Another year, and another Motor City Comic Con (MCCC) has come and gone. I had aspirations to get some good interviews and see some panels this year, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I only went on Sunday (the last day). Also, I took my three boys, ages six, ten, and twelve. Sunday is family day, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, kids get in free. On the other hand, kids get in free. That day is always super-packed with families and people in general. So maybe I didn’t get to see everything, and maybe I didn’t get the inside scoop from any real comics pros, but I did still have a good time.
One thing I definitely did come away with are some general tips to going to a con with kids. Kids are extremely fickle, so the most important thing is to plan ahead and have an idea of what you most want to see and do. Leaving it up to them doesn’t always end well, so asking little Jimmy or Suzie “What do you want to see” is not the best way to handle it until everything else has been done. There are so many things to see and so much chaos, their little brains overload, and until they get a bit older (my twelve-year-old is almost there), they aren’t going to have the slightest idea. So here are some very general ideas and observations.
Kids Don’t Care
I’ve never attended a massive convention like SanDiego, or even C2E2. Detroit by comparison may be smaller, but it is still packed with things to see and people wanting to see them. Having three kids (albeit well-behaved ones) presents some challenges.
For one thing, kids do not care about celebrities. At least mine don’t.
“Look, over there is Sean Astin”
“Sean Astin, he played Samwise in the Lord of the Rings movies.”
Repeat for basically every other media guest.
So, as one can imagine, standing in line for photos or signatures is excruciating for kids. Did not attempt.
Another thing: Kids don’t care about celebrities, so they have zero interest in what they have to say. There were a handful of panels I would have liked to have gone to, but considering the temperature of the water after parking, walking, and getting passes, I figured it would not be a productive use of anyone’s time. Did not attempt.
If kids don’t care about celebrities, or what celebrities have to say, they really really don’t care about comic creators. Aside from seeing some fun and exciting art of Undertale or Steven Universe characters, they could honestly give less than a crap about the people behind the desk. I brought my Wonder Woman #2 hoping to get time for a signing from Nicola Scott. Luckily, the comic guests did not have the same kind of crowds as the media guests. Did attempt.
I’m not what anyone would call a hard-hitting journalist. I mean, I have written many things (mostly Op Eds or reviews), but interviews are not my strong suit. I’m also really excitable when it comes to writers and artists (even more so than about actors). I still get a thrill at a mere “like” or “retweet” from creators online. I’m just a huge fangirl for comic folks, and I guess it never occurred to me that this would be a problem. Throw being pretty shy into the mix, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
So I talked my boys into letting me wait to see Nicola Scott. Children respond well to bribery, but make sure you save that tactic for what you most want to do. There I am, standing there, and there she is, casually chatting up another fan. He’s done this before; he has a recording device and is jotting down notes. I’m… a doofus. I’ve got my WW#2 in hand and my phone set to camera. I take a picture of her because I don’t know what else to do. I listen to her delightful Aussie lilt as she describes what kind of pens she uses or something. She smiles a lot and seems very nice. For my kids’ part, they are patiently waiting. There were enough other artists’ booths around with amazing art to look at, so it wasn’t too bad for them. Still, I could sense them getting antsy.
Then it’s my turn.
I don’t remember a lot of it; it was over so quickly. I think I asked her if she was having fun here. These are the kind of tough questions fans really want answered. (She said yes, by the way, she was having a great time.) I’m pretty sure I told her I love her work, a real power-play move. She obviously folded under the pressure. (She smiled and said thank you.) The next thing I knew, I had thanked her and had walked away with a signed book in my hand. I had forgot to ask for a picture. I was too mortified to go back and ask.
I saw some other comics people there too, but I didn’t bother them. I didn’t have anything to sign, and was still pretty embarrassed (and fricking pumped) from meeting Nicola. She was the one I really wanted to see anyways. So we went toy shopping. Can I have my Pulitzer now?
This convention like any others attracts tons of vendors. Not just of vintage comics, but of toys and memorabilia. One of the big pitfalls to navigate with kids is steering clear of vintage toy collectors. There is nothing wrong with what they do, but kids don’t get it at all. They don’t see a thing that is way overpriced due to its age and rarity, they just see a brightly colored talisman of joy that they must have, even if it’s a $15 weinermobile whistle (true story).
The best thing to do is to keep younger kids away from the vintage toy booths and stick to stuff that is hard to get at your average Toys R Us. Example: My oldest wanted steampunk goggles. I’m not going to get into my general feelings about steampunk and steampunk fashion here. I’m just glad to have a little proto-geek to nurture, so yeah. You can’t just go out and buy custom steampunk goggles at Target. That’s an easy win.
Another fun thing to look for is imported stuff. Anime memorabilia is another thing that isn’t always available, and my boys like some Anime. My youngest just had to have some neko ears, and the middle one loves Pokemon and Studio Ghibli movies. He almost got a stuffed Totoro, but he didn’t because of the thing that has become the bane of my Con-going existence: mystery boxes.
What is a mystery box? Well, it’s a brightly colored cardboard box full of random geeky stuff. I’ll admit, it’s kind of fun if you go into it knowing you could probably get some stuff you don’t care about or want, but at $29 and up, it’s an expensive gamble. These things had my boys captivated, and there was no talking them out of it. They. Wanted. Mystery boxes.
In prior years we had gotten one box and split the stuff up. I got a sonic screwdriver in one, which they didn’t want, so easy pickings for ol’ dad. This time they wanted their own. There were themed ones this year, and they really wanted a Steven Universe one and a Rick and Morty one.
Once again, mystery boxes aren’t bad things. They can be fun, and we came away with some good stuff this year. My advice, though, for any con-goers with younger kids is this: Save them for last. I should have remembered from years before, but I somehow forgot again. The mystery box signals the end of a child’s con-going experience. It’s like the 2-minute warning in football (sorry, sports metaphor).
Once they have it, they want to open it up and haggle over the contents immediately. Even if negotiations are short, once they are over and everyone has laid claim to the booty inside, no one wants to carry the dang thing. They carried theirs for approximately ten feet before they wanted to go home. So that was about all she wrote for 2017.
MCCC Will Be Back (And So Will I)
So I didn’t get Andy Lanning or Kenneth Rocafort to sign anything, nor did I try to talk to them because of reasons. I didn’t get time to look for discount trades or for that one missing link in my DeConnick Captain Marvel run (that one issue still haunts me). But this year was important because it was a learning moment. Next year I will go in with a plan. That plan is to go at least one day without kids. I love my little nerdlings, but they are easily distracted.
Next year I’ll get some real interviews and go to some panels. I’ll remember to ask for photos. I did happen to get some photos from some nice cosplayers this year though. (See those below. Remember, always ask permission and mind your P’s and Q’s, it’s just the right thing to do.) But, next year, I’ll actually check the settings on my dumb camera so that most of them aren’t all blurry.
Thanks, MCCC, and I’ll see you next year!