Comic Con Gent/Starcom
What: pop culture convention
Where: ICC, Ghent, Belgium
When: Sunday, July 10 2016
Originally this convention appeared on the Belgian convention schedule last summer, as a small but fun day. This year, with an ongoing name change to Comic Con Gent (yes, Gent spelled the Dutch way), they came back seemingly out of the blue, bigger (literally) and stronger than the year before.
They took the reviews of last years program to heart, and limited it to fun things people expect from conventions such as guests to meet, game demos and a cosplay competition and added their own, such as opening with a party and shops where you could really find things you don’t see at other cons.
Belgian comedian Xander De Rycke returned to the convention scene after Micro Comic Con in Antwerp last month with his famous podcast Mosselen om Half Twee (Mussels at half past one) and the comedy didn’t end there because there was also a Geek Comedy Open Mic with lesser known comedians to represent the Belgian humoristic scene.
The program was in fact a two part one. On one hand you had the items set to a certain time, and on the other you had tons of things to do that lasted throughout the entire day such as the search for the golden Pikachu.
They’re also the only convention with an 18+ part of the program, with Super Hero Burlesque, a Hentai lipdub and legendary mangaka Toshio Maeda, known for the infamous Legend of the Overfiend (probably his best known work). Anyone familiar with his work probably gets why he was in th 18+ section. That aside, all artists were available for autographs and photos throughout the day, so even if you couldn’t attend a Q&A, you could still meet them.
It was also good to see that they tried to get different guests than other conventions on the whole.
It was, in general, a very fun list of things to do and see, so even if you didn’t go there just to hang out with friends, or to shop, you could find something to do and have a good time. The organisation also had taken in mind visitor comfort, with wide enough lanes to walk through even when it was busy and people would stop to browse shops. To make sure there weren’t too many spaces where people would get stuck in one spot, they had separated the exit and entrance, which really worked rather well.
Contrary to some other Belgian conventions, there were no daft demands for see through bags, bag size limitations of medical proof for the need of carrying medication. Weapon rules were also tossed out in favor of the sensible: bring props but don’t hurt others. Which definitely contributed to the warm and relaxed atmosphere of this convention.
What was definitely also a bonus is that you were allowed to bring in your own food and drink and that there was enough room to consume it. So whilst they had a variety of traditional convention foods and drinks, people with dietary requirements they didn’t cater to could just eat their own lunch on the picnic benches, or benefit from the warm weather and the Citadel Park literally right outside the gates of the venue for a meal outside, as the park has plenty of benches and picnic tables. They even had a couple of food trucks outside, in what seems to become a Starcom tradition. It’s a good tradition to have.
Because a full day at a convention can be quite tiring, Starcom traditionally has a room with plenty of seating available upstairs which serves as nothing else but an area where you can just sit and chill out for a bit. Which is an excellent addition to the event. Every convention should have one.
Contrary what you would guess from the program containing an 18+ section, Starcom is one of the most family friendly conventions you’ll find. We saw many people with their children, even with children cosplaying. At Starcom, cosplay is definitely an all ages affair, and you can find some seriously amazing cosplays there. Cosplay wise, it really doesn’t have to give in for big conventions such as Made in Asia and even Japan Expo.
The only downside to the convention was the infernal heat, which was not something the organisation could do anything about. They did what they could, but in the end of the day a hot day and plenty of windows and glass walls simply provides a greenhouse effect, so visitors beware: if you go to the next edition and it’s a hot day, dress appropriately, consider yourselves forewarned.
In conclusion: Starcom may be a small convention, but it is steadily growing. What it lacks in size it makes up in atmosphere, opportunities to really find original items, regardless of your fandom, do great deals on comics (we saw them as cheap as € 1 per issue) and simply have an enjoyable day out in Ghent. And if you’re disinclined to spend an entire day at a convention, the ICC venue is situated literally around the corner of both the modern arts (SMAK) and fine arts museum. Nothing but great reasons to visit this convention’s next edition really.
For more photos of this event, click here.