It’s a common misconception that comic book collecting is a solitary hobby.
Yes, readers generally enjoy their comics lying on the couch, but pop culture fandom’s biggest pastime is quite social. Hardcore Wednesday regulars usually flock to the comic book store not just to pick up a pile of new releases, but to chat with their favorite employee and other shoppers about Batman and Catwoman’s latest alliance, the superstar artist in revitalizing boom Weird X-Men or the next earth-shattering crossover event produced by Marvel or DC Comics. They buy tickets in advance for the next big comedy movie on screen (damn the pandemic if the number of people who see Spider-Man: No Coming Home in theaters is any indication) and cheer even the smallest Easter Eggs louder than any other audience during weekend opening screenings. Most of the time, their enthusiasm peaks at pop culture conventions, where legions of fans gather to scavenge for their personal collections, dress up as favorite characters, and generally celebrate their shared hobby.
Like everything else post-pandemic, the convention industry took a nosedive in 2020 when COVID-19 caused postponements and cancellations across the country. Fans and fans have had to move their chats online and eagerly await the return of communal gathering places to indulge in their common interests.
Promoter Carmine De Santo hopes to remedy that situation with MissouriCon, a pop culture event to be held at the downtown Holiday Inn on Saturday, February 12, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A convention promoter for more than three decades, De Santo noted a lack of cons in the area, so he decided to bring a production to St. Louis.
“I’ve been doing comics since 1989,” he says. “I did a few in Kentucky and a few in Tennessee. I saw there weren’t many [conventions] in Missouri and I thought, “Let’s take this and bring a show to St. Louis.” I wanted to enter an untapped market and bring a good show.”
MissouriCon will be smaller than some of De Santo’s past conventions, but there are plenty of guests he’s excited to bring to St. Louis, like comic book artist Sam De La Rosa. “He’s a famous comic book artist known for Venom. The set Venom the film is based on a book [he inked and partially penciled] called Mortal Protector“, explains De Santo. Mortal Protector was the first limited series released by Marvel in 1993 with Venom as the main character. Ruben Fleischer, the director of the 2018 edition Venom film, confirmed in interviews that the story was the primary source. “A lot of people love Sam,” De Santo says. “They follow him all over North America because of his artwork. Venom is a hot commodity right now. Everyone loves the character. I’m thrilled to have him on the show.
“I’m also thrilled to have a wrestling legend [at the convention]”, he continues. “I’m an 80s wrestling fanatic. We have Hall-of-famer Cowboy Bob Orton.” The Kansas City-born wrestler, and current resident of Florissant, was most famous for wrestling Originally worn out of necessity due to a broken forearm during a match with Jimmy Snuka in 1985, Cowboy Bob Orton continued to wear the cast to use as a weapon, which helped cast him as a high heel, and eventually got him inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.
If the inaugural MissouriCon goes well, De Santo hopes to expand the convention in the future.
“I would love to bring live wrestling,” he says. “I would like to bring other elements that would make it two days instead of one day. I want to measure the market here and move forward. Hopefully it will grow.”
De Santo hopes to bolster the show’s success with the help of some local vendors. Apotheosis Comics & Lounge (Awarded “Best Comic Book Store to Have a Beer with Batman” by RFT in 2021) will be heavily involved in the upcoming MissouriCon.
“Apotheosis Comics & Lounge will take care of the game room,” says De Santo. “We have a game room dedicated to tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, Pokemon, and Magic: The Gathering. They’ll take care of the game room, and they’re a big local supporter as well.”
Comics have a huge secondary market, with some books valued at hundreds of dollars over their original cover price, which De Santo acknowledges. “People love comics. Not just families, but investors,” he says. “Comic books are big business right now. People are looking for first appearances. This whole Marvel and DC universe, with movies and TV shows, has really helped the comic book industry a lot.”
However, what excites De Santo most about MissouriCon is the fans and families who will finally be able to come together with others to celebrate the comics and characters they love.
“The number one thing I’m excited for is the fans coming out [who] get dressed,” he said. “Dress the children. To disguise oneself. I’m just enjoying the show.”
One of the most important aspects of convention culture is cosplayers, fans who dress up and adopt the personas of their favorite comic book, video game, or anime characters. Any veteran convention attendee knows there’s no shortage of Deadpools and Harley Quinns nationwide, and De Santo expects MissouriCon to be no exception.
“We have a big cosplay contest at 4 p.m.,” he says. “All the cosplayers are from St. Louis. It’s an exciting event to go out just to see everyone in costume. Or to pick up items from their childhood memories like old toys, old video games, or old comics. It’s going to be a great day of comic culture. It’s not just comic culture – it’s pop culture. It’s for people to find hidden gems that they haven’t been able to find in the past.
MissouriCon will take extra precautions to ensure the safety of attendees. De Santo made sure to point out their COVID protocols. “We’re going to do temperature checks for check-in,” he says. “We are going to have hand sanitizers wherever we can. Safety is our priority and we are doing our best.
“We have over 100 vendors selling different pop culture items,” he adds. “Kids under eleven are free. You can’t go wrong. It’s a fun day out for the whole family.”
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