Portugal Comic Con!
For the longest time, I always wanted to attend a convention in Europe. I wanted to know if it was any different from the ones I’ve attended in Canada and the U.S. (if you want to know the difference between Canadian and American conventions, check out my article here). And lucky me; while I was on a business trip to Europe for a bit, I had the opportunity to attend a convention in the lovely country of Portugal.
That convention was Comic Con Portugal!
I only went for one day but I had an awesome time and a very unique experience, being in a foreign country not knowing the native language.
In this post, I’ll share with you my experience attending my first convention in Europe, which happened to be Comic Con Portugal. I’ll go through the similarities and differences with how this convention went and how cons are back home in North America. I’ll also bring up some interesting points as well. For most of the article, I’ll be comparing Comic Con Portugal with Fan Expo in Toronto, as the latter is the one I have most experience with.
About Comic Con Portugal
I happened to discover this convention by accident. I was looking for things to see in Lisbon, Portugal while I was there and I happened to find out that this 4-day con was taking place at the same time I would be there. How coincidental!
Much like other comic cons, Comic Con Portugal had this to offer:
- Big name guests (at least in the Portuguese scene)
- Big name companies and vendors at the event (e.g. Disney, Marvel)
- Gigantic rooms for panels and events
- Lots of games for the kids
- Tournaments (e.g. gaming)
- Dealer room
To be honest though, I was hesitant in going. With everything going on in the world right now, I thought perhaps now would not be the right time. But the event organizers did a great job in keeping everyone safe and healthy, so that gave me a lot of confidence to go. Also, I’m not the biggest fan of Comic conventions; I prefer Anime conventions. Anime cons usually have more stuff to do, have much longer hours and more fan-driven. Whereas comic conventions are more commercial, less to do and WAY more expensive to attend. But I’m always open to try new things, so I bought a ticket and went!
Alright, let’s start with the similarities:
1. Super large venue in a central location!
Most Comic book conventions take place in large arenas or convention centres and Comic Con Portugal was no exception. Most of the events were inside the Altice Arena, which I believe is Lisbon’s biggest arena in the city. I feel like they didn’t use the entire stadium for the event, but the convention grounds were insanely large because it included outdoor areas (more on this in the differences section).
But overall, this convention had a big event feel to it. The location was right beside one of the biggest rail stations in the country, and right beside a large mall. I never enjoyed conventions that were far away from the city centre, other than being able to drive there easily. But since I didn’t have a car there, I was glad I could just take the subway to the convention!
2. Security and health checks
When I arrived at the convention grounds, I was surprised to see security checkpoints before entering, where they check your bags and stuff. They even had metal detectors and a quick pat down of your clothing. I thought this only happened at American conventions (had to go through some hardcore security checks at Anime Boston). I didn’t think a con on Portugal would want to do the same thing.
And because of the situation going on the world, they asked for my negative test result. This was a requirement for all attendees to enter the convention, regardless of your V status. (I don’t want to mention the real word because I don’t want to get censored or flagged, but you know what I’m talking about). But in general, health checks have been becoming the norm for returning conventions this year. It’s the first step to getting back to normal and getting our cons back!
3. Big name vendors
Much like many comic conventions, there were lots of companies and sponsors present at the event. By far the most noticeable for me was Disney+. From the big Olaf to the Disney+ experience, they had exhibits and booths everywhere! Even their subsidiaries like Marvel and Star Wars were there. I saw employees/volunteers from Coca-Cola giving out free drinks. It was nice seeing American companies making the trip across the pond to be part of this event.
There were also some local Portuguese companies at the event, but as a Canadian, I have no idea what they were about!
4. Closes way too early
Again, one of the biggest things I love about Anime conventions they stay open super-late. Give me my late night panels and raves until 3-4 AM and I’m a happy Senpai! Some Anime cons are even 24 hours on Friday and Saturday. But unfortunately, like most comic book conventions, Comic Con Portugal shut down early at 8 p.m. local time.
While some conventions like Anime NYC and Fan Expo attempt to keep the buzz going by having afterparty events at a bar or nightclub, there was no such thing for Comic Con Portugal sadly. I suppose the con is catered towards a younger audience and for families, so there may not have been a need to do so.
