RI Comic Con 2017: Seriously Stacked

When it comes to taglines, “the biggest show in the smallest state” is beginning to seem a bit humble for Rhode Island Comic Con. Because when it comes to the size of RI Comic Con — which began with 16,000 attendees in 2012 and reached 81,000 guests in 2016 — the con’s popularity has more than crossed state lines. Should the show’s reach still be quantified by our smallest state’s measly 1,200 feet of square footage?

“Rhode Island has never had an event like this before,” says Susan Soares, publicist for RICC. “So word spread quickly throughout the state, but it’s gone beyond that now. We have people traveling from all across the world to come to our show. It’s not the norm of your normal comic book convention. We’re in the class of a New York Comic Con, at this point.”

This year’s show, which runs from November 10 – 12, is the convention’s largest endeavor to-date. In past years, the show has extended beyond the convention center to include the Dunkin Donuts Center. (The show famously left ticketed attendees stranded outside in 2014, when the convention became the first event in the city’s history to cause the convention center to reach maximum capacity.) This year, the show will expand into the Omni Hotel and also into an 18,000 square foot tent behind the Dunkin Donuts Center.

The expansion is a good thing. Because this year, the convention is hosting more than 130 celebrities, artists and featured cosplayers.ComicCon-WalkingDead

Undoubtedly, much of the growth of the con can be attributed to the quality of the celebs. Even a cursory scan of the 130+ shows a range of fandoms from “Star Trek” to Star Wars to “The Walking Dead” to “Stranger Things” and Lord of the Rings. So what’s the best way to prioritize your weekend? How do you pace yourself for the Revenge of the Nerds-themed afterparty Saturday night? We’re not here to choose sides (we’ll leave the debates to the con-goers), but these are a few of our picks for noteworthy events.

First off, Avengers will be there.

Three Avengers, to be exact: Hulk, the Winter Soldier and Vision. “This is the first year we’re actually bringing Avengers to the show,” Soares says. “We have Mark Ruffalo, Sebastian Stan and Mark Bettany. That’s huge for any one show to have all three of them. I can’t even tell you the level of excitement that I personally feel.” While Marvel has done a good job at retaining talent through multiple contract renewals, we feel like we can say with a degree of certainty that actors like Mark Ruffalo, especially, won’t be wearing the tights — or ripped purple shorts — forever. Meet him while you can.

Watch Shatner join the Next Generation.

The largest ticketed item of the weekend, at a whopping, double-take inducing $699.99, is the Star Trek Celebrity Pack. With the exception of a few wayward crewmates (Geordi had to cancel), RICC has rounded up nearly the entire cast of “Star Trek: Next Generation.” Your hundreds of dollars will get you not only a photo-op with six members of the Next Gen Starfleet, but also with William Shatner, who will be joining the group for photos and as moderator of a Star Trek panel. Be aware: If you want to skip the photo, you will still need to buy tickets for the panel, separate from your admission, but in the more reasonable price range of $15 – $40. We’d be shocked if plenty of trekkies aren’t coming to the con for this specific opportunity alone.

Puzzle over the My Little Pony Phenomenon.

There’s a prominent role played by My Little Pony on the “Artists’ Alley” page of RICC’s website, with a section devoted solely to artists working on the property — an honor neither Marvel nor the Distinguished Competition have been afforded. To the uninitiated, this phenomenon may seem inexplicable: Is My Little Pony really that popular? Is this property aimed at adults or children? Those who remember the original ’80s incarnation may scratch their heads, but MLP is still riding the waves of a resurgence that began six years ago when a subculture formed around its show “Friendship Is Magic.” We’re not here to explain it to you, but we invite you to Google the word “brony” and catch Saturday’s 3pm panel tracking the ponies’ place in pop culture.

Come for the cult icons.

Part of the success of RICC’s programming has been in identifying guests with crossover appeal and a cult following. The sort of personalities that don’t make their way into the public for signings too often and where a Rhode Island appearance seems like a rare astrological event that you’ll tell your grandkids about. Paul Reubens, aka Pee Wee Herman, is one of these guests. He’ll be hosting a panel at 1pm on Saturday.

There’s also going to be a Rocky IV reunion. Sure, Carl Weathers and Dolph Lundgren have both done the convention circuit in past years, but this year, RI Comic Con is selling a photo package that lets you flex next to Apollo Creed and Ivan Drago themselves. It’s really hard to rank Rocky movies (except for Rocky V, that’s always last), but Rocky IV has to sit in the top percentile of any fan’s list, right? Dress like Uncle Sam and blow up your social media by sharing your story of the time you told Drago, “I MUST BREAK YOU,” and he stared at you, witheringly.

Hey! This is also a comic convention!

It may seem shocking, but you could come to Comic Con for the actual comics. (And subsequently, watch your money vanish as you lose track of space and time in the vendors room.) If your taste is more off the beaten path, the opportunity to meet artist all-stars like Sam Kieth (The Maxx) and Sean Gordon Murphy (Punk Rock Jesus, American Vampire) might be more up your alley. For our money, artist Rob Guillory’s work on the Eisner award-winning Image series Chew makes him a can’t-miss guest.

Of course, RI Comic Con isn’t short on living legends either. Former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter will be in attendance, so come prepared with your questions about Dazzler and the 1981 Superman/Spider-Man intercompany crossover. From the other side of the aisle, the primarily DC-focused writer, artist, editor and early champion of creator’s rights Neal Adams will also be signing. Responsible for the ‘70s revitalization of Batman and his rogues gallery — turning him from a light-hearted do-gooder with an affinity for gadgets to a brooding avenger of injustice — you can feel free to thank him for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (or not). For those looking for lighter on the capes and cowls, beloved and prolific cartoonist Sergio Aragonés (Mad Magazine, Groo the Wanderer) will be making an appearance, signing and rocking his exquisitely manicured trademark ‘stache.

Check ricomiccon.com for the latest information on celebrity appearances and scheduling. Because when we have to footnote that Bronn from Game of Thrones is hosting his own panel and that Frodo, Sam and Gollum will all also be appearing — you know it’s a seriously stacked show.

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