There are potentially dozens of reasons why people love going to Comic Conventions. These conventions happen all over the country, bringing thousands upon thousands of people together for one common interest: to celebrate sources of entertainment that have made significant impacts on their lives. Originally, these conventions were a method for comic book companies to expose different audiences to their stories, their art, and their ideas. Those ideals have remained but these conventions are more than that now. The purity of these conventions isn’t necessarily lost either. While conventions today are serious business, they act as their own branch within the entertainment industry and remain entertaining in their own right.
Whether its movies, comic books, television shows, photography, theater, or gaming, they can all be found making a footprint at any comic convention. This last weekend, October 19th– the 21st, Dallas played host to Fan Days 2012. This 3 day event had everything a well rounded comic con enthusiast or the inquisitive newbie might look for in a Comic Con. Dallas is no stranger to comic conventions and routinely hosts about three a year: one event in February, a May event, and Fan Days in October. Each Con contributes to the continuing social interest that is “conning.”
This year at Fan Days, Dallas exhibited many examples of Comic Con alumni. I was lucky enough to be able to attend all three days of the event and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’ve been to several Cons, and they are all different. I was incredibly excited for Fan Days after attending Dallas Comic Con in May and really wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew there would be comic books, toys, and people dressed up in all types of costumes. However, Fan Days also had other fascinating contributions you can’t experience in the same place all at once. One such element was the amount of comic celebrities coming to the event. One big name is Stan Lee!! Stan Lee is a well known name in the comic book industry for creating characters such as Spiderman, The Hulk, Iron Man, The X-men, Captain America, The Fantastic Four, and JLA just to name a few. He also made many of the mainstream comic companies what they are today such as DC comics. Stan Lee is the man when it comes to comic books so it was really neat to see him headline Fan Days. Other examples attending the Con were actors Bruce Campbell, Felicia Day, Tara Strong, Ian McDiarmid, Robert Englund, Dina Meyer, Casper Van Dien, Alan Tudyck, Gina Torres, Sean Astin, Lance Henricksen, and Dave Prowse just to name a few. Many artists were also in rare attendance such as Frank Cho, Al Plastino, Geof Darrow, Ralph Bakshi, Donnie Dunagan, Ethan Van Skiver, and Howard Chaykin. Personally, I’m a huge comic book nerd so I was extremely excited to see these artists. While I was disappointed with a few mandatory and expected cancellations, this list was amazing. Needless to say it was a packed house!
The Irving Convention Center has housed these Cons only a few times but I am beginning to love this venue. While it was almost too small for the event a few months prior in May, the slightly smaller, Fan Days was the perfect fit for this four story complex. A few choice arrangement changes after the May Con also made the flow of the event fit so much better. Tickets could be bought in advance and guiding lanes made attendee traffic much more negotiable. Upon entering, the first thing I focused my attention to is the booth setup. I had to get out and look at new art and new comics! There were tons! ICC houses a 50,000 square foot, column free exhibition hall on the first floor. I don’t think they could fit any more booths in this room than they did. This room was packed! Tons of people browsing booths filled with toys, old and new comics, artists of all types, novelties, as well as a few signing booths around the back that fed the droves of different celebrities according to scheduled times. You can make a Con out of this room alone. Then when I thought it was all over, I remembered there were three more levels. The 2nd floor consisted of space more or less to relax, sit, and talk with other Con goers and take pictures. On the third floor is where they supply Con celebrities with space to take pictures, sign autographs, and meet and greet fans. Be prepared if you plan on meeting a celebrity and are requesting an autograph and/or picture. Many can be expensive depending on the desirability level. Stan Lee was charging 50-100 dollars respectively. Remember, this is still a business. Lastly, the fourth floor is reserved as an auditorium for Q&A’s, the costume contest, and panels. It also houses an overflow area for artist signing, new and upcoming comics and books, and more picture-taking space.
After spending most of my time the first day checking out the comic book booths and talking to some of the artists on the first floor, I was able to attend Stan Lee’s panel discussion on the 4th floor. I love this guy and humbly acknowledge him as the greatest contributor to comic excellence the world has ever seen. He truly loves his fans and shows it in the way he smiles for every question and person. His answers were honest, hilarious, and insightful. Attending these open panels really makes you think about the thought process that writers and creators go through when understanding characters. He answered questions for about an hour and talked about many of his favorite creations. One person asked him, “If you were to have any super power what would it be?” You’d think that someone who had created so many wonderful characters would say something like strength or flight but his answer was simply “luck.” “If you want the girl, just ask. You have luck.” ”If you’re in a dangerous situation, you’ll do fine. You have luck.” If you ask this critic, Stan Lee is a true super hero and already has his super power. He is incredibly lucky to have such loyal, faithful, and caring fans.
By the end of day 1, I felt like the day had flown by but there was one more thing I hadn’t checked out. On the 3rd floor, there is a room called “shoot a trooper.” For a few bucks you can shoot a storm trooper with Nerf guns. This is a fun, light-hearted way to kill some time. I didn’t think much about it but learned that this room was supported by a charity called the 501st Legion. While I’d heard of the 501st before, the Dallas Chapter deserves honorable mention. This group of caring individuals is made up from passionate Star Wars fans and actors all across the world. With the use of their own money, they collect and wear film accurate costumes throughout the Star Wars galaxy. They take their costumes and graciously visit sick children and other needy patients in hospitals as well as helping to raise money for their care. Truly, they are an inspirational group and learning more about them was a great way to end the day.
Review and Photos by Jason Burleson