Con Season Come Early!
The past few years have seen my convention attendance ramp up quite a bit. I’m still on the fence about it because conventions can be really stressful. The crowds, the need for self-care, the foraging for food, the need for hydration all while in costume contribute to an environment that makes it difficult to take care of yourself. It’s still fun, but there are definite stressors to the whole convention experience.
My convention experience is shifting from only attending the big Atlanta conventions, e.g. DragonCon, MomoCon, and Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA), to including some smaller conventions like the Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo and OnyxCon. It’s also resulted in my attending my first inaugural convention and my first out of state convention.
As DragonCon has pretty much been my measuring stick when it comes to the convention experience, I have expectations of large attendance, all night entertainment, a lot of party energy, and a ton of cosplay. I’ve been sampling the smaller convention experience and as a result, I’ve had to recalibrate my expectations. That is to say, I was pleasantly surprised by my experiences at The State Of Black Science Fiction Convention (SOBSFCon) in Atlanta and HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina.
SOBSFCon took place on July 11 and 12, 2016. Held at the Southwest Arts Center in Atlanta, GA, this inaugural convention focused on speculative fiction created by Black artists. This included artists, writers, comic creators, illustrators, podcasters, film makers, musicians, jewelry makers, and other craft vendors.
In addition to the fantastic merchandise available, there were film screenings, a puppet show, a sword fighting demonstration, talks about writing, publishing, gaming, and cosplay – all from the perspectives of Black creators and producers. As a Black creator, I am very aware of how important it is to have a seat at the table, or, even better, to build the table and choose who sits at it. Conventions like Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo, SOBSFCon and OnyxCon are amazing and accessible venues to find a variety of Black independent creators of all kinds. When a big or popular convention does not support Black creators, we need to create the ways to be seen, a challenge that authors Balojun Ojetade and Milton Davis met head-on and with great success. These conventions are also a great way to find original stories about different characters other than the industry standard. Independent artists are doing amazing things that we will never hear about unless we step outside of traditional media. A convention focused on providing visibility to marginalized, ignored, and often looted populations is a gift and an achievement.
I attended HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina July 17-19, 2016 and I had a great time. To be fair, I am not a huge comic book fan. I read some and I enjoy them but I do not know the writers or the artists. HeroesCon is a true comic book artist convention. All of the guests are writers and artists, there is an art auction, drink and draw events, quick draw contests, and an art show. If you want to meet and talk to comic book creators, this is the place to do it. There were also a ton of independent comic creators and illustrators there, so if you are ever interested in finding something new to read, this convention has you covered.
I spent my time mostly wandering around shopping, and being in cosplay. Friday I dressed as Luke Cage and even made it onto Bleeding Cool as “Lady Luke Cage.” Imma be real, that lady shit bothers me but whatever. It still beats out “Lucinda Cage” by a landslide.
Saturday I busted out my slightly upgraded Thanos cosplay. If you follow me on Facebook, you may have caught me livestreaming some of my clay sculpting to make this prosthetic. It was quite a task, but I’m really proud of the results. This was the first time I made something like this, and it came out better than I’d expected. I’ll be doing a write-up about it in the coming weeks, because I actually impressed myself. Plus, I got some awesome photos from Leo Photography that made me scream with joy on the convention floor. Literally scream. I need to give a special shout out to my friend Randy for talking me into both attending and cosplaying for this convention because I wasn't going to do either.
I also got to hang out with some cool comic creators while roaming the convention floor. I met the Bully Eater team, Raymond Brown and Wille Colón who were a complete treat. I also spent a bunch of time with the Kamikaze crew who live tweeted the event and even put together a Storify chronicling their weekend. If you scan through the tweets, you’ll find a picture of yours truly, as Tanya Woods and I hung out at their booth for almost an hour. When I say that everyone I met was nice and friendly, I mean it. I get a little twitchy when I’m in costume – mainly because strangers are approaching me and getting in my space (it’s weird as hell, I know), so I come off as standoffish at the convention. While I’m sure that happened at HeroesCon, the event was so relaxed and low-key that it didn’t happen as often or for as long as it usually does, and that was pretty cool.
Side note: when I decide I’m ready to get out of costume, I actually tend to forget I’m wearing it. My mind switches gear so completely that I get confused about why people are looking at me and I look at them strangely for wanting to take my picture. I know, I know. It makes no sense.
So that’s my convention experience for June. That’s got me at four conventions so far this year and it is just mid-June. I’m curious at what the rest of the year has to offer.