Comic cons are back in Winnipeg

Comic cons are back in Winnipeg

Fan conventions – commonly shortened to ‘cons’ among attendees – are coming back to Winnipeg, and organizers are excited to bring celebrity guests, artists, vendors, and fans together again to celebrate everything nerdy in our city.

One of the first major cons to return was Ai-Kon, which celebrated its 20th anniversary July 22-24, 2022. Manitoba’s largest anime convention returned to the RBC Convention Center after a two-year hiatus, missing the 2020 and 2021 years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers say the event did very well overall, with thousands of Winnipeg anime fans gathering to celebrate their fandom.

“I think people were really excited to have everyone back together in the Convention Center for a celebration of Japanese culture, cosplay, anime, manga, and all that stuff,” said Justin Ladia, communications officer for Ai-Kon. He says they sold more than 7,600 tickets for the event ahead of time, easily beating 2019’s numbers. In total, nearly 8,600 people came out to the convention over the course of the weekend.

Whie Ai-Kon is mainly a pop-culture-driven fan convention – guests included Veronica Taylor, the original voice of Ash Ketchum from Pokemon, and drag performer Rock M. Sakura from RuPaul’s Drag Race – there are other locally-organized “comic cons “that takes a more independent approach.

The Prairie Comics Festival (PCF) is happening September 10-11, 2022, at the West End Cultural Centre. This event has also been on hiatus for two years, formerly taking place at the Millennium Library from 2015 – 2019. Organizers say they were already planning the venue change before the pandemic hit.

In Pictures: Prairie Comics Festival

“We were all set to go at the West End Cultural Centre, and we all know what happened in 2020,” said festival organizer Sam Beiko, “we have been pushing it ever since… we’re just thrilled we can do it!”

The festival usually takes place in May to align with other indie comics festivals across Canada, but the September dates worked better this time around. Beiko says the PCF shines a light on independent comic creators who are not as well-known publicly.

“Independent comics are not as commercially available, they basically support the creators who write the comics, draw the comics, and they self-publish them,” she said.

The festival has free admission and includes a marketplace where local artists and creators can sell their work, as well as industry panels throughout the weekend.

“We have a lot of new panels this year, like Queer Comics, where panels will be discussing LGBTQIA representation and work,” said Beiko, “and self-care for comic artists, which is something that is often overlooked.”

She says there will also be panels for anyone looking to learn how to create and pitch their own comics to publishers.

Also returning to the convention center this year is Winnipeg Comiccon, happening October 28 – 30, 2022. This is a mainstream comic convention, similar to larger events taking place in San Diego and New York. Comiccon is run by a Canadian company that organizes other conventions in Montreal, Quebec City, Laval, and Ottawa. Last year was Comiccon’s first event in Winnipeg.

“It was a lot of fun, and we had more than 10,000 people,” said organizer Jason Rockman, “The response was just great, you could tell people in Winnipeg really wanted to have an event like this in their city.”

Winnipeg Comiccon organizer Jason Rockman says they have more guest announcements coming for this year’s con.

Comiccon has already announced a few of their celebrity guests for this year’s con, including Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell and Matthew Lewis – aka Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter franchise. They’ll also welcome fan-favorite Lou Ferrigno, best known for playing The Incredible Hulk on television in the ’70s and ’80s.

“We’ve had Lou at every one of our other shows, he’s just a wonderful ambassador for our events, just a great guest. I’ve seen grown men and women cry when they’ve met Lou,” said Rockman.

The company held Montreal Comiccon in early July, and Rockman says fans are thrilled to return.

“You see the excitement on people’s faces as they walk in, they’re just so happy to be back at a con. It was a rough couple of years for everyone.”

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