Star Wars action figures, pictures of Spiderman, antiques, dusty paintings and an assortment of colorful doorknobs lie on either side of a crowded room. This was Ithacon, a comic book convention hosted by the Comic Book Club of Ithaca, which was held Saturday in Funky Junk Ithaca on The Commons.
This year marked the 38th Ithacon. The show this year featured 20 different comic book artists, writers and dealers of comic memorabilia. Freshman David Cohen heard about the convention through flyers posted around Ithaca College and, as a comic book collector, was compelled to go.
“There was a really good range of really cheap stuff to really expensive, rare stuff that I didn’t know Ithaca had, so I thought it was cool,” Cohen said.
Rusty Gilligan was a guest at the convention and writes a comic book called “The Adventures of Mac and Trouble,” which features two cats who develop human mannerisms and travel through the universe. He’s been to Ithacon before and estimated that he has been to about 22 conventions like it in the past year. What he said he likes about Ithacon, in comparison to the others, is the type of fans who visit.
“Usually, people will stop to talk to you,” Gilligan said. “At other shows, people will come over and say ‘Oh yeah, I’m just circling the room’ and never come back, but not here.”
Writer Mark McCracken was a guest at the convention and has been going for 10 years. His booth at the convention featured comics of powerful-looking superwomen published through his company Divine Authority Comics. He also finds the people at Ithacon to be more friendly and willing to chat.
“I think that sometimes when you go to bigger conventions, [fans are] there to see Stan Lee, they’re there to see the big head honcho,” McCracken said. “So it’s better here with the indie stuff.”
McCracken said he’s been to conventions where it is costs money to get booth space, while at Ithacon it’s free.
“I’ve been to bigger ones where I’ve had to pay for table space,” McCracken said. “It’s pretty expensive.”
Aaron Pichel founded the comic book club in 1975 when he was 12, because he was a huge comic book fan. He wanted a way to discuss his favorite superheroes with others. Pichel echoed the sentiments of Gilligan and McCracken. He said while Ithacon has become a regional convention, drawing in fans from all of New York, people have always commented on how communal the convention feels.
Initially the club was only middle school-aged children, but it gradually expanded to Ithaca residents of all ages. Pichel said the conventions were much more popular back then before comic collectors and fans could easily feed their hobby with the help of the Internet.
“Back then we didn’t have the Internet, we didn’t have a 24 hour a day [source] for all of these auction sites. Now we have a worldwide, 24 hour a day, seven days a week, 365 day a year convention online,” Pichel said. “Back then, to get all those dealers and collectors together was much more rare. It was much, much larger, even more dealers, even more guests. There were auctions, there were workshops … it was big.”
Pichel recently opened a movie poster, comic book and pop culture memorabilia store on The Commons called The Movie Poster Store. He said many fans were fluctuating between his store and the convention Saturday, bringing many comic lovers to both venues.
Even though the Internet has lowered convention attendance, Pichel said, this convention hosted about 40 people within the span of two hours. He has seen a recent spike in comic popularity due to the big-budget superhero movies that have gained popularity in past years.
“Comic books have really entered the mainstream more than they were 40 years ago,” Pichel said. “Years ago it was very geeky and nerdy, and now it really is part of the mainstream. Nerds have taken over the asylum.”