Wham! Blam! Pow! 1st Budapest Comic Con off the Drawing Board

In Budapest

Budapest will host what I believe is its first comic convention, comic-con for short, on June 11 and 12, joining the ranks of around 70 cities worldwide that encourage mass gatherings of rabid comics, fantasy, movie and cosplay fans. The city will also become part of an industry that, according to a 2019 Forbes article, “contributes billions of dollars in economic impact to host cities.”

The first comic-con events were held in the United States in the late 1960s, the Silver Age of the printed comic and a time when titans Marvel and DC Comics were becoming more sophisticated and widely collected. This was when eight-year-old me discovered superheroes from Spiderman to lesser-known dudes like The Ghost Rider and Swamp Thing and entered a universe of intricate, cross-hatched art and audacious storytelling that made life in small-town England considerably more bearable.

Over the years, comic-cons have grown into often enormous events such as the acknowledged heavyweight, Comic-Con International in San Diego, California. This attracts hundreds of thousands of people and brings revenue to the city estimated to be more than USD 100 million.

Today, comic-con events are often held in cavernous venues lined with stalls selling eye-pounding comic book art and ornate merchandise. They have also become a powerful platform for personal appearances by stars of small and gigantic screen superhero adventures promoting their movies or simply basking in the adulation of their followers.

This is despite a battle with the archvillain COVID-19, whose presence may have contributed to the growth of the comics and fantasy industries. According to Comichron, the online resource that shares data on the comic book industry, in summer 2021, sales of comic books were as high as they’d been in the previous 25 years at around 24.2 million copies. Thank all those locked down children, and adults, escaping into a fantasy world.

Factor in the astonishing success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (USD 23 bln box office revenue worldwide, more than twice as much as the second-placed Star Wars franchise), and you can see why comic-cons are an attractive proposition.

Driven by Fans

Cold hard cash might make a city see the sense of welcoming an army of cosplayers dressed as their favorite superhero. But comic-cons are really driven by fans like Gergely Csanda, project leader of the plucky band organizing this first Budapest Comic Con, a self-confessed Star Wars obsessive and event Jedi.

“Our company, Meex, has a long history in event organization,” explains Csanda, “we started the PlayIT show, the biggest gaming event in Hungary. So, we know how to market to specialist communities. We noticed that there is a huge range of comics and fantasy-related events in countries neighboring Hungary but nothing here. Comics are another passion of ours, so we are more than happy to make this event a reality.”

Thanks to the demon COVID-19, Budapest Comic Con, originally intended to spawn in 2020, was postponed several times. “We’re very grateful to our community who stood with us in these hard times,” says Csanda.

It looks like Budapest Comic Con is in safe hands. Csanda has a long history with PlayIT and the PlayIT Show. Nikoletta Füstös, who handles partners and sponsors, is steeped in marketing communication and sponsorship. Gábor Kovács, who has managed more than 200 events, is responsible for the smooth running of Budapest Comic Con.

Despite the persuasive business case for comic-cons, it seems that Meex has shouldered the burden of launching the Budapest event pretty much by itself. But, as Csanda explains, “Due to our previous projects, we can guarantee the necessary cash flow for the event. Thanks to huge interest in the event, we also have healthy ticket pre-sales.”

If you’re tempted by Budapest Comic Con, and I confess I am, Csanda promises an exciting program of events. Roundtable discussions will cover the state of Hungarian movie and comic production, the streaming situation in Hungary, and Marvel voice actors. There will be a session dedicated to Hungary’s Digic Pictures, a 19-year-old animation studio that has built a reputation with high-end 3D animation for feature films, commercials, and the video game industry. Digic is particularly respected for its realistic characters and fine detailing.

Highlander Interview

The legendary Christopher Lambert, star of “Highlander,” “Mortal Kombat” and “Beowulf,” will be interviewed, as will Georgia Hirst (Maiden Tovi from “Vikings”) and Scottish actor Sean Biggerstaff, best known as Oliver Wood in the Harry Potter film series.

Closer to home, there will also be an interview with Hungarian András Réz, who wrote the screenplay for the musical “56 Drops of Blood” (“56 csepp vér,” a re-telling of the Romeo and Juliet story through the prism of the 1956 Uprising) and “Linda,” a cult 1980s Hungarian TV show about the adventures of a young girl who uses martial arts to fight crime.

Biggerstaff, Hirst and Lambert will be available to meet and greet fans. So, if you fancy a selfie with the Highlander, a Viking or part of the Harry Potter gang, you know where to go.

Csanda promises several exhibitions spanning comic and movie memorabilia as well as a Star Wars exhibit. More than 30 artists will show their work in an “artist alley.” Various companies will be displaying their wares. And, says Csanda, there will be plenty of shops with “real geek stuff to buy.”

There will also be a cosplay competition. For me, this might well be worth the price of entry alone. I have friends in the States who are into cosplay (a portmanteau word from costume play) and, as someone whose auntie made me a purple Batman costume when I was 10, it fascinates me.

If you’re thinking of entering, bear in mind that cosplay competitions are judged on accuracy, craftsmanship, presentation, and audience impact.

Find out more about the Budapest Com Con at its official Hungarian-language only website, www.budapestcomiccon.hu

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of May 6, 2022.

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