Although the world of comic book may fandom has warped during the dotcom era as readers move away from print publications, the comic book is an old and esteemed tradition. Comics have been around for as long as books and newspapers have, typically providing an irreverent, satirical look at current affairs and news stories. Vintage comic books are often prized collectables, as a rare, original snapshot of the style and social climate of an era. From Charlie Brown to the Caped Crusader, comics have a diverse following not limited to kids and teens.
Indeed, the comic book industry’s cult following has expanded over recent years: The cult media ‘fandom’ has been traced back to its origin in the 1960s. Some argue that the ‘Trekkies’ of Star Trek fandom where the first to develop this sort of cult passion, and it’s generally agreed that whether or not Star Trek was the first, fandom certainly stemmed from the sci-fi genre. But the traditional comic con is the most entrenched tradition in the world of geek fandom: The first recorded event of this type was the ‘British Comic Art Convention’ held in 1968, and now these types of events are attended annually all over the world. Today, the worlds of comic books, gaming, and sci-fi and fantasy series are serious megabucks territory. The ‘fandom’ mentality likely supports this industry: While print sales in media have seen an overall decline over the last decade, graphic novel sales have remained strong, with niche genres like anime and manga becoming popularised and globalising the once polarised world of comic book enthusiasts.
Publishers, authors and gaming developers alike have realised the passion and enthusiasm their fans have for the comic book world – and what better way to encourage this than to unite the fanatical crowds in a convention centre filled to the rafters with paraphernalia, costumes, and some of the industry’s favourite stars? These days gamers, computer nerds and tech geeks alike all have a “con” event they can attend and bask in the communal passion for the craft. For those among us who have the inclination, the spare time – and cash – to indulge in the world of fandom, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten conventions taking place this year. For those of you who are, perhaps, still teetering at the edge of the computer and fantasy world, let this serve as a guide to ease you into the bizarre world of the Convention.
10. Dreamhack, Sweden : 25,000
Our number ten spot is situated in the somewhat surprising location of Jönköping, Sweden, but don’t let that put you off. Dreamhack is the world’s largest computer festival, taking place 24/7 from the 14-17 June this year. The event is computer whiz heaven with many of the top names in tech all setting up shop at the event. Gaming and digital arts competitions are held for attendees ensuring you make the most of your trip and if that weren’t enough, Dreamhack also boasted the world’s largest LAN (that’s local area network, but if you’re reading this list, you probably already know that) with over 12,000 connected devices. And if you’re worried about the Swedish weather, don’t let that put you off- we hear it’s sunny in June, but you won’t be outside much with so many gaming novelties to keep you inside the convention room!
9. E3, Los Angeles: 48,200
The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 as it’s otherwise known, is what every tech and gaming geek dreams of going to, but few ever actually have the chance. E3 is an industry-only event held annually in Los Angeles. The event – run by the Entertainment Software Association- sees the biggest gaming companies and their developers showcase their brand new, unreleased products. As such, the majority of ticket holders are either involved in the wholesale retail of these items or else they’re the lucky journalists who managed to grab a press pass. Even if you are lucky enough to be eligible to attend the E3 event, tickets don’t come cheap! Last year’s prices ranged from $795 to $995. You’d better hope their goodie bag made up for it.
8. Dragon Con, Atlanta: 50,000
For those of you who are new to the world of niche conventions, perhaps Dragon Con is for you. With a modest attendance figure of 50,000, the annual event sees sci-fi and fantasy enthusiasts from all over gather and share with one another their wisdom and their expertise. Held in Atlanta, Georgia, the event is known for the creative fancy dress of the attendees. While this is definitely true of many a convention, Dragon Con fans are particular adapt with their sewing machines, whipping up some seriously authentic homages to their favourite sci-fi characters. Prizes are awarded for the best so you’d best start planning now.
7. PAX, Boston: 70,000
What E3 is to wholesalers, PAX is to consumers. The Penny Arcade Expo – PAX for short- is the biggest gaming event of the year. The Boston-based event has become so big that the PAX organisers now hold sister events in Seattle and Melbourne, Australia each year. As well as the biggest names in online and computer gaming, PAZ gives a nod to old school entertainment; a specific part of the PAX event is dedicated to the humble board game. If that’s not your thing however, there’s always the newest products from Nintendo, X-Box and Playstation to try out.
