By Shawn Perry
If you're looking for something to do this weekend and love comics then you need to find a way to Bridgeport Connecticut for Comic-Conn 2014. As founder Mitch Hallock said: "it will have all the elements of a major con – except the price."
Recently I spoke to Mitch Hallock the self-proclaimed Johnny Appleseed of Connecticut Comics about Comic-Conn. The three-day event will take place at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport and tickets are available for just over $20 dollars per day. There is also going to be Batman-themed lounge singer but you can learn more about that awesomeness on his special events page.
Now I was pretty excited about this event before I spoke to Hallock but ever since we talked my anticipation meter leveled up to full-blown code yellow bananas. Bottom line – if you love comics and are in the general area I cannot urge you strongly enough to read about what this fascinating ambassador of comic book culture has to say about this weekend.
Shawn Perry: So as a fan I am super-excited to go to CT Comic-Conn and I would like to know what are some of the things that I have to look forward to this weekend?
Mitch Hallock: Well if you're a fan of comics you will be in for a treat as we have some legendary creators in George Perez and Neal Adams. This is a comic convention. This will be a comic creator heavy line-up with names like David Finch, Adam Kubert, Scott Hannah, Mike McKenna and Keith Giffen – not the cast of Saved by the Bell. That said we do have some celebrities like Ray Park (Star Wars, Gi: Joe) and Nicholas Brendon (Buffy). We've got Ming Chen, Rob Bruce and Mike Zapcic from AMC's Comic Book Men. We've got Maximiliano Hernandez who was Agent Sitwell on Agents of Shield has never been to a convention before and he's not even charging for autographs! So we do have some cool guests as well as some cool cars like the 60's Batmobile, Kit and the Tumbler from The Dark Knight which hasn't been anywhere on the east coast before. We've also got droids, a tardis, ghostbusters, great panels, a huge cosplay contests, music and everything else that a major con has without the big price tag.
SP: Tell me more about the unique benefits of attending Comic-Conn as compared to larger conventions like New York Comic-Con?
MH: Bigger is not always better. It's like this: for $60 you can get a Saturday day ticket to NYCC or you can get a three day pass to my show. There won't be a parking hassle or a three-hour line just to talk to Perez or Giffen. The difference between my shows and the bigger shows is that we're not that big and we don't want to be that big. I want to keep it intimate give the fans some great stories and not 'I stepped on some fat dude while waiting in line for six hours and he smelled like cheese.'
SP: So this is your 7th year and the first time doing three days – can you speak to how Connecticut Comic-Con began?
MH: Well the whole genesis behind Connecticut Comic-Conn was that I had interviewed for the position of Marketing Director at Reed for New York Comic Con but did not get the job. One of my friends suggested 'well why don't we just do one here' so we gave it a shot and had 900 people show up to the Holiday Inn and the cops had to come. Then we took it to Stamford right when Hurricane Irene hit with the highways closed and streets flooded and we still had 1500 people show up in the middle of a hurricane which was nuts! Then I moved it to the Marriot in Trumbull and 3000 people came and then last year we had 6000 people so this year we're having three days and god knows how many people will come but we are expecting 15,000 and possibly more.
SP: What made you decide to extend the event to three days this year?
MH: Well we did the one day show four years in a row and we were getting used to that so I was like lets go for the big one cause we would get so many people showing up for the one day show and everyone would ask 'why isn't this more than one day' and I was like all right. Once a year was too much for people to wait. Like Christmas, ya know? If they're selling stuff for Christmas in August…why can't Comic-Con be three days?
SP: Would you ever consider doing more than one event per year?
MH: Honestly I think that dilutes the product. It's like having Christmas twice a year. Instead I think they should do a Cruise Con and have a comic convention on a boat.
SP: Well it will be nice to have something different to do here. Personally, I think that living in Connecticut can get dull sometimes because there's not an awful lot to do especially for creative types…
MH: Yeah I know. I grew up here in New Haven and you would just sit here in envy all the stuff in Boston and New York – I've got a few kids and I'm like whatever you do just get out of here and they're like 'what are you talking about' and I'm just like go the world is so big don't ever stay here. I think everyone grows up in their hometown hating it a little bit no matter how great that town is – you can be living in Disney world and it will get lame. You have to get out and open your horizons.
SP: That's kind of what going to comic con is like for me in a lot of ways you get to see that the world is…
MH: The same.
