Is Bigger Always Better? Why I Love Small Cons

My first comic book convention was New York Comic Con back in 2007, in its second year of existence.  I got my Runaways deluxe hardcovers signed by Brian K. Vaughan, and I was hooked on cons ever since.  Since 2007, I’ve been to NYCC 7 times, and three times each to San Diego, Emerald City, and Rose City.  I love cons, but after 10 years, con fatigue starts to set in.  Things aren’t as fun as they used to be, and waiting in line for autographs and panels really starts to grind on you.

Me From Ten Years Ago loved the bigger, flashier conventions.  I’m going to turn 32 in a few months, and my preferences have slowly shifted towards smaller, local conventions.  Rose City Comic Con is perfect for me, someone who’s shifted more towards the realm of a casual fan.  I appreciate the fact that it’s small; less than 50,000 people in attendance and it never really felt crowded in the Oregon Convention Center.  However, despite the size, there is no lack of talent at Rose City: Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Brian Michael Bendis, Jon Bernthal, and some other guy named Stan… something, I forget.  He seemed important, though.

I love that I can just leisurely stroll around the convention floor.  No aisle is overcrowded, no line is too long, no group of people is that large.  I can look through back issue bins without having to wait for 7 other people to finish looking through them first.  It’s quiet enough that I can actually hold a conversation with my friends, or listen when I’m being taught the rules of a new game.  I love that RCCC is sponsored by local Oregon companies.  While that doesn’t really affect the fans, I can appreciate that RCCC is interested in/draws interest from its home community.  Frankly, it is refreshing.  (Don’t get me wrong, I still loved every single moment I went to SDCC, NYCC, and ECCC.)

However, it’s nice to know that I’m at an event that is in touch with both the comics industry at large and the community that it serves.  Comic-Con International and ReedPop are important.  They serve high quality, world-class events for world-class creators and these companies will continue being the toast of the convention world for years to come.  They just serve a different clientele, a global clientele for appealing to the widest range of fans.  RCCC is serving Portland, the state of Oregon, and the state of Washington.  It has all the fixings of every convention I’ve ever been to, but with that relaxed, laid-back mentality of the Pacific Northwest.  I feel like this is a convention for me, rather than me being for a convention.

Sure, it doesn’t necessarily take that long to traverse the show floor at RCCC.  I’ve clocked miles (literally, miles) running from one end of the San Diego Convention Center to the other.  Same with the Jacob Javits Center in NYC and the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.  At the end of the day, I always felt that I’ve had the time to really digest everything that RCCC had to offer me, and I’ve always felt that it was worth the trip.  And despite not being a parent myself, I feel that smaller cons like RCCC are way more conducive to a family outing than some of the bigger, noisier, more congested conventions.  I supervised my friend’s 10-year old last year without much fuss or worry that she’d get lost in a crowd.

What’s noticeably missing from smaller cons like RCCC?  Marvel and DC.  But is that really a bad thing?  So you don’t get the cutting edge official announcements that Legion of Superheroes and Ghost Rider are getting rebooted for the eleven millionth time with all new directions helmed by visionary writers and incredible artists.  So you don’t have to force yourself into the back of a room that I could only describe as a fire marshal’s nightmare just to get a glimpse of Ed Brubaker or Gail Simone.  Maybe that’s your thing.  It’s not mine anymore.  I love Marvel and DC.  I don’t miss those panels and the impossibly long lines surrounding their booths and creators.  I love my accessible and small convention in RCCC.  And I don’t need to the first person in Hall H anymore, clamoring to see the exclusive footage of the new Marvel or DC movie that invariably gets leaked online inside of 30 minutes.

Big conventions definitely have their place in the world, and there’s a reason why they keep on rolling and have become an inseparable piece of comics and gaming fandom.  My challenge to you is to get yourself to one of your small conventions and appreciate how the titans in SDCC and NYCC got their start.  They all started tiny and grew.  Appreciate the history, the value, and the population that can be served by smaller cons like RCCC.  Comics are for everyone.  RCCC and conventions its size are for everyone.  I wholeheartedly encourage you to support your local cons, because they’re important, affordable, and appealing to families, casual fans, and ex-superfans who are cooling their heels a bit and starting to enjoy cons in a different way.

To Discuss

What kind of cons do you prefer? Have you been to any that you really liked and plan to return to? What drives you away? If you haven’t been to a con, what might take you to one?

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