I take pride in being from the Windsor, Ontario. That being said, I also know it’s very easy to make fun of. It’s one of the most southern parts of Canada, at the very bottom tip of Ontario. It happens to be a major border crossing with the United States, being across from Detroit, Michigan, which has its own infamous reputation. We used to be a city with a big part in the automobile industry, until it crashed in the late 2000’s and we were left without any real identity. You could write a joke book of “dissing” Windsor based on this information alone.
However, I’ve spent the last couple of years living near enough to the downtown area to start to notice public events that make our city what it is. One of our biggest identities right now is comic books: we love them, and 2015 has been a big year of showing it, with multiple comic conventions and even an art gallery exhibit.
I always new that Windsor had a small following of comic fans. This is from a local television show called “Comic Book Syndicate” that runs on our local cable channel (and also on Youtube), presenting news and reviews of the art form. I also knew a handful of comic artists came from the Windsor area, the most obvious being Jeff Lemire, author and artist of “Essex County,” a fictional graphic novel loosely based on this rural area. Our University even has a literature class that studies comics.
This summer in 2015, the Art Gallery of Windsor even has a comic exhibit celebrating local big-name artists. These include David Collier, David Finch, Jeff Lemire and Kagan McLeod, a range of independent artists and artists who have worked for groups like DC. There’s even an exhibit for Alex Ross, with no local ties but still a legend of the field. The art gallery always has great collections available, and if you haven’t seen this one yet, I suggest you do before they disappear.
It’s only recently that I heard we have comic book conventions in Windsor. Apparently we’ve had them for a while. I had assumed I’d have to at least travel to Toronto, Canada or New York, USA to attend such a con. In fact, almost every city in North America seems to have at least one convention every year now, chances are yours does too even if you don’t know about it. In Windsor, we have 4. At least 4. The year’s not over yet.
On July 5, there was a medium-sized con at a local cultural convention centre, hosting artists, comic vendors, craft alleys, and a few guests including Seth! and actors from the Power Rangers, with proceeds going towards a Community Living charity/group. There was a big-style commercial con at our downtown casino/convention centre on August 15-16, hosting big artists as well as movie/voice-acting stars including Kevin Smith and Vic Mignogna, along with merchandisers and collectibles. On August 16, there was a smaller and free-to-attend con at the St. Clair College as part of “Family Fun Day,” hosting smaller local artists and crafts-people and hobbiests and organized my the Comic Book Syndicate themselves. The group from July 5 also hosts a Winter Comic Con every year, this one coming late November.
Do you notice a problem here? We’re a small-medium sized city… WHY DO WE HAVE 4 COMIC-CONS?!?! WHY WERE 2 OF THEM OF THE SAME DAY!?!? Windsor in general was always bad at promotion and awareness, and this was no exception. I only knew about these cons because a friend and fan had told me about them. I’m willing to bet no one outside the city knows about these cons. The one on August 16 I first heard about on the radio a couple days before it occurred. I overheard they were organizing their event almost a year ago, why couldn’t I find it when I google-d “Windsor comic con?” Obviously, other organizers are also unaware of each other, or else they don’t care. And why just comic books? Things like anime and video games had a small showing at these events through fan-made merchandise and t-shirts, but why not more? Anime-cons and Game-cons have slowly gained momentum in other cities, why not here?
Basically, this blog post is a call to action for these organizers. These events get in between 500-2,000 attendees, not enough to justify all of them to exist. The organizers of these comic-cons need to get together and decide ahead of time when and where their events are held, and better yet they should work together towards making 1 or 2 larger annual events instead of smaller separate ones. There is also room for other conventions of geek media, as a game developer I would love to see a gaming convention, especially since my recent travels have showed no adequate event of such type exists in Ontario. Even a multi-genre event like Fan-Expo could work here, except one where the different genres are actually represented (I haven’t been to Fan-Expo in Toronto yet, but from their website it feels like they don’t actually show anything about video games or anime outside of guest voice actors, which our con’s also do here). Being directly across the border of US and Canada and with our still-affordable hotels and housing, we are the ideal spot for this type of growth in tourism. And for the love of nerd, ADVERTISE! Make sure fans of these events know you exist, a website isn’t enough!
All the same, I’m proud that Windsor is trying to gain an identity as the city struggles to find footing against cities 10x their size. I love that our comic-cons can stand head-to-head with the other events I’ve been to in Toronto and beyond. I love that I can buy Studio Ghibli plushies and Nintendo-hats by taking a short bus ride instead of a plane. I love meeting and supporting humble artists trying to make a living off of their art, something I personally respect (and something my latest game “Unfinished – An Artist’s Lament” was inspired by). And I also love our annual Windsor International Film Festival, another event that tries to bring in cultural media from around the world. Even though my personal loves of animation and gaming are not yet fully represented, knowing that no where else within driving distance captures those obscure fans (Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema and DIG London, you both left too soon), I have hope that Windsor may one day be a place for it.