Boston’s Co(s)mic Convergence

     Once upon a time there was an event called a comic book convention. Times have changed. The world now has a bigger, better, super-mega event called FanExpoBoston. The once obscure hobby of collecting comic books has exploded into the mainstream. Comic books have infiltrated everything from children’s television to academy award winning movies. I’m happy the nerd/geek culture has taken its rightful place on the top rung of the pop culture ladder. But is bigger necessarily better? Judging from the attendance at this year’s convention, the answer is yes.

     An estimated 50,000 people converged at the Boston Convention Center last weekend to experience FanExpoBoston, a far cry from my first comic book convention in the mid 1970’s. Meeting other comic book collectors more rare than a Bigfoot sighting. Back then, The Park Plaza hotel in Boston had a conference room full of folding tables and cardboard boxes full of comic books. The tables were hosted by collector’s selling back issues of hard to find comics from year’s past. Prices were reasonable. Not a celebrity in sight. If you were really lucky, one of the shows might have an artist sketching at a table. Guest creators were usually someone no one had ever heard of. They sketched quietly while attendees walked by whispering, “Is he anybody?” 

     The recent event at the Boston Convention Center was too big to be called a comic book convention. FanExpoBoston encompasses pop culture in its entirety. There were celebrities from movies and television including John Travolta, Stephen (The Arrow) Amell, Zachary Levi of “Shazam” fame, a Goonies cast reunion featuring Sean Astin, actress Sean Young from the original Blade Runner film and many more. There were some top comic book creators in attendance – Batman artists David Finch and Greg Capullo, X-Men artist Arthur Adams, as well as superstar writers Gail Simone and Dan Slott. Everywhere I looked there were cos-play enthusiasts – people who like to dress up as their favorite fantasy characters down to the most minute detail. There were more than enough costumed characters to host their own convention. The hours of work involved in the make-up, costumes and props made it worthwhile for these characters to parade before their audience. Although, it was little disconcerting to see Batman pushing a baby stroller, but that’s part of the family fun.

     There were so many seminars and panels scheduled throughout the day I didn’t have time to attend them all. I had to pick and choose the ones I deemed most important to me. I gained a lot of valuable information about submitting ideas to publishers in a seminar entitled “Perfect Pitch: Designing A Pitch That Grabs A Publisher’s Attention”. Thanks to an informative question and answer segment hosted by editor Heather Antos, I now know how to submit stories that will grab a publisher’s attention. The first story idea I’m pitching is described as Stephen King meets the Hallmark Channel. See? I’ve already got your attention. Ms. Antos can expect a few submissions from me in the near future. Everyone who knows me knows I’ve got a million stories to tell. 

     Comic books are the reason the show exists in the first place, but they made up a relatively small percentage of the show. It took me a good twenty minutes of searching before I found a booth selling actual comics. I had to wander through rows and rows of vendors selling their wares – everything from original art prints, self-published books and custom t-shirts. There was even a booth selling elf ears which the vendor would attached to your head after you purchased them. There was one line that seemed to stretch for miles. I asked Spider-Man if he knew what the line was for. “That’s for the food truck.” Superheroes must get hungry from all that world saving.

     A short time ago, no one foresaw comic books as the next great source material for mainstream movies. With years of unmined plot lines and an endless supply of characters, from not only Marvel and DC comics, but also from a multitude of independent publishers such as Image, Dark Horse, Vertigo and IDW, there is no end in sight. While comic book collecting may be a thing of the past, the lives of superheroes seems to be the future. At least until the pop culture market becomes oversaturated and the public had its fill. Judging from the appetite of America’s movie-going audience and the billions of dollars film studios are raking in from this genre, it looks like Batman and his buddies are permanently entrenched in the real world. It would take a cosmic disaster of epic proportion to displace them. The again, judging from past performances, the heroes would most likely emerge victorious. 

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