Strap in, friends! This one’s a doozie.
So a few weeks ago, I was on vacation and had a comic book convention coming up at my library. I promised that I’d make up for it by posting about both vacation time AND about our convention. A week or two ago was part one, the vacation…this week it’s part two, the comic book convention!
Thankfully, we have a fairly active teen demographic and we wanted to pull even more teens and tweens. With the increasing popularity of Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, video games, anime, comic books and other “nerdy” interests (also known as “fandoms”), we thought it would be fun to host a comic book convention, or “comic con” in the library!
You might be asking, “What is a Comic Con? Are they popular?”
For the sake of those who are not part of the comic convention world – yet – I’ll be breaking down some of the lingo and culture. Comic cons refer to just about any convention (or con) out there; however, the official Comic Con is held annually in San Diego, California. According to their website, Comic Con San Diego describes itself as “a nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.”
Like any other convention, you have booths selling items, round table discussions, photo ops, guest speakers, panels, etc. At a comic con, speakers and panels may include famous writers, comic artists, actors, directors, and more. Most panels are now used to preview upcoming movies, TV shows, video games and whatnot to get people excited. Another Batman/Star Wars/Star Trek/etc movie coming out? Chances are they’ll reveal it at a comic con with a panel of the cast from the film answering questions from fans and press (also known as a “Q and A”). Some other famous cons out there include:
- Wonder Con
- Dragon Con (Often known as “D*Con”)
- Mega Con
- Dallas Comic Con
- Toronto Comic Con
- Electronic Entertainment Expo (Also called E3), the Comic Con for video games
“But Justin, is this stuff actually popular? Only kids and 40-somethings living in Mom’s basement go to these things, right?”
Comic Con has topped over 130,000 people in past years and Dragon Con broke 70,000 this year – and it’s not slowing down. That’s right, tens of thousands of people in costumes, running around and having fun.
Speaking of which, one of the most fun and creative parts of any convention are the costumes. Whether it’s your first time and your costume is made from cardboard or you’re a professional who does it for a living, people love costumes. The art or making/wearing costumes is also known as “cosplay” – costume play, get it?
The biggest question we had when we first started this endeavor was what to name it…How do we come up with a cool/original/easy to explain name? That’s when one of our staff came up with a brilliant idea! Our library is based in an area known historically for its strawberries, but we thought “Strawberry Con” was a little confusing; my coworker looked up “strawberry” in Japanese and learned it was “Ichigo”. After a unanimous vote, it was settled: Ichigo-Con!
After that, things started rolling fairly easy. My library is blessed with very creative and/or nerdy people who have been to cons before and had lots of great ideas for crafts and activities.
- Tin foil hats – just need cardboard, aluminum foil and sharpies.
- Make your own Lego head supplies holder by painting small jar candles. We bought small candles at the dollar store; simply heat them up for a minute in the microwave to loosen the wax, pop it out with a table or butter knife, rinse them out and they’re ready for cheap yellow paint and sharpie markers.
- Pokemon balls were pretty easy and cheap to do, just markers and styrofoam balls.
- Make your own Tetris magnets! Just a few pieces of wood from the craft store (or a big piece and a saw if you’re handy), markers, magnet strips, and you’re in business!
- Our epoxy resin class was a pretty big success! Simply mix and pour, add anything you want, then let your creation harden into something beautiful. I was lucky to play with this a few weeks earlier when we first bought it.
- The Houston Doctor Who group Cosplay Gallifrey Houston was in attendance giving out 3D glasses, jelly babies and sharing their love of Doctor Who as well! There’s a fair chance you have a similar group near your library, official or not.
- Houston Community College had all manner of technology including a 3D printer and static electricity ball! Holy moly, that thing could zap.
- Local ghost story author Vickie Howard talked ghosts and had copies of her new book The Deer Park, Texas Hauntings available. Feel free to learn about it on her Facebook page!
