UTF’s Irreplaceable Guide To Navigating A Comic Book Convention

This wasn’t my first convention, but it wasn’t that long ago. I worked press over at Konsplosion in Fort Smith, Arkansas this weekend and couldn’t help but wonder what new people think stepping into a con for the first time. There’s nothing to compare it to really. From my years of recollection, the nearest facsimile would be going to Disney World or Six Flags. You walk through the gates and suddenly there are animated characters running around in life-sized form.

Sometimes expectations are not reality.

Sometimes expectations are not reality.

I do remember going to the state fair in North Carolina and seeing the Man in the Moon from the old McDonlald’s commercials and thinking it would be a great idea to take my son of 4 or 5 to go interact with him. Didn’t turn out that well. But cons are better. They are like playgrounds for adults AND children. You can dress up or not and still enjoy it. I plan on venturing further into cosplay. I did try The Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy, and it would have been awesome if my wig hadn’t flipped out (cosplayers feel me?).

But just walking through the halls is an experience to be…well…experienced. Lol.

photo by No Robots Photography

photo by No Robots Photography

It’s all according what kind of con you go to or how big it is. I suggest you start small and get your feet wet in one of the many local cons that litter the nation in such a good way! I did not realize how many cons there actually were until I did a little research. Here in Oklahoma, it seems, as soon as you finish one, another’s just around the corner. And then there are a plethora of mini-cons like the Doctor Who one I missed recently. So, gonna be there next time.  The point is there’s plenty of ‘starter cons’ to go around. Ask around. Find a friend in the know and get informed.

And, once you’ve jumped in…well…go all in. Get involved.  Check out the schedule as soon as possible. This is usually hard since many conventions don’t drop a schedule until the week before. But, when you get your hands on the schedule, check it out and make an itinerary. Find panels that interest you. I sat in on a panel on Kajui and Christianity and Trigon this weekend.  Both were so much fun.  I was so inspired; I decided that somewhere down the road, I will do my own panel. You can learn about cosplay or voice acting, proper Youtube etiquette and the lowdown about your favorite Anime. You don’t have one? A panel about them would be perfect; just don’t get too overwhelmed. Look for the odd stuff and differentiate. Konsplosion had exhibitions on sword play and fire dancing. There was a play about dungeon and dragons type role-playing. Check the schedule out and make a plan. You may have to decide between two perfectly good panels.

Gaijin Goombah and Takahata101 made for fun times and learning about Youtube production!

Gaijin Goombah and Takahata101 made for fun times and learning about Youtube production!

And then there are the guests. These make the best panels. Q&As with a voice actor. ‘How to’s with artists or writers.  Even a how to break into a particular field type panel may be just up your alley. This weekend was a Youtube for dummies with Tokahata101 and Gaijin Goombah. If you don’t know them, look them up!  Incredibly talented. There may be professional cosplayers there like Emily Leon there to talk about the ins and outs of cosplay. And group panels are the greatest! You never know what you’re going to learn! On top of that, most of the Q&As let you see what the ‘superstars’ are like and what they had to do and still have to do to excel in their field.


Then, there are the games. Oh, the games! Most cons have both a video game room and a table top gaming room. Video games from years past line the walls; some for competition and others just for fun! Walk in and relive your childhood or compete to see who’s the best. And, if you get a chance, sit in on a table top game or two. Board games and pen and paper rpgs break out often in these cons. Put the controller down for a while and discover a new game!

table top

But, don’t forget to visit the vendor area and check out the wares. You find everything from patches, to posters, to cosplay props, to comics or mangas and even clothing. It is here that you get your chance to get your hands on that plushy you didn’t want to pay to ship.  You can buy it and take it home. I found some handmade buttons in silver and black of SHIELD, Hydra and Doctor Who villains! I also picked up a quality pin of Darkwing Duck. There’s usually an independent author or two there with books you’ve never seen before! It gives you a chance to expand your reading list. You find the most unique things at cons. And you definitely want to patronize them. Because the more business you do with the vendors, the more they want to come back and the longer this con can stay around! It’s called capitalism and it’s a good thing.

And don’t forget the special events. There are usually parties and dances, raves and contests galore. Many times they will have special musical guests or DJs. Themed dances pop up all over the place. Everything from the prom to zombies to zombie prom. Especially cosplay contests. This is a chance to show off a cosplay you worked so hard on.  And, even if you don’t win a prize, your work is appreciated by people of your ilk.

Hangin' out and having fun is the first order of the day at a convention!  Just check out ole Frank Wak here!

Hangin’ out and having fun is the first order of the day at a convention! Just check out ole Frank Wak here!

And, that’s what the whole thing is about; isn’t it? Getting together people of like-mindedness; aka the same fandoms. And maybe discovering some new ones. It’s the only place you can just walk through the halls and remember your favorite characters from your favorite stories. You begin to quickly appreciate the dedication that most of the cosplayers went through to bring that character to life. Once you get over the culture shock and begin to have fun, you will catch the con bug, believe me. You find yourself feeding on the energy bouncing off the halls and catching the twinkle in each and every eye.

What a cute Cubone, right?  Use your imagination and find a character you love and COSPLAY!!

What a cute Cubone, right? Use your imagination and find a character you love and COSPLAY!!

When I was a kid, we had one, MAYBE two chances a year to dress up and have fun like this. Get excited about living in the 21st century and look up the local cons closest to you. And get ready for the experience of a lifetime.  I will guarantee you will never forget it.

Check out our Convention page at Jackeduptales.com

See more of those fantastic pics at No Robots Photography

And follow Frank Wak as he has fun at the conventions!