Photo Credit: Joel Rivera
Blerds Unite: 7 Dope Comic Cons To Check Out Around The World
Black folks can absolutely be nerds, in fact, we coined our own portmanteau: Black + nerd= Blerd. And we love our comic cons, right?!
You don’t have to be a child to engage in make-believe. There are plenty of adults who enjoy adopting a new identity for a few hours for a convention, showing out with elaborate costumes, crazy contacts, and some impressively crafted (but con-friendly) weapons. Some of us like anime and manga. Others are avid comic book collectors. Don’t forget the furries!
And some of us are into gaming. Remember when Megan Thee Stallion teamed up with the Mortal Kombat creators for en epic Mileena feature, bear trap teeth and all? Fabulous.
For Blerds, being able to immerse themselves in these alternate worlds is therapeutic; a kind of escapism from a challenging reality. Unfortunately, they face discrimination in the nerd world, being told that they can’t cosplay as Goku from Dragonball Z, because of their dark skin. Then you have the cosplayers who are tone deaf enough to take photos or show up to cons in blackface, claiming it’s necessary for people to know who they’re impersonating.
Let’s be clear: nobody is saying a white woman can’t be Storm from X-Men. But if she’s got the trademark white hair and the appropriate costume, she doesn’t need to darken her skin to clue us in to who she is. A little imagination and awareness do go a long way.
Whether you’re a Comic Con veteran, or are looking to go to your first one, here are seven comic cons across the nation to consider:
Blerdcon, based in Virginia and founded by Hilton George, prides itself on elevating Black excellence in the nerd realm. At around $55 a ticket per day, it’s more affordable than most cons.
It was at the center of controversy earlier this summer, after awarding the top prize in a cosplay contest to a white woman dressed as the titular character from Cardcaptor Sakura.
The criticism had less to do with her being at the con, and more to do with her being chosen over Black participants who were just as, if not more deserving of the victory.
Concerns were raised not only about the questionable optics, but how best to gate keep what is basically the only con of this type in The United States designed to uplift Black people.
The prize was eventually transferred to a Black cosplayer, Kiwi Ninamori, who designs all her elaborate costumes by hand.
2. New York Comic Con (NYCC)
Every October, from Thursday to Sunday, New York’s Javits Center becomes a nerd’s paradise for adults and children alike.
Some folks cosplaying truly go above and beyond, and photographers can’t get enough of them. The event is well covered by the media.
There are more vendors than you’ll probably get around to seeing even if you go all four days.
Be sure to check out Artist’s Alley, a hall set aside for unknown, but extremely talented artists, to showcase their work.
NYCC is not only the most popular con in the state, it’s the largest pop culture convention on the East Coast. People aren’t deterred by the cost, because it sells out in record time every year. Coming off the heels of the cancelled 2020 con, people were extra eager to secure their tickets for this year.
Be sure to lock in your accommodations in advance, because those also tend to go quickly.
3. San Diego Comic Con
This con takes place in the summer at the San Diego Convention Center, and it’s one of the oldest in the country, having started back in 1970.
This year’s event was virtual, but there will be a smaller event in November called Comic Con Special Edition. Barring a pandemic resurgence, the San Diego Comic Con will resume as usual in 2022.
As with NYCC, there’s no shortage of vendors and special panels. According to the website, some discussions planned had us in mind, such as Afro-futurism, Funk and The Black Imagination and Hip Hop and Comics.
4. Big Apple Con
The Big Apple Con, also in New York City, started in 1995.
The upcoming one in September will take place at The New Yorker Hotel, after being at the Pennsylvania Hotel for two decades. Its first location was, curiously, at St. Paul’s Church.
Comics are the central theme, but invariably, there’s anime, manga, horror, film/television and fantasy represented. You can also meet some up and coming artists selling their work.
The tickets are affordable, at $30 on Saturday and $25 on Sunday for General Admission passes. Kids get in for half that or, if they are under 9, free.
What’s your favorite anime? Sailor Moon? Dragonball Z? Or maybe you like the classic movies based on mangas like Akira?
Whatever your preference, AnimeNext is just the con for you to meet other anime lovers. It’s one of the largest independently organized anime conventions in the northeast, and markets itself as being “run by fans for fans.”
6. Dragon Con
Dragon Con takes place in Atlanta in September, and “welcomes inventive minds, luminaries and others” from the literary, sci-fi, and comic worlds.
You’ll have several floors of vendors and exhibitors to check out, selling art, clothes, action figures, wigs, comics, and all the memorabilia you can imagine. Budget accordingly so you can splurge.
7. Oz Comic Con
Head down under to Oz Comic Con in Brisbane, Australia, with other chapters in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide at various points in the year.
If you’re really serious about cosplay, and happen to be from Australia, consider the Australian Championships of Cosplay, which you have to apply for in advance.
To compete, you have to dress up as a recognizable figure from comics, movies, television, or video games, and the costume has to be custom-made, not bought in a store. The finalists from each championship convene in Sydney for the ultimate prize.