SP: Yes! Bigger too. You get to see how these stories are bigger than just you and an account at the local library.
MH: Yes, absolutely. But Comic-Conn is about so much more than just going out for a weekend this is a cultural phenomenon that brings together all these folks who for years weren't allowed to say that they enjoyed comic books because it was perceived as juvenile. It was a relief probably to say 'I enjoy comics – I enjoy star wars, superman, batman, spider-man…' and now they're all adults and have got their kids involved. Everybody has always loved comics they just didn't know how to express it. Comics open the doors of the imagination. For all your Aristotle, Plato and Da Vinci for me it was Lee, Adams and Kirby that taught me history, morality and fine literature. Those are the stories that I grew up with and helped develop my views of the world.
When you talk about Comic-Con sometimes you get the response 'Oh you dress up like those guys in the Big Bang Theory that's so stupid' but its much more than that and if you're into it then you know what it's about. There's still some prejudice you have to deal with but as a whole I think its going away and more accepted now than ever. I think the box office returns of movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and the ratings for The Walking Dead prove me right. When I was growing up in the 80's we didn't have spider-man t-shirts you would never see that unless you were like six years old and if you did you got your butt kicked by the jocks who would ridicule you and throw you in a locker. Now I go to Dicks Sporting Goods and they have whole aisles of Under Armor with superhero logos. It's a total 360 shift from how it was thirty years ago.
SP: For me the thing about comic books, movies, art and music is that it's all one thing. Geek culture is what people do and we all create it. I'd like to think the attitude that people can't be proud of who they are whether its conforming to some outdated attitudes is on its way out. I'm an optimist.
MH: That's the thing when people hear the word 'comic' they go 'What, is Paulie Shore coming to this thing?' and then I go 'No its not that kind of thing its comic books' and they go 'Oh really a whole convention to some funny books?' and I go 'No that's like the building blocks of this whole other thing that comics started like the people that love dressing up in costumes and want to take this two-dimensional character and bring it to life.' I equate it to whenever you see a local car show with all these classic cars that you know they've worked on forever and want to show it off. That's what the cos-players are like where they work on these intricate designs its like they've created their own '57 Chevy.
SP: I completely agree. I think that in the last decade so much has changed and is still changing in this society – the medium itself was never any different than any other – from cave drawings onward there's never been any rule that says they have to be all about superheroes or conform to some kind of genre implications. For me it's just an expedited version to tell a story that's perfect for this ADHD society. They don't want to read the setting for twenty pages they just want to see it and if you take a book like Saga and try to imagine writing it without the art…there are just things that you can only do in that medium.
MH: Oh yeah man, I mean what Jack Kirby did on the drawing boards for a couple hours would have cost a movie studio millions of dollars. He just came out ahead and they left him alone. All you need is a pen and paper or do it like Fiona Staples on Saga who doesn't even use a drawing board she does it all digitally. So you can create anything you want out there on the web. But for all the comic book fans I meet driving around promoting the convention with posters in my car and I go to every imaginable place cause I'm like the Johnny Appleseed of Comic Books putting up flyers everywhere for people to know about the show. People say 'I didn't know there was a comic book show coming to Connecticut' and I say 'That's why I 'm giving you the flyer!' But with all the forms of communication we have out there not everyone knows. There is no six o clock news anymore everyone just has their website. It's great in one way but it makes it hard to get everyone on the same page.
SP: Well hopefully this helps – one last thing – what are some of the amenities for people who will be traveling there?
MH: It is going to be very easy. If you don't drive you can take the metro north railroad and it stops right in front of the arena. If you're from Long Island you can take the ferry – which drops you off right in front of the arena. If you drive there then it's right off the exit and we have more than enough affordable parking right next to the arena. There are hotels just blocks away from the arena if you want to stay over and there are a lot of great restaurants and bars in the area.
SP: Honestly don't know what else to ask I'm already so excited about this event. Last question: if not for the money and the love of geek culture – why are you doing this?
MH: I want to make this the best damn comic con everyone has ever been to…I want people to look up and see batman in a tux singing I did it my way and say this is the most screwed up comic con I have ever been to but damn did I have a good time. That's my reward.
There are plenty of tickets still available to Connecticut Comic-Conn that can be purchased here.
Shawn Perry is a proud geek striving to be here now. He currently resides in East Hartford, Connecticut. Tweet him @thesperry and email him at Shawn.Perry88@gmail.com.