Over the last decade or so, there has been a massive shift in how the mainstream perceives what used to be written off as “geek culture.” One quick look at the annual box-office tallies should tell you all you need to know about where things that used to be niche interests – superheroes, fantasy, and sci fi – stand in the current cultural landscape. And while I used to have to conceal my interest in such things as a painfully self-conscious teenager, they are now openly celebrated in a way that would’ve absolutely blown my mind. One can bring up legitimate concerns over a single genre’s unprecedented stranglehold on culture, coasting on nostalgia, and arrested development. But the reality is irrefutable: truly, the geeks have inherited the earth.
And it’s not really any different in Argentina, where pieces of entertainment such as Game of Thrones (RIP) and the latest Marvel films have completely dominated popular discourse. This is why, back in 2013, the timing was just right for an event such as Argentina Comic-Con to come along and serve as a celebration of all things geek & pop culture. And this is why, six years later, it’s bigger and better than ever.
We spoke with Roberto Schenone, the director and one of the founding partners of Argentina Comic-Con, as well as the host of the Argentina Comic-Con Night Show on Radio Vorterix. “There wasn’t anything quite like it,” he told us. “Sure, there were a few scattered conventions here and there, but nothing that served as a one-stop compendium for all things popular culture. [The founding partners] have all been lucky enough to attend various conventions, such as the San Diego Comic-Con, and we saw that there was space for something like this in Argentina. That is why we got together and decided to make it happen.” Six years later, Argentina Comic-Con has blossomed into a many-headed beast of truly comic-book proportions, and demand for this type of event is such that it has gone from annual to biannual.
Having stood in the middle of the Costa Salguero auditorium during one of these events, I can personally attest to both the massive scope and the surreal nature of it all. Hundreds of cosplayers in incredibly elaborate costumes from various pop-culture properties stop and pose with fans, as well as with each other, creating the illusion of a particularly ambitious crossover event. A seemingly endless parade of stands feature original artwork and merchandise: everything from stickers and prints to ornate busts and collectibles.
People of all ages stream through the halls in strange and winding patterns, and the most enthusiastic make their way over to the main stage, which hosts interviews with various celebrities who are promoting their latest work. And everywhere you turn: comics, from the tried-and-true DC/Marvel fare to smaller, independent, creator-owned titles by up-and-coming artists who are more than happy to talk to you about their work.
“It’s a balancing act. We want to make sure we feature things that have more of a massive audience while also giving space to artists who are just starting out,” Schenone told us. “We also want to appeal to as many people as possible, which is why this is an event for the entire family and not just the hardcore collectors. We wanted to make a space for everybody to enjoy these things.”
It’s this duality that is so interesting about Argentina Comic-Con. On one hand, you have the giant stands with corporate sponsorship and big bright shiny Netflix banners promoting media that is only tangentially related to comic books, and then on the other you have the Artist Alley: a throng of passionate creators and illustrators trying to break through the noise and have their work noticed. If you make it to the event, our suggestion is to chat with a few creators and scope out some of the work that they feature, as it is often wonderfully strange and exciting as the event itself.
Speaking of strange and exciting, throughout the entire event there is a feeling that it’s all leading up to the cosplay competition, which takes place toward the end of the day. Part beauty pageant, part unspeakably bizarre fever dream, the cosplay competition sees dozens of fans wearing impressively elaborate costumes and working the stage doing their best impression of whatever character it is they’re representing. Of course, this is to varying degrees of success; sometimes the characters act like they’ve been taken right out of their respective properties, while other times you get surreal moments like Hello Kitty and Son Goku dabbing together on stage. And no matter how strange or incongruous it gets, it’s all part of the fun of fandom. Letting go of preconceived notions of acceptable behavior or what grown adults should be into. The sheer joyous weirdness of it all eventually wins out.
Wherever you may stand on things like comics, sci-fi, fantasy and the like – whether you’re a true believer, a skeptic, or a dilettante – spending a day at Argentina Comic-Con is fun. There’s art. There’s celebrities. There’s food trucks. There are weirdos in costumes. And there’s an opportunity to discover new and exciting creative voices. Just make sure to leave your self-seriousness at the door.
The 11th edition of Argentina Comic-Con takes place from May 24-26, at Centro Costa Salguero. Tickets are available on its website.