4YE Thanksgiving: Why We Celebrate Pop Culture and Fan Community

Credits: 4YE / MCM Comic Con

Full disclosure: I do not celebrate Thanksgiving but that shouldn’t hold me back from giving thanks. Every November, despite missing out on turkey and a 5-pound weight gain, I try to re-evaluate the things I’ve experienced over the past 12 months.

There’s a lot to be thankful for, from health to loving friends and family, but here at 4YE we like to focus on all thing pop culture. So let’s give thanks to the few events every year that bring us all together – Pop Culture Conventions!

The biggest event in every geek’s year has to be San Diego Comic Con. And every year I find myself spending a month’s pay check on flights and half a day on a plane to make it to sunny Southern California for the spectacle (and some amazing Mexican food at Lolita’s).

The first time I attended SDCC was in 2014, and since it was a bit of a spontaneous decision I was flying solo that year. But one of my favorite things about conventions is that you make friends incredibly easily and rarely feel lonely. You’re already surrounded by people who share a love for nerd culture, so why not strike up a conversation or make plans to attend some panels together?

I was immediately surrounded by everything I had come to love about comics and pop culture in the exhibit hall, from exploring the massive Marvel and DC booths to securing a photo op with the one or the other actor and strolling through artist alley and marveling at other people’s talent.

Of course we also have to mention cosplay when discussing SDCC. The amount of time and money and talent people invest in creating costumes for themselves is truly astonishing. At SDCC you will find everything from Spiderman onesies over tough armour and dangerous looking (fake) weapons up to intricate aliens, orks, and other creatures. It’s fascinating to watch, and impossible to imitate. And it’s not only humans that dress up!

But what truly fascinated me and became the reason for returning the next year was the panels. Never before had I been able to listen to the creators of my favorite TV shows and films, and never before had I been able to get the latest spoilers and scoop first-hand – it’s truly a thrilling experience.

That very first year I also met our fearless 4YE leader Emmy. Fast forward to 2018 and my favourite aspect of SDCC is no longer the exciting panels, the fun off-site activities, or the too-hard-to-get-into parties. It’s the people I get to spend those precious few days with every year. This year, now old SDCC veterans, the 4YE crew did the smart thing and we arrived a day early to be able to enjoy a proper day of vacation, food, and laziness.

While San Diego may hold the biggest and most anticipated of all comic conventions, it is definitely not the only one in this world worth attending. By now the convention craze has spread to all other parts of the world (even little old England), and some smaller events have popped up that cater towards one specific area or one single fandom.

Earlier this year I was able to attend Heroes and Villains Fan Fest here in London, an event entirely dedicated to our favorite good and bad guys on Television. Guests included stars from the Arrowverse, Gotham, The Gifted, Torchwood andRiverdale. Where SDCC is a massive adventure, HVFF is a much more intimate affair.

There may be no scoop to be acquired at HVFF, but the special guests truly take the time to offer fans the best interaction possible, with one-to-one photo ops and long autograph sessions. Arrow star Stephen Amell has stayed way past closing several times, just to ensure that everyone gets what they came to the event for. The focus of these events is the fan experience, and it is something that fans are willing to pay large sums for.

My final convention of the year was MCM Comic Con London just a few weeks ago, which follows a similar concept to SDCC. MCM offers a large show floor with booths ranging from Marvel and DC Comics to film studios and large areas dedicated to Anime and Manga. However, panels are also on the schedule, with different stages covering different areas.

This year’s guests included the cast of Freeform’s Shadowhunters, the voice actors behind Critical Role, as well as comic book icons Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello, just to name a few. In addition to panels guests were also on autograph and photo op duties. MCM offers everything that SDCC offers, but on a smaller, less hectic scale.

With everything that’s happening in this world, why give thanks to something as trivial as pop-culture conventions? Because there are people behind these events that work tirelessly (and often for little or no money) to make these few days a year memorable and exciting, and to offer fans a place they can be themselves.

Every one of these events I hold dear in my heart, because of the different people I meet. Whether it is the international crowd in San Diego or the more local folk of London, we all come together to celebrate something we love, and it binds us. The convention crowd is a very accepting one too, no one judges or ridicules you for the things you love.

It’s also a pleasure to get together with a group you might only see once or twice a year, but it never feels like you’re far apart. In a world where so much time is spent on hate and war these weekends are truly a way to escape the negativity and to just celebrate entertainment.

The wonderful late Stan Lee put that phenomenon into words: “I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”

Are there any conventions you love attending? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

Verena Cote
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