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ITHACON ’47 brings a diverse array of experiences to students and fans

Bill+Turner%2C+founder+of+the+first+ITHACON%2C+and+Ed+Catto%2C+instructor+of+the+ITHACON+course+in+the+School+of+Business%2C+hold+the+2024+ITHACON+pamphlet.
Maddy Tanzman
Bill Turner, founder of the first ITHACON, and Ed Catto, instructor of the ITHACON course in the School of Business, hold the 2024 ITHACON pamphlet.

Over the weekend of April 27 and 28, Ithaca College is putting its own spin on comic conventions with ITHACON 47, a two-day event that takes convention staples, such as cartoon screenings and panels featuring comic book creators, and gives them a local feel.

The 47th annual ITHACON is organized by students in the Ithaca College School of Business course, ITHACON: Promotion and Managing Conventions, for the fifth year in a row. The course is taught by Ed Catto, instructor in the School of Business, who said that much like ITHACON aiming to bring people of varying pop culture interests together, the course is made up of students with all different interests.

“For me, ITHACON is like a yearly gathering of hopes and dreams and excitement and fun,” Catto said. “We gather together; students who love pop culture and students who have no idea about anything but want to learn management, and they want to learn events, and they want to learn about startups. This is the place to learn about all of those things.”

Catto said the course is one-of-a-kind, as it gives students an in-depth look into the world of convention organization and provides them with the hands-on opportunity to organize one themselves.

“There have been a lot of courses in the country where folks learn about pop culture and comics and anime and animation, but there’s no other class where people learn about that stuff but also get to learn how to run an event like this,” Catto said.

This year, the event will host a variety of new and old activities for hundreds of guests, including the first 250 guests who bought tickets and received a “swag bag,” to enjoy. Tickets cost $20 for a two-day adult ticket, $10 for Ithaca College students and staff, and $5 for kids ages 7 to 17.

Returning events include panels from comic book publishing companies AHOY! Comics and A Wave Blue World, as well as the annual cosplay runway.

“Our cosplay runway is a grand tradition,” Catto said. “So right in the middle of the convention, in some ways the worst time and in some ways the best time, we dim the lights and the DJ turns up the music and we have a cosplay runway, and that’s really a lot of fun.”

There are plenty of new events in store as well, such as a panel on Disney’s “Gargoyles” cartoon, a screening of the “Space Ghost” cartoon that attendees can nostalgically enjoy with a bowl of cereal and the event’s new guest of honor, Ithaca College alumna Shelly Bond ’88.

“Shelly Bond is an amazing Ithaca College alumna,” Catto said. “She’s been back to ITHACON a few times, but not for a long time, so we’re bringing her back. She runs Off Register Press with her husband, Philip Bond, who’s an amazing artist in his own right, and we’re so happy to host them here.”

Bill Turner, who graduated from Cornell University in 1974 and founded the first ever ITHACON back in 1976, said that the convention has always focused on fostering connection between the featured creators and the attendees.

“One thing that’s different here is you actually get a chance to interact with the guests,” Turner said. “I mean, with other conventions these days, if you want to see a guest you have to buy a premium ticket that’s $40 extra to see one guest for a minute.”

While Turner is glad that many of ITHACON’s core values have remained since 1976, such as an increased focus on comics and letting creators attend for free to keep ticket costs low, he’s also glad to see younger students bringing a fresh perspective to the event.

“It’s been a great pleasure to watch a new generation take it over,” Turner said. “I think of it as a legacy, and I’m proud of it, but I don’t want to be running ITHACON 70, so it’s nice to have it being taken over by young people.”

One of these students is senior Lisandra Espiritusanto, a member of the event’s PR team, who said that the event has been a collaborative effort between those involved in the course and people outside of the college who support the comic book industry.

“For PR, typically, the work we had to do was put out press releases and send them out to media outlets,” Espiritusanto said. “And comic book stores in the area usually have blogs, so those were our biggest and most receptive groups.”

Espiritusanto said that along with getting hands-on experience with different aspects of PR and marketing, she’s been learning new things about comic convention culture as well.

“I feel like in general, almost everyone is part of a fandom, whether they’re a Nicki Minaj fan or they’re into anime, everyone’s part of one thing or another,” Espiritusanto said. “But comic con culture is next level.”

Bailey Day23, who took the course last year as part of the MBA in Entertainment and Media Management and acted as the event’s main project manager, said she also thought that organizing the event gave her a new way to practice the skills she had gained from other courses.

“I love live events,” Day said. “I love doing film sets and festivals, and I love comic books and that pop culture side of things, so ITHACON seemed like the perfect place to test something out, because it’s still a learning environment for the students involved. I’ve actually found that I really enjoy it, so now I’m working for a film festival postgrad.”

Day said that even after finishing the program, her appreciation for the event and for Catto and Turner led her to collaborate with the two to adjust the course’s project management position.

“I may not be local anymore, but I helped [Catto] and Bill set up the project management system for this year,” Day said. “We took last year’s system and changed a few things, tweaked them and implemented them for the new class.”

The system students started using last year was the website monday.com, which Day said was helpful when it came to organizing tasks. However, it needed a few tweaks to work even better for this year’s students.

“So we used [Monday] last year, and then based on the student feedback and things that did and didn’t work, I took it over the summer and reorganized it,” Day said. “So whereas the students were making the Monday boards as they went last year, like as tasks came up, the students this year, because I had the information from last year, already knew what tasks needed to be done.”

Although the event is primarily focused on comics, Catto said ITHACON caters to various different interests, from anime to webtoons to superheroes.

“Ithacon is a great event for folks who have all different interests, so if you come and you love Spider-Man, great, you’ll have a good time,” Catto said. “But if you come and you hate Spider-Man but you love manga, you’ll still have a great time. If you hate Spider-Man and manga, you’ll find something else that you like, maybe it’s movies, maybe it’s TV shows, maybe it’s books, maybe it’s crafts —  there’s a lot of things for a lot of people and that’s what keeps it really fun.”

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Maddy Tanzman
Maddy Tanzman, Photo Editor
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