It’s no secret that we’re living in a Nerd Paradise. The current pop culture boom has allowed fans of pretty much anything to find a place to congregate with like-minded people.
Which brings us to Tidewater Comicon, a two day event held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in Hampton Roads Virginia. As the flagship event for Incredible Conventions and founded by Mike Federali, TWCC draws crowds of locals and out-of-towners who come together to celebrate a shared love for comics and fandom memorabilia. The event reached peak attendance back in 2016 with over 23,000 fans.
Comic book conventions have some differences with other types of fan conventions. Generally, the hours are shorter, programming is more sparse, and guests tend to be more carefully selected. More focus is generally spent on vendors, artists, and acquisition rather than atmosphere and entertainment. Panels tend to be less intensive and varied and workshops are nearly non-existent. In exchange, prices tend to be lower and the vibe is generally more ‘Muggle friendly.’
TWCC in 2019 featured artists including Bob McLeod, Marcus Williams, Craig Rousseau, all well known in the industry and the convention scene. In order to tailor the experience to the 757 area, special guests included Bob Franz, a local celebrity-turned-comics publisher well known for his stint on Radio Network 96X’s “The Mike And Bob Show.”
Celebrity guests included notable voice actors and comic artists. Nafessa Williams headlined, fresh from her role in Black Lightning. In order to branch out to other interests, Wrestlers Mick Foley and Lisa Marie Varon made appearances. One of the biggest draws featured Dante Basco, famous for rules like Rufio in “Hook” and voicing critically acclaimed character Prince Zuko in “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” With one of the highest population density of Filipino Americans in the United States, Pinoy pride was all around when welcoming Basco to Hampton Roads.
Programming was also centered around local interests. Table Hops gave a presentation on pairing specific board games with craft beer. They suggest a smooth drinking Session IPA for a longstanding game of Risk, by the way.
Unlike the crowded halls of larger conventions like New York or San Diego, the spacious nature of a convention the size of Tidewater Comicon allowed con-goers to explore the area at leisure. Aisles were well spaced with open areas for seating. A regulated dealers room and artist alley stocked with local favorites like Bella Books Comics and Toys allowed vendors more one on one face time with attendees.
Overall, the appeal for a convention like Tidewater Comicon is the accessibility.
Tickets were only $35 for the two day event when purchased ahead of time and only $40 at the door. This is not so specialized an event in price, location or offertngs that previous experience is necessary to enjoy the setting.
With offerings like Kids Zone programming and impromptu photo-Ops with giant Lego Figurines, it’s easy to see why the majority of attendees seemed to be young families. Appealing to these casuals is an effective way to grow the fanbase- one convention at a time. We can only hope that this will continue into 2020!