Atlanta, GA — I spent two days at the first-ever Atlanta Comic Con. I visited a lot of booths, bought a lot of stuff, and met a lot of wonderful, talented, and generous artists. There were cosplayers, ranging from Star Wars to God of War, walking around the event hall. People of all ages and races and genders took in the booths and photo ops and even some of the food carts, too (I forgot to get Dippin’ Dots both days and I will literally never forgive myself).
Something struck me hard. The crowd was a diverse one, full of people of color and older fans and women of all ages and ethnicities. And yet, so much of the art we see and consume is made by the same kind of person: white, and male. How could half this crowd be people of color and half this crowd be women and still, and still, and still, it’s the same dudes making the same stuff over and over again.
There’s an old saying that 90% of everything, art included, is crap — but I’ve come to feverently believe that, at least when it comes to art, the reason that 90% of everything is crap is because so much of it is made by the same point of view. Even removing race from the picture doesn’t save anyone — so many independent artists, persons of color and otherwise, making really great stuff that gets play on conventions and on the right parts of the internet.
Take Ray Wenck, an older author who has written several terrific books (I know because I read the two I bought on Friday by Sunday afternoon). He’s built a career for himself, outside of the mainstream cycle. Or African-American author Braxton Cosby, who built his own freaking media production company to produce his own sci-fantasy novels and the work of others. Or Allison Cheyenne Dawson, who created one of the most beautiful, poignant comic books I’ve ever read? Or Anna Zhuo, or Soda City Art, or About Time Comics?
These are brilliant, talented people, working hard in brutal fields — there are many more talents just like them, unknown to more mainstream audiences. We are missing out because we insist on the known quantity over taking creative risks. Screw that noise. Let’s do something different.
Now that, that’s out of my system — let’s talk about the Atlanta Comic Con itself.
ATLANTA COMIC CON
As a comic book convention, it hit a lot of sweet spots. It doesn’t have the cultural cache of Dragon Con, because it’s literally the first time they’ve hosted it, but they made up a lot of ground. As noted in the preview, they had plenty of good celebrity guests. One of my few non-Dippin’ Dot related regrets stem from not getting photos with some of the guests. I would’ve loved to have met Sean Young, whose performance in Blade Runner still blows me away. But the lines are long, and I’m a bad reporter.
The convention hall was pretty well set up. I didn’t really sense a theme for the rows — not that there wasn’t one, but it seemed more like a first-come first-serve sort of set up. A lot of independent or small artists were there, as I detailed; it made things much more interesting that if had just been the regular big guys. Staffing was solid, as was security. They did a good job watching over things, but also not being overly intrusive.
There was a lot of unused space in the convention hall. They probably could’ve fit in more booths, though they had to be pleased with the turnout, regardless. I don’t know what their plans are for the future, but if they wanted to become the Indy comic con, compared to the more star-heavy Dragon Con, I wouldn’t be opposed to that.
The Georgia World Congress Center was a great venue to host it. That place is massive. My only complaint was that I paid $15 gosh dang dollars for parking, but that was more me being too lazy and scared to look for better, cheaper parking. Picking up my press badge was easy.
Really, I had a breezy time. I got to spend several days with people who were totally in their element — people who were there for the same reason, and with a comfort level that you can only get around your peers. That’s what is really fun about conventions, no matter what the subject matter. I’m looking forward to going next year.