I'm sure by now you've heard about conventions. Super hero or comic conventions are on the rise in popularity as this becomes an event that is more and more mainstream and less reserved for those hardcore geeks and fans (like me).
If you have kids or teens who are into the super hero scene you might have either heard of a convention local to you or have been asked by your kiddo to go to an event like this. Fear not mom, even if you do not have geek cred I will give you a basic run down of what a convention is, what to expect and how to keep your sanity as you navigate the fun chaos of a comic book convention.
A comic book convention is a gathering where people come to celebrate all things related to comic books, super heroes, pop culture, fantasy, supernatural stories, etc.
There are many different types of conventions and many different sizes. Some are small, free events. These events will not typically have celebrities but you can normally find comics and toys to purchase, along with art and books. (Yes mom, books. See, that's a good reason to go). The larger you go with a convention the price will start climbing. Some have a few celebrities and an entrance fee. Often they will promote an event as being free for children. If you go to a large convention your price is going to be higher but there will also be a larger amount of celebrities available to meet.
You can usually find a social media page or information online related to the event. It will give you the days/times and also the door price. If kids are free it will be listed here. That will be your base price. Once you get in you will probably want to budget in an amount for toys, comic books, art, and books. I find it helpful to give each of my kids a specific amount that they are able to spend.
Also, take notice of what celebrities are going to be there. Who would you or your child want to meet? Yes, I said you. Did you know that a lot of cons are doing throw back guests? You know your favorite show as a child, the main star could be at this convention and you wouldn't want to pass up a chance to meet them.
Once you get an idea of who will be there that you would be interested in meeting you can typically find a price list on the convention's information page. It will tell you the general info about that celebrity including how much they sign for.
If you're going to be there all day, you may also want to include a food budget. Sometimes convention food is pricey. Don't blame the actual convention for this, it's usually the venue's pricing and if you've ever been to a concert or a game you know that those prices are high for what you actually get. Sometimes there will be food trucks outside. This is usually better quality food for your money. You can also consider packing a cooler lunch for the car and just slip back outside during meal times.
Check out the information for the convention before you get there. They should have a list of whether it's a one day, two day, or three day convention and what hours they open. They will also have the schedule. This will tell you about any panels and events that are going on during different times. It is best if you plan your schedule out ahead of time so that you can get the most for your money. You can see on the schedule what you and your family would be interested in so that you can squeeze in everything you can.
Things like this include the costume contest, photo ops with certain celebrities: For instance if they have four cast members from a certain show this would be a chance to have your picture taken with all four of them together. Panels: These are usually a chance to hear about a certain topic (like a certain show, listening to a celebrity, discussions about a topic, tutorials like how to cosplay). The way these are presented they usually have a moderator and the guests. They will have a general idea of what they are going to talk about and then usually have q&a time where you can participate. Even though they seem like formal events these panels are typically fun and flexible with quite a bit of opportunity to either ask questions, give an opinion or even just hear about some really cool behind the scene experiences.
The first time you go to a convention the automatic instinct of adult and kids alike is to see something they are very excited about, buy it and then they see something else they want even more...but they've spent their budget. You'll either end up way overspending the allotted budget or you will end up with some unhappy grouchy kids.
I ALWAYS recommend taking a lap around the convention floor first. Kind of like how you wouldn't go to a car lot and buy the first car that you see. You'd want to do research and then walk around the lot to see what you're interested in. Try to put off actually buying anything for a little while until you see what is going on. Plus, another bonus of waiting is that you're not going to have to carry around whatever you buy for the entire day. But of course, don't wait too long because unlike retail, there are typically a limited amount of certain items, sometimes only one and you would hate to tell your child to wait to buy that item then finally go back and find that it's gone.
You will see all kinds of people walking around the convention in cosplay. Cosplay stands for costume play where people dress as characters that they love. One rule of a comic convention is that you always give love to a cosplayer. They typically put in a lot of effort to make their own costumes. I don't care what size, shape, race, sex, whatever that the person doing the cosplay is, you do not ever make negative comments. If your kid makes a negative comment, gently and quietly remind them that it's not allowed because that person is just showing their love for that character. Comic conventions are a safe place for this and it has been the general rule. So be sure that you or your kids do not ever make fun of anyone for anything.
You may also see some people in some skimpy costumes. There may be ladies revealing a little more than you'd like, or a guy who opted against wearing the proper cup attire. What I have found helpful is distraction. Thankfully you are surrounded by a ton of interesting items. Simply get your kids attention on something else nearby if someone is walking by with an outfit you'd rather them not see. Don't let this scare you away though because conventions typically go with the general rule of making things kid and family appropriate so you won't see anything horrible. (As someone who has been to a ton of conventions I will say that I've never seen anything worse than what you will see at a pool or the beach).
Another note that I want to touch on is proper cosplay interaction. If you see a costume that you love or that your kid really enjoys, it's typically not good to just snap a picture. Get the person's attention and ask "Can I get a pic?" and I have never seen anyone turn this down. Usually that's what a cosplayer likes, knowing that you enjoy the costume that they put so much hard work into enough to want to get a picture. Do not ever touch a person or costume without permission or in an appropriate way. Just because someone is in a costume doesn't mean the rules of proper etiquette goes out the window.
There will also be a costume contest. These are a lot of fun to watch and will be worth your time to check out because it's a great opportunity to see all of the cosplay costumes at one time. It's a nice chance to sit and relax for a little bit too. If you or your child want to participate in the costume contest they usually state the guidelines for signing up (there's a deadline for sign up time as well as different categories). They could even enter with a simple store bought hero costume. Although I will warn you that a store bought costume usually doesn't win over a costume that has been handmade because they reward for effort as well as looks. But it would still be fun to participate.
Even if your kids don't want to participate in the costume contest they can still feel welcome to wear their costumes throughout the con itself. I have seen little ones running around in Halloween type super hero costumes as well as store bought princess costumes. It's all fair game!
On a related note to respecting people dressed in cosplay I will also add that you should respect the items at the con. You will probably also see homemade things like R2-D2 unit robots running around. There will be prop displays that you can have your picture taken with. Like one con had an item from the Halo video game. I've seen large homemade items like dragons. I mention all of these because you'll have to be on guard, especially if your children are younger. People usually put in a lot of effort on making items like this. They aren't just something that they've ran to the store and picked up. Explain to your kids to be careful so they don't break anything.
Along this same note, be courteous at people's tables. If there are art, books, crafts, comics, toys, etc. you should treat these items and tables with respect. These are usually items that people are selling that they've taken time to put together and to assemble onto their table. So when you approach a table, there are often things like cards or bookmarks that a kid can take (some con vendors also have bowls of candy), but make sure that they aren't picking at tablecloths, roughhousing merchandise, rearranging art prints, etc. The people on the other side of the table have usually spent time to arrange things exactly how they want. Some tables even have very expensive collectables or pieces of art. You definitely don't want a "you break it, you bought it" experience with a very collectible comic that happens to be a couple hundred dollars that you didn't even intend to buy and is now ruined. And definitely keep them back if they have food or drinks. Most vendors will not be rude or say anything. You are their business and they are happy to have you, but it's just common courtesy to be respectful.
Overall, a comic convention is a wonderful experience. It's actually one of my absolute favorite things to do. If you follow these general guidelines you'll be sure to have a great time and might even start a regular family tradition!