Con-Topia: A Convention For All Your Favorite Shows
Almost everyone knows what Comic-Con is. Most people have never gone to Comic-Con, but it’s importance in launching new shows and movies by having panels full of actors and sneak peaks at new footage have given it a reputation. Comic-Con San Diego is an annual event dating back to 1970. The three focuses of the convention are comic books, films, and science fiction/fantasy literature. The con was set up to give these medias more attention, and with over 130,000 attendees in the last few years, the strategy is clearly paying off. It has been so successful in fact, that in recent years cons have been springing up all over the place, bringing fans closer to then ever to their favorite characters, actors, movies, and t.v. shows.
It began with the expansion of the San Diego Comic Convention’s Cons to include APE, WonderCon, ProCon, and Con/Fusion. These days though, cons have become show or movie specific. Recent and upcoming cons include EyeCon, (The Vampire Diaries and The Originals) BloodyNightCon, (The Vampire Diaries) Asylum 12, (Supernatural) Wolfs Bane 2, (Teen Wolf) Ravens, (Pretty Little Liars and One Tree Hill) The Final Journey, (Stargate) Days Of The Wolf (Teen Wolf) and the Official Star Trek Convention. These are just a few.
Not only are these cons creating a new revenue stream for these shows and franchises, they are also altering the way fans interact with the texts that are these shows and movies. Often at these cons actors, writers, and directors give hints to the fans about what coming up in the new season. They will talk about deleted scenes, artistic intentions and background information the the audience is not privy to just by watching the show. T.V. shows and movies are are texts with multiple authors. There are the producers who pay for them and want them to look a certain way, directors who shoot them according to their particular vision, actors who play parts based on the backgrounds and personalities they create alongside the writers, who come up with the specific story lines for every shot. With the emergence of these cons fans are able to get a behind the scenes look at the process like they never have before. Gag reels are one thing, this is even better.
Cons allow actors to tell stories about their characters they weren’t able to within the limiting confines of a 44 minute t.v. episode or a packed blockbuster movie. They add depth to the storyline, giving justification to characters actions and rationals for their behaviors. Cons also give fans the type of intimate access that allows them to ask questions directly to actors and interact person to person and face to face. There are autograph signings, photos, Q & A sessions, Karaoke, video nights and interactive events.
These gatherings help keep fandoms loyal and dedicated. They hold fans over in-between seasons or movies. They basically keep the attention of the audience on them instead of another show or media. It’s genius from a marketing perspective. However, they would not be so successful if they were not also so much fun. The most popular conventions are the ones where the actors and other guests are as excited to be there as the fans. Supernatural conventions like Burcon work because the actors are as loyal to the fans as the fans are to them and want everyone to have a good time and enjoy the show (both the one they put on at the con and the actual show they are promoting).
The actors from Supernatural complimenting their fans:
Cons might have started off small, with the first Comic-Con having about 100 attendees, but these days they are a big business, and getting more popular all the time. Now fans and actors alike organize people and put cons together. The Nerd Machine, which hosts the Nerd HQ convention every year around Comic-Con, was created by Chuck actor Zachary Levi. It was created to “spread the nerd culture” according to its website. The con started in 2011 and featured video and events at Comic-Con followed by panels featuring actors straight from Comic -Con. For Mr. Levi, his con acts as a lower-key, more intimate gathering then the now gigantic, crowded, and expensive Comic-Con next door. The panels are streamed on their Youtube Channel, and guests so far have included Evangeline Lilly, Jenna-Louise Coleman, Matt Smith, Tom Hiddleston, and Nathan Fillion. Every year the Nerd HQ con grows: the actors continue coming over from Comic-Con and so do the fans. Clearly there is room enough for California for two cons, which is good, because if anything there will only be more in coming years.