What Is Comic Con?

What Is Comic Con - Leveled Up Dads

I’m sure you’ve heard of Comic Con before but you may have some questions about what it’s all about. So, what is comic con? Comic Con, Comicon and Comic-Con are all short for Comic Convention or Comic Book Convention.

What started out as a gathering where comic book readers could meet their favorite artists and writers has turned into more of a pop culture event where all forms of media collide.

Tri-State Con is considered the first official comic book convention. It was also known as New York Comicon and took place in 1964 in New York City. This event is said to have had 100 attendees and included guests such as Steve Ditko, Flo Steinberg and Tom Gill.

Detroit Triple Fan Fair took place a year later and became the first recurring comic book convention. Not soon after in 1970, the first San Diego Comic-Con took place, though it was known then as Golden State Comic-Con.

Conventions have evolved over the years. Early shows were managed by fans on a not-for-profit basis, but as the years went on comic con became a huge business opportunity. One day events have turned into 4 or 5 day long festivities. There are now hundreds of conventions taking place throughout the United States with attendance numbers over 1 million annually.

So what actually takes place at comic con?

What is Comic Con?

It’s Comic Books

The simplest answer to “What is Comic Con?” is “comic books”. This is where it all started, so of course comic book conventions are a great place to buy comics! You’ll find vendors selling comics old and new, as well as trade paperbacks and hardcover collections. If you’re trying to fill in some gaps in your collection, a comic book convention is a great place to look for your missing books.

It’s Comic Publishers

The comic book industry is well represented at larger conventions. The major publishers such as Marvel, DC and Image will have booths where they will make announcements, host events and have autograph signings. They usually have free giveaways and items for sale as well.

It’sComic Creators

If “comic books” is the first answer to “What is Comic Con?”, then “comic creators” woudl be a close second. The first conventions were a way to meet your favorite artists and writers. You will now find popular artists, writers, inkers and colorists at conventions large and small. You can get autographs, buy custom commissioned artwork, original comic book pages or prints, or just chat with your idols.

It’s Toys and Collectibles

Comic book conventions are a great place to find toys and collectibles that you won’t find at your local retailer. If there’s something you’ve been thinking about buying online, this is also a great opportunity to see one firsthand before shelling out your money to an online retailer. Many Comic Cons also have convention exclusives, which are often made in small quantities.

It’s Convention Exclusives

Like we said above, convention exclusives are available in small quantities and are only available at that convention. Many publishers, vendors and toy makers will sell collectibles that you can only find at the convention. Items can range from a  limited edition variant comic cover, to unique vinyl figure or article of clothing. These items tend to sell out quickly, often within the first few hours of the first day of the convention.

It’s After-Parties

Comic Con after-parties are popular with both fans and professionals alike. Local bars and clubs will hold themed after-parties, while companies will hold private gatherings for professionals to bond and let loose after a hard day at the con. Some events are private, some public and others are secret. With the many after-party options, the day doesn’t end when the show floor closes.

It’s Free Swag

Who doesn’t like free stuff? Most conventions will give you a free lanyard for your badge, a bag, a guide and possibly some other free items like comic books or stickers.

Once you hit the show floor, you’ll find a lot of tables with freebies ranging from stickers and pins to comic books and art prints. Other booths will also do drawings or raffles for high ticket items. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to visit every table or booth.

It’s Celebrities

A large part of the comic con scene is celebrity appearances, either through panels, autograph signings, or photo opportunities (photo ops). Celebrities are found at all levels of conventions, though the bigger names tend to stick to the bigger conventions.

It’s Panels

Panels are scheduled blocks of entertainment that take place in rooms at the convention center. Topics can range from TV shows and movies to speed dating or your favorite comic book. The most popular panels often fill up fast and can feature giveaways or other exclusive material like trailers or screenings.

Most panels feature guests including actors, writers, directors and creative teams and can be a great place for die-hard fans to get early access to content such as trailers, teasers or full episodes of TV shows. Many also include a Questions & Answers segment where fans can get up and ask questions.

Most conventions will provide a guide with a list of their panel schedules, though you can always find these ahead of time online.

It’s TV and Movies

Both the Big and Small Screens get represented well at comic con! Studios will often hold panels for upcoming releases where they will sometimes show exclusive clips and previews. You can also find your favorite stars available for autographs or photo sessions.

It’s Shopping

For a lot of people, the answer of “shopping” is the best answer to “What is comic con?”! You can find anything you want, ranging from action figures new and old to cookie jars, clothing, costumes and more!

Geeky vinyl stickers for your car? Check! Handmade jewelry? Check! Cosplay Props? Check! You name it and it’s probably for sale at a convention near you.

It’s Cosplay

Cosplayers use conventions to show off their skills and hard work. Often, there will be costume contests at comic con, but even if there isn’t one, that doesn’t stop people from dressing up as their favorite characters.

It’s Gaming

You can find board games, table top games, strategy games, card games and role-playing games all available to test out or buy at comic book conventions.

Video games are also well represented, especially at bigger cons. See and demo the latest games and systems or check out some retro video games for sale.


Hopefully I’ve answered the question “What is Comic Con?” for you. Comic Con has evolved from a small gathering of comic book fans to a pop culture haven, so you can be sure each convention has something for every fandom! It’s hard to attend a con without being entertained! Ready to jump in and attend a comic book convention? Get some con supplies!


I'm just a Dad trying to help other Dads level up their lives. I like comic books (and comic con!), coffee, creative outlets, and making extra money.

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