Fans of all ages, unreleased video game demos and the smell of fresh face paint all worked in conjunction to bring the pop-culture fandom to life at Forest City ComiCon, with over 4,000 people attending.
With the recent box-office successes of super-hero movies like Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, the comic book industry has experienced somewhat of a revival. Moreover, Marvel and DC have fans eagerly awaiting films yet to be released this year, including Shazam, Aquaman and Venom. Both seasoned fans and new readers are now more emotionally invested in the characters of many beloved comic and anime universes, which manifested at the London Convention Centre on Sept. 22.
The event showcased comics from all eras, including a vintage copy of Detective Comics Vol. 1, No. 27, most famous for introducing Batman, the Dark Knight detective. Released in 1939, the comic is valued at up to over $1 million, depending on the quality.
Not only did representatives from comic book and video game juggernauts like Dark Horse, Nintendo and Marvel make appearances, but companies who published work on mythological and science-fiction tycoons like The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Star Wars and Star Trek were present. Independent vendors sold hand-crafted posters and paraphernalia, including toy lightsabers, Iron Throne lawn chairs, action figurines and replicas of the One Ring.
Many exhibitors, cosplay professionals and startup comic companies set up booths outside of the convention room. Some booths had photo-ops with cosplayers and mascots while others offered the chance for fans to have their comics signed by creative directors and artists. Fans also participated in a variety of anime virtual-reality video games, taking their imagination beyond the speech bubbles and comic art.
While comic conventions appeal to fans all over the world, they also serve as outlets for those looking to take the plunge into the comic book industry to showcase their talent and gain recognition.
Luanga A. Nuwame, founder of Zelpha Comics and Collectibles, a comic company based in Mississauga, Ont., describes his job as “a childhood dream.”
Being an avid comic collector since his youth, Nuwame combined his passions for art and business by becoming an entrepreneur, sketching and publishing original comics.
However, the journey was not easy for Nuwame, who recalls being mocked by his peers for reading Spider-Man comics as a teen.
“I’m definitely one of those '80s/'90s comic geeks,” says Nuwame. “During my childhood, [I was] laughed at for reading comics, and now you got girls and boys both old and young who are encouraged and thrilled to tap into these universes.”
Overall the diverse fan demographics at ComiCon, which support Nuwame's insights, include fans of all different ages, genders, personalities and comic tastes.
Even with the comic-book-geek stigma on the decline, the comic industry is still facing significant challenges.
Many comics are focused on trying to appeal to today’s younger generation while still maintaining high praise from veteran readers.
Jeff Graham, head of sales for Omega Autographs and Comics, describes reading comics as “an escape from reality.”
“People enjoy comics not only for the reading, but also because of the art. And with the industry changing right now as far as digital editing and Adobe Photoshop, I think it’s fostered a whole new cycle of demand, especially for older fans who never grew up with [today’s] technology,” says Graham.
Overall, London’s Forest City ComiCon serves as a day of reflection, looking back at how far the comic industry has come since its inception in the early 20th century, but it's also a day of enthusiasm, appreciating the fandom and looking at what the future holds for fans, universes and the industry.