It’s hard to remember a November when the streets around the Convention Center weren’t filled with tens of thousands of fans excited to spend a weekend oohing and aahing over their favorite celebrities and artists, colorful lines of attendees costumed as characters from comic books and sci-fi movies winding their way around the block. For 10 years now, Rhode Island Comic Con has provided three days of programming, bringing big names, tourists, and dollars into the Creative Capital.
Some of the biggest names in fandom have thrilled audiences in the smallest state with their personal appearances, Q&A panels, and autograph signings, from classic small-screen heroes like Adam West (1960s Batman) and William Shatner (Star Trek’s James T. Kirk) to movie stars like Billy Dee Williams and Jason Momoa, and a roster of rockers that has included Sting and Gene Simmons. Fans are happy to line up for autographs from comic book artists like Neal Adams.
“Personally, I enjoy the random celebrity encounters,” admits Kristen Adamo, president and CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Like running into Lou Ferrigno in the lobby of the Omni or Joey Fatone on the street,” she says referring to the star of the CBS network’s series The Incredible Hulk, which ran from 1978 to 1982, and former member of boy-band NSYNC, now a television fixture, respectively. “I work on a lot of events, but I can safely say that RI Comic Con is the only one that gives you those kinds of experiences.”
Rhode Island Comic Con is a boon to fans as well as the local economy, bringing in guests from all over the world to stay in hotels, eat dinner, and explore Providence and its environs. Estimates for attendance in 2016, the largest crowd to date, were over 81,000 people.
“What I really like about RI Comic Con is that it lifts the profile of the city,” explains Adamo. “Comic Con is the draw, but then people get to experience Providence, some for the first time. Also, a lot of the celebrities will post about Providence on their social media, which provides invaluable exposure.”
Over the years, there have been some disappointments, with artists who had to cancel their attendance due to illness, other commitments, and even a shooting at the Los Angeles airport in 2013. However, the event only missed one year – 2020 – due to the COVID pandemic. An indoor gathering of that many people in the midst of a global health crisis was deemed unwise, even for a group of people who thrived on stories about the zombie apocalypse.
At press time, the growing guest list already boasts huge names and niche fan favorites. Susan Soares with Altered Reality Entertainment, the group that organizes the event, says, “We are thrilled with the response to our 10th anniversary convention. Guests, vendors, and fans cannot wait for the day to arrive.”
Soares adds, “We have many household names this year, like Jared Padalecki from Walker, Supernatural, and Gilmore Girls fame; Ralph Macchio, better known as Daniel LaRusso from the Karate Kid movies and Cobra Kai; and Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash from Clueless. From the animated classics, we have the voice actors who portrayed Belle, Ariel, and Jasmine rounding out over a dozen actors from the World of Disney.”
In addition to onscreen celebrities, attendees can also meet the talent behind the scenes of comics and films like author Timothy Zahn, known for his Thrawn book series, and Jae Lee, a penciller/inker whose portfolio includes work for comic book publishers DC, Image, and Marvel.
“Our 10th anniversary celebrates so many segments of fandom,” explained Soares, “from the big and small screen, to animation both American and Japanese, to wrestling, to Power Rangers, to legendary comic book artists, and everything in between. We have guests who have never appeared at a convention before. This show will not disappoint.”
Rhode Island Comic Con runs from November 4 through 6 at the Rhode Island Convention Center.
Get tickets at RIComicCon.com
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