SPRINGCON 2013: A Report from St. Paul, MN

The SpringCon Comic Book Carnival, organized by the Midwest Comic Book Association and hosted at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds is true to its roots.  It’s a humble and friendly affair, and you wouldn’t expect anything less from the good folk of Minnesota.  Prior to moving to the Twin Cities in 2007 I lived in Oakland, California, and New York City before that, meaning I’ve hit conventions on each coast.  And while I love the sheer spectacle that a con in San Francisco or NYC can offer, there was something nice about finding a parking spot two minutes from the entrance of SpringCon 2013 this weekend, and knowing that I could get a buck off the admission price just by bringing a donation for the local food shelf.

The Midwest Comic Book Association has been holding bi-annual conventions here in the Twin Cities for the last 25 years, strategically placing each con during those times when Minnesotans are most likely to attend: fall and spring.  The logic makes sense — during the winter temperatures can dip (and hold) at around negative 30, making even the busiest streets of downtown Minneapolis look like a scene from I Am Legend; people hunker down and the outside world looks vacant.  During the summer, once the weather turns gorgeous, everyone goes swimming at the lakes.  Long story short: if you want to buy and sell comic books, this is the time to do it.

For as big a metropolitan area the Twin Cities is, I’m always a little surprised at how mellow this particular con is.  While there’s still the frenetic buzz and parade of costumes that you’d expect from a con, the crowds are manageable and the vendors more relaxed.  The sheer easiness of this con makes it particularly popular for families, and it feels more like a church festival than a bustling marketplace.  Knowing this, I decided to take my four-year old daughter along this year, and we strolled along the rows like two kids at the park.  In classic Minnesota fashion, I had two Heath Ledger Jokers and one Deadpool apologize to me for wearing costumes that might frighten my her.  My daughter was, of course, unfazed, but the politeness of these folks struck me.

There’s a lot of chit-chat, and comic shop owners don’t mind taking a moment to lean against a longbox and talk about their shop.  A particularly friendly couple were the owners of Rogue Robot, a new shop in Duluth, MN, who took the time to make sure my daughter knew the name and history of the My Little Pony doll she’d brought along (Twilight Sparkle; I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t known).  Another highlight was getting to meet horror artist Andrew Ritchie, who produced a print my daughter loved and bought with her leftover birthday money — Krypto the Superdog.

Despite the relaxed feeling, this con still delivers: about 250 guest creators attend, and an impressive swath of dealers set-up shop.  They even host some decent panels.  And while it’s true that Jim Lee won’t be signing books at the SpringCon anytime soon, I’m old enough that I’d much rather find easy parking than wait in line to meet a comic legend.  At least for now.