GU Comics Day: Exploring Otakon

by Erin Finnegan, editorial assistant

Otakon 2010 Dealer's RoomHas it been an entire year since my first post on this blog? I started interning here at Graphic Universe last July. Recently I’ve been upgraded to the position of Editorial Assistant. My first blog post here was about Otakon, a convention celebrating Japanese animation and culture held each year in Baltimore, Maryland. I’ve attended every year since 2002.

This year was the biggest Otakon ever, with 29,274 people (including dealers, attendees, and guests). As usual, Otakon was packed with colorful costumes, interesting guests, and a full Artist Alley (with a long wait list).

Like last year, I searched the Artist Alley on the look out for the next big artist. Many of the artists I bought mini-comics from last year had returned with new volumes of their self-published series.

I only purchased one comic; The Chimbley Sweep by Ian Jay. Mr. Jay was on hand to sign the book, along with one free sketch. Ian Jay attends the Savannah College of Art and Design, a college which came to my attention recently when I read A Home for Mr. Easter by the very talented Brooke A. Allen, who also attends SCAD. If these two comics are any indication, SCAD must have one heck of a great sequential arts program!

The convention was interrupted on Saturday around 2:00 PM when a fire alarm was pulled. It was a false alarm, but all 25,000 people had to be evacuated and cross the street. Most convention attendees, like myself, took the opportunity to eat lunch. The convention staff dealt with the evacuation with amazing efficiency. According to Press Relations, the higher level staff members had taken a Crowd Control certification course earlier in the year. Read my Publishers Weekly report for the Dealer’s reactions.

The other weird occurrence at this year’s convention was an increase in fan artist in the dealer’s room. Several years ago, dealers complained about competition from fan artists in the Artist Alley, and restrictions were imposed by Otakon staff on the number of prints and the kind of art allowed in the Alley. Last year I noticed a handful of fan artists moving into the Dealer’s Room, for example, very successful dealers of plush hats like these. This year there were even more dealer booths occupied by fan artists, selling prints of characters like Link from Legend of Zelda.

See more of the great costumes and big crowds: Otakon sideshow.