San Diego Comic-Con Culture: More Than Masks

Costumes and characters are a major part of San Diego Comic-Con International, but beyond that, the convention also offers a wealth of knowledge for those who seek it.

Past the costumes, crowds and massive, star-studded panels at the pop culture event are many other opportunities for Con-goers – many of which are educational.

Outside those notorious jam-packed rooms like Hall H and Ballroom 20, the convention hosts a series of smaller-scale panels formatted as breakout sessions.

These sessions provide attendees with valuable lessons and advice from professionals in the comic industry while also giving fans an opportunity to network and collaborate.

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A glance at Friday’s schedule and attendees could find small panels such as “From Fan to Creator: Making the Dream a Reality” and “How to be a Nerd for a Living: Career Paths Within Nerd Culture.”

“These panels probably don’t get as much attention as they should,” said Laura Hareron, who has attended Comic-Con three times.

Hareron attended the session, “The Future of Geek.” The panel touched on topics such as advertising to a diverse audience, the growing popularity of fandoms and franchises and even the future of Comic-Con itself.

“You can learn something that you never knew you wanted to do, that you’ve never even considered before,” Hareron explained. “It’s just not something that a lot of people think about.”

The panelists themselves even note a complexity to Comic-Con that exceeds what the public typically perceives.

Heidi McDonald, who manages her own website and has attended Comic-Con for the past 33 years, continues to marvel at the change in demographics seen at the convention.

“Thirty-three years ago, there weren’t very many like me here – girls, I mean,” McDonald told the audience at “The Future of the Geek.”

Today, statistics show that there is an almost perfectly even split between male and female attendees. Even so, McDonald believes there is still plenty of change to come.

“In five years, we will see a very different Con,” she added.

In addition to these informative and educational panels, some might also be surprised by the significant presence of families at the convention.

Calixto Pena, third-time Comic-Con attendee, has brought his daughter Karissa for the past two years to the convention.

“There’s lots of fun activities that I can do here,” Karissa excitedly announced.

“They have a lot of things that are geared toward kids and even a lot of things geared toward girls,” her father added.

Amidst Comic-Con’s changing landscape over its 45 years in San Diego, almost every attendee is in agreement that the unity and culture found at the pop culture spectacular will be preserved.

Race Dendel, also a third-time Comic-Con attendee, sees great value in the convention’s ability to provide a safe environment for all people.

“It’s all the outcasts and everybody who is weird and abnormal,” Dendel said. “They’re all walking around and having a great time and not feeling weird and abnormal because it’s normal to be weird.”

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