It would be easy to look in on a comic book convention such as Wizard World Texas and see it as yet another example of the great American pastime, shopping. But that generalization would not be fair. Yes, vendor booths that sell collectibles to comic book fans economically support it. The real draw, however, is the inescapable human interaction.
An odd dynamic develops at a comic book convention. People attend to be part of a social event. Fans want to be noticed by the creators they admire; lesser-known artists want to be noticed by the fans. Somewhere in the middle are the individuals who choose to come in costume. Together they form an odd dynamic that supports a community.
Will Hughes, an artist out of the Woodlands, is quickly becoming a name in the comics industry. A filmmaker by trade, Hughes is now publishing his own comics under the Great Big Comics imprint. “The Voyages of the SheBuccaneer,” his signature title, is an adventure serial set in the world of pirates. Hughes’ choice to publish comics is a creative and financial decision.
“The financial requirements of making a film and getting it distributed will eat you alive,” Hughes said. “With a comic book, you get to tell the story and not worry about everything else.”
Hughes’ booth was located on the front row with great visibility. Many of the artists who ended up sitting in what is termed “artist alley” found it more difficult to attract attention. Sandwiched between the superstar artists drawing long lines that stretched down the aisles, some artists resorted to their own forms of coercion to get attendees to talk with them.
Zac Freundt ended up sitting hidden by the throng of people in line to meet Billy Tucci, a popular writer and artist known for his work on “Shi” and “Sgt Rock.” Freundt resorted to wearing a sign that read “We are desperate for your attention.”
“Conventions like this are one of the few ways we can get fans to see our work,” Freundt said. “Being next to a big name is great, but it is making it hard to get noticed; we are still having fun talking to people.”
Attendees of conventions have found their own way of getting noticed by dressing up in costumes. For some it is a simple way to make the day more of an event, for others it has become the event. Faythe Cary came dressed as the Marvel Comics character Emma Frost. Cary goes to many conventions and she makes the most of each opportunity to dress in costume by becoming a different character each day.
“All day I get stopped; people take my picture and tell me how great I look,” Cary said. “That just doesn’t happen anyplace else.”
“I think she does it just to annoy me,” said John Ansley, Cary’s fiancé.
The down side, however, is what happens when the attention is not given. Scott Hintze found himself accosting individuals to explain his costume. He was dressed as Speed Racer, one could tell by the ‘G’ on his shirt. Hintze would then strike a pose until his picture was taken, if one delayed he would contort himself into a more heroic stature. Hintze made sure his picture was taken by everyone he spotted carrying a camera.
“I’m speed racer. See I have the ‘G’ on my shirt and the red ascot.” Hintze blurted as he struck a pose.
This behavior is somehow acceptable, perhaps even endearing, in the world the convention provides. It has become a safe haven for fans to act out a little and dressing up at the convention creates an opportunity for them to engage others.
Wizard World is not the only creative outlet Hintze has found. Like many others dressed in costume, he attends a lot of conventions. Anime, Star Wars, Comic Book and Science Fiction groups all have conventions and many of these fans take advantage of them. It has become their way of expressing themselves. It is their way of being special.
“I go to at least 10 different conventions a year and I have been doing that for at least four years,” Jesse Thaxton said.
Wizard World Texas may be larger than some comic book conventions and it may host a few more celebrities. Yet it still comes down to being part of a community. Artists need fans and fans need artists. Some just need a place where they belong and feel special, even if it is just for the weekend.
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