to meet Mr. Snyder on two separate occasions at back to back Cons. He is an amazing person and a consummate professional. He not only signed anything you asked for (free of charge I might add) but he took the time to gab and photo-op with anyone who wanted it. Now for a raging fanboy like me, it’s a dream come true. Oh and did I mention I said to Mr. Snyder that making Jim Gordon as the current Batman is like having any one of us as Batman? His reply? “That’s exactly what I was going for.” This made my day. Two Cons in a row and he has been a complete joy to meet. I hope a lot of people in the business take notes. THAT is how you treat your fans. Mr. Snyder, once again you were fantastic, thank you for taking your time and appreciating mine as well. One last thing, I said to you that I never want you or Mr. Capullo (who is just as great in person like him but wasn’t scheduled to be there) to leave Batman. However if you leave to write Captain America when you do, that’s just awesome with me! (Glad you enjoyed the shield too, and thank you for signing my copy of Batman #1)

add4d8e0-d8b1-49c2-8578-2d7cebc1e593(So cool! Seriously the man is one of the greatest, if you don’t already follow him @Ssnyder1835)

Once I finished there and was able to get my bearings back, it was time to venture around the Con floor. There was everything: vendors, artists, memorabilia, paraphernalia, you name it, and it was there. I spent some time looking for some Ant-Man collectibles and to my surprise there was not much. I figured with the recent movie it would be booming. I guess he’s still small time. (Sorry for the pun Scott Lang, you’ll make it yet) I did however procure a very sweet Pym Technologies T-Shirt later in the day though. Something that was very popular this year which I did not foresee was a lot of Agent Carter merchandise. Must be something due to that Hailey Atwell who plays her. She seems like a nice lady. Many cosplayers took up the red hat charge, but unfortunately none of them wanted to be photogenic, so you will just have to take my word for it.

The lines were long and the day flew by and it was almost that time to venture up and meet “The Man” himself. So I hopped up a few flights of escalators and saw this sight:

8de8e3e3-dcb5-4426-8b15-d5c2e4847cee IMG-20150802-WA0012

One which was probably the best Boba Fett cosplay I’ve ever seen, and the other was to me the Joker of the day. (Joker was a nice guy btw, don’t tell Batman)

A couple of pics snapped and some handshakes exchanged, it was now time. I slung my shield over my shoulder, drew a deep breath and went into the main ballroom to be in the presence of greatness. To my surprise I was one of the first in line. I thought hmm this ought to be very quick. Alas I was wrong, it was almost two hours later before I would see him enter. Now mind you I was waiting with some very hospitable and wonderful people in line, whom I enjoyed conversation with. However the actual process of meeting Mr. Lee was torturous. So much misinformation was exchanged, and the people who guarded the line took themselves way too seriously that they were almost a caricature of their hired position. Nevertheless I was so close, nothing would deter me.

shieldI was beginning to feel like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark as I inched closer to the table. This was my time and this was what the day was about. It should be noted that you will hear many different stories and opinions on meeting of him, but I will say my brief time with Stan Lee was what it needed to be. Would I have loved to have a private meeting where I could pick his brilliant brain about how he came up with the ideas that have revolutionized over a half century of Comic Books? Well, of course I would. This was not that day though. I had to be a realist. Stan Lee is not only the ICON in all of Comicdom, but he is 92 years old. The fact he still even does this is a testament to the man himself. So I gently held out my prized Captain America shield, he drew his pen and asked “Where would you like me to sign young man?” I was speechless, he used that voice of a caring grandfather and I humbly replied “Where ever you may like sir.” The black tip of the sharpie then pressed against the metal of my shield, and history was made. His name then joined a pantheon of who’s who in Marvel Comics history and my mission was complete. I shook his hand, let him know it was my honor and then it was done. It was a moment so brief, yet also completely memorable. Unlike the valued collectible I now held in my grateful hand, it was also priceless. I can say I met the man who shaped my love of this entertainment medium for all my life. I met Stan Lee.

mastersI did the only thing I could, I placed the shield down and gazed upon it’s beauty. It was all over. Time to go back to the real world and real life. So I gathered my things and head down to the main lobby to make my way to the booths for the remainder of the Con. What I saw when I reached the bottom put a large smile across my face. Why what is this? It’s a family of cosplayers dressed as the cast of He-Man and Masters of the Universe.

This here is just proof that being a geek knows no age or bounds and I loved it!

The remainder of day was spent just perusing the booths and grabbing some comic books. It was all very draining. After all  you have had a day where you broke metaphorical bread with Scott Snyder and spoke words to Stan Lee, what could possibly be left to surprise you?

slade1How about a quick impromptu meet and greet with resident Arrow badass, Slade Wilson himself: Mr Manu Bennett?

He was on his way out but took the time for a quick exchange and some banter. Just a cool experience made even cooler. My cousin also friendly stated said he liked him for Season 1 but then he killed Moira. To which Mr. Bennett replied “Yes I did and it was glorious!” Ha. What a great quote. A perfect one to sum up the day too. Many people always say to be weary when meeting your heroes up close, well I’m happy to report that it wasn’t the case for me. In fact, other than the capes and bright costumes I don’t see much of a difference at all. Thank you each, Mr. Snyder, Mr. Bennett, and Mr. Stan Lee for making my Boston Comic Con experience a very Excelsior one!!

Till the next journey true readers…

The Harvey Awards Address Controversies Over this Year’s Nominees

harvey awards logoThe list of this year’s Harvey Award nominees was released earlier this week, and left some scratching their head over some of them. The awards are voted on by comic professionals to recognize their peers.

As with most nominations, folks have their opinions on who was nominated, who was overlooked, and how some wound up in certain categories. It’s hard to list out all of the various quibbles, because there were so many… which seems par for the course when it comes to awards.

Paul McSpadden sent out an email earlier today entitled “2015 Harvey Award Nominees Clarification” that addresses some of the concerns.

Check out below for the email.

The Harvey Awards would like to address questions posed by the comics press and other concerned parties since the release of The Harvey Awards Final Ballot.

The Harvey Awards were formed over 28 years ago with the intent to enable the creative community to honor their peers. The Harvey Awards administrators, as well as fans, retailers, and convention professionals, have no vote. That is the guiding principle of the nomination ballot, and we work very hard to maintain that vision.

As with all Harvey Award categories, “Most Promising New Talent” and the “Special Award for Humor” are selected through the voting of the comics professional creative community exclusively. Beyond a publishing date in 2014, we provide no eligibility guidelines for works in these categories and, as such, we continue to rely on the judgment of our voters, and not impose arbitrary limits.

Our vetting process also leaves us confident that all nominations in the Best Original Graphic Album category are indeed eligible, containing enough new and revised material to meet the category definition.

The Harvey Awards committee is open to suggestions from the professional community and we welcome the input. As we do every year, we will review the Harveys voting process and identify areas where improvement can be made.

Thank you,
Paul McSpadden
The Harvey Awards

Hopefully that makes things a bit clearer as to how some people were nominated in their categories.

Around the Tubes

It’s new comic day tomorrow! Stay tuned throughout the day to catch our suggestions as to what you should be checking out this week.

Around the Tubes

Kotaku – Designing Batgirl To Fit Chris Nolan’s Batman Movies – This is pretty cool.

CBR – West, Ward To Reprise Batman & Robin Roles In 50th Anniversary Film – People clearly remember it being better than I do.

Robot 6 – Lobo co-creator Roger Slifer passes away – Our thoughts are with his friends and family.

The Beat – Baseball, Comic-Cons, and Paying Volunteers – This issue again?

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Comic Vine – Avengers: Rage of Ultron

CBR – Avengers: Rage of Ultron

CBR – Darth Vader #3

CBR – Gotham Academy #6

Nothing But Comics – Space Riders #1

Around the Tubes

Just a bit to get before Christmas. Hope everyone has their gifts bought! If not, head to your comic shop and grab some stuff.

Around the Tubes

The Comics Journal – A Visit to CAB—and the Sustainability of the Convention Model – A cool read.

ICv2 – Biggest Comics News Stories of 2014 – What do you think were the biggest stories?

Comic Vine – Play as Baldy and Shorty from SKULLKICKERS in Kickstarter Tabletop Game – This is cool!