I’ve never been crazy about local geek conventions. I’ve attended a few just to see what’s out there, but I always felt local conventions leaned more towards commerce rather than the celebration of fandom. That’s why I didn’t buy my ticket to Asia Pop Comicon Manila until days before the event. I only gave in because I was told Nathalie Emmanuel will be there. I love me some Missandei, yo.
I only attended 1 day out of 4 convention days and I chose Saturday because I wanted to be there for the exclusive screening of Captain America: Civil War (SPOILER: I didn’t get to see it thanks to EDSA traffic) and see Nathalie Emmanuel. I expected to spend the day in a packed World Trade Center and leave smelling like geek sweat like I always do when attending other local conventions. But (dun dun dunnn) I didn’t.
Did the first ever Asia Pop Comicon Manila change my mind about local conventions? I’ll break down my answer, Pros and Cons style.
It’s surprisingly well-organized for a rookie convention.
Compared to other local geek and toy conventions I’ve attended, this one felt super organized. Security personnel were everywhere and event organizers were always around to answer people’s questions (mostly about which line leads to Civil War). There were lines inside and outside World Trade Center but there was constant movement. There was no confusion, there were no incidents, everything was zen. It’s totally refreshing.
Food stalls are outside.
This sounds ridiculous but a lot of local conventions place their food concessionaires inside the convention hall. You end up leaving the place smelling like smoke and sweat. At APCC though, the only way you’ll leave all sweaty is if you have a problem with your glands. You should have that checked out.
There’s so much space.
It’s a bit jarring to attend a local convention where you don’t have to rub bodies with everyone all the time and I love it. You can actually stop walking and not have someone push you aside or give you the stare of death. Instead of looking like a really crowded market like most local conventions do, APCC looks like one of those comic book conventions in the US. I’d rather have a limited number of exhibitors than navigate through a bunch of stalls bleeding into each other, leaving little to no space for attendees to actually move around and, I don’t know, breathe.
It’s more than just buying stuff.
You can do a lot more than just buy stuff at APCC. People had the chance to have their photos taken with cosplayers. They stopped and talked to exhibitors without causing a choke point in foot traffic. They mounted a life-size Hulkbuster. They watched the wizards of Studio ADI do some magic with an animatronic gorilla’s head. They played games using an Oculus Rift. They saw an exclusive screening of Marvel’s next movie. This is the first convention where I saw people actually having a blast.
Aside from cool exhibitors that cover all fields of geek including collectibles, toys, comics, books, games, and movies, APCC also had a bunch of international cosplay sensations, comic book artists both foreign and local, and honest to goodness movie and TV stars. This level of talent all in one roof sets APCC apart from any convention we have ever seen in Manila. Paul Bettany and Nathalie Emmanuel walking around the convention hall looking at neat stuff just brings legitimacy to this upstart comicon.
Also, seeing David Mack, David Yardin, Whilce Portacio, Lenil Yu, Carlo Pagulayan, Mico Suayan, and Stephen Segovia sitting in the same area just blew my mind. I wish I had a larger budget to get prints from all these amazing artists.
They kind of left out the “comic” part in “comicon”.
There’s a bunch of Marvel and DC stuff at APCC, but they’re mostly toys and collectibles. I only saw 3 exhibitors selling comics. It would’ve been amazing if we got more local guys who work on their own creator-owned comics as well as actual comics publishers from the US. Sure, Marvel has a huge presence at APCC, but it was mostly related to movies.
Where are the panels about comics?
The first time they announced Asia Pop Comicon, the first thing I wished for was a series of discussion panels about comics. We haven’t really experienced that before in the Philippines outside of specific artists/writers visiting and doing Q&As solo. It’s nice to have Hollywood actors and special effects experts on stage talking about their craft, but I want to see comic book creators talking about theirs. And speaking of a lack of comics professionals…
Where are the writers?
More than half of the guest area was occupied by cosplay superstars and the rest by comics artists, most of whom are regulars in local conventions. I don’t have a problem with cosplayers but it would’ve been nice if we had more comics professionals in there, specifically writers. It would be awesome to get the chance to pick their brains about comics even for just a few seconds. Yes, Mack is both an artist and a writer, but it would’ve been better if we got a couple more writers.
I do understand that this is just the first APCC and we can emphasize “comic” in “comicon” more next time. With more panels, screenings, celebrities, comics professionals, and actual comics, this could be our SDCC in no time and that’s super exciting.
Yes, Asia Pop Comicon Manila did change my mind about local geek conventions. APCC just showed everyone that conventions don’t just have to be a sea of geeky bargain bins and sweaty nerds trying not to destroy cosplayers’ costumes as they brush against each other in a crowded room. Conventions could and SHOULD be fun.
I hope this sets the tone for other local conventions. They need to really step up their game to appeal to people other than existing geeks. I also hope APCC was successful enough to warrant more APCCs in the coming years because we finally have a legitimately impressive local convention with celebrities, cool stuff to do, and people actually having fun. We finally get to truly celebrate our different fandoms together.
And now, here are more photos: