Art News

FAN EXPO Gets Bigger. A Lot Bigger.

The bear is gigantic...and now so is FAN EXPO.
The bear is gigantic...and now so is FAN EXPO. Teague Bohlen
In a team-up that Forbes magazine describes as a “juggernaut” with “power moves” and a “stranglehold on the North American market,” FAN EXPO — which is running Denver's largest comic convention, formerly dubbed Denver Comic Con and then Denver Pop Culture Con — has recently acquired six of the most successful national pop-culture conventions.

The Toronto-based company, which announced that it was taking over Denver's con and several others earlier this year, has now added the former Wizard World events in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Portland, St. Louis and Cleveland to its roster starting in 2022. That brings the company's total cons in the U.S. and Canada to seventeen.

That's an impressive number that FAN EXPO is eager to tout. In an announcement, FAN EXPO HQ talks about "big plans to change the fan convention industry in North America forever."

“Every fan, at every single one of our 17 events across North America, will benefit from this game-changing announcement,” says FAN EXPO HQ President Aman Gupta in the announcement. “As the largest producer of fan events in the world, we will be able to offer even more exclusive access to superstar talents, international brands, and innovative experiences. 2022 will be the most exciting year in our company’s history.”

Denver's biggest con has grown in popularity over the past decade, even as it has changed in focus.

Wayne Winsett of Time Warp Comics in Boulder remembers how it all began: “There were thirteen of us, led by Charlie La Greca and Frank Romero. Those were very exciting times. We envisioned a comic con, but comic conventions aren’t what they used to be: a show centered around the comics hobby, and maybe there were some movie- or TV-related personalities thrown in to sell more tickets. For the first few years, that’s exactly what we had.”

click to enlarge Wayne Winsett of Boulder's Time Warp Comics was on the steering committee for the early days of Denver Comic Con. - TIME WARP COMICS
Wayne Winsett of Boulder's Time Warp Comics was on the steering committee for the early days of Denver Comic Con.
Time Warp Comics
That early success brought unexpected results, according to Winsett. “A few key members of that steering committee took control and got rid of most of us, even kicking to the curb the two original founders, La Greca and Romero."

LaGreca would go on to produce DiNK, the much-missed Denver Independent Comics and Arts Show that was planning to return in 2021 before COVID changed everything.

That transfer in leadership meant a significant shift in the original convention's focus, according to Winsett.

“The show then truly became a pop-culture event, something we had not anticipated when we started Denver Comic Con," he says. "The last couple of years, it was mostly media guests and a slew of authors. Comics were a third wheel.”

This continued concentration on the entertainment industry over comic books themselves seems to be continuing with FAN EXPO, judging from the announcements of special celebrity guests thus far.

"A slew of TV and movie stars have been announced, but that’s it,” says Winsett. “I’m sure some comics-related guest announcements will come, but in the meantime, we’re all wondering what the heck is going on.”

Will the rapid growth of FAN EXPO ultimately be a good thing for Denver’s comic book fans?

“That’s the million-dollar question right now,” Winsett says. “All of us in the comics community are anxious to find that out ourselves.”
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen