by William Robinson
Childhood memories remind us that we were kids once too. Comic books, TV shows, films, toys and memorabilia are forever linked with our childhoods. With that sort of connection, it might seem kind of overwhelming to take kids to a comic book or sci-fi convention, however, one comic convention is striving to ensure family-friendly fun. Fandemic Comic Con Tour is making its Houston debut at NRG Center, September 14 – 16, 2018.
The mission statement is simple: “Take care of the fans! Take care of the fans! Take care of the fans!” That’s according to Fandemic CEO John Macaluso. His mission is putting family first- and Fandemic has gone forth to ensure families know ahead of time that their children will be protected by taking precautions to ensure safety, having socially responsible programming and taking appropriate cosplay serious. Founded by Macaluso, the Fandemic Comic Con Tour is bringing some big A-List talent such as The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Steven Yeun and Bruce Campbell of Evil Dead fame, but still wants the fans to feel they are the ultimate focus.
Sean Patrick Flanery, a Houstonian and actor from films such as Boondock Saints and Powder, is a longtime friend of Macaluso and an advocate of fan-centric events. He says Fandemic tour is unmatched in its energy and fan experience. “It’s is the only thing out there that truly lets it’s guests off the leash,” he says, “And as it turns out, that’s exactly what fans want to experience… heck, that’s what I want to experience!”
It’s Macaluso’s dedication to putting fans first that has attracted such caliber of artist and talent. Flanery says the celebrity list is largely made up of his best friends. “And we all know what happens when THOSE groups get together…” Flanery says with a wicked grin.
Emmy nominated Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us) and Sebastian Stan all share the same sentiment. Fandemic Comic Con Tour allows them to connect with fans in a more relaxed setting. Stan had to cancel his September appearance only to reschedule for a one day affair in August – simply for his fans.
This year’s guest lineup includes celebrities ranging from your childhood favorite shows to today’s most anticipated TV shows and films. There is a Smallville mini-reunion of Schneider with Tom Welling, Michael Rosenbaum and James Marsters. Want more of Superman? Lois and Clark The New Adventures of Superman’s Dean Cain will be on hand to meet fans. Houston’s own and the original Green Power Ranger Jason David Frank can’t wait to talk with Power Ranger and martial arts fans. Frank owns his own martial arts studio here in Houston. From the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy will be in attendance! Can’t wait until the season premiere of This Is Us? Jack and Toby will be there with photo opportunities with Ventimiglia and Chris Sullivan.
Does that sound like fun? It’s a gas. Or, as Sean Patrick Flanery says, “Most Comic-cons are the zoo. Fandemic tour… is the RIDE.”
There’s more to it than celebrities, there’s also cosplay! Professional cosplayer LanaMarie from Austin, will be guest judge of the Adult Cosplay contest on Saturday night and on Sunday Family Day, there will be a special cosplay contest just for kids! This month’s cover is 9 year-old Maddy Lea, from Fort Worth, TX, who has been a professional cosplayer, actress, model and dancer since age 5. “I enjoy getting dressed up, meeting new people and movie stars, and seeing other kids get dressed up too!” says Lea, who wants kids to follow their dreams despite any obstacles in their way. Lea’s love of doing villains and horror characters has resulted in her most iconic cosplay – Penny, it’s what the daughter of Pennywise from the movie IT would look like. This character is the inspiration for her platform, “Don’t Just Float….Fly!”
There is FREE admission for kids, aged ten and under, with a paid adult admission. Therefore, throughout the weekend, kids can enjoy children’s programming, face painting and a moonwalk.
“This convention I believe is going to be one of the best fan base conventions and I’m looking forward to seeing everybody there, and I like their approach in the way they want to make sure that you feel like it’s an experience that you can remember for life, one that you can bring your family to and just enjoy. And that’s where I am on cons, I want to make sure that my grandkids are able to come to my shows and enjoy themselves and I don’t have to worry about them being treated poorly because this show is about the fan first.”- Roderick Thornton, Houston artist and Fandemic Special Artist Guest
In addition to Thornton, other artists and comic book illustrators and many pop culture memorabilia vendors will be present. For fans of cartoons, Guy Gilchrest who has worked on Muppet Babies, Tom and Jerry, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Tom Cook, an animation artist who has worked on everything from Superfriends to He-Man will also be guests.
Since not everyone is familiar with comic convention, or con, terminology, here are a few terms you may need to know at the show:
Cosplay – Short for the words costume and play, this refers to dressing up as a character from animation, sci-fi, or comics and acting as that character. Cosplayers are those folks who engage in this part of fandom.
Anime – Japanese animation. Although sometimes given a bad connotation in the United States, there are many forms of anime that run from the innocent to the fantastic to the obscene. At Fandemic, as well as other cons, you will find works that are teenager and kid-friendly.
Panel – An interactive session, sometimes put on by fans, sometimes Q and A sessions with the celebrity guests.
Artist’s Alley – This is the area where you will find artists that are both artist convention guests, as well as illustrators in all areas, are usually located. The artists usually negotiate the prices for their works different from the prices celebrity guests charge for photos and autographs, and they set their own sketch and print prices.
Fan groups – Somewhat self-explanatory, these groups range from small gatherings of fans that play board games and watch TV shows together to full-on costume and prop making groups associated with Star Wars, Star Trek, and other media.
Although to some Houstonians, cons might seem like an old hat, for first-time convention goers, especially with kids, here are a few things to remember:
- Make sure that everyone in your group that will be walking is wearing comfortable, sturdy hiking or walking shoes to the show.
- Check the website, and be sure to review guests and artist schedules so you can properly plan your day or days.
- Plan ahead for spending, and remember everything from photos and autograph tickets to vendors food booths and even collectibles and comics should be budgeted for. And don’t forget to look at travel and parking fees.
- Closer to the date of the show and at the entrance to the Fandemic tour and other cons, you can usually pick up a show book that includes schedules for autographs, panels, and photo opportunities.
- If you or your kids wish to take a picture with a cosplayer, be polite and remember to be mindful of their food and bathroom breaks.
- Learn where the restrooms and seating areas are within the hall, both will come in handy for pit stops, especially with children.
- Though being a family wearing nerd t-shirts to a con isn’t mandatory, it is fun. Besides, it might help with being a visual marker if your kids wish to take a look at an artist or vendor booth in your vicinity.
- Be aware that cons can get crowded at times so make sure that you and your family are good at staying connected at a show. If you have concerns about older siblings that may want to explore the show on their own or other considerations, check with the information/guest services table at the con.
The Fandemic Tour wants to be a show that families and fans will be able to share and enjoy, and be a place where Houstonians and their children can celebrate their love of comics, sci-fi, and fantasy together.
William Robinson is a freelance writer that covers fantastic media and pop culture, primarily for the site, ViralHare.com. He is also a father and husband so, some of these tips come first hand from a con goer. His work can be found at viralhare.com/author/robiwi/