Living in Asia has kept me a bit isolated from the world of American comics. Those little conversations when you're picking up your weekly books from your local comic sage at your LCS are invaluable. But what really lets me keep my finger on the pulse of the comic world is the oppotunity to attend comic conventions. From a journalistic standpoint I am able to arrange interviews with creators and be the first to learn about new projects from every company, large and small alike. Academically, I am able to attend panels and discussions regarding every comic related topic, so they can also be very educational as well. From a fan standpoint I am able to shake the hands of and interact with all of my heroes in the industry, and also get a chance to meet the up and coming stars of the future. I am also able to purchase books that are not yet widely distributed. And as a fanboy, I am able to geek out with my friends, pick up back issues for pennies on the dollar, check out the Cosplay, and interact with the comic community as a whole.
Recently I read that a convention was coming to my city: Busan, South Korea. Busan is a beach city, the second largest in South Korea, and it is a little smaller than the city of Los Angeles (Banana for Scale). But what is a "con" in South Korea? Like much of my adopted homeland it was a bit shrouded in mystery due to Korea's culture and traditions being vastly different from American ones. Would there be rows and rows of artists and creators pumping out sketches, a sea of endless back issues to thumb through, academic talks and panels, large amounts of Cosplay? Knowing Korea as well as I do, I knew it would be different. I was not wrong, but in a few ways it was very similar to the cons that we all know and love.
Admittedly, I do not have a strong love or knowledge of Japanese Manga. In many ways it eclipses the popularity of traditional and non-traditional American comics, having a fanatical fanbase that knows just about every facet of the medium. Busan Comic World was centered around Japanese Manga and its almost endless sea of various characters. It was not selling books, or hosting panels, but instead revolved around elaborate Cosplay, which could be found everywhere. A large Cosplay contest was the focal point of this event, and the ratio of elaborate costumes to those wearing none was extremely high, way higher than any American event. There were almost no creators present, and no books for sale, but sketches could be commissioned by amateur artists of your favorite manga characters. There was one small exhibit on a back wall, but the event itself was very small in scope and we walked through it completely in less than one hour.
What I did see was a strong sense of community between the fans. The Cosplay was extremely elaborate, and the costumes were undoubtedly expensive to construct in most cases. Fans and spectators delighted in taking pictures. When asking for one you were expected to say something along the lines of: "Picture please. Can you please do your pose?" The Cosplayer would then strike a pose indicative of the character and then a picture would be taken. It was nice to see the Cosplayers being so accommodating, and the fans showing such a thorough appreciation of their efforts. All in all it was almost a complete departure from an American comic book convention. While I did not know the characters being portrayed, or get a chance to feel the satisfaction of walking a massive convention floor hall for three straight days participating in everything American comics, I did leave with a positive feeling regarding the event. It was well worth my 4000 Won (Roughly $4) to see a different community come together in appreciation of what is obviously a passion to so many. At the end of the day however, there's no place like home.