The concept of a comic convention is a fascinating one. Ostensibly focused more on actual comics and graphic novels in the past, the conventions nowadays are more of a mixed bag, supporting fanbases from a wide variety of interests and subcultures. Notably, they are a place for genre celebrities, artists and writers of various mediums to sit on panels and talk about their respective fields, usually with a question-and-answer with eager fans.
Conventions also provide real estate for events like competitive Magic: The Gathering and video game tournaments as well as to merchants of every stripe and trade, selling everything from custom polyhedral dice to professionally created fan art. The cons are an important place for fans to express their fandom in different ways, be it dressing up in elaborate (or not so fancy) costumes or finding like-minded folks to talk to about that one anime that no one you know has heard of.
When talking about comic conventions, it can be confusing to create a real image of one, as each convention is very different from the others. Luckily, I managed to catch up with Trinity superstar alums John Mendiola and Monica Clifford, who both were heavily involved in TigerTV and Trinitonian shenanigans. They went to the Alamo City Comic-Con this weekend at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center here in San Antonio, and they had a few words to spare to answer my questions about their time at the convention.
Costumes are a big deal at these conventions, right? What were your favorites that you saw?
John: Well, it was hard to tell if some people were in costume or not.
Monica: Yeah, we tried to figure out who was in a costume and who was an actual cop. We did see a Bert Mackland, which was pretty cool.
John: Yeah, but he was just like a doughy white guy with facial hair, so I guess that’s why we thought it was so good.
Monica: So that was probably our favorite.
John: It’s really about whether the person in costume knows what signifiers tell you right away who they are trying to look like. Superman has the big S, SpiderMan looks “¦ like a spider.
Monica: Yeah, John couldn’t tell that this guy was dressing up as Daredevil even though he was OBVIOUSLY dressed as Daredevil.
John: He was wearing a suit! And dark glasses! He could have just been a blind guy!
Monica: …He also had a cane?
After more debating, I moved the discussion away from the subject of blind people and back to convention-friendly topics.
Lots of superhero movies have come out recently, with characters pulled from comic book culture. Did you feel like there were a lot of fans present who love the movies but not necessarily the comics themselves?
Monica: I think it’s made comic book culture into something so much bigger than it was before. I enjoy reading comics and I enjoy the movies, but I think now there exists to some degree a section of people who watch the movies and a section of people who read the comics. Then of course I’m sure there’s crossover, but the movies have made it so people can enjoy the characters without actually reading their stories.
So it created an audience of people who don’t read the comic books but know the same characters?
Monica: Right, which to some degree as a “nerd purist” grates on me a tad, I don’t think I have any right to be territorial over these characters. I [do] think there’s a bit of an odd hypocrisy when people purely enjoy the movies and don’t at least “¦ go out and say “I’m interested now in the source material of the comics!”
Interesting. Did you see anyone cool at the panels?
Monica: Well, we saw Stan Lee there, actually.
John: I’m not the biggest fan of Stan Lee because of his shady practices in Marvel, but going to his panel made me like him. He’s a super charismatic 92 year old guy. It’s really hard not to like him in person.
Thanks so much for answering my questions today, guys!
John: I hate you.
Well, there you have it. From merchandise to mermaid costumes, any genre of fandom worth a salt can be found at comic conventions. Huzzah!