Two years ago I was making a concerted effort to phase out an aspect of my life that had been prevalent for decades, selling collectibles at comic and toy conventions. One of the last venues at which I offered my wares was the first Texas Comic Con in San Antonio, Texas. in its inaugural year this convention showed considerable promise. Having attended many first-time shows I was rather impressed with what the promoters of this event had pulled off, seemingly out of nowhere. You can read the article I wrote about the first year of Texas Comic Con here.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the convention in 2011 due to scheduling conflicts and was subsequently unable to report on its progress. Hoping to rectify this I decided to look into the feasibility of making an appearance this year and looked up their website. Much to my surprise the convention was being held the following weekend! Luckily I was without any set plans the Saturday of the show and was able to arrange to stay with family not far from the convention venue. With everything in place it was off to San Antonio the night before to see how this young convention had grown.
To say that it had simply grown would be an understatement. From what I could see upon our arrival a mere half hour before the show was to open was enough to suggest that it had not so much grown as exploded! A line ran from the front door of the San Antonio Event Center, along the parking area to the right, and all the way to the sidewalk at the street where it angled and continued down a few yards. This lengthy press of attendees grew in length further still after I took my place at the back of the line, growing by several dozen people before the doors opened (about 10 minutes late) and the slow march of convention-goers began to find their way out of the Texas heat. And while the opening of the center to the public was somewhat delayed, I have to give credit to the efficiency with which the show staff processed prepaid and pay-at-the-door attendees. I’ve never stood in a line of such length that moved at the steady pace of the one that led to the Texas Comic Con.
Once inside it was clear that the volume of dealers, exhibitors, and artists had grown since my last appearance there. The exhibit hall was crammed with booths of all kinds around which the ever-growing crowds were already swarming. The variety of dealers was on a par with any of the large conventions I have attended over the years with the bulk specializing in comic books and/or action figures. There were many returning vendors I recocnized from two years earlier including MechCorps Entertainment with their massive video gaming booths as well as our friends from Bean Pot Toiz. But for the most part the bulk of the faces I saw were new. There were booths occupied by comic shops from Austin and San Antonio as well as those purchased by individual selling collections. A wide variety of status, action figures, HeroClix, and comic books could be seen nearly everywhere you went within the building.
In addition to collectibles for purchase there were a great number of booths given over to a massive Artists Alley. From what I could see Texas Comic Con had attracted nearly twice the artist exhibitors that appeared two years ago. It was an impressive array of talent that included Bob Luedke, Finish It! Finish It! veteran Michael Champion and Halo Seraphim and Terry Parr of Shonuff Studios. Artist were busily selling their prints or collected works, meeting fans, and sketching out new commissions. If you have never visited the Artists Alley at a convention I suggest you make it a point to do so the next time you attend a show. If for nothing else you should walk the tables and take in the diversity of styles and genres represented.
In this day and age a convention’s guests can be as much a draw for attendees as the other features it brings to bear. And the Texas Comic Con has yet again proven that a good mix of guests will bring people out in droves. One of the things that really impresses me most about this show is their choice of guests. As in 2010, they put forth a unique lineup that crossed genres and touched many aspects of fandom. The always personable Lou Ferigno happily chatted with fans and posed for photos between signing autographs next to E.T.’s Dee Wallace. I saw Starship Troopers’ Jake Busey being equally engaging as well as a number of other show guests who seemed to have a constant ebb and flow autograph seekers. From actors and actresses to professional wrestlers, there was truly something for everyone when it came to the guest list. Unfortunately Carey Elwis had been delayed and would not be on site until after we had already left for the day. I suspect that when he did arrive there was a massive autograph line that formed.
Overall I came away from Texas Comic Con 2012 even more impressed than I had been two years prior. The Star Wars fan groups the 501st Legion and Rebel Alliance had huge booths with photo-op setups and costumed members on hand. Star Trek and zombie fandom were also well represented. Vendors tempted me with affordable and way out of my price range collectibles. I managed to obtain several choice pieces for my collection including figures to flesh out my growing Marvel Universe displays. I got to catch up with a few of my convention friends and had quite a fun day. I even met fellow podcasters from Stacks of Comics with whom I hope to collaborate in the future. And most impressive of all was the sight of long lines of attendees queuing up to get into the show hours after it began!
And then there were the costumes! When I attended my first convention (over 30 years back) almost no one wandered the aisles in costume. Not until the show’s Costume Contest did the bulk of the contestants “suit up”. One of the things I love about conventions today is the volume and diversity of costumes worn by attendees out on the floor. While the Comic Con no longer offers free admission to those who show up in costume (as offered in 2010), there was no shortage of comic book, movie, and television characters (as represented by the costumes of their fans) to be found throughout the day I was in attendance.