SPILLING INK: The Heart of the Convention – ACE Comic Con Midwest.
Submitted by Spilling Ink Host and Correspondent, Jason LaVelle
Ace Comic Con Midwest, the windy city, Chicago. I’m a small town boy, raised in a rural community of about fifteen thousand. We never had the bright lights and skyscrapers of the big cities. I’m nearly forty now, but I still feel like I have a small town heart. I live in a beautiful lakeshore town on the West coast of Michigan. I’ve attended a number of small book fairs and conventions, book signings in coffee shops, and readings at our local library. Nothing like the big city. Nothing like Chicago.
We drove into the city on Friday morning, the children marveling at the thousands of cars and acres of steel and glass. Meanwhile, I wonder just how far the city can stretch, reaching out and then beyond the horizon, with some of the world’s tallest buildings at its heart. We pass Navy Pier on the way to our rental, and my daughters remark on the sheer size of the giant Ferris wheel, and the many people milling about. After almost three hours of makeup (my daughter cosplayed as a Weeping Angel), we caught an Uber back to the pier.
I don’t know how it works at other large conventions for members of the press, but we were shown in immediately. The PR director greeted us personally with a warm smile and a press badge. I admit that I was a little surprised there wasn’t more of a hassle.
Then we entered the convention hall. It was a splendor of sights and sounds and people and fabulous color. Artists, authors, and vendors of every kind took up the large hall in neat rows. Throngs of people, some plainclothes, but many more in fantastic cosplay mingled and shopped and admired all around us. I was struck by a deep feeling of community, of togetherness, for even though I didn’t know these people, I knew they were my people.
The convention hall itself was large, but not insurmountably so, it only took fifteen minutes to wander from front to back. I later asked Ace’s founder, Gareb Shamus about this and he told me that they had intentionally limited admission to give the convention a more boutique feel. That may seem strange since these conventions make more money with each person that passes through their doors, but it also makes sense. Ace isn’t a convention where you can get lost, or smashed in a mosh pit of attendees trying to get from one side to the other, it’s a place where you can enjoy your fandoms, your obsessions, and your passions, and still be comfortable.
Now, at least in the case of this convention, size didn’t matter. Ace Midwest brought in A-list celebrity guests, including: Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Elizabeth Olsen. Saturday and Sunday were packed with great panels. There were some awkward moments during the Avengers panel when audience members continued to try to persuade Evans and Gillan to divulge secrets about the next Avengers movie, which of course, they could not. But besides that bit of awkwardness, the panels were fantastic, with great moderators and a lot of good questions from the audience. My favorite panel was Matt Smith, talking about his experience as the 11th doctor on Doctor Who. The way he embraced the character and the fans, even years after his part has ended, really spoke to the type of character he really is, and how some celebrities really do earn that admiration they’re given.
According to founder Gareb Shamus, Ace’s whole business model is about bringing in the best celebrities in the world and creating an exciting and engaging community event where fans of all kind can indulge in and appreciate the things they love. As for me and my family, we had a great experience. This was my children’s first convention, and they came away from it with smiles on their faces, lots of cool swag in their bags, and dreams of the next big comic con in their heads. For me, I’m hooked, and I’m already booking my next comic convention, and hopefully, many more.
All of my footage and interviews from Ace Comic Con Midwest can be found right on our YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/c/spillinginkshow. ~Jason LaVelle
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