6. Comic Con International: 125,000
With 125,000 attendees, the international Comic Convention is not for newbies to the game. The event has taken place every year in San Diego since 1970, with just about everything any comic book nerd could possibly dream of under one roof. Major comic book authors often attend, as well as the Hollywood stars who brought comic book hits to big screen. Although no longer the largest “con” event in the world, the San Diego Comic Con is still highly regarded as the gold standard in the industry. And with 125,000 people descending on the Californian city, San Diego is more than happy to see the event continue: last year the event injected around $160 million into the local economy, demonstrating the huge economic potential of these events.
5. Tokyo International Anime Fair: 130,000
Although a relative newcomer to the “con” list, the Tokyo International Anime Fair has been making up for lost time. Founded in 2012 the event now sees around 130,000 attend: while the majority of these are Japanese (well, it is held in Tokyo!), anime has very much become a global player in the comic world, and foreign interest is expected to increase. Much of the convention’s success can be attributed to the strong government backing it has received. The fair has also managed to attract industry heavyweights and it’s well-respected in the anime community with awards given to the best anime and manga cartoons of the year. It should be said, however, that while comic cons are something of a niche interest in the West, manga and anime have a much stronger following in their native region. For this reason, the Tokyo International Fair may be the best event for a newcomer who still wants to see some hard-core fanboy / fangirl action.
4. New York Comic Con: 133,000
The New York Comic Con has of late performed some sort of coup d’état and overthrown the San Diego event as the largest Comic Con of its kind. Not only is the event- which is held in the Javits Centre in Midtown Manhattan- a significant name in the comic world, it is also the second largest event of any kind to take place in New York City. As with all great Con events, organisers encourage enthusiasts to dress up, bring along the family and have a good time. Tickets for the 2014 Comic Con have not yet been released but we’ve heard that even though there are 133,000 of them, they will all be snapped up. Best to get yourself on their mailing list to avoid disappointment.
3. CES, Las Vegas: 153,000
Everyone in the tech or gaming world has heard of the International Consumer Electronics (CES for short) show held annually in Las Vegas. The event sees over 150,000 press, retailers and plain old enthusiasts descend on the gambling hot spot to see the latest in gaming and technology. Everyone from Playstation to Nintendo has debuted their hot off-the-press product here. This most recent CES expo, however, will go down in history for all the wrong reasons for mobile giants Samsung. The Korean multinational had the misfortune of picking Hollywood director Michael Bay to help them out promoting their new product. Bay, however, was clearly more comfortable behind rather than in front of the camera and dramatically walked off stage after a fit of stage fright. Don’t let that put you off, though, as we’re fairly sure they’re not going to be inviting him back next year!
2. Gamescom: 275,000
Based in Cologne, Germany, Gamescom manages to attract a whopping 275,000 people to the riverside city. The event is so hot, an estimated 5,000 press passes are given out for to eager journalists annually. That’s because for those in the gaming industry, Cologne in Germany is the only place to be when Gamescom is in action. From multinationals like Sega and EA to eager, rookie developers, everyone attends the Gamescom convention. In many ways the event is now less dweeby fanboy, more networking breakfast. That said, many of the ticket holders for this event are simply fans trying to get up close to big name gaming stars. In testament to this cohort of gaming gurus, the opening of the event generally features a made rush of lucky ticket holders making a beeline for all the biggest attractions at the event; organisers affectionately call this moment “The Running of the Nerds.” We’re told they take it as a compliment.
1. Comiket: 500,000
Going far and beyond any other competitors, Comiket reigns as the “con” champion. Comiket, also known as the Comic Market, is a massive event that takes places twice a year in Tokyo. The event is particularly noteworthy as a large volume of women attend the Comiket – something that most definitely cannot be said of the rest of the events listed here. Rather than focus on the heavy weights and major players of the comic book industry, Comiket is instead an homage to the fan itself: the event focuses on independent comic book authors and publishers as a great place to scope out tomorrow’s trends and talent. Those who purchase comics at the event often go on to sell them for megabucks elsewhere. With 500,000 people attending however, you need to be seriously passionate about comics. Queues to enter the venue alone can range from one to five hours and costumes at Comiket are outlandish. To those willing to go to these lengths, we salute you.
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