MissouriCon to Bring Comics and Cosplayers to Downtown St. Louis This Week

Feb 10, 2022 at 12:36 pm
click to enlarge Costumed heroes and villains of every stripe will converge on St. Louis this weekend. - PROVIDED BY CARMINE DE SANTO
Costumed heroes and villains of every stripe will converge on St. Louis this weekend.

It is a common misconception that comic collecting is a solitary hobby.

Yes, readers typically enjoy their comic books laid back on the couch alone, but the larger hobby of pop-culture fandom is quite social. Hardcore Wednesday regulars habitually rush to the comic shop not just to pick up a stack of new releases, but to chat with their favorite clerk and other shoppers about the newest dalliance of Batman and Catwoman, the burgeoning superstar artist revitalizing Uncanny X-Men or the next multiverse-shattering crossover event produced by Marvel or DC Comics. They purchase advance tickets for the next big comic movie to hit the screen (pandemic be damned if the number of people seeing Spider-Man: No Way Home in theaters is any indication) and cheer louder than any other audience at even the tiniest Easter eggs at opening weekend screenings. Mostly, their enthusiasm culminates at pop-culture conventions, where legions of fans gather to search for treasures for their personal collections, cosplay as their favorite characters and generally celebrate their shared pastime.

Like everything else post-pandemic, the convention industry took a nosedive in 2020 when COVID-19 caused postponements and cancellations all over the country. Con-goers and fans had to move their discussions online and eagerly await the return of communal gathering places to indulge in their common interests.

Promoter Carmine De Santo hopes to rectify this situation with MissouriCon, a pop-culture event coming to 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 region, so he decided to bring a production to St. Louis.

"I've been doing comic cons since 1989," he says. "I've been doing a few in Kentucky and a few in Tennessee. I saw there weren't many [conventions] in Missouri and thought, 'Let's take advantage of it and bring a show to St. Louis.' I wanted to come into an untapped market and bring in a good show."

MissouriCon will be smaller in scale than some of De Santo's past conventions, but there are many guests that he is excited to bring to St. Louis, such as comic artist Sam De La Rosa. "He is a famous comic-book artist known for Venom. The whole Venom movie is based on a book [he inked and partially penciled] called Lethal Protector," De Santo explains. Lethal Protector was the first limited series that Marvel published in 1993 starring Venom as a lead character. Ruben Fleischer, the director of the 2018 Venom film, has confirmed in interviews that the story was the primary source material. "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 excited to have him at the show.

"I'm also excited to have a wrestling legend [at the convention]," he continues. "I'm a wrestling fanatic from the '80s. We have the hall-of-famer Cowboy Bob Orton." The Kansas City-born wrestler, and current Florissant resident, was most famous for wrestling in a cast. Originally worn out of necessity from a broken forearm from a match with Jimmy Snuka in 1985, Cowboy Bob Orton continued to wear the cast to use as a weapon, which helped bill him as a top heel, and eventually got him inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.

If the inaugural MissouriCon does well, De Santo hopes to expand the convention in the future.

"I'd love to bring in live wrestling," he says. "I'd love to bring in other elements that would make it two days instead of one day. I want to measure the market here and move forward. Hopefully it grows."

De Santo hopes to bolster the success of the show with the help of some local vendors. Apotheosis Comics & Lounge (awarded "Best Comic Shop to Grab a Beer with Batman" by RFT in 2021) will have a lot of involvement with the upcoming MissouriCon.

"Apotheosis Comics & Lounge will be handling the game room," De Santo explains. "We have a game room dedicated to tabletop gaming like Dungeons & Dragons, Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering. They will be handling the game room, and they're a big local supporter as well."

Comics have a huge secondary market, with some books valued hundreds of dollars over their original cover price, which De Santo acknowledges. "People love comic books. Not just families but investors," he says. "Comic books are a big business right now. People are looking for first appearances. This whole Marvel and DC universe, with movies and TV shows, have really helped the comic-book industry a lot."

However, what excites De Santo the most about MissouriCon are the fans and families who will finally get to gather 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 up," he says. "Dressing up the kids. Dressing up themselves. Just enjoying the show."

One of the biggest aspects of convention culture is cosplayers, fans who dress and embrace the personas of their favorite comic, video-game or anime characters. Any veteran conventiongoer knows that there is no lack of Deadpools and Harley Quinns at cons throughout the country, 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 come out to just to see everyone dressed up. Or to come look for items from their childhood memories like old toys, old video games or old comic books. It will 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 they couldn't find in the past."

MissouriCon will be taking some extra precautions to assure the safety of the attendees. De Santo made sure to emphasize their COVID protocols. "We're going to be doing temperature checks for registration," he says. "We're going to have hand sanitizers everywhere we can. Safety is number one for us and we're trying 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 for the whole family."

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