One of the great things about being a nerd is that you get to reinvent yourself in the way that you desire and create the world you’d like to live in. Don’t like the new Star Trek films? No problem; you can obsess over old Farscape or Blake’s 7 episodes. Hell, you can create your own continuing adventures of the starship Enterprise like the people at Star Trek Continues. If you don’t fancy Call of Duty, fine; have a lot more fun hunting down old NES classics or get lost in the resurgent world of pinball and stand up arcades. And if you don’t like the prepackaged, commercialized world of corporate comic conventions, plant a flag and start your own.
Last weekend, the inaugural Blizzard World Minneapolis ComiCon opened its doors. The not-so-subtly named convention was conceived of and organized by Bjorn Brosdahl, owner of High Class Comics, as an antidote to the more expensive and less personal shows of corporate overlords. Says Brosdahl, “The idea was to do something [that was] the opposite of their convention. Affordable tables for artists, creative types, vendors, and cheap admission for the general public.” Tickets for Blizzard World ran $3 for general admission, $2 for teens, and free entry for kids and anyone in a costume. Corporate-Con-Organizer-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is charging $45 for a Saturday ticket at their show this May . . . and that doesn’t include a possible three-digit fee to get an autographed pic from the fifth lead in Popular Basic Cable Sci-Fi Show. (If this really isn’t ringing any bells for you, try swapping “Wiz” for “Blizz” and plugging it into Google.) Brosdahl isn’t greedy—did you read the part about free admission with costume?—but he’s also thinking about the vendors and artists who are exhibiting at the show. “If you charge $150 for a ticket and an autograph from a celebrity,” he says, “there isn’t any money left for your average person to spend anything with a vendor.”
The con, held in the gymnasium at MTC High School in Minneapolis, featured around 20 vendor booths and 24 artist tables, showcasing everything from comics and collectibles to geeky glass art and handmade fairy wings. When asked how he assembled such a variety of exhibitors, Brosdahl said people mostly came to him: “I approached a handful of comic dealers that do all the local shows, and they were excited to do an early February show after the long, con-less winter. Most of the creative people approached me with inquiries. I think that there was a lot of word of mouth and networking among the artist groups.”
Inasmuch as an egalitarian con could have a guest of honor, Mark Bodé was the con’s highest-profile guest. Bodé is the son of famed underground comics artist Vaughn Bodé and is best known for his work on Cobalt-60, Miami Mice, The Lizard of Oz, Heavy Metal, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He actually approached Brosdahl about appearing at the con; said the organizer, “I thought that was really cool to have someone of that caliber find out about the first show!”
Here’s a taste of some of the other artists featured at Blizzard World (click to enlarge).
Final attendance for the con came in just shy of 500 people, and those attendees (both plainclothes and costumed) appeared roundly pleased with the friendly and relaxed vibe of the show. According to Brosdahl, “The response was overwhelmingly positive from everybody . . . the only thing lacking is that we should have had a food vendor. Some folks were getting hungry.” A possible oversight, but one that will certainly be rectified for future shows—and undoubtedly without the “$8 for a walking taco” solution seen at certain other, more “corporate” shows.
Speaking of future shows, Brosdahl has plans for Blizzard World to return soon, ideally later in the year, and says fans should stay tuned to the convention’s Facebook page for updates on future events. It’s not like he doesn’t have enough on his plate; as I reported previously on Twin Cities Geek, his store High Class Comics has recently moved to a new location in St. Paul, and its grand opening is running all this week until March 6th. The store opened on the portentous date of Leap Day, February 29 (also Superman’s birthday), and Brosdahl is excited to have a larger storefront and a new neighborhood to conquer.
Blizzard World may have begun as “a reaction to a larger national convention with a rhyming name” but it’s succeeded in creating a world its attendees are jumping at the chance to be a part of. Take that, corporation that rhymes with “lizard.”