5. No matter where you are in the world, us Geeks/Nerds/Weebs are everywhere!
If there’s anything I learned from going to Comic Con Portugal, it’s that we’re all into the same fandoms and culture. We love cosplaying. We enjoy following our favorite voice actors. We love watching Anime and playing video games. We’re into cartoons. And most obviously, we love attending fan conventions!
Even though I attended a convention at an entirely different country, I could feel the energy and vibe was like back home. We’re all so passionate about our hobbies. And for me, I could vibe with the attendees in Portugal, even if I couldn’t speak their language!
Alright, so those are the similarities. Here are some of the differences I noticed:
1. The panel rooms were HUGE
I don’t know if it’s because Comic Con Portugal takes place in a stadium. But man, the panel rooms for the con were MASSIVE. Like concert-sized rooms. I couldn’t believe how large these rooms were…just for a panel or Q&A I’d assume. They really didn’t need all that space (as you can see in my video, lots of empty seats). But I suppose at a time like this, more space and social distancing is never a bad thing!
2. Outdoor exhibits and functions
Now this is something I haven’t seen for a comic convention; outdoor exhibits and functions. I’d say half of the convention events took place outside, which was very interesting to see. At least at Fan Expo, all of the activities take place indoors. At Comic Con Portugal, you had the gaming tournament, cosplay events and exhibitor activities all outside. Maybe it’s because Lisbon is blessed with good weather to pull this off.
3. People go home REALLY EARLY
Now here’s one thing I noticed while being at Comic Con Portugal; people start leaving even before the convention is done. Not everyone stays until the end; some people start leaving a few hours before it’s over. But I really noticed the amount of attendees drastically drop after 7 p.m., an hour before closing. I’ve never seen a convention venue empty out so quickly before the event was closed.
Perhaps the way that Anime conventions are run in North America are NOT the norm?
Maybe I’m just too used to large, 24 hour cons in North America where we just don’t go home right away. As my cosplayer guest from Taiwan and Egypt mention, the cosplay events in their countries are the same way; attend the con in the morning and afternoon, go home in the early evening. There is no such thing as a late night event, party or rave in most parts of the world. Maybe outside of North America, no one books a hotel to stay at the convention because there’s no reason to; you just go home after.
4. A lot more to do than your typical comic book convention
One of the reasons why I stopped attending Fan Expo was because for the amount of money it costs to get in, I get bored pretty quickly. Other than the amazing big dealer’s room, there really isn’t much to do for me. I’m not too big on celebrity guests, so while I’m sure it’s super fun for many people, it’s not too appealing to me.
However with Comic Con Portugal, I never found myself bored. Now I might be biased because I was in a foreign convention in a foreign country. But still, there were a lot of things to do at the event: shop at the dealer’s room, trying out all the exhibits from the vendors, watching a panel in the concert-sized rooms, take pictures, wander around the sprawling area, have some fun in the cosplay booth, check out a gaming tournament, etc. I was even offered to play UNO with some cosplayers there!
5. Much smaller dealer’s room
For a big convention like Comic Con Portugal, the dealer’s room was pretty small. There weren’t that many merchants you could buy stuff from. I mean, it was a decent size. But they definitely had the space to fit way more vendors in the building. I feel like it has more to do with costs. Perhaps it was too expensive for potential merchants to purchase a booth for a big venue like this. Either that, or I’m just used to the enormous dealer rooms of American con, which may not be the norm after all.
So those were all the differences I noticed!
It was interesting to have people come up to me asking for my photo in Portuguese. I had NO idea what they exactly said, but I knew they wanted my photo and I just said “Si” and when they said, “Thank you,” I replied with “Da Nada.” One conversation they were talking to me in Portuguese the whole time and I completely got away with them thinking I knew the language. 🙂
As I mentioned earlier, we may speak different languages. But us Weebs have the same passion and energy for our hobby!
To summarize, here the similarities and differences I noticed with Comic Con Portugal in Europe compared to Comic Cons in Canada:
- Super large venue in a central location!
- Security and health checks
- Big name vendors
- Closes way too early
- Geeks/Nerds/Weebs are everywhere!
- The panel rooms were HUGE
- Outdoor exhibits and functions
- People go home REALLY EARLY
- A lot more to do than your typical comic book convention
- Much smaller dealer’s room
I was so happy to attend Comic Con Portugal; I learned a lot about convention-going as a result. I’m looking forward to attending more different cons in the future. What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments below!