If you find yourself in downtown San Antonio this weekend, you might run into some interesting characters masquerading in full costume on city streets. If they look like they’ve just jumped off the page of a comic book or the movie screen of a Hollywood movie, that’s because they’re acting just like their favorite heroes.
You’re looking at your fellow San Antonians as well as a lot of visitors. Some might even be your friends or neighbors. All will be downtown for Alamo City Comic Con (ACCC) 2014.
The event, now in its second year, is a large-scale, locally managed celebration of all things pop-culture: comics, movies, TV, and gaming. Comic-Con, as it’s written on the West where it all started, was founded by Shel Dorf, a comic book artist and underground legend who died in 2009. He started it all in San Diego in 1973, and since then, Comic-Con International has grown into a huge annual event there and around the world.
For Alamo City Comic Con goers, the event is a chance to assemble as a tribe and to meet actors, authors, and artists who make their living in that make-believe world. It’s a big tribe and it’s growing. The builders of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center certainly didn’t have Comic Con in mind, but that’s where all the action will be this weekend. Surrounding hotels will see a steady stream of costumed characters coming and going, many of them in wonderfully creative homemade get-ups.
The event springs into action at 9 p.m. Thursday with a VIP Preview Party. Convention doors will be open from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
“Alamo City Comic Con draws a lot of different kinds of people,” said Steve Clanton, vice president of sales and services at the San Antonio Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB). “It’s not just who you would expect. Plenty of young people attend, but don’t be surprised to find your banker there, as well.”
A three-day pass costs $75, and daily admission ranges from $25-40. Inside, Comic Con fans will find 200,000 square feet of vendors’ booths, comic artists showing their stuff live, and, of course, a slew of celebrity appearances.
“The celebrity panels are the real drivers for attendance,” Clanton said.
Among this year’s guests are Marvel Comics mega-personality Stan Lee, alongside Clark Gregg, who played Agent Phil Coulson in the 2012 blockbuster “The Avengers” and currently reprises the role in ABC’s television series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Fans of AMC’s post-apocalyptic zombie drama “The Walking Dead” also have reason to rejoice, as an entourage of seven cast members will converge on the Alamo City for the event, five of whom will participate in a live panel Saturday at 4 p.m.
Old-school nerds can reminisce with members of the original live-action “Power Rangers” series, also on Saturday, while video game fans will have a chance to attend panels by powerhouse industry voice actors, including Jen Taylor and Steve Downes of science-fiction shooter series “Halo” fame, and Troy Baker, one of the most prolific voice actors in gaming. The guru-like George Takei of “Star Trek” fame also will be on hand.
ACCC was started in 2013 by Alfredo “Apple” De La Fuente, a native San Antonian, who saw an opportunity to recreate the success of events like San Diego Comic-Con here in Texas. De La Fuente pitched the idea to CVB, which gave him the space over other third-party trade show companies.
“We kept it local with Apple,” Clanton said.
Overall, San Antonio stands to enjoy a distinct economic benefit from the influx of comics fans.
“The South is a huge market, sort of unrealized for events of this type,” Clanton said. “A fair amount of attendees are local San Antonians, but many are not.”
In its first year, ACCC drew 35,000 attendees over the course of the three-day weekend. Convention officials expect this year’s Con to be as big or bigger. Comic Con will not only enliven the city’s downtown streets with an always welcome dose of weekend fun, but also have a positive financial impact on the local economy estimated at $15 million by the CVB.
This weekend, the characters that have come to dominate visual and narrative entertainment worldwide will have their moment in San Antonio. Attend Alamo City Comic Con for the celebrity appearances — they’re artists and brilliant folks who are interesting to hear speak, and who know a lot about the culture and the craft.
There will be a lot to hold your interest beyond celebrity sightings. Many Con attendees will don costumes that are works of art, products of tremendous dedication, artistry and time. Veteran artists and writers of comic books will be there to draw for you and speak about the medium. Courtesy of The Box Lounge, city players will go head-to-head in competitive matches of video games like the endlessly strategic League of Legends, the 2013 World Championship of which drew 32 million online viewers last year.
Alamo City Comic Con promises all of these things, making it a most welcome second-year return – the kind of convention that locals can enjoy as much as visitors.