your kids love superheros or are addicted to video games, a visit to a
Comic-Con is in order. These are not just for adult nerds, insists Wayne Rée.
The self-professed geek has been to two San Diego Comic-Cons (SDCC or, as Wayne
calls it, “the big daddy of Comic-Cons”) and is a regular every year at the Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention
(STGCC). This year he even presented his own work
at STGCC, a book of short stories called Tales From A Tiny Room. He tells suitcases&strollers why
Comic-Cons make fantastic family holiday destinations for big and small kids.
Why do you enjoy going to Comic-Cons?
The biggest deal for me is meeting the people who make the comics that I love. I grew up a huge comic nerd, so being able to shake hands, thank and talk to the men and women who work on them is just the best thing ever.
Are Comic-Cons suitable for kids?
Generally, yes. If you're going to STGCC, it's comparatively small and very family friendly. The kids'll get a kick out of the cosplayers dressed up as their favourite superheroes. Heck, I'm a grown man and at this year's STGCC I went nuts over a guy dressed as Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.
SDCC, on the other hand...well, that's a different beast altogether. It's absolutely massive and it's such an experience. It's more than just comics. Some might even argue that these days, comics are an after-thought at SDCC. It's where celebrities come to promote their latest blockbusters. It's where TV stars come to talk to fans. It's exactly what it says in their slogan: A celebration of the popular arts. Like STGCC, there are tons of cosplayers for the kids to go nuts over. There are panels for their favourite cartoons (the queue for the Adventure Time panel last year was absolutely insane). And there are toys everywhere. But it's such a crowded event. If you are bringing your kids, I'd suggest holding onto to them tight 'cause I'd imagine it'd be so easy for them to get lost.
Why parents should take their kids to Comic-Cons?
The conventions are experiences. They're crazy, they're loud, they're colourful and everyone is there to have fun. Even the grown-ups are there because they're passionate about stuff like comics or sci-fi or video games in a way that kids could easily relate to.
What kinds of attractions are at a Comic-Con?
STGCC, you get to meet the creators behind these comics. This year, for
instance, we had artists that worked on Spider-Man and Batman.
At SDCC, you have, well, everything. You get to meet comic creators, sci-fi and fantasy authors, movie stars, TV celebrities and everyone in between. There are tons of comics on sale, previews of video games, all sorts of geeky stuff to buy and heaps more.
Aside from all the stuff on the convention floor, there's peripheral events and attractions too. Last year there were giant blow-up versions of the Teen Titans, a recreation of Bilbo's house from The Hobbit and a giant recreation of the main baddie from the last Wolverine movie. And that's just the stuff located right outside the convention.
[For more travel tips on Hobbit expeirences, see the suitcases&strollers story Searching For the Hobbit in New Zealand.]
All of San Diego goes SDCC crazy during that time of year. The last two years I went, there was even a Walking Dead-theme obstacle course (where I got to dress up as a zombie and pretend to attack people).
Do the Comic-Cons welcome kids coming and talking to the authors?
Some of my favourite memories of these cons is watching the kids interact with the creators. In San Diego I saw the guys who co-created shows like Ben 10 giving out free toys to the kids that came by their booth. I saw a kid who couldn't have been more than 10 holding his own in a conversation with one of the colourists from Spider-Man. More than the die-hard adult fans, I think the kids are the ones that the creators are really looking forward to meeting. They are the future of comics, after all.
Are the cosplay costumes scary?
It varies. I've seen some pretty gruesome costumes in both San Diego and Singapore. But, generally, they're fun and colourful.
How crowded are the Comic-Cons? Is it easy for kids to get lost?
STGCC is pretty small in comparison. It gets crowded but it's relatively easy for parents to keep track of their kids.
SDCC is pure madness. You gotta hold on tight to them there.
Is there any additional live entertainment apart from the stalls?
STGCC, it depends on the year. Last year, there was a big Iron Man presence. This year, it was mostly stalls.
For SDCC, there's always something to catch the kids' attention. Because Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network are massive presences there, you're sure to find the characters hanging around the booths. And when I say "booths" I don't mean tiny stalls. I'm talking massive structures, usually designed to evoke the feel of the shows.
Any tips for how kids can get closer to the most popular stalls?
STGCC, it's not really a problem. Most of the time it's a queue situation and
the queues aren't massive. Plus, most creators do multiple signings over the
For SDCC the more popular creators or authors' signings are often ticketed events. You gotta get to the booths early and get a ticket for the signing itself. There's no hard and fast rule for SDCC signings, as far as I can tell. Just lots of rushing around and lots of luck. Keep an eye on those fringe events happening around and outside the actual convention. Those can be more intimate affairs and feature pretty big-named guests too.
Any tips for parents planning to visit Comic-Cons with kids?
Aside from keeping your kids close by at the bigger cons? Plan your day. Make sure the kids get plenty of rest because these are whole-day experiences. Cons like SDCC are so massive that you will need all four days (yes, four days) to really get as close to a full experiences as possible. You will be waking up early to get into queues for the cartoons' panels. (Don't worry about the queues though – most of the people there are other kids with their parents, so it's almost like a very nerdy play date.) Pack lots of water, bring snacks and try to pack as light as possible because you'll be on your feet a lot.
What are the top 3 most iconic Comic-Cons for kids?
SDCC because, if you're talking about iconic cons, there is none more recognised than SDCC. It even has its own documentary by the guy who did Supersize Me! It's where the cartoon channels put most of their effort and, despite being insane and loud and super crowded, it's also lots of fun.
I've heard good things about the New York Comic-Con. It's probably the next biggest con next to SDCC.
And, of course, I'd recommend STGCC, but only 'cause I think it's great that Singapore has its own Comic-Con. [For more travel tips on things to do in Singapore with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Images: Dave Ng, Wayne Rée