My best friend and I are both comic book fans and for the past few years we’ve gone together to Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC—buying too many books, reminiscing over action figures, admiring the artwork, and just having a terrific time. This year we decided that his daughter Emily, who is just finishing up first grade, was old enough to go with us.
We here at Good Comics for Kids are big proponents of taking children to comic book conventions. There’s no better way to get young readers excited about art and reading than to expose them to the creators who make the comics and graphic novels they love. But if you aren’t a comic book fan yourself, then you might be uncertain about going to a convention. The experience this weekend allowed me to practice navigating a con with a child and I thought I would offer some tips for novice convention goers who want to give their kids a great experience.
- Learn about conventions in your area. Your local comic book shop is an excellent source of information.
- Ticket prices vary, but one-day passes are usually quite reasonable and many times kids under 12 get in free with an adult. One thing to consider—big cons like San Diego Comic Con, often sell out very early and have extremely long lines to get in. Smaller, regional cons are more accessible.
- Plan your day in advance. Many cons will have their schedule of events and list of guests posted on their website. Check it to make sure you know what panel discussions you might want to attend and to find out which artists you want to visit.
- Arrive early. Cons can get very busy, especially on a Saturday, so try to get there right when the doors open.
- You’ll want to make sure you bring some basic supplies with you:
-Water and snacks, maybe a lunch.
-A bag or two for carrying your purchases.
-A sketchbook if you want to ask artists to sketch something for you.
-Spending money. Vendors will often take cards, but the artists can usually only accept cash.
- You are welcome to ask for sketches. Most artists will do a quick sketch for free and then charge for a more extensive one. Your kids should have an idea of what they’d like drawn in their sketchbook, either the artist’s own characters (Emily asked Andy Runton for an Owly sketch) or for a popular character. To the right is Cinderella artist Chrissie Zullo drawing a sketch of Zatanna for Emily.
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes because you’ll be doing a lot of standing and walking on concrete floors. Or—
- You can wear costumes! Costumes are welcome at all cons, though you should check the con’s website before attending to make sure your costume meets the costume policy, especially if it involves weapons. (Know that cons are for all ages, so some costumes might be skimpy or bloody.) And don’t hesitate to ask if you can take a picture of a great costume. Fans spend a lot of time on their costumes and they appreciate the recognition.
- Set a spending limit. There are always a lot of toys, shirts, books, etc. to buy in the vendor portion of a con, so impulse buying is a danger. Dad had Emily do a full tour around all the vendors before she was allowed to buy anything.
Having never taken a child to a convention before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Dad and I were assuming that Emily would only make it until lunch before she tired out (we got to the con at 10am), but she was still happy and having fun at 3pm when we finally had to leave. My favorite part of the experience was watching Emily meet people in costume. Everyone with whom she posed was gracious and sweet to her. She’s a big Wonder Woman fan, so she was excited about seeing several women dressed as the famous Amazon, but I especially like this picture of her with two Green Lanterns.
Dad had this to say about the experience: “As a life-long and self-professed geek, my favorite part of this Heroes Con was watching my daughter Emily get so excited to see comic books, action figures and ‘live’ superheroes of characters she’d only previously seen in video games or cartoons. This was Emily’s first Con but definitely not her last!”
His advice for parents bringing their small children is “to prepare them ahead of time that A) there will be A LOT of walking B) they can’t buy everything they see that they like and C) there will be some times when Daddy/Mommy want to do something or talk to someone they won’t want to so they need to be patient. And don’t be above offering to buy a figurine or a graphic novel as a ‘thank you’ for good and respectful behavior!”
Emily said, “I loved my first Heroes Convention! My favorite parts were the statues [author's note: we saw a lot of action figures and collectable statues of superheroes], the design of the show (floor plan), the price of some of the items and pretty much everything about the event. I did not like all of the walking around and the price of some items. I remember most all of the fun I had and seeing everything for the first time!”
We all had a terrific time together and are eager for next year’s Heroes Con! I hope this article will inspire you to take your own kids (or your friend’s kids or your young relatives) to a con. It’s a great way to spend time together as a family celebrating books and art and fun.