The inaugural Kansas City Comic Con was a little smaller than its more established competitor in the city, Planet Comicon, but seemed to feature more meat than your standard convention. While most conventions seem to be satisfied with focusing on Q&A panels featuring their big guests, this new con went out of its way to feature panels with more substance.
Now, granted – the first big panel on Saturday was a Secret Wars reunion, which had former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, along with artists Mike Zeck and John Beatty talking about the genesis of the groundbreaking series, as well as its impact. However, rather than being a celebrity Q&A, the hosts got the three to really get into the nuts and bolts of the creation and process of convincing all the creators who were invested in their characters, something Shooter described as ‘herding cats.’
The newness of the con and the youth of its attendees definitely showed during that panel, as there were maybe three dozen people in attendance. Better-attended was Adrian Paul's panel an hour later, and justifiably so, as his stories regarding Highlander were charming and witty. Paul's a gentleman who is truly thankful for his time on that series and what it did for his career
Another charming and wonderful guest was Colin Baker. He made a lovely point that the pay of a Doctor is much like that of a footballer, in that the highest-paid footballer in the '70s didn't make near what the highest-paid make today, much like he versus David Tennant. It was open and honest discussions like these that really demonstrated that the organisers of the Kansas City Comic Con understood that, as a newer convention, they might not have been able to get big names – Sean Astin notwithstanding – they certainly went all-out in terms of quality. Every guest who spoke had a unique and interesting take on their time in whatever aspect of genre entertainment they were in, and gave more than basic, rote anecdotes. The guests might not have been quite A-list, but the conversations absolutely were.
However, it was the smaller panels that really defined this con: they discussed women in comics, race, and LGBTQ issues, as well. What was especially heartening was seeing so many young fans in Kansas City who opted not for the big splashy guests, but instead, chose discussions of substance. Given that one of the guests for the LGBTQ panel was also on the autistic spectrum, there was a further facet of the idea that not everything is binary, and that fluidity is a part of life.
It wasn't all panels, though: there was a wonderful artists' alley, loaded with prints, pins, books, and people willing to chat. Several artists seemed quite eager to engage regarding certain esoteric prints – it was as if they'd put them out there as a secret signal. One such case was Ryan Wheaton's Monster Squad print, which might've been the most perfect thing we've seen. It seems to have something to do with the fact that obscure things reward your attention. There were dozens of Avengers images to be had up and down the aisles, but only one devoted to this classic bit of teen horror.
The vendors were solid, as well, although one really wished for at least one booth slinging DVDs and Blu-rays – a minor quibble, given the vast array of fun one could get their hands on. All-in-all, a solid debut from a convention that has set a firm base for itself. The Kansas City Comic Con looks to become something special.
You can find information about the Kansas City Comic Con at http://www.kansascity-comiccon.com/