The independent team behind the Dublin Comic Con franchise have now set their sights on taking over the wallets of another subculture – that of Japanese Anime and Manga. While American superheroes were restricted to a niche interest just twenty years ago, they’re undoubtedly a mainstream obsession today, with films generating billions worldwide and convention halls teeming with thousands of costumed patrons (when I was a kid my Dad brought me to a convention comprised of around 50 people, barely filling a function hall in Capel Street).
Manga and Anime represent the next big thing. Not quite at the level of your Batmans or your Avengers, but rapidly approaching that level of universal recognition. “When I was a kid, there were no superhero movies,” says Michael E. Uslan, longstanding executive producer of the Batman films: “Now I’m bringing my kids to a new one every few months. I have no doubt that they will be bringing their children to movies based on Japanese Manga and Anime.”
So how did the convention fare? As usual, Dublin’s Convention Centre was packed with colourful costumes, many of which were handmade by the wearer. Not being much of an anime expert, for once I barely recognised who any of the cosplayers were pretending to be. Alas, this must be what it’s like for mainstream journalists attending a traditional comic convention for the first time.
While the crowds were not the teeming masses of the August convention, they were still great. There was an undeniable sense that certain Anime fans were delighted to be given such a large platform, to be represented in such a way. The cosplay competition was as enjoyable as ever – the highlight being a boy who couldn’t have been older than 10 dressed as Rick from Rick and Morty. He noted that the strange looking object he was clutching in his hands was a ‘Mega Seed’ and that its purpose was “to go up Morty’s ass.”
The guests were the usual grab bag of “a bit of everything” – made up mainly of famed Anime voice actors (or rather, the American actors who dub over the original Japanese actors). The key booking that enticed the non-Anime crowd was Star Trek: The Next Generation alum Brent Spiner. Refreshingly honest (“I’ve seen maybe ten episodes in total and I barely remember what happened in any of them”) and playfully sarcastic, his panel was a pleasant trip down memory lane, touching down occasionally in the Star Trek universe, but mainly reminiscing on his acting collaborators – working with Scorsese, Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and one Jennifer Aniston with whom he filmed a scene in the penultimate episode of Friends (a week before she and Brad Pitt broke up, “But I’m not saying anything!”).
As usual, most speaking events were hosted by a member of the convention staff such as the always affable Wayne Talbot who displayed an encyclopaedic knowledge of Spiner’s career during that panel but also gave excellent insight into how one could go about writing their own comics – he is a member of an independent publishing house named ‘Rogue Comics’ that has a number of sleek-looking titles available to buy and is looking for submissions from writers. Talbot joked that staying up all night writing his debut comic The Broker was preparation for having his first child – for no deeper reason than the fact that he’d know what it’s like to never again get a good night’s sleep
Dublin Comic Con Anime Edition was an experimental exercise to see what other fanbases exist in Ireland, looking for a place to celebrate not only their chosen property but their own individuality. While the crowds may not have been as mighty as the August edition, they were just as passionate. Hopefully ticket sales were healthy enough that there are similar events in the DCC mold that draw other crowds. With so many legendary authors like Eoin Colfer, Derek Landy living in Ireland writing for Young Adult audiences, could a “Book Edition” be a triple whammy?
Either way, here’s to continued success from the Dublin Comic Con team. Ten years ago no one could have predicted that an event by geeks for geeks could have crowds rivalling that of an All-Ireland final. The project serves as a constant reminder of how small teams with big ideas can stand proudly alongside major corporate behemoths.
Featured Image Credit: Eoin O’Sullivan