The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

Central Texas Comic Con

Waco's pop culture destination

1 year ago

By Emily Ober

After their debut show in 2022, Central Texas Comic Con returns to Waco for a weekend of family fun April 29-30. This community event that draws people in from all around central Texas is one of the many reasons to love Waco.

“I’m very excited to have it back in Waco,” said Clayton Afinowicz, community outreach coordinator of Central Texas Comic Con. “Last year, our debut year, we brought in about 3500 to 4000 attendees roughly. This year we’ve been really focused on our community outreach and involvement, so we’re really hoping to bump those numbers up to about 5000 or so, hopefully more.”

In 2014, the Heart of Texas Comic Con (HOT Con) debuted as the first of its kind in Waco and it was a big deal. Tickets sold out and just over 10,000 attendees showed up at the small buildings at the Extraco Events Center.

“The Fire Marshall had to come in,” Afinowicz said. “It blew the doors off the place. We were not expecting that, Extraco was not expecting us to do that.”

More shows followed after the first year, with a smaller event that fall and the second HOT Con the following year. But then life got in the way, then problems with venues and shows got canceled. Then the pandemic hit and more shows were canceled.

The absence of a comic con in the area was felt by the community. Smaller shows tried to come in and replicate the success of HOT Con but nothing stuck.

“Waco’s almost starved for this kind of event so hopefully we can bring that outlet back to the fans,” said Afinowicz. “Even if you look, we have two shops now that are just solely dedicated to comics. Of course, you have Golden’s [Book Exchange] and Brazos Books and other places that carry comics, but outside of that, we have Bankston’s [Comics and Collectibles] and now recently Collect ‘Em [Cards Comics and Collectibles] opened up on Austin Avenue last October. It’s a really nice, smaller shop just get their footing down.”

Now under the production company Con Live based out of west Texas, Central Texas Comic Con was faced with getting the crowds back. Last year’s big names, such as Adassa who played Dolores in Disney’s ‘Encanto,’ and David Ankrum from ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ and ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,’ didn’t draw in the same crowds that HOT Con had seen years prior.

“The formula was there and come to find out that they were a little short on the local marketing. A lot of people that they talked to didn’t even hear about the show until maybe two weeks prior,” Afinowicz said. “Still, 3500 to 4000 for little to no advertising outside of social media is pretty good. So I’m hoping with the push and getting our name out more, the fact that people were members from last year gives a better turnout. More support equals larger growth, and more support we get this year means we can bring in more guests next year — bigger names, and more participation activities to the show because things aren’t free. Without the money, it’s really hard to make any impression, especially with the larger shows like a Fan Expo Dallas and Comicpalooza in Houston. These are multi-million dollar corporations running these cons and smaller cons are really having trouble these days competing with the big guys. Local support means everything, so that’s why we’ve been trying to ramp up our outreach.”

Central Texas Comic Con is welcoming Wacoans back to the BASE at Extraco Events Center and this year’s event is planned to be bigger and better than ever.

“One thing that sets us apart from other comic cons, is we like to bring an entertainment-based feel,” Afinowicz said. “We have some local acts like the Waco High Jazz Band, we have two comedians lined up, we have a fairly new comic book publishing company here in Waco —Plus Waco Comics — they’re gonna be one of our featured guests. We got Greg Peters, a local artist who’s won four daytime Emmys for his work on ‘Animaniacs’ and ‘Pinky and the Brain.’ He’s going to be there, selling his art. He does caricatures. And then we’ll have a lot of interactive things. We’re working with Freedom Fun USA to bring in hoverball. Basically, it’s an inflatable archery range. We’re still working the details on a few other things but we like to make it interactive. And of course, free interaction. People are already paying for tickets to get in there, everything in there costs money, so anything that people can do with their families for free is always good. We have two cosplay contests: an adult cosplay artist and a kid’s cosplay contest. We have four panels lined up and they all kind of worked out this year between the fandoms the guests are a part of. We have over 100 vendors and artists.”

Central Texas Comic Con welcomes people of all fandoms, whether you’re a fan of comics, fantasy, anime, horror or even sports memorabilia.

“Overall we like to envision ourselves as a kind of pop culture comic destination for those in the central Texas area. There’s a little bit of something for everyone,” Afinowicz said.

And the whole family can have fun over the weekend.

“If you look at it, Francois Chau was Shredder in the live-action [Teenage Mutant] Ninja Turtle movies. Those came out 30, 35 years ago,” Afinowicz said. “Adults that saw that movie at that time are in their 50s to even 70s now. A lot of the vendors sell a lot of vintage toys, vintage collectables, so I can guarantee someone who might be 90 years old could walk in and see something that they identify with or remember from their younger years. And then, of course, the kids love it. Between seeing all of the cosplay, all the activities, it’s just a lot of fun watching the kids interact, and their reactions to a lot of it. We are definitely a family-friendly, family-fun event.”

Whether you’re a casual or a die-hard fan of pop culture, Central Texas Comic Con offers a community space for people to gather. Get your tickets now to be part of the biggest pop culture event in Waco. Through April 29, Central Texas Comic Con is offering a special discount on passes.

“Currently, we do have a flash sale going on. You can get a weekend pass for only $25. That is probably the cheapest weekend pass you’re gonna find. Kids 8 and under get in free.”

And there will be a special after-party on Saturday, April 29 at Truelove Bar for 21 and over.