Growing comic-con culture shows no signs of stopping

Staff Photographer

Oct. 25 and 26, the second annual Rose City Comic Con was held in Tyler, Texas. Cosplayers and geek-culture enthusiasts from all over east Texas and beyond swarmed the undersized Holiday Inn ballrooms rented out for the event.

Only in its second year, and 90 miles from any major cities, the event has outgrown two venues and has begun attracting international sci-fi icons such as 2014 guests classic Doctor Who star Colin Baker and acclaimed Star Wars novelist Timothy Zahn.

The success of an event like this, in a conservative bible-belt town, is a prime example of the wide growth and acceptance of Comic-Con culture happening in our society today.

Movies based on comic books are breaking box office records and graphic novels are being studied in schools as classic literature. Comic books are easier to find than in past decades, with new comic shops popping up and major retailers adding comic/graphic novel sections. It’s a good time to be a fan.

The stigmas surrounding comics and their effect on the nation’s youth, formed in the McCarthy era, have seemingly vanished. The words nerd and geek have lost their hurtful connotations.

Adults can now purchase Superman t-shirts with attached capes at big box stores and proudly wear them on the street. Dressing up as genre characters has become so common place that the accepted term for such behavior, cosplay, has become part of today’s lexicon. 

Comic conventions large and small offer this expanding fan base a place to gather and immerse themselves in all things nerd, to meet comic creators, actors from genre television and movies, to buy classic comics and toys, and to dress up.

Comic cons have come a long way from their humble basement beginnings, with San Diego’s Comic-Con International and New York’s NYCC both drawing well over 100,000 attendees each year. Every fan can’t make it to the major cons, but fortunately, they no longer have to travel far to indulge their favorite passion.

Texas boasts 4 major cities with large annual or semiannual comic or related conventions: Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, with many small regional cons happening in-between. New conventions are happening all the time and not just for superhero aficionados. Conventions focused on Japanese manga and anime are very popular. Even professionals and fans of non-superhero comics, independent works focused on mature and personal themes, are gathering to promote and celebrate their favorite medium.

The question is: will it last? Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios/Disney seem to think so. Both studios have invested highly in a slate of new comic based movies set to come out over the next several years. Convention attendance continues to skyrocket and smaller gatherings like Tyler’s Rose City Comic Con continue to grow. According to East Texas cosplay “legend” and Catholic Deacon Bill Necessary, “The geeks shall inherit the Earth.”

Follow Michael on Twitter @themichaelmorse