The 5 Hottest Trends of 2012’s Summer Fan Conventions

Sadly, the summer has drawn to a close.

While many wasted the last several months frolicking in the sunshine and participating in outdoor activities, I chose to avoid the wretched stench of fresh air and spent my time basking in the warm glow of fluorescent lights.

I attended a number of conventions this summer, and I’m here to share some of the hottest geek culture trends of 2012. So sit back, set your phasers to ‘stunned’ and prepare to experience multiple nerdgasms – my countdown begins now:

1. Nerd-Famous Celebrities

Are you going to find these people in the pages of Entertainment Weekly? Hell no, and that’s just the way we like it. The general population can keep boring mainstreamers like Brad and Angelina – in geek culture we have our own group of celebrities, and if you’re lucky you caught up with some of them on the summer convention circuit.

Red Letter made the convention rounds this summer. These movie enthusiasts have amassed a loyal fan base by expertly skewering popular science-fiction films with their unique blend of dark humor and well-researched analysis. Their channel boasts more than 36 million views, buoyed by the videos that put them on the map: a now-infamous seven-part review of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. If you haven’t seen it yet, make the time; it’s as funny as it is insightful (that is, if your last name isn’t “Lucas”…in which case you probably won’t be laughing).


Finally, a chance to bend your issues guiltlessly (Photo Credit: Robot)

At Stan Lee’s Comikaze in Los Angeles I ran into ComicBookGirl19 – the sharp-tongued, pink-haired beauty who stars in one of the hottest YouTube shows about movies, conspiracy theories, and – not surprisingly – comic books.


Her brilliant two-part analysis of the baffling summer blockbuster Prometheus scored her more than 250,000 views, and her channel’s total is rapidly approaching half a million. Some very impressive stats, considering she’s only been posting her webisodes since April of this year. In addition to fanboys everywhere, CBG19 has already attracted the attention of some major players in the comic book industry, and is shaping up to be one of the big success stories of 2012.

2. What’s a Brony?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘Brony’ (the combination of the words ‘bro’ and ‘pony’), it refers to a member of a fan community – usually an adult-aged man – who is enamored with the animated children’s show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The Bronies were out in full force this summer, sporting pink t-shirts, purchasing toys of their favorite characters (like Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie), and even dressing in full Pony costumes.

blaketonidarling The 5 Hottest Trends of 2012’s Summer Fan Conventions

In lieu of a bro dressed up like My Little Pony, here’s our much more preferable Blake with “She-Thor” Toni Darling

It’s a very specific niche to be sure, but the Bronies are not the only ones getting into the spirit of rainbows and cutie marks: on the popular artist community Deviant Art, there are close to 700,000 works related to the Ponies (to put things in perspective, there are around 130,000 for Superman).

Could the next breakout trend for grown men be an animated show designed for pre-school girls? Don’t be surprised…stranger things have happened.

3. Steampunk Fashion

While the term ‘Steampunk’ was coined back in the late 1980s, the neo-Victorian, sci-fi/fantasy fashion trend based on it has become increasingly hot this summer.

I couldn’t turn around at a convention without seeing someone adorned in leather, accessorized with a corset, pocket-watch, goggles, or some other form of Steampunk-related jewellery. The vendors were out in full force, offering a wide variety of trinkets, garments, prop guns, and virtually anything else imaginable that could incorporate a brass cog.

Melissa Wartenberg, an Edmonton-based Steampunk artisan, was one of the premiere vendors at the Toronto Fan Expo this summer. Despite a crippling injury that left her without the use of one of her hands, she is able to craft stunning jewelry, eyewear and custom garments with incredible precision. Melissa’s detailed work can be seen at Attic Raiders.

4. Cosplay Hotness

Cyclops and Jean Grey cosplay at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles 2012

Don’t cry Scott…Jean Grey has died 14 times already. She’ll be back soon.

As always there was no shortage of scantily-clad women dressed in colorful outfits this summer – that’s to be expected at any respectable fan convention. But this year the costumes seemed to go above and beyond the call of duty with more attention being put into every conceivable detail than ever before.

The quality and quantity of cosplayers have increased dramatically in recent years, and the once semi-casual pastime has become as competitive as an Olympic event.

If you’re planning to dress as your favorite anime, comic book or movie character, I’m giving you fair warning: you will have some very stiff competition waiting for you.

5. Robots

This summer I saw more robots than I could shake a plastic light sabre at. From a meticulously detailed mechanical Wall-E to real people who cosplayed as cyborgs, it seemed like I was perpetually surrounded by them.

But I found one group of robots that were particularly impressive: life-sized R2-D2 replicas that look as authentic as C-3PO’s chirping sidekick from the Star Wars films.

Pixar's Wall-E robot replica at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles, 2012

Just hanging out with my buddy Wall-E in Los Angeles. We’re kind of an item now.

But the accuracy of the designs wasn’t the impressive part: robot enthusiasts around the world actually make these robots by hand, and you can too. Check out the Official Website of the R2-D2 Builders Club, which includes pictures, forums, and an index of places where you can buy the parts to construct your very own droid.

According to one enthusiast I spoke with they can be built for as little as $500 worth of parts, but some hardcore builders will invest as much as $15,000.

Wait a minute...that Darth Maul guy was barely in the movie! (Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Wait a minute…that Darth Maul guy was barely in the movie!

Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle).You can follow her on Twitter, or pick up her best-selling Sci-Fi/Superhero books Vs. Reality and Relapse over at

Drink and Draw - the original social club

Drink and Draw – the original social club

Blake schooled the Bearded One with Empire in Decline: What George Lucas Can Learn from Marvel, and uncovered the celebrity-thick shenanigans of drinking and drawing with Are Comic Book Artists the New Rock Stars?

More from Blake Northcott

One Comment

  1. Steve says:

    You know what summer 2012 con trends I’ve noticed?
    1. Dressing up as an old school Stormtrooper is less common
    2. Secondary market on loose 80s toys is dropping like a rock
    3. 25 cent comic bins are making a comeback because nobody wants to pay even $1 for old comics
    4. Sketch card artists are the new comic con rock stars
    5. Podcasters still don’t do a good job of capturing what it’s like to be at a convention

    1. blakenorthcott says:

      I saw a TON of Storm Troopers in Los Angeles, as well as Toronto this Summer.

      You’re right about comics – everyone has caught on to the fact that they’re not going to appreciate in value. Back issues just aren’t selling the same.

      And you simply have to BE at a convention. There is no way to capture it on audio or video!

  2. Steve says:

    I think mostly what you were seeing were Clone Troopers. They’re different from regular Stormtroopers but similar enough that I can see how you’d get confused. Actual Stormtrooper cosplay was really on the decline this year.

    You’re right about actually attending cons being the best way to experience them. But I think there is an audience for good con coverage out there on the internet, and podcasters today largely fail in delivering it. I think a good feel for the con experience can be captured on audio, video, or any other medium, otherwise why take pictures of cosplayers or write con reports? I’m just disappointed in podcast con coverage as a whole.

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