“The Biggest Show in the Smallest State” took place at the Rhode Island Convention Center this weekend. An estimated 30,000 people attended the con that included a Batman ’66 reunion and several other celebrities.
I traveled to the con arriving a few minutes after 10AM. Thanks to The Rhode Island Comic Con having dozens of volunteers outside the venue taking tickets, getting into the convention itself was quick and efficient. I had my bracelet, got security checked and was inside the main floor within 2 minutes.
This year the con took over the whole convention center and an estimated 30,000 people came through the doors. Tickets for the weekend were $35 and one day passes were $25. Onsite parking was only $12.00 and parking in a local mall was even cheaper. Kid’s tickets were less and children 6 and under were admitted in for free. There were other packs available that include VIP access, and celebrity autographs.
What stood out to me was the vintage back issue shopping available. There were several vendors at the convention carrying golden and silver age books at very reasonable prices. The inter-convention competition was great for guests as great deals could be had.
The con seems to be structured 50% towards celebrity guests and another 50% towards comics and comic artists. With the crowd seemingly split between the two alternatives, it gave hardcore fans a great opportunity to talk extensively with artists like Bob Layton, Allen Bellman, Michael Goldman, and Dennis Calero.
What I was happiest to see were several booths featuring independent works. From prose novelists to graphic designers, it was refreshing to see so many people going their own way and being reasonable with their pricing.
One of my favorite independent artists I discovered at the con was Emily Drouin who was there to promote her all ages comic Eplis. Emily was very happy to talk with fans especially the younger children drawn to her booth with her fantastic (and very reasonably priced) prints. I talked to her for a few minutes about her work and commissioned 2 full color sketches which I absolutely love. Drouin is definitely a creator to keep your eye on. We need more people like her committed to getting younger readers into comics through well written all ages books.
I also got a chance to talk to Dan Capitumini. I have heard talk about him on several podcasts and it was great to actually meet him in person. I walked away from talking to Dan feeling his absolute passion for comics and comic art. Dan is a great ambassador, and I was surprised to find out he was from Rhode Island!
Michael Dooney had some really excellent prints available for sale. My favorite was his 1887 series of prints that included dozens of characters. The trouble with doing period pieces with several characters is that they sometimes can overlap and blend together. Dooney’s collection was so painstakingly put together that each character is unique and distinctive. I am very tempted to try to complete the collection for myself.
There were hundreds of people dressed up at the convention with some very creative costumes. It appeared to me more people dressed up for Rhode Island (as a percentage) than either Boston or New York. What really impressed me was the complexity and uniqueness of some of the costumes. There was even a Prince Robot IV from Saga complete with a working television.
While several celebrity guests could not make it to the con because of the horrific shooting at LAX, the staff at the convention was able to notify the fans via social media and volunteers.
The Rhode Island Comic Con Staff and volunteers were exceptionally nice and accommodating. The security staff of the convention center (convention center employees unaffiliated with the con) were a bit aggressive at times when they did not need to be, but generally speaking did an excellent job.
Rhode Island Comic Con is on its way to being the premier con in New England. They have seemed to work out most of the kinks from last year and really want to keep improving the experience for attendees. One of the suggestions I hope that they take is to start to invest more time bringing in high profile comic artists and writers instead of additional B and C list celebrities.
While I had a great time enjoying the con itself, what made the experience truly memorable for me was inviting two friends who are not into comics to help me cover the con and take pictures. One of my friends really caught the bug, buying several prints from the artists in attendance and asking questions about the characters and books. (If you ever want to have a fun lunch, try explaining Cable to someone who has never picked up a comic book!) Seeing the con through her eyes really added an extra layer of enjoyment and fun.
If you live in New England, or even New York State, coming to the Rhode Island Comic Con is a great value. With the reasonable admission price and plenty of hotels in the greater Providence area, it would make an excellent weekend getaway for the families with children (the Kids Con down stairs seemed very well attended and it looked like everyone was having a great time).
I’ll be back at Rhode Island Comic Con next year and look forward to seeing the event continue to grow. You can find out more about Rhode Island Comic Con on their website.
Hank Johnson: firstname.lastname@example.org (Photos by Rahyza Rosario)
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