Originally, this convention appeared on the Belgian convention schedule last summer, as a small but fun day. This year, with the name changed to Comic Con Gent (Gent spelled the Dutch way), they came back seemingly out of the blue, bigger (literally) and stronger than the year before.
The organizers took the reviews of last year’s program to heart and limited the event 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”). The comedy didn’t end there. There was also a Geek Comedy Open Mic with lesser-known comedians to represent the Belgian humorist scene.
The program was in fact a two-part one. On one hand, you had the items set to a certain time. On the other, tons of things to do that lasted throughout the 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 the 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 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.
The organization had taken visitor comfort in mind, 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 could get stuck in one spot, they had separated the exit and entrance, which really rather well.
Contrary to some other Belgian conventions, there were no daft demands for see-through bags, bag-size limitations or medical proof for the need of carrying medication. Weapons 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 while they had a variety of traditional convention foods and drinks, people with dietary requirements could 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. 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 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 heat, which was not something the organization 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 from both the modern- (SMAK) and fine-arts museum. Nothing but great reasons to visit this convention’s next edition.
For more photos of this event, click here.