All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. The phrase has been around for ages, and peppered through out the lives of several Southern children. Of course, as adults, the expectation to have fun is increasingly less and unlikely, which makes the presence of comicons a wonderful thing indeed.
For those who are unaware, or haven't been fortunate enough to attend one, a comicon- comic book convention- usually takes place over two or three days. There are panels, vendors, guests and contests for everyone to participate in if they choose. Cosplayers are everywhere, showing off the hours of work they've put in to their beloved fandoms and pastimes.
I went to my first convention when I was sixteen, at Animazement in Raleigh, NC. The three day convention was mainly for fans of anime, but featured Supernatural, Sherlock, Game of Thrones and Star Trek cosplayers for those who weren't as into animated pieces. I had no idea what to expect, nor anything to really dress up as, minus the vague idea of Zakuro from Tokyo Mew Mew. What happened at the con was more than I ever expected. There were vendors with all sorts of things, from steampunk whistles to lolita dresses to artwork that had been drawn at the con itself. There were cosplayers of every type, including a woman who dressed as a character from My Little Pony, and a teenager dressed as Tom Baker, complete with Jelly Babies. But the truly astounding thing about the convention was how there weren't any fights.
At almost any gathering of people, there's sure to be disagreements. Whether it's politics, the details of a story, or something else, issues almost always seem to come up. At Animazement, I witnessed none of that. Everyone was friendly, even to people not in the fandom or who hadn't been to a con before. People would help if someone was lost, excitedly talk about their fandoms and just make sure everyone had a good experience.
I wasn't sure if I'd ever go back to a con after that. I had enjoyed it immensely, that wasn't questioned at all. I just wasn't sure if it was a habit I would be able to afford, and if there would be anything for me to want to see. Wandering the vendor's floor is fun, but much like being a kid in a candy store, you eventually want everything and can't have it. I decided that another con would happen, far in the future, when I was a real adult who could afford the whimsy of it all.
This wouldn't pan out according to plan. My next con, and what became my preferred convention in general, was NC Comic Con in Durham, NC. I was eighteen, still puzzling over college and seminars and absolutely did not have time for a convention. The lack of time was probably a contributing factor to the ultimate decision to attend, along with the fact that my favorite person in the world would be there- Gerard Way.
Money that should've been saved for textbooks was spent on a ticket to see my hero, and listen to him talk about comics and colors and everything in between. And the con itself didn't disappoint in the slightest. If people at Animazement were friendly, the congoers in Durham were chummy, cozy and all too willing to be part of the experience.
NC Comic Con has been a repeat, and every time I've met lovely people and had the most fun I could've imagined. The cosplayers are excited to share tips with one another, pose for pictures and explain the nuances of the fandom. Panelists love connecting with the audience, learning what does and doesn't work in the comics.
Cons are also an easy way to meet with celebrities who may be scarce elsewhere. A former friend was lucky enough to meet with George RR Martin and talk about her love of Sansa Stark. Another friend has met Misha Collins and John Barrowman. I was able to meet with Gerard Way, Jon Rivera and an artist from Sandman. Cons provide a casual enough setting that you don't need to prepare before hand, and are professional enough that it doesn't feel like paparazzi.
The best part of conventions is that everyone is welcome, no matter their age or experience or fandom. All work and no play is the exact opposite of a con. Work is spent on the cosplays, whether it's months of planning and making costumes, or three hours in the mirror before hand, perfecting latex appendages and covering dark circles. But the whole purpose of the con, just like any other form of art, is to be consumed and enjoyed and there is never any doubt about it. Cons are a source of entertainment, and one that is unlikely to die down anytime in the near future.
So, my two cents- get a ticket to your next con. It doesn't have to be fancy, with big names and expensive tickets. If it has a ten dollar ticket and only a few days of mumbling and glittery dances to entice, go check it out. If you're not sure, you can see if a favorite celebrity is going to a convention and make plans to go see them. But get out there and see what it's like. Don't feel like you have to dress up, if you want to pick something out, you can always do something like a randomized Sim, a background character, or throw a cardboard sign over your head that says 'nudist on strike' and have a blast. The point is to forget the worries of the world and accept the fact that you deserve the fun weekend of bright hair, swirling colors and untold stories at every corner.