We're almost midway through the year. By now you've either gone to a West Coast Con like ECCC, WonderCon or are preparing to go to one, like San Diego or Phoenix. Or maybe you've done none of that - in which case you might want to consider the second half of the year and a few options therein.
I was at a Cinco de Mayo party last night where I heard the typical nay-saying against any other Con; they're boring; no one important goes to them; there's nothing to do; San Diego is it. These arguments almost always come from people who've barely been to any Con at all and are just parroting the media's breathless coverage of San Diego Comic-Con. But streetsmart nerds and geeks know the truth - that there are Cons out there that offer just as good (if not better) an experience, and it's smarter to find a Con that reflects your interests than just rolling the dice on SDCC year after year.
Here are three upcoming major Cons that might appeal to different audiences. I'll be at least one, and I hope you consider the same - especially if you got shut out of San Diego.
Attendance last year: 63,000
This is always a fun time for sci-fi, fantasy and comic book fans. It's more of a party than SDCC is, with more entertainment and more adult-only events, but some family fare as well. While it's numerically smaller than Cons like ECCC and Phoenix Comicon, the intense round-the-clock engagement of attendees means that it feels like a bigger Con.
Wrestling, live bands, puppet slams, burlesque shows, Rocky Horror and even a night at the local aquarium are just a few of the offerings; the panels and sessions are just as diverse, and focus on the paranormal, cosplay, sci fi, comics, alternate history, tech, gaming, books and more. In many ways, this is a truly nerdy Con in a way SDCC and NYCC shed a while ago - less mainstream pop culture and more of the weird and specific interests nerds tend to drill down into and get obsessed with. It's also more social; the bands and parties, and general friendliness of attendees, means you will always find a party to go to and people to party with. Yes, it's a popular Con for the poly/kinkster crew, but it's also easy just to make friends and find fellow fans and nerds to hang out with.
This year it happens 4-7 September in Atlanta, which means one important deadline looms on the horizon: 15 May is the final day to get the $110 Membership Rate. However you can still register through 15 August for the full $130 rate.
Salt Lake Comic Con
Attendance last year: 120,000
SDCC's nemesis is happening this year 24-26 September. Passes are on sale right now - with rates for all budgets. This Con has grown very rapidly and ranks up there with NYCC and SDCC in terms of size. I've never been, but it seems like a fairly generic pop culture and comic book convention, one that is a bit more wholesome than some other Cons. It's quite popular with parents who are looking to share their nerdy interests with their kids - something that was once guaranteed at SDCC, but these days is a bit harder to pull off, especially for a family of four or larger.
This is in Salt Lake City and tends to reflect the local culture; for instance, the Con runs Thursday-Saturday and does not have any events on Sunday. That can be a selling point for attendees looking for more of a family environment, while attendees looking for a more libertine experience might be happier elsewhere. Programming is still getting announced, but you can see some guests and news.
New York Comic Con
Attendance last year: 151,000
Last year NYCC dethroned SDCC as the biggest pop culture/comic convention. That only should tell you that this is a not a consolation prize for people who couldn't get into SDCC, but a massive and desirable event that offers many advantages San Diego does not.
The obvious: you're in New York. You're not going to struggle finding a hotel room, and if you've never been to NY, you can build in extra days to see the city or even drive into New England and see the autumn foliage. (Despite hailing from that region, I'm not a huge fan of New York - however, I do believe it is a city that everyone should experience at some point.) On the other hand, you won't find that city-wide sense of nerd community that San Diego offers so richly. It's very easy to walk away from NYCC and ten minutes later, feel completely alienated from the milieu you just left.
NYCC is run by ReedPOP, which means it differs from SDCC in other ways. While CCI does clearly want to improve our Comic-Con experience, ReedPOP has superior change management skills and a vastly greater appetite for change in general. From the cosplay red carpet to sexual harassment policies to recognizing and incorporating ECCC's excellent culture, they are willing to adapt to the ever-evolving Con community needs. They have to be that agile; they also run ECCC, Paris Comic Con, Shanghai Comic Con, Star Wars Celebration, C2E2, other Cons and are pretty much colonizing the planet.
There's also New York Super Week. NYCC happens 8-11 October; however, it's part of a larger event called New York Super Week that runs 5-11 October. This takes place out and about in the city and a few events have already been announced:
- Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular (1st time in America)
- After Party with BBQ Films
- Workshops on Writing for TV and Film - led by top network & studio writers and producers
- A Shipwreck Fan Fiction Competition
- Karaoke with Broadway Stars
Tickets go on sale for both NYCC and Super Week go on sale 13 May; don't delay on this because they will go fast. You can buy online, at Special Edition NYC 6-7 June, or at a special Midtown Comics event this summer.
Other conventions are consistently presented as the community college to SDCC's Ivy League. This just isn't true anymore. If you were willing to shell out for San Diego and didn't get a badge, consider using that money for another Con. You are not settling for second best, even if it feels like it at first. You are being smart - and you're also getting ahead of the future attendees who will eventually turn NYCC and other Cons into the same traffic-jammed nightmare that SDCC is now. Be adventurous, try out these unique offerings of these Cons and enjoy them while you can. I don't think you'll regret it.