- First and foremost, we used this as a way to pull in people for our book sale. All of our flyers for the event had a coupon for one free book. We give books a good home, they probably buy a few books as well, and everybody wins!
- Our Steven Universe panel was pretty cool…I wasn’t really there for it, but I saw it had like 20 kids in there.
- One of my coworkers who is an eBay expert gave a workshop on how to sell things on eBay. I heard the turnout was under 10 people, but the people who went were very satisfied.
- A green screen photo op booth let kids take photos with friends; since the screen was just made from green construction paper, kids could write on it!
- Needed to take a break? People could rest in our Japanese film gallery. In a nutshell, it’s a few hours of Japanese commercials and short cartoons. Fresh popcorn served free while you watched!
- The Anime Panel had kids talking about their favorite anime books and cartoons, and had around 15 or 20 kids when I poked my head in.
- Our Doctor Who panel had teens, kids and adults talking about their favorite Doctor, favorite episodes, themes, and the science of time travel.
- My nerd trivia contest had them laughing and learning about their favorite movies, tv shows, and books. I used to host trivia at my favorite bar in Florida, so this came pretty easy!
- The costume contest made people bring their game face. Some seriously cool cosplay was going on!
While we had about 200 people in costume, I can only provide a photo or two for privacy reasons to protect our patrons. Thankfully, some of our kids wore masks, wigs, makeup or a mix of the bunch.
Special shout out to Burch Tree Photography for running around taking photos all day! If you’re in the Houston area, check them out on their Facebook page and reserve them for weddings, sporting events, graduations, engagements and anything else you need photos for.
With all this cosplay and photos going on, we wanted to get in on the fun, too. Our teen librarian, Tinachris, was Chun-Li from the Street Fighter series.
“Stop right there, Justin! What if somebody has a really revealing costume or brings weapons with their costume? That sounds like a lot of liability…”
No worries, anxious person! All of our flyers and promotional items prior to the even clearly states no inappropriate attire and no weapons of any kind.
Didn’t get the memo? We’ve got you covered.
Surprisingly, we didn’t have to turn away a single patron for inappropriate attire or use the box even once.
Who did I go as, you ask? I went as Chris Pratt’s character Owen from the new Jurassic World movie.
If you haven’t seen the movie, he’s a park ranger and Velociraptor trainer who trains four raptors – Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo – as hunting dogs to catch the film’s new big bad dinosaur.
If you haven’t read last weekend’s Halloween post, I have sweet pics of it there. If you want to see something AMAZING, take two minutes and see it before reading further. (You’ll thank me, I promise.)
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
The rest of the post will be here when you come back.
Ready? Now back to the good stuff!
Our children’s library guru and artist-in-residence Lily was Tina from the Bob’s Burgers cartoon show. She injured her ankle the day before, but showed up and took it like a champ!
The headmaster/ringleader of all this and programming coordinator, Mark, kept with Bob’s Burgers and came as Bob himself!
My adult reference colleague Angelica went all out as Miss Marvel. She made the outfit herself – even her mask is custom foam she molded to her face and used special glue to keep it on. Yes, she GLUED it to her FACE. Don’t worry, she still has eyebrows. Oh, and how about those sweet boots?
Also, a special moment of silence for Angelica’s papier-mâché K9, the lovable robot dog from the Doctor Who series.
So with all of these kids and teens in costume, how to do you host a good and fair costume contest? We took a route using wrist bands to vote. Here’s how it worked:
- Every patron (costume or not) that came in was given two of those rubber jelly wrist bands – one for you to keep, one to give to your favorite costumed person. The wrist bands are really cheap, like 100 for $1 from Oriental Trading Company.
- At the end of the con, everyone entering the contest turned in all their bracelets to be counted by staff members; since most of the other activities were finished, we had about 3 or 4 people counting.
- Once counted, we drop them into manila envelopes and wrote their name along with how many wrist bands they collected.
