Being a fangirl, I love attending conventions, or ‘Cons’ as they’re now called. From San Diego Comic-Con and Wonder-Con to Star Wars Celebration, D23, and a Celebration of Harry Potter — I have had the privilege to explore and share the worlds of fandom.
There are so many aspects of attending fan conventions. What used to be shunned as the marginalized ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’ culture is now embraced and adored. From comic book art to their iconic heroes-turned-blockbuster-stars at the box office, pop culture has come a long way.
In Part 1 of this article, I covered exclusive panels and fans who are ‘all in’ for their particular fandoms. In this article (Part 2), I continue in other aspects of the modern con.
Increasingly, cosplay is the norm. Fans are using their creativity to create elaborate costumes that are screen accurate, or doing unique mash-ups of their favorite characters. They spend hours researching, and many more hours creating the costume.
This is a unique way to show passion for a particular movie or show. Some will come to cons just to cosplay, joining others who have the same passion. Other bystanders choose to enjoy watching the cosplay experience.
Some celebrities have also been known to walk through the con in costume. In 2013, Hugh Jackman went through the exhibit hall in full Wolverine costume, and only a couple fans recognized him. I saw several Wolverine cosplays, but alas, did not see Hugh Jackman – and I would have recognized him!
There are also more subtle ways to show your fan passions through fashion, such as the fan-girl clothing line created by Ashley Eckstein (voice of Ahsoka Tano in the Clone Wars).
Ashley (@Heruniverse) has created fashion-forward clothing for women and girls that is fun, flirty, and fan-tastic. Her fashion line, featured on the Her Universe website , and in Hot Topic stores nationwide, features favorites including Marvel, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and Studio Ghibli.
Some fans come to cons to get autographs. They will bring their mint-in-box vintage collectibles to have them autographed by their favorite stars. The chance to finally meet these celebrities is the stuff of dreams. Fans will stand in lines for hours for just a lottery chance of getting a signing ticket.
From Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and the latest Marvel movie cast members, to stars of popular television series such as Game of Thrones and Once Upon A Time, fans will stand in winding lines for hours – sometimes overnight – for a chance to meet their favorite celebrity.
Additional autograph opportunities are sometimes raffled off at the exhibit hall booths (Marvel had most of the Avengers cast there in 2014 to promote Age of Ultron).
Collectibles from cons are highly sought-after and often very valuable since they are limited and exclusive to the con. Especially for Comic-Con, where even entry badges are near-impossible to secure, exclusive merchandise can be very collectible indeed.
Hot ticket booths often include: Hasbro, Mattel, LEGO, Funko (makers of the adorable Pop! Figures), and Hallmark, with items selling out instantly each day. If you miss out one day, you always have the option to queue up again for the next day’s sales.
There are the true fans who will wait hours to secure a precious item for their private collection. Unfortunately, there are also others, including retailers, who will buy up anything of possible value to sell on eBay or other secondary markets.
Exhibit Hall and Art Shows
The exhibit hall, where merchandise is sold, is often a battleground: challenging patience with crowds, and a site for disappointment if merch is sold out.
I enjoy seeing the higher-end replicas brought by Gentle Giant, EFX, and Sideshow Collectibles. From Batman costumes to Captain America’s shields, from Boba Fett and Stormtrooper helmets to Mattel’s Darth Vader car – the exhibit hall can be sensory overload.
Art exhibits can also be found in the exhibit hall. Individual artists as well as large licensed art sellers have booths. Many will have special edition art to commemorate the con. We enjoy seeing the newest from Noah Elias and Katie Cook (@KatieCanDraw).
San Diego Comic-Con also has an Art Show on the upper registration level in between buildings. Here, fan-artists can display their works. If you’re coming to San Diego Comic-Con this year, please stop by my art show exhibit (Chrysalis Fine Art)! We are donating 20% of all sales to San Diego USO!
Hotel choice can be particularly important for a con. Depending on what you might be planning to do during the convention, a home base within walking distance can make life so much easier!
Of course, you must balance price versus convenience since hotels close to the convention usually are priced much higher – and sell out quickly.
I have met many people with complex cosplay costumes who love their convention-adjacent hotels and feel they are worth the price. Tired of the costume? Need to take a break from the crowds? Ready for a snack? Just walk to your room and all are available at a moment’s notice.
The key is planning ahead. Having a good professional travel consultant in your corner is always a plus. We know the neighborhoods, transportation options, and may manage to secure the last available room in a sold-out hotel.
What are your experiences with cons? Is there one you dream of attending? Do you have a favorite cosplay character?
We would love to hear your comments!