With the GGG Network wrapping up our early 2016 convention season and with that gleaming gem of geekdom, San Diego Comic Con, glittering just around the corner it brings up an interesting point: can anyone go to a comic convention? The answer is simple: Yes. At the core of every comic convention is the underlying principle that they serve as a gathering (see what I did there?) for people to come together and enjoy their fandom. Any convention goer today will certainly tell you that as well. It’s a place where everyone can meet and geek out about comics, movies, video games, pretty much anything without fear of reprisal or being teased for it.

I haven’t been to many conventions, and I’ve never been to SDCC (the one time I actually had tickets I had to give them up because I was offered a job in my field; but that was back when I was an archaeologist and now I’m writing about conventions…we walk strange paths). I want to point that out, because I’m about to shatter some dreams. Conventions are NOT for everyone, and they’re not even for every geek.

My first convention was WonderCon 2014. I managed to go, using a spare press badge for an outfit that doesn’t exist anymore, as a way of avoiding Easter morning with my in-laws. I wasn’t impressed. The one person I knew was a convention veteran, so I thought I was in good hands. Unfortunately he had things he wanted to accomplish instead of showing a rookie the ropes, so I ended up walking the floor with a somewhat vapid actress who only wanted to talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and herself. Needless to say, I was in a weird place most of the day, but I was successfully dodging church with my mother-in-law, so I was good.

What I saw in the convention was chaotic. Maybe it’s the planner in me, but I thought the whole thing was completely lacking in organization. I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t know what was going on, I was constantly surrounded by people wearing far fewer clothes than they could pull off, and I desperately wanted a jumbo-sized can of air freshener. Afterwards, I didn’t feel the need to attend another convention. I was over it. I wasn’t a comic collector, so the myriad booths selling back-issues didn’t excite me. I was broke, so even the merch that I liked was out of my price range (the only exception being one book from Devastator Press with the only $5 bill I had with me). It wasn’t my thing.

Flash forward a year and a half and I’ve gotten mixed up with these GGG people who want me to go to another convention. “No. Nope. Not gonna happen. Well, okay, why not.” This time things were different though. This time there was a purpose for me to go and I had people who I was there with, not just leeching off of. So it was off to Stan Lee’s Comikaze. This time though, I had a team, a camera, and a tiny girl in an even tinier Jurassic Park jeep. This I could do. I had a reason to be there, but what I saw was still shocking.

I could see through the chaos now, thanks to my cohorts, but I saw something weird. I saw high school. It was just like fucking high school. You had the students who wanted to study, they were going to the panels and talking about all the cool new things they had learned. There were the teachers, sitting in Artist Alley trying to enlighten generally disinterested passersby with their art. Still others were just along for the ride, like zombies shambling down the aisles not looking at anything in particular. There were the know-it-alls who were more than happy to quiz you on the newest and most trivial information. Finally you had the cosplayers, with their Varsity and Junior Varsity teams. I was right back to being the borderline burnout intellectual punk. Instead of an AP book and a hacky sack, this time it was with a press badge and a camera; It felt the same.

Since then I’ve managed to move beyond it. I still see the cliques and cool kids, but I enjoy the conventions for what they are. I’ve been to two with the Network this year alone and there’s the specter of San Diego coming closer, but I go with a purpose. Anyone who’s gone to cons with me since knows that I get antsy when nothing is happening. I need my plan, shot list, and interview schedule. I need a reason.

That’s me, though, I go to work. Other people go to see old friends, buy new swag, or show off a new cosplay. That’s great for them, more power to them, but conventions aren’t for everyone. If you do go, find someone who shares your interests and go to have fun. It helps if that person has been before, but it isn’t required. Know that you’re going to get bumped into constantly, remember to hydrate, and the floor will probably smell exactly like what you think several thousand people cramped into a building with less than adequate air conditioning smells like, but go and enjoy yourself. Unless you’re claustrophobic, agoraphobicgermophobic, homophobic, scared of anything that has appeared in a movie or video game (good god the clowns), or really any deep-seated fears.

If none of those deter you, grab a badge, some friends, and have some fun.

Oh, and let me know how it goes.