As Saigonese geeks get more discerning, a comic con is born
First off — here’s a standard disclaimer:
I went to the New York Comic Con this year. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been to. I wished I was dressed as Deadpool, so I could have hung out with all the other wacky kids dressed as Deadpool and posed for silly pictures all day. I also went to Burning Man this year — Comic Con blew it out of the water. Comic Con is my Burning Man.
So, hearing that Saigon is hosting its first comic con brought an arch to my eyebrow. Would there be as much free swag? Would there be cool swag that you have to pay for, but don’t mind because it’s so cool (see my Nintendo cartridge-shaped flask)? Would there be as many Doctor Whos? Would there be as many dreamboats who might — probably! — want to become my girlfriend and dress up in their Psylocke and Poison Ivy costumes more often than is normal?
Organiser Kyle Farr tempers my expectations slightly when we meet. “One thing that’s been a challenge,” he says, “is we’ve tried to stay true to the original [San Diego] Comic Con, but at the same time we’ve had to adapt for the local market. They don’t even translate Marvel and DC comics into Vietnamese yet. And that’s a big issue because it basically means people aren’t as ‘into’ western comic book characters as they might be in the US.”
They’ve branched out to the more localised aspects of geek culture — professional gamers, local pop-style artists, manga and anime stuff, dance contests — and are bringing an awesome team of cohorts to the party. Tastemakers Yan Live are co-organising and doing their share of the heavy lifting. Everyone — Pikachu, Doraemon, those girls wearing the sassy nurse costumes — is invited.
That’s what is takes to start a movement.
So, the upshot of my interview with Kyle and Anna Thu Nguyenova — recent transplants to Saigon from Prague, and the team behind Saigon Comic Con 2014 — is that they’re being methodical and far-reaching in stacking the pieces, but no-one knows exactly which way they’ll fall.
One burning question is in their minds — will the cool geeks show up?
Kyle says, “We do plan on ‘seeding’ — we’re renting costumes and having costumes made, just to make sure we have that foundation to go off of. And we’re also having a costume contest, for people who dress up in western costumes. We’re really trying to encourage and develop that aspect of Comic Con.
“[And TVN Comics] might be publishing Marvel / DC comics in the next year.”
“Oh yeah!” Anna says. “They would like to get the rights.”
This is an important development, Spiderman-wise. “I would like us to be the platform where we can encourage that,” she continues, “There is already a community of Marvel fans in Vietnam, and they translate for each other. People don’t read comics in English, so there’s a bunch of geeks who translate it to Vietnamese, they put it online, they read to each other... there’s a community of western comics fans, and we are hoping that this is another step for them to do more and more.”
Kyle sees exciting potential here. “I see our role more as building the demand for that... We’re more of a platform to show what’s already out there, to get people more interested in it. Then I think as demand increases, we’ll see more supporters rallying around and starting to demand more in this area.” — Ed Weinberg
The Saigon Comic Con 2014 is at Phu Tho Indoor Stadium, 1 Lu Gia, Q11, HCMC on Sunday Dec. 7. Doors open at 10am and go until 8pm. Tickets are VND150,000 in advance, VND180,000 at the door. Head to facebook.com/comicconhcm for more info