- Organizing them on a table or floor is easy if you start early with the first bag. If bag A is bigger than bag B, put B in front of A. If C is bigger than A, put it behind A, and so on…when done, they’ll be filed from smallest in front to biggest in the back.
Why did we do it this way? Easy to control, non-biased and objectively backed by numbers; it was about as level a playing field as we could make.
For some of the smaller events and games, we gave out nerdy buttons people could wear including Doctor Who, Batman, Star Wars, Sherlock and more.
For the costume contest, we awarded the top 14 or so highest voted costumes with sweet prizes. The first kids took home movie and book posters, and the runners up got tin comic book signs. They’re about $8-10 a piece, so it’s not TOO hard on the budget.
Our 1st place contestant won the big prize of the day – a Kindle Fire HDX! I believe he had about 120 wristbands, in case anyone was wondering.
I gotta say, I think we did really well for our first time doing this. Both on the business side (getting speakers, vendors, prizes, etc lined up) and the patron side (activities, crowd control/flow, participation), I don’t think we could have done any better. Aside from a few logistical hiccups and finding enough room for every activity, it went very smoothly.
One thing I wasn’t expecting? For my trivia contest to be so dang popular. I figured I was going to get maybe 10 or 15 kids/teens, but I had kids, parents, grandparents, volunteers (when they weren’t busy working) and just random people who trickled in for a round or two. All told, I probably had about 40 or 50 people.
My favorite part beside hosting the trivia was getting to dress up in costume. If you’ve been following Brash Librarian for any stretch of time, you know that I LOVE dressing up. However, I saw a lot of kids that were clearly nervous about their costumes and were having second thoughts about showing up. If you’re one of those kids or a parent of one of those kids, I have a few things to say to you.
In my experience on the whole, people are very welcoming when it comes to costumes. Got a great costume? People will love you and want to take photos with you. Got a horrible costume? People will still applaud the effort. If it’s fairly creative or original, people will want to get photos with you – and Ichigo was no different.
How and what people are cosplaying can tell you alot about them! The character they pick can often tell you what fandoms they like and their personality in real life. Sometimes, the most quiet people can have the most amazing and outrageous costumes. It’s also a great way to make new friends.
When I do a costume, I’m a huge nerd about detail. Can I get this item that [character] wore/used? If it doesn’t exist or is too expensive, can I make it? When I was building a costume for a birthday party/Megacon a few years ago, it took four months from start to finish. 90% of the costume I made myself, and other 10% was tracking down the rest of the pieces in order to buy them.
Some people are into it waaay more than me, and some waaay less than me. One of my friends spent 3 years building a costume, while another one threw theirs together inside of an hour. On both sides of the coin, I admire the former for their painstaking attention to every facet of the costume, yet I admire the latter for being ingenious enough to assemble something in 45 minutes.
Either way, I always appreciate their efforts and love how much they get into it. There’s a huge difference in being a perfectionist with an eye for detail, and just being a judgmental costume snob – don’t be that person. It’s all about the appreciation of your fandoms!
But Justin, I don’t have any skills like that or money! I’d look stupid if I make something out of cardboard…
Take that thought, and toss it out the window. Some cardboard and tape is a great start. The only thing that limits a good costume is imagination. If you can dream it, YOU CAN BUILD IT. Believe me, you’ll be proud of it.
If you’re still on the fence about having a con at your library or dressing up, I’d like to leave you with a great quote from comedian/actor Nick Offerman – you probably know him as Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation. If you ever feel like cosplay is too nerdy for you or other people think it’s a stupid hobby, remember this quote:
Get a hobby or as I call it, “a discipline”…making things with your hands is not only NOT nerdy, but it’s sexy…if you want to, like, up the delicious factor in your life, find out what you love to make, and it could be so many things – food, music…Whatever it is, whatever you love to do, that is the sexiest part of you. And it hits a button when you see somebody making something; it just hits that like nesting button of like, “Oh, you’re knitting? Do you wanna like, make a nest and stuff?”
Justin Brasher, Brash Librarian