Geek out at European Comic Cons

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Imagine yourself surrounded in a sea of Kylo Rens or Captain Americas. As you stroll through an insanely crowded room, you marvel at the detailed and striking likenesses of colorful costumes. You close your eyes and imagine yourself in another realm. When you open them, you’re not in Aasgard or Pandora — you’re standing in the middle of a comic con.

What are comic cons?

Comic con is short for comic convention. Dating back to 1964, the first comic con recorded took place in New York City, known as the New York Comicon. The one-day event celebrated the world of comics and drew around 100 attendees. On July 1, 1970, the Golden State Comic-Con opened its doors to a whopping 300 visitors. This convention became an annual tradition, and eventually became what is now known as the San Diego Comic Con.

In the world of comic cons, there are a few different types: commercial shows, volunteer conventions and festivals. The most popular and widely-known events are the commercial shows. Organizers usually hire a well-known actor for an appearance, discussion and autograph/photo session with fans. Other slightly-less famous celebrities will also make appearances in more of a supporting role. Volunteer conventions are often membership driven and offer a smaller and more intimate atmosphere.

When the conventions began growing in popularity in the States, many organizers made the decision to test the waters in Europe. European comic cons began as more of a festival atmosphere. In more recent years, these events have begun to adopt more commercialized showmanship. While there may be highlighted special guests, there is also an emphasis on comic art, literature and alternative or non-mainstream comics.

The Lingo

If you’re new to the world of comic cons, you’re not alone. It wasn’t until my daughter fell in love with Pokémon and my son memorized a 200-page Marvel character encyclopedia, that I was introduced to comic culture. If you’re venturing into your first foray, here is some vocabulary that you may need to brush up on.

Cosplay — A hybrid of “costume” and “play.” Many convention-goers dress up as one of their favorite sci-fi, fantasy or comic characters, and many will actually play the part. Costumes can be replicas, or a creative interpretation of the cosplayer.

Anime — A type of Japanese-style animated cartoon, often hand-drawn or computer animation.

Manga — Similar in style to anime, manga has actually been around for centuries. Featuring detailed, hand-drawn characters, manga can be found in books and magazines.

Fangirl/fanboy — Also known as a super fan that can be classified almost as a zealot. Be careful though, as it can also be used as an insult.

Furry — This descriptive term refers to someone whose cosplay is, well, furry. A good example would be someone dressed as Chewbacca.

Glomp — An awkward sounding verb, to glomp someone is to essentially give them a giant bear hug with a running start.

Comic Con Etiquette

Ready to hit up your first con? Here are some etiquette tips before you start perusing the halls.

Be courteous and aware of fellow con-goers and artists. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. That being said, if you start chatting up your favorite artist, remember there are others that also may want the opportunity to talk with the same person. Try to keep it brief, and don’t put your props, food, drink, etc. on the artist’s work.

Comic cons can be wall-to-wall with people at times, thus making it harder to see the little Ewok that is trying to pass by. Likewise, if you’re trying to move through the sea of Pikachus, pushing and shoving are considered bad form.

Respect the cosplay. You may find yourself face-to-face with a stunning lookalike of Wonder Woman or Thor. Before you reach out to touch and see if they’re the real deal, ask for permission. The same rule applies when taking pictures. Often cosplayers will be fine with photos and interaction, but it’s best to ask. Also, many countries in Europe have specific rules about taking photos of people without their permission, so be respectful and get the okay first.

Be prepared. Comic cons often sell out quickly — this is no exception here in Europe. Purchase admission, panel discussion and autograph session tickets ahead of time. Many cons have tiered package deals. Bring extra patience, as lines can be long for autographs and photos with the more well-known special guests. Also, be sure to have plenty of cash in hand, as there may not be an ATM on site and some cons may not take credit cards.

Where to Go

Now that you’re well-versed in the terms, etiquette and history of comic cons, it’s time to join other cosplayers and strut your stuff at the nearest event! Why not make an adventure of it and travel to a city you have yet to explore?

Comiccon Brussels
Feb. 10-11, Brussels, Belgium

Comic Con Rotterdam
March 3-4, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

MCM Liverpool Comic Con
March 10-11, Liverpool, UK

Edinburgh Comic Con
April 14-15, Edinburgh, UK

German Comic Con: Munich
April 26-28, Munich, Germany

German Comic Con: Frankfurt
May 5-6, Frankfurt, Germany

MCM London Comic Con
May 25-27, London, UK

Comic Con Germany
June 30-July 1, Stuttgart, Germany

German Comic Con: Berlin
Oct. 20-21, Berlin, Germany

Paris Comic Con
Oct. 26-28, Paris, France

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