Comic conventions are unique experiences, and trying to explain them to someone who’s never been to one can be difficult. No two cons are exactly alike, and they all have their individual pluses and minuses. A lackluster comic convention can be a demoralizing experience, while a good convention can make you fall in love with comics all over again. Cons have the ability to be totally exhausting, utterly rejuvenating, or both at the same time.
Reading Pros & (Comic) Cons, an anthology of short prose and comics about convention experiences, made me feel more rejuvenated than exhausted. The stories that editor Hope Nicholson has curated, which come primarily from industry professionals but also from non-pros, perfectly capture the feeling of being at a con. They made me wistful about my own great con experiences, and they made me wish I could be at a con while I was reading them. The collection features a fantastic selection of stories from a diverse group of individuals with tales that range from intensely personal to downright silly, and it’s a joy to read.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to ask Nicholson about Pros & (Comic) Cons, her latest anthology from Dark Horse, as well as about her own experiences and thoughts about comic conventions.
Joe Grunenwald: What inspired you to want to put this book together?
Hope Nicholson: I was looking for common threads that bind fans and creators together, and comic cons seemed like a perfect choice! We all have our own stories, and unlike the previous books about love, sex, and dating that I published with Dark Horse, these can be a lot less vulnerable and intimate.
JG: What was the first con you attended, as either a fan or an exhibitor? If you could tell Past Hope at her first con one thing, what would it be?
HN: The first con I attended was in Winnipeg, at a local hotel, I was about 11. It was awful. I felt uncomfortable, the retailers were mean to me, and the comics (the only thing I came for) were overpriced. There were no panels or events, no cosplay at the time either. So, I thought for years that cons were a bit sad and uncomfortable. Luckily, I was wrong!
JG: In your story, “Cons Make Strange Bedfellows,” you joke about what a bad Artist Alley booth neighbor you are. I don’t expect you to name names, but have you had any particularly memorable experiences with a bad neighbor at a show?
HN: Oh gosh, of course. That ranges from overly aggressive hand-sellers scaring passerbys, to those lovely neighbours who block off your only exit/entrance into the row with friends, boxes, and banners. You have to leave a path! It’s just considerate!
JG: Over the years that you’ve been attending comic cons, is there anything significant that you’ve seen change about them, for better or for worse?
HN: I’ve noticed that more and more cons have anti-harassment policies. That’s been great.
JG: If you could change anything about comic cons – whether it’s a cultural thing or a structural change to the way they’re run, or something else entirely – what would it be?
HN: Honestly, I want every con to give 25% of the tables to local creators at no charge. Not only will the creators work their hardest to bring in local fans, and it’s good PR, but they will also be so so grateful. A lot of creators don’t have the financial resources to attend cons, so this is a good way to help out. I’d also like to see comic festivals (different than cons) give out bursaries to low-income creators.
JG: This is your third anthology book from Dark Horse, following The Secret Loves of Geek Girls and The Secret Loves of Geeks. You’ve also published a few other anthologies through Bedside Press. What do you like about that format that keeps you coming back to it?
HN: I love working with a wide variety of creatives! In every collection, it’s a mix of friends, strangers, experiences, creators, and newcomers. It’s so much fun to play in this field.
JG: What do you hope people take away from reading this collection of stories?
HN: I hope that if they’ve never been to a con before they can experience the excitement through our eyes. And if they have, to see that creators are just big fans too!
Pros & (Comic) Cons hits comic shops next Wednesday, May 29th.
Joe Grunenwald is a writer and editor living in the Pacific Northwest. He’s taller than a lot of people but not as tall as some people.