Each year the convention season gets longer and longer. Comic Cons are a big deal now; companies can promote new projects and fans just eat up the chance to meet their favorite creators. The last few years, however, a weariness has taken over the larger cons. SDCC has become massive, and, amidst all the excitement, it can be hard to focus on comics these days. These big conventions are filled with so many people and have so much going on that everyone is exhausted, stressed out, and you can rarely get in to see the panels or the people you want.
Much to everyone’s delight, Image Expo had none of these problems. This was a convention for independent comic creators. Everyone was there because they wanted to be there. The professionals were there to promote their own creations and get feedback from their fans, while the fans were there to celebrate the books they had championed from the start. There was a sense of ownership to the event. The creators had made these comics from nothing and made them successful. The fans loved these books and had supported them before anyone else. Now, everyone could celebrate their success.
Much praise has to be given Todd Martinez, Sarah DeLaine, and the entire Image team. This convention ran smoothly, was well organized, and provided great content. Panels were easy to get into, and were actually really interesting. The creators from Image truly enjoy their properties and weren’t overbooked or exhausted as the Con continued. There was a strong feeling of success in this convention. Whether it was reveling in The Walking Dead‘s domination of prime time TV, heralding the ever-expanding and incredibly diverse collection of Image comics, or just celebrating the 20-year anniversary, the message of this Con seemed to be “we did it, thank you for joining us on this journey; now, come party with us!” And, oh boy, we did.
From laughter-filled panels lead by Elephantmen‘s Richard Starkings to rowdy conversations in Artists’ Alley, this Con was down to earth and tons of fun. Staying in the same hotel as the convention center and all the guests, it was commonplace to share an elevator with a panelist or sit down at the bar next to your favorite writer. In fact, the hotel bar was the place to be all Saturday night. We shared beers with our favorite creators, listened to the amazing house band, and even lost a drinking contest to Aspen comics.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the books. Every booth had comics, graphic novels, and prints for sale at super reasonable prices. You could pick up a trade, get it signed, and have a conversation with the creators, without ever fearing that you were holding up the line. The creators were just as happy to share a hilarious anecdote as they were to pass on sagely advice. In fact, the best moments of Image Expo were those focused on telling fans that this could be you. From workshops where creators shared their tips and tricks of the trade to heartfelt origins stories of how your favorite comics were made, there was always a sense that comics were for everyone, and that they could be made by you, too, if you were willing to work hard enough, and never give up on your crazy dreams.