Three New Comic Cons Debut in Northern Virginia; Awesome Con Increases Celebrity Lineup of Guests

| March 11, 2018 | 0 Comments | News

Photo Courtesy of Awesome Con

There is a big business in comic book-themed conventions and several companies are banking that the Northern Virginia market will be profitable and sustainable.

While Awesome Con in Washington D.C. has seen a steady rise in attendance since it launched in 2013, it will have local competition from All-Star Comic ConFairfax VA Comicon and Fairfax Comic Con. 

Awesome Con

Despite becoming the largest of the conventions in the area with over 70,000 guests in 2017, founder Ben Penord still considers Awesome Con to be a unique one-on-one experience for fans.

“Our special guests are such an important part of that,” Penord said. “It’s getting harder and harder to raise the bar every year, but I think we’re up to the challenge.”

David Tennant, best known for his roles as the Tenth Doctor in the British television series Doctor Who, fields questions from fans at Awesome Con 2017. Photo Courtesy of Awesome Con

Awesome Con will host members of the cast of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” TV’s “Boy Meets World,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and John Boyega, who plays Finn in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi.” Several actors from CW TV’s superhero shows, including Stephen Amell and John Barrowman (“Arrow”) and Cress Williams (“Black Lightning”) are also scheduled to appear.

For comic book fans, the show will feature local appearances by creators Jim Starlin, Keith Giffen, Paul Levitz, Mark Brooks, J. Scott Campbell, Fabian Nicieza, Tom King, Greg Capullo, Scott Snyder and Dan Jurgens.

“We’ve been able to work with some amazing partners in the publishing, film, and TV industries in the past, and I’d love to add more of those for 2018 and beyond,” he said.

Billed as “the intersection of science, technology, and science fiction,” Awesome Con 2018 will again partner with Smithsonian magazine to feature Future Con.

“We established a partnership with Smithsonian to launch Future Con, which is something that really sets Awesome Con apart and has allowed us to provide a completely new type of experience for fans,” he said.

Photo Courtesy of Awesome Con

As show’s scope grows each year, Penrod said their primary concern is not increased competition, but scheduling the show at their current venue.

“At this point, I feel like our main competition is with all the other conferences vying for space at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center; it’s getting harder and harder to find dates for the con with so much going on in the city!” he said.

Penrod said that he welcomes other conventions to the region as the other events help improve the product for local fans.

“It’s a small world and I’m very friendly with the folks behind the other cons in the area,” he said. “In 2013, the D.C. area wasn’t considered an important market for comic fans and geek culture, but Awesome Con has really done a lot to prove that it’s one of the largest geek markets in the nation.”

Awesome 2018 will again be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt Vernon Pl NW, Washington, D.C. on March 30-April 1, 2018.

Fairfax Comic Con

Fairfax Comic Con will launch Aug. 25-26, 2018 at the Dulles Expo Center by Superstar Events Group, who also organizes the Tidewater Comicon each year.

According to show organizer, Mike Federali, the area and venue were very conducive to a successful event.

“The geek culture here is just magnificent,” he said. “I organize a few events and was looking for someplace new and fun; I took a tour of Fairfax with Dean Morgan [of Fairfax Tourism] and just loved everything about the area.”

The only guest that he has formally announced is Marvel Comics artist Jim Cheung; he says further announcements are forthcoming.

“Every show we organize we try to offer guests and panels that people haven’t seen before,” he said.

From the feedback on Facebook and email, Federali expects a good turnout.

“Honestly though, I just want a good fun weekend for everybody,” he said. “The numbers and things like that aren’t as important as the experience people will walk away with and hopefully treasure for a long time.”

Fairfax, VA Comicon  

After a six-year hiatus in Northern Virginia, Fairfax, VA Comicon owner and organizer Brett Carreras is bringing a show back to the Fairfax campus of George Mason University in June.

Carreras describes the show as “a curious mix of both comic books and nostalgia, with a bit of crafting and original art thrown in the mix.”

Although he considers the event one of the area’s smaller shows, with 100-120 tables from regional dealers, he hopes the show will be one of the most accessible for local fans.

Photo Courtesy of VA Comicon

“It is a bit of an extension of our shows we have operated in Chesterfield, Richmond and Henrico about 90 miles South of Fairfax,” he said. “One of the main goals for us was to have the most affordable event, with Sunday tickets coming in at only $10 each.”

