The rising inclusiveness at comic conventions: my day at NC Comic Con Oak City

This may come as a shock to many (note the sarcasm) that many pop culture conventions especially of the comic dedicated variety – are not often seen as the most inclusive places on our planet Earth. Often the subject of stereotypical portrayals in media, they’re seen as dingy and unwelcoming places where no respectable person would ever deign to visit.

My darling wife was of this belief. Despite the fact that she had married and loved a “comic geek” and in fact does most of the weekly pickups of our pull list (and gets along greatly with our local store’s owners), she had always believed conventions were simply too hardcore no matter how many comics she enjoyed. 

Some of the AMAZING talent at NCC Oak City.

Nevertheless, we trotted off to NC Comic Con Oak City (named as such for the city of Raleigh; they also have a Durham show in November naturally named Bull City), a mixture of nervous excitement, elation at having a day to ourselves, and a little trepidation about what we would encounter once we passed through the convention hall doors. What we found was actually pretty surprising for the both of us.

To start, I had known that NC Comic Con was a little smaller than many big corporate conventions and I feel like this may have helped us both find our bearings quickly. Right away my wife and I saw the change in atmosphere and convention goer. Where as 15 years ago you might find an abundance of dudes ogling over the myriad of “Slave Leia” cosplay in revealing bikinis, we found a greater number of women cosplaying as their favorite superheroine vixens, femme fatales, and a number of anime and video game related cosplay that I was absolutely in awe of (Raleigh is the home of Animazement – a very popular anime convention – and Jen Cohn, voice of Pharah in Overwatch).

It also seemed like there was a lot more PoC representation at the show as Buster Douglas, the former boxing world champion and Orlando Jones (American Gods) were in attendance, but shockingly Black Panther wasn’t as well represented as I thought he would be.

NCC before opening. A smaller and more intimate con was a great first time.

The staff were exceedingly friendly as were every vendor and artist I had talked to. I would normally bring books and other things to sign, but as I was focused on sharing the experience I thought it best not to bog down our trip with waiting in line for autographs. My one regret is not getting a signed book from Walt and Louise Simonson, especially from Walt’s excellent Thor run. I had fun digging through dollar back issues, while being reminded not to buy too many, and my partner was amazed at the array of collectibles and memorabilia on display.

Saturday seemed the place to be as far as panels went, with a Q&A with Walt Simonson, as well panels entitled Cosplay Diversity, that focused on PoC cosplayers and the diversity in the industry, and Queer Comics. We were only able to attend Sunday, but we were treated to a spectacular panel called Women in Nerd Culture that my wife really dug, and made her feel like she wasn’t alone. The panel focused on many of the hoops women jump through regarding fandom culture, including ways to deal with it and forming connections with other women.

All in all it was an amazing experience and one I truly relished sharing with my partner. The convention gave us a deeper understanding and appreciation for the others taste’s and experiences through fandom, but also on how the nature of fandom itself had morphed over the years to be more accepting and open than ever before. If you’ve ever considered going to a “con” but felt like it may not be for you, I would definitely go – you might  see what you’ve been missing.

Image credit: NC Comic Con

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