This last weekend marked the fourth year for the Bay Area’s current biggest comic book convention, Big Wow! ComicFest, and before I took the trip down to San Jose, I was flurried with a barrage of different emotions. The largest of these emotions was excitement and anticipation, but Big Wow! had burned me in the past and I was preparing myself to be let down again.

You see, several years ago, the largest comic book convention in the Bay Area (WonderCon) moved on to greener pastures, and it left quite a gaping hole in the comic book community here. It seems that now, even three years later, people are still scrambling to do anything they can to appease the convention loving crowd that felt abandoned by the event that they helped gain popularity. In its absence, two fairly large events grew in the black hole that WonderCon had left.

The first was Image Expo, Image Comics’ self-promoting convention to keep fans up to date on what the New Year has in store for them. The second is the aforementioned Big Wow! ComicFest.

I was lucky enough to attend both events’ inaugural years. I’ll forgo how much fun I had at the very first Image Expo, and instead fill you in on why I was so hesitant to enjoy this years Big Wow!.

I never expected to attend that first year. It was a total fluke; I didn’t even know what it was at the time. I had just finished getting completely decimated in the Pokémon world tournament, which happened to be in the same convention hall, and I found myself with loads of time to kill. I wandered around the hall for a little bit, and stumbled upon, gasp, a comic book convention! My woes of defeat turned into excitement and joy of comic dream possibilities. That is, until I paid for my ticket and went through the door.

My twenty-dollar (twenty dollars!) ticket netted me access into, upon further investigation, what appeared to be a glorified flea market. I never saw a program, there didn’t appear to be any guests, and all the vendors seemed to kind of strewn about with no real order. I walked around for about twenty minutes before I realized that if I did indeed intend to buy something, it would have essentially cost me $20 more than it would have anywhere else, so I left.

So when I was talking to a comic shop owner a little over a year later, I was surprised to find out that the producers of the event had really stepped up their game. It was now a full-fledged convention. “That’s it,” I told myself, “I’m going next year.”

Big Wow! ComicFest of 2014 promised to be a good one, too. On its website, it promised a plethora of special guests, cosplayers galore, and was featuring a Famous Monsters film fest, including the new Godzilla movie. So I held my breath, pulled out my wallet, and bought a ticket.

As with any convention with special guests, I poured over the list and cross-referenced it with special comics in my collection to see what signatures I could get, and what idols I could meet. It’s always fun to meet these creators of your favorite characters and storylines in person, and chat with them about what it is you like, and what their interpretations are. I was excited to get to meet Mike Mignola, Brian Stelfreeze, Greg Rucka, and Mike Zeck.

So I packed up my car, picked up a friend, and headed to San Jose with sheer anticipation, a backpack full of comics, and a wallet full of money. I arrived right when the doors opened, and was pleasantly surprised at the size of the convention when compared to that fateful first year. It was now in the larger hall that the Pokémon tournament had previously resided in, and it looked well thought out and put together. It was reminiscent of the early days of WonderCon.

There was a great variety of vendors, too. They weren’t all just selling comic books, either. There were craft makers, toy sellers, independent artists, and even a couple of comic book publishers. I was excited to see booths from Top Cow, Aspen, IDW, and one of my personal favorites, BOOM! Studios.

The hall was busy, but it wasn’t overly packed; you could move around freely, not bump into people, and there was rarely a time I had to wait for someone to move before I could look at goods to be purchased. So I did what I always do, I made my first sweep of the floor, without trying to spend a dime (save for the Capullo Talon action figure that was marked below MSRP) because you always find a better deal after you’ve already bought what you want.

Comic book convention lesson #1: Never, EVER, buy a comic book at a comic book convention. Ok, I should elaborate a little bit. It’s not a never ever, but if you go to a con with a pocket full of cash hoping to find that key issue that you’ve been trying to find a good deal on, save your shekels. You are in no way whatsoever going to find a good deal on sought after books at a convention. The prices are so blown over the top that I actually laughed out loud to vendors on a couple of occasions; exclusives, newer books, etc. are all fair game here, buy away.

While wandering around, I noticed one of the things that I love about smaller conventions that host special guests: they’re freely just hanging out at their tables, eager to sign, to chat, and to draw with no real line or waiting time to see them. I was able to walk right up to Mike Mignola and have him sign my Rocket Raccoon #1, have a talk with him and other fans about Hellboy, and buy a limited edition print that hangs nicely on my wall. Justin Greenwood and I were able to have a nice chat about the future of The Fuse, and I had a wonderful time watching Brian Stelfreeze paint some amazing commissions for fans.

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Comic book convention lesson #2: Large convention are awesome when you want to get Jeph Loeb to sign your issues from Batman: Hush, but smaller convention, when hosting amazing guests, are better when you want to chat with the creators about their work without feeling the need to move so that the 100 people behind you can get their books signed, which will then be sold on eBay.

After I came to the realization that I would not be able to scratch any key issues off of my list at this convention, I decided to refocus my attention on the art that brought me to comics in the first place. I’m talking about artists alley. There were many artists strewn all over the convention hall, and they all had amazing art for sale to be hung by the chimney with care.

Comic book convention lesson #3: If you’re looking for some new and gorgeous art to compliment your walls, look no further than artists alley. There are well known artists looking to sell you their prints for cheap, and up and coming artists who would love nothing more than to talk to you about their venture into the industry. If you can’t find art you would adore on your walls here, you’re in the wrong building.

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When I finally made my way to the BOOM! Studios booth, I was delighted to see Missy Pena, an artist on Bravest Warriors, Adventure Time, and Bee and PuppyCat comic books, open for commissions. For a mere $20, I was able to get a con exclusive blank variant of Adventure Time #20 with a personal sketch from Missy of Finn the Human. She asked what I would like sketched, and the first thing I could blurt out was “EPIC FINN!” and boy did she deliver.

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Given the opportunity to get yourself a one of a kind sketch, TAKE IT! You won’t regret it, and it’s something that you’ll have that no one else does. It’s great for any collection and something that you can always remember your fun times at the convention with.

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Yes, I was a little bummed that I wasn’t able to get a “key book” for my collection from the convention, but after it was all said and done I’d have to say that I prefer it that way. After I stopped worrying about what great books were on the walls, I was able to open up a lot more to the other great things that were happening all around me, and ended up having an absolutely great time.

I completely forgot about that fateful first encounter with Big Wow! ComicFest, and I’m already full of anticipation for its 2015 run. I hope to see some of you there!

About The Author

Greetings nerds! I suppose you've come here to not only satisfy your curiosity on what an opinionated fool such as myself looks like, but also to delve into the mind of one of the worlds finest super villains. Well you aren't going to get either, so deal with it.

By day I'm a mild mannered creative in advertising. I make pretty things move for big screen, local advertisements. By night I am a photographer, video gamer, movie buff, Pokemon Master (yes, I have a completed Pokedex and I battle frequently), monster hunter, hockey enthusiast, writer, giant mech and kaiju lover, and last but not least, a crazy and erratic comic book collector. First and foremost, I love Batman. I love creator owned comics. The big two are nice and all, but I'm always in need of new and fresh ideas, people that break the mold of the medium. I like books that aren't afraid to tear the industry apart to tell their story. Yes I reread and over analyze probably far more than I should. Yes my passion is so great that I love books sometimes for no reason, and hate others because of minor little nitpicks. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
So take me as I am, fellow readers. This is me in a nutshell.

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