Carreras has chosen to limit the number of celebrity guests, rather offering fans a show that focuses on comics.

“We want to bring an organic, COMIC BOOK show to the Northern Virginia area,”  Carreras said. “Our event won’t have movie or TV celebrities, but BOY will we have some comics!”

However fans will have the opportunity to meet Rob Liefeld , the co-creator of both “Cable” and “Deadpool.”

“We are stoked to have him join us right after ‘Deadpool 2’ is released in theaters,” he said.

Carreras is confident that there is a place for all the local comic book conventions.

“You won’t find any ‘Con Wars’ here in Virginia…just a great group of nerds who love what they do!” he said.

Fairfax, VA Comicon will be held at George Mason University, June 9-10, 2018.

All-Star Comic Con

Originally involved in last year’s Nova Con, Michael McNutt and Kevin Bednarz intend to launch the three-day All-Star Comic Con in June.

“I look forward to creating a new vibrant, exciting, dynamic experience, one that reflects our fun, engaging personalities and love of comics, art, gaming and pop culture,” McNutt said.

McNutt said he has high expectations of the new convention.

“We hold ourselves to a very lofty bar, so we are expecting to create a fantastic pop culture experience that caters to the unique subsets within the culture,” he said. “Whether you want to dig through the long boxes for rare back issues, catch a sci-fi indie short, learn about cosplay, play in a video game tournament or meet your favorite celebrity, we will have all that and much more this June.”

He says the key difference between his show and others is fan engagement.

“We want strong representation for all fans; comics, celebrity, music, gaming, movies, toys, and art,” he said. “Not a little something for everyone—everything for everyone.”

Special guests at the con include Red Power Ranger Austin St. John, comic book creator Jason Aaron, “Game of Thrones’” Night King Vladimír Furdík, Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones from “Breakin” and “Breakin 2” and professional wrestler Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. The organizers also recently announced Zazie Beetz from “Deadpool 2” will also appear in her first appearance at a convention following her being cast as Domino.

All-Star Comic Con will be held June 15-17 at the Sheraton Tysons Hotel.

Nick Shoff has organized local comics and sports shows in the region for 40 years. Photo Courtesy Shoff Promotions

Nick Shoff of Shoff Promotions has been organizing local comic book and sports card shows since 1975.

Shoff’s shows are geared primarily toward collectors and offers attendees access to dealers throughout the region.

“I try to vary dealers so that they don’t all sell the same product line, so I have dealers that sell high end comics and some cheaper and a lot in between,” Shoff said. “Also I like to have the other popular items such as non-sports cards and games, action figures, statues and various super hero, and sci-fi toys.”

Shoff promotes monthly shows at locations in Annandale, Tysons Corner and Frederick, Md.

“I like people to enjoy the show, have fun and find items within their price range,” he said. “My greatest compliment has been ‘My family and I had a great time..thanks for organizing the show.’”

Other Local Shows

The two-year-old FREDCON, the Fredericksburg Comic Convention, will be held at the Spotsylvania Towne Centre, July 14.

Although NOVA CON, which debuted last year, is planning a 2018 show, they have released no concrete details about dates, venue or guests.

The Future

Despite the number of shows that residents can decide to attend this year, most organizers have ambitious growth plans for their shows.

“I’d like the show to be the thing everyone in the area gets excited for each summer,” Federali said of Fairfax Comicon. “Like this wonderful nerdy gathering where fans connect and just share their love for comic culture.”

McNutt too intends to grow All-Star Comic Con and extend the experience for fans.

“We want to continue pushing the envelope on the experience factor and introduce several new things each year while maintaining a solid foundation in comics and art,” he said. “We’re both fans of the genre, and look forward to keeping our ear to the ground and pushing ourselves to see what we can come up with next.”

Besides adding more celebrity guests, Penrod hopes Awesome Con continues to surprise fans each year.

“I think growing Awesome Con is all about putting the fans first and trying to give them something special and unexpected every year,” Penrod said.

While comic cons and pop culture shows offer fans opportunities to immerse themselves in their hobbies, local retailers support these shows because they allow them to further connect with their customers.

“We love to interact with our customers at shows,” Comics and Gaming of Gainesville owner Thomas Chillemi said. “Northern Virginia is lucky to be densely populated with unique comic and gaming stores everywhere.”

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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