Last year, the organisers of some of the world’s largest celebrations of geekdom, ReedPOP, brought Comic Con to Mainland China for the first time. For two days, the usually straight-laced Shanghai Convention & Exhibition Center of International Sourcing in Putuo district was transformed into whirlpool of pop culture, cosplay, comics, anime, modelling and gaming.
Encouraged by that success, the organisers have doubled their Mainland conventions this year. In June, Beijing held its inaugural Comic Con and now the Shanghai Comic Con (SHCC) returns with promises that it’ll be even bigger and better than last time out. All over the city, creators and fans are eagerly anticipating year two.
‘There is definitely a fan base here, especially when people can dress up and get close to the stars,’ says Shanghai-based manga artist Li Yishan. Li, perhaps best known for her recent work illustrating the Buffy: The High School Years – Freaks & Geeks series, will be one of a number of local artists at this year’s SHCC, but has plenty of experience of the events, having also attended the Middle East Film and Comic Con, among others. ‘It’s massive there,’ she says of the Dubai-based showcase. ‘You can suddenly feel the globalisation. People all over get together over one interest. Comic Con is a great meeting point for cultures.’
Li is no stranger to cross-cultural exchanges herself, having grown up in China before moving to the UK to study business. When she got out of business school,
she actually wanted to work for HSBC, but
shifted her focus to comics when that didn’t
work out. Now, she can’t imagine being a
professional artist in any other field.
But she also confesses to being a fan
(when we ask what she’s most looking
forward to at SHCC, she names taking
pictures with the green screen dragons from
Game of Thrones) and is excited that Comic
Con has landed in China. Read the full interview with Li here.
It’s a sentiment shared by another locally-based
illustrator Billy Tan. Malaysian-born
Tan moved to the US at the age of 18 and
eventually worked for comic behemoths
Marvel and DC Comics (for six years and
three years respectively) before upping
sticks to set up his own studio, Tan Comics,
Tan, who worked heavily on X-Men-related
titles and says his ultimate aim is ‘to build a
cultural phenomenon, a superhero universe
that is originated from China or Asian
countries’, sees great potential for the
expansion of Western-style comics in this
country. ‘It was the first time that fans were
being introduced to the Western comic style
and they were pretty excited about it,’ he
says of last year’s SHCC. ‘They got to meet
artists that they otherwise couldn’t have.
Of course it’s not going to rival things that
have been there for 40 or 50 years, but
it’s growing at a rapid speed.’ Read the full interview with Tan here.
Indeed, this year may
only be the second outing
for SHCC, but organisers
say that interest is
such that they will be
expanding to take
floors of the
time around, having occupied two
in 2015. Along with nearly 40 exhibitors,
including more than 20 multinational
artists, this year’s line-up includes some
big names such as Nathan Fillion (of Firefly
and Castle fame), Billy Boyd (Pippin in The
Lord of the Rings), Amy Acker (star of Person
of Interest, Angel and Alias) and the world’s
most famous cosplayer, Yaya Han.
Han will be judging SHCC’s cosplay
contest, an elaborate interactive affair
where entrants show off the costumes they
have made in the likenesses of fictional
characters. Costumes will be judged on
accuracy and craftsmanship, from
needlework and armour construction
to special effects and scale. Cosplay
has become one of the most
visible elements of fandom in
the West and most
with the love they
have for various
is something which is easily relatable for
China-based fans, with cosplay contests
and activities a regular occurrence here
through major conventions such as the
long-running ChinaJoy as well as standalone
Yet China-born US resident Han, a
veteran of Comic Cons across the globe,
is keen to emphasise the non-competitive
side of cosplay too. ‘The great thing about
going to conventions these days is that
you don’t have to compete in a contest to enjoy cosplay,’ she says. ‘From walking
around the floor, to doing photoshoots,
to filming videos, there are many ways
for cosplayers to pass their time, and get
But what if you’re a cosplay newbie? ‘I
absolutely recommend for new cosplayers
to choose a character they connect with,
and simply experience the feeling of walking
around as that character,’ she advises. ‘I
also think they should watch the costume
contest, and attend cosplay-related
programming, such as Q&A
panels, or crafting workshops.
Bring questions, be curious,
and know that everyone is
accepted. Cosplay, above all,
is a form of fan expression,
and therefore is accessible
to everyone. You don’t need
advanced skills to cosplay.
But if you want to learn, there
are ways. China is a country
famous for its arts and crafts, and
it’s where many raw materials are sourced.
I believe that as long as you are willing, and
motivated, you can learn anything.’
Among the cosplayers hoping to have
plenty of camera lenses pointing in her
direction at SHCC is Shanghai resident
Feiying. ‘What first fascinated me is
that cosplay is able to bring me a lot of
enjoyment. When I cosplay a character I
think I have already become them, I am
doing what they could do,’ she says. Feiying
buys some of her costumes from Taobao,
but also makes outfits with the help of her
grandmother when she wants to cosplay
less popular characters.
‘It can look a bit strange,’ she admits,
‘but I told my friends about my hobby and
they were very receptive, so I am also very
grateful to them.’ Han, who has turned
her hobby into a globe-trotting profession,
echoes these thoughts and says a sense
of affinity is one of the great strengths of
Comic Con. ‘It continues to amaze me how
inclusive the fandom community all over
the world is,’ she says. ‘Fandom extends
beyond language and cultural barriers,
and you can come to a Comic Con relaxed,
knowing that you belong,’
But whether you’re coming in costume or
plain clothes, as a comic obsessive or just a
curious civilian, there’s sure to be plenty to
occupy your time at SHCC 2016. ‘Everyone
should visit the Artist Alley, and see the work
of Western and Eastern artists. I expect
there to be some really impressive booths,
so take your time to browse,’ says Han. ‘And
if you see a cosplayer, ask them for a photo!
You’ll make their day!’
Never attended a con before? Our Convention Survival Guide is here to save the day
Stay hydrated. Entertainment conventions are crowded events – last year’s SHCC drew over 14,000 fans. Don’t forget to eat,
as well. Portable snacks like crackers and dried fruit will keep your energy up, and you’ll get to avoid the overpriced food.
Travel light. Chances are you’ll be buying things at the con, so make sure you actually have room in your bag. Since you’ll be on your feet for much of the day, a lighter bag is doubly helpful.
Know your priorities. Want to see Nathan Fillion? So does everyone else. Don’t expect to get into a popular event if you show up ten minutes beforehand.
Charge your devices. You’ll be on your phone in line. You’ll be looking up series and artists on your phone. You’ll be finding your friends with your phone. You’ll be taking a lot of pictures with your phone. If you have a portable battery, bring it.
Talk to the artists in Artist Alley. Artists love to answer your questions about their work, and most of them take commissions, so you can walk away with a picture made just for you of whatever you want.
Budget. Some guests charge for autographs, some don’t. Find out if that action figure is an event exclusive, or if you can get it without a markup online. Some vendors only accept cash.
Follow the 5-2-1 rule. At least five hours of sleep, two real meals, and one shower every day of the con. You’ll have more fun, and people will have more fun around you.
See full details for Shanghai Comic Con and buy tickets below.
Additional reporting by Elysia Bagley.