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When Is A Con Not A Con?

No, I haven’t decided to don a green suit – or worse, spandex – and terrorize the city with crimes preceded by riddles.

Today, my friends, I want to talk about just why I love comic conventions so much. In fact, I don’t just love them, I wish they held one every weekend. Yes, I realize Niagara Falls Comic Con organizer’s Chris Dabrowski and James Ponce heads are spinning right now, but all will be clear soon.

For anyone who hasn’t attended a con of any sort their allure is difficult to grasp. How do I make these folks understand that conventions are more than just a collection of like-minded people getting together, sometimes in costumes, to celebrate a common interest? How do I get through to these people? How do I solve a problem like Maria?

Let’s start with a reality no one can deny. Conventions, especially comic conventions make money. Lots of it. Cold, hard greenbacks. To be clear, we’re talking about figures that so-called legitimate, non-nerdy business people cannot write off. Why do you think so many television and movie studios, publishers, toy companies, and even out-of-vogue celebrities attend San Diego Comic Con every year? They know they’re playing to an audience that topped 130,000 people recently.

That’s a lot of allowance money, kids.

Niagara Falls Comic Con drew almost 25,000 fans this year and shows no signs of slowing down. But the audience numbers and the economics mean nothing to hardcore fans like me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad NFCC is growing; it means they’ll be able to afford bigger guests, attractions and vendors. As for the crowds… well, as a big guy like me already has a problem making his way through a crowd, never mind with a bag of swag in tow.

But I love NFCC and so I’ll be there regardless of how big it gets. But let’s get to why, shall we?

Comic cons attract people from all walks of life with all sorts of agendas, it’s true. I spent an hour of my con experience wandering the aisles, soaking in the atmosphere, getting the lay of the land, and most importantly, getting to know some of my fellow nerds, if only just a bit.

I met “Hawkman And Hawkgirl” who refused to break character, even when I offered them Thanagarian bird seed (“We feel “real” this way), a move I fully respect and understand.

Betty from Toronto was a disarmingly-beautiful Batgirl who was patrolling the NFCC floor in search of her partner (in every sense of the word) Supergirl.
Hal the Golden-Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott. (“That’s my real name, I swear! My parents were comic book obsessed-hippies who got their generations mixed!)

A wheelchair-bound Wonder Woman crossed my path a few times but wasn’t in the talking mood. Although, to be clear, she wore a look of complete and total contentment.

There were several wheeled heroes and heroines rolling around. Creatures of the night in walkers and using canes could be seen among the crowd. There were one-handed villains. A werewolf with a prosthetic leg. My favorite was a Chinese vampire Batman with Deadpool swords strapped to his back.

I was certain a cross-genre rumble was going to break out when an entire family of Power Rangers crossed paths with a clan of Legion of Super-Heroes. But they simply sized each other up, gave a series of respectful nods and moved on.

The Scotiabank Convention Centre was abuzz with kinetic nerdy energy but everyone behaved themselves, which was the best possible outcome. Let’s face it, as much fun as it would be to witness, a geek brawl would be more horrific than a train wreck involving babies and puppies covered in rainbows.

Hey, it could happen.

My point, and yes, I do have one, is this: the event went swimmingly. Even Arthur Curry would’ve felt like he fit in. And that, my friends is the answer to the aforementioned question.

A con isn’t a con when it’s something more to the people who attend it.
And NFCC and its counterparts are not simply conventions, they’re so much more.

They are safe havens for people who, for most of the year, feel trapped in their own skin.

They are a place where the weak feel strong.

They are a place where the disabled and challenged feel whole.

Cons are sanctuaries.

Cons are demilitarized social zones.

Cons are, for some, the greatest place on earth.

Watch the faces of attendees on the last day of a con and I guarantee you’ll see some tears streaming down faces. These souls wait all year for a con to give their lives balance and so when it’s over, they feel unbalanced again.

I can relate.

Deep down, we all can.
See you on the streets of Pulp Nation, kids…

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