When Ant-Man and the Wasp is swarming the box office, it's a good time to be small and nimble.
"This is a young, premier comic con, with the caliber of artists and experiences that we can offer. We're not a large comic con; we're not a large city, but we offer a lot of the flavor," says Chris Spellman, founder and executive producer of Comic Con Palm Springs, which runs Aug. 24–26 at the Palm Springs Air Museum.
For pop culture conventions, the trick is to find a sweet spot — intimate, to give fans the up-close interaction they crave, but with enough critical mass to attract marquee celebrities such as DC Comics' co-publisher Jim Lee.
Now in its third year, Comic Con Palm Springs is honing in on that target.
Spellman spent time studying similar events, especially the behemoth San Diego Comic-Con International and its Anaheim satellite, WonderCon. Los Angeles has multiple comics-related conventions, with one of the biggest taking place in October.
Rather than simply copy other cities, though, he's put together elements that reflect the region's appetite for music and film. Changing the venue from the Palm Springs Convention Center to the Air Museum further enhances the sense of local character.
"The Palm Springs Air Museum is a favorite city destination," says Spellman. "Moving the event to this location allowed us to make a novel change for fans to enjoy."
Comic Con Palm Springs attracts fans of all ages.
For traditionalists, Comic Cons mean a chance to look over the trending comic books or find out the value of one of their own.
At the Air Museum, fans will find a Geek Film Fest with a lineup of more than 30 science fiction, horror and fantasy films, and shorts. And partnering with the Palm Springs International Animation Festival, held at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, creates a five-day extravaganza of all things related to the art of storytelling.
Tip: Buy a combined pass to both Comic Con and the Animation Festival for maximum access, including the virtual reality demonstrations and games, "Super Sonic Speed Dating" and Saturday night after-party.
In addition to the ever-popular Zombie Walk along Palm Canyon Drive, there's a Zombie Jazz Band and Zombie Café. In the coming days, Spellman promises to announce the name of a "very hot" rock band that he's bringing in for an evening concert.
• See related story: Comic Con Palm Springs, PSIAF Merge
Comics conventions have a touch of Antiques Roadshow about them. Want to know if your 1974 mint condition Green Lantern is worth what you think it is? Head to the CGC Comics booth. CGC, or Certified Guaranty Company, analyzes and grades comic books and concert posters, for a fee.
Pete Salcido, owner of Flat Black Art Supply in Palm Desert, is a new Comic Con sponsor. He attended last year and says he "fell in love with an experience that was just miles away." He thinks it reflects the increasing sophistication of the Coachella Valley, a sign of the ongoing transformation from seasonal resort town to year-round arts and culture destination.
Comic Con Palm Springs is helping to shape the desert as an arts and culture destination.
"I personally feel like it’s more diverse now than I’ve ever seen it in the past," says Salcido. "We have more and more people coming out here for a number of events ... not just for Coachella Festival."
Spellman knows Comic Con is becoming a year-round job. He held a preview event in May and is planning more concerts and virtual reality activities for next February.
"We want to be a fun extension, in the sense of being able to offer a level of credibility and experience for this genre, to the fan. We try to do a microcosm of the whole experience," he says.
"It's not a question of being San Diego or being WonderCon. We'd like to be our own Con."
Comic Con Palm Springs, Aug. 24-26, Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail. comicconpalmsprings.com