With Further Ado #063: Meanwhile….Beyond NYCC

There’s a tendency amongst some passionate fans to grow weary of beloved comic conventions.  They bemoan the success of cons that have become too big and crowded.  You’ve been reading about last weekend’s big event. New York city played host to the 13th annual New York Comic-Con, now the largest convention in the U.S.  Fans, exhibitors and professionals all shoehorned into an aging building that just can’t seem to renovate fast enough.   

Despite all that, …. I still love NYCC.  I l just love the madness of this giant convention. I am always impressed by the many ways the management team works hard to innovate and evolve the ever-changing demands of Geek Culture. I enjoy seeing old friends and collaborators there.  I still love diving into the occasional back issue comic longbox to rescue forgotten treasures.

Paradoxically, I didn’t attend New York Comic-Con this year. Instead, I was in upstate at two other fan-focused gatherings. There’s good news to report : I had so much fun and met so many interesting people. 

CONFluence was hosted at Syracuse University and is the brainchild of Prof. Chris Wildrick. He’s a passionate fan in his own right. He’s also an SU Professor. I’m especially impressed that one of the many classes he teaches is all about Cosplay.  This mini-convention turned into a mix of a traditional exhibition floor augmented by presentations by both academics and students. 

The exhibition floor was populated by a wide variety of booths, including Publisher AHOY Comics, cosplayers and board game enthusiasts.

The panels were fascinating too. AHOY Comics COO Frank Camuso presented the “secret origin” of the company, as well as teasing some of the future projects.  There were strong panels on Light Sabre Training, the evolution of a particular video game and an analysis of the DC Bombshell franchise.  Several of our Ithaca College students presented as well.  I’m biased, but I think they stole the show.

In response to popularity of the CW’s Riverdale and Netflix’s Sabrina, I was asked to present the history of the Archie Red Circle line, a topic I had researched and written about recently for Back Issue Magazine.

On Sunday, I caught up with the SerlingFest in Binghamton NY. This gathering of Twilight Zone and Rod Serling fans was more focused than a “typical” comic-con, but just as passionate. Nick Parisi, author of Rod Serling: His Life, His Work, His Imagination, had organized a full weekend of activities that especially celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Twilight Zone, as well as the 50th anniversary of Night Gallery. 

Sunday’s SerlingFest activities took place at Rod Serling’s alma mater, the Binghamton High School, in the auditorium that Serling performed in as a student.   There were several fascinating presentations including a deep dive into the Music of the Twilight Zone, Prof Chrissy Guest’s (another strong contributor from Ithaca College) student films and an award ceremony. I contributed a look at the history of Twilight Zone in the comics.

One of the wonderful things about these smaller conventions is the ability to make new friends who share mutual interests. The SerlingFest was capped off with a wrap party at a local Mexican restaurant.  Fans and organizers mingled and got to know one another.  Somehow, that doesn’t seem to happen in quite the same way at a show like NYCC.

At the wrap-up, one Serling super-fan turned to me during and said, “This is just the best. Going out with a bunch of fans who love the same things I do.”  She had traveled from Charlotte, NC and it was as if she had finally found her tribe. 

The unique magic of Geek Culture thrives at the smaller conventions.