The annual “Xcon World” event hits its lucky 7 this year in Myrtle Beach, and coordinators at the Palmetto Arts Alliance hope to build on attendance that more than doubled last year past 5,000.
This giant three-day comic book show at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center opens noon-8 p.m. Friday and continues 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, with a three-day rate of $22 advance or $25 at the door, and free admission for ages 12 and younger.
Last week, Robin Roberts, an Xcon co-founder, spoke about how in the last few years, “it has doubled in size” annually, which he said brings excitement and challenges for the all-volunteer crew of about 60 that teams up to throw this affair.
“Without them, it would be impossible,” Roberts said.
Although he said no comic book hall of fame exists, this genre is “pop art in its purest form” and that big names each own an empire: “Disney owns Marvel Entertainment now, and Sony owns DC Comics.”
Question | How do the movie releases this spring of “Captain America 2” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” make the timing for “Xcon World VII” even more ideal?
Answer | Every year in May, we get some awesome releases. ... The weekend of our show last year, we had a special showing of “Star Trek Into Darkness.” We embrace them; it really is right up our alley. There’s more and more of them, and it’s going right for the fan base. The nerd culture is becoming mainstream, instead of just being in the fringe.
Now it’s cool to be nerdy; I know it sounds funny, but it’s true. All the television shows now are being inundated with superhero or supernatural shows. “Spider-man 2” made $92 million last weekend. I have two kids, girls who are very young, but I go, “Look: Athletes make millions of dollars, but nerds make billions of dollars.”
Marvel Entertainment has a 15-movie agenda right now they will work with for the next few years, with movies and everything from TV shows to direct-to-cable shows. DC Comics is doing the same thing; a new show, “Gotham,” will be about pre-Batman Gotham City. Every time I turn around, there’s something new and exciting that comes out of comic books.
Q. | What has fueled Xcon’s growth and consistency in appeal as an annual tradition for Myrtle Beach?
A. | There’s a demand for it, and because of that, there’s been a rise in the convention like ours. ... When we started out seven years ago, there were only two small ones in South Carolina, and we were the only three-day show. Now every other weekend, there’s a comic book convention somewhere in South Carolina. ...
We don’t see them as competition, but as brothers in arms. We support them and invite them to support us. We think it’s universal, and it’s good for fandom in general.
Q. | The guest list stays loaded every year as well. How is room made for so many celebrities, artists and writers?
A. | It’s just really nice to see that the people who created the shows are just as excited as their fans are ... and they get actively involved with the Xcon show. They have lots of great ideas for the fans. Richard Hatch, who was in the old and new “Battlestar Galactica”; he said he wanted to show blooper reels and give an acting lesson for anyone who wants to take it. ...
Every year, we get requests from more guests who want to squeeze into the show. Our show has been sold out now for a couple of weeks.
Q. | Who’s your dream guest star for a future Xcon?
A. | Next year, we’ll take a shot at Stan Lee. ... That’s what must keep him healthy and active: just meeting fans. ... He’s the godfather of nerd-dom, and he’s highly sought after. We’re going to try and put a bid in.
Q. | With Xcon hitting its seventh year, what’s your favorite part to see as an observer?
A. | I enjoy all of it. Something in my heart I like seeing is the excitement on the kids’ faces; that’s why kids 12 and younger always get in for free. We give comic books to the kids, and we provide a lot of kids’ activities. A few years ago, when Margot Kidder was here, she mentioned how kid-friendly we are. ... She kind of gave us her seal of approval.
Q. | How do extra activities make the weekend even more memorable?
A. | The VIP Art Show on Friday night is personal favorite for me because I get all the celebrities in a nontypical environment. ... When we do these art shows, it’s three hours of them hanging out and telling stories. It’s just a moment to hang out with the celebrities. I call it my selfies-with-celebrities time. And each year, more and more of them are doing performances.
Q. | What does the regional draw of Xcon mean to Grand Strand, as a staple of spring?
A. | Probably three years in, one of the things we did without realizing it then was we’re promoting tourism and promoting Myrtle Beach as a whole. We give you another reason to come here this particular week.
Q. | From how far do people travel for this affair?
A. | We’ve had them from Europe, South America, Canada and California. This year, I haven’t seen any presales from Europe, but I’ve seen them from New York, Ohio and Michigan. We do a lot through social media marketing, and picking up a lot of people through that; they’re finding our posts and tweets, and checking out our events and checking out Myrtle Beach and making a vacation out of it.
Last year was one of my favorite memories. Two young adults got here on a single moped from Florence ... and they had just enough money for one of them to buy a ticket to go in and meet some of the celebrities. When I heard their story, I ran out and gave the other person a free ticket. I said, “Don’t sit in the parking lot.” That level of enthusiasm, or fanaticism: That’s good to see, that people are that excited to come to Xcon and meet their favorite celebrities and take part in activities, contests and games.