A few weeks back I went to the Denver Comic Convention. I don’t get to go to many conventions these days, so I’d been looking forward to this one for a while. I had no real idea what to expect. So I drove down for an afternoon to see what it was all about.
First of all, cosplay has taken over. I know cosplay has been the source of a few nerd-rage events of late, and that the community is being more and more vocal about their role in all things comics and conventions, but even knowing all that I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by a few things, actually. The sheer number of people in costume was staggering, but also the quality and variety of costume on display half the time left me scratching my head. “Now, I’m pretty sure she’s in a costume, but I can’t for the life of me figure out who she’s supposed to be.” Granted, I’m woefully out of touch when it comes to things like Anime and Manga, but I also sometimes can’t recognize the original of something once it’s been steampunk-ified. Denver Comic Con seemed very aware that the hordes of cosplayers were coming, going so far as to set up a stage right by the main entrance for folks to pose on for photos. There were even a few scheduled events involving a specific type or style of cosplayer to all get together.
Once past the wall of entryway cosplayers, my buddy and I struck off to the con floor, or at least, I thought we did. After walking for about ten minutes I pondered, “Man, seems like the con floor is a long way from the main entrance.” My friend, “You were heading for the con floor? I’m pretty sure that’s upstairs, I wasn’t sure where you were heading.” My point being, signs are important. I know a lot of people won’t bother to read them, but it was a frustrating start to my experience as a fairly seasoned convention-goer not to be able to easily locate where the actual convention was taking place.
Inside the main hall, and surrounded by that familiar con stench, I proceeded to get my bearings. The majority of the con was setup in the standard way, an area of overcrowded merchandise with the typical assortment of utilikilts, t-shirts, and old action figures. Usually not where I spend a ton of time. Then there was a nice-sized artists alley, where I do spend a lot of my time. Then there’s that area in between that I’ve never quite understood. They get a cloth wall, which clearly distinguishes them from artist alley, even though it seems to be mostly the same kind of stuff. Are those folks paying more to the convention to be slightly less visible? Makes no sense to me. There was also a much more spread out are of real celebrities, e.g. Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Phil LaMarr, etc. The funny thing is that they gave each of these people so much space, that if they weren’t there, and thus no one was lining up to see them, there was just nothing. A lot of empty space. A desert of convention hall that one had to cross to get over to the food area. Which by all accounts was a very nice food area. Even had an actual grill for making hamburgers, but I still left the hall for food, because that’s just how I roll.
Lacking at this con were the giant publisher islands, but I barely noticed their absence until I thought about it afterwards. But there was a big area for kids. Kids? At a convention? Yup! I know that most of the time children at conventions only show up on Sunday with a parent who is far more enthused than they are (I’m joking before you comment) but this show actually seemed to care about engaging with the little fans. Which should have come as no surprise, because the Denver Comic Con is actually put on by the Comic Book Classroom (CBC). The CBC is a non-profit organization that attempts to help improve child literacy and interest in the arts by supplying comic-based curriculum. The idea of comics in the classroom is one that I’ve touched on before, and I want to come back to it again, but for now suffice it to say I think that idea is pretty damn cool. The kids area was cool too. Lots of tables for them to draw at, floor room for them to run around without crashing into the legs of the guy sporting his brand new utili-kilt, and even their own artists alley type area featuring creators known for all ages content such as the Man of Action studio, where a frantic Joe Kelly was doing whatever he could get to some small bills while Joe Casey was off doing… something, presumably while wearing sunglasses.
And finally: the beer. Denver is a beer city within a beer state. In keeping with that tradition, the Denver Comic Con has for the past few years teamed up with the Breckenridge Brewery to make a con exclusive beer with a crowd-sourced name. This year the name was “The Caped Brewsader,” which was fine, I guess, but the glass/logo was designed by Mr. Ben Templesmith, and it was fantastic. The beer itself was a witbeer, so basically tasted like a Blue Moon worth drinking, even without the addition of citrus. There were a few nearby bars with the brew on tap, and the glass came free with the pint. You could even get the beer inside the convention center, and while I know a lot of pros have libations within the convention, I’m not sure I’d ever actually seen booze openly for sale. Mighty progressive for a convention dedicated to child literacy.
All in all the Denver Comic Con was a nice medium sized convention that was definitely worth the day I spent there. It reminded me a lot of WonderCon, although maybe a bit smaller, but honestly it was nice to go to a convention where I wasn’t completely overwhelmed by sights, sounds, and people, and in a place that wasn’t so crowded that all cell phones stop working. Which isn’t to say the place was vacant because the show sold out every day. I’d love the opportunity go around to more of these medium-sized cons, so if there’s one in your area let us all know about it in the comments.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________Ryan Haupt hopes he earned that press badge. If you’re itching for more of him talking about beers he had, you’d do well to check out his awesome science podcast.