The Fourth Annual Geek/Art CONfluence celebrates inclusive geek culture The Fourth Annual Geek/Art CONfluence celebrates inclusive geek culture

Walking around Syracuse University’s Shaffer Art Building on a Sunday afternoon, eyes are pulled in multiple directions.

There are big TVs set up with Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart displayed on the other Visitors also see large displays of artwork for sale and “take a picture with a stormtrooper booth.” This is what the fourth annual Geek/Art CONfluence events looked like.

Focused on creativity, inclusion and diversity in geek culture, the CONfluence featured many different activities including a Batman drawing competition, guest speaker panels, a cosplay show and numerous vendors displaying artists’ various works.

A poster against a wall for Tyler Boss
Tyler Boss was one graphic novelist who attended the event after traveling from Buffalo. He reviewed artists’ portfolios as well.
© 2023 Brittany Miller

Geek/Art CONfluence originally branched out of an older Syracuse comic con called Cripping the Comic Con, founder and associate professor at SU’s school of Visual Performing Arts, Chris Wildrick said.

The founders of Cripping the Comic Con ran out of funding and then teamed up with Wildrick to form the Geek/Art CONfluence holding the same values of promoting disability awareness in geek culture.

“It was important for them (founders of Cripping the Comic Con) to put out there and give a space to people who are not normally seen within the comics world to have something that focuses on them,” Wildrick said.

A comic con booth with old comic memorabilia on it
Attendees also had the ability to “choose their own adventure,” Wildrick said. One of the booths had a bunch of old Marvel and DC comics gear.
© 2023 Brittany Miller

The event ranged from having Syracuse University representation, with the SU’s gaming club, to more local representation including: Jesse Humiston of Funkytown Comics located in Camillus.

One booth featured art prints from Yvonne Ogbechie, an SU sophomore studying art. She explained how excited she was to have a booth this year in comparison to just being an attendee at last year’s Geek/Art CONfluence.

“I enjoyed going to the con this year, but I loved being able to display my art at this con a lot more,” Ogbechie said.

Allison Myers and Sophie Buchanan, members of the SU Gaming Club, had a collection of older board games set up this year instead of holding their traditional Dungeons and Dragons booth. They gathered people by playing classic childhood games like Hungry Hungry Hippos, Connect Four and Jenga.

“We’ve had a lot of people stop by our table which surprised me,” Myers said. “We don’t fit the typical comic-con vibe, but I think that just shows how different this con is.”

Events held at this year’s Geek/Art CONfluence:

  • Mario Kart and Smash Bros. Tournaments

  • Draw Batman contest

  • Board games on the second floor

  • Luna Cat Cafe on the fourth floor

  • Cosplay Contest both online and in-person

  • Guest speakers

  • Portfolio reviews by Tyler Boss (graphic novelist)

  • Vendors selling various merchandise and art

The goal of this event was to have one activity for everyone, Wildrick said.

One new event added this year was the Luna Cat Cafe on the fourth floor to bring cats for visitors to sit with. Wildrick said he had previously seen the cafe’s own version of comic con called Lunacon where they showed more than cats, but general aspects of Japanese culture such as anime.

He also mentioned how stressed students and how helpful the therapy dogs are at the Barnes Center of the Arch, but there wasn’t an option for cat-lovers.

“We had some students make comments about how some people are dog people and some people are cat people and that it’d be nice if they had the opportunity to see some cats,” he said.

A poster against a building outside
The Geek/Art CONfluence took place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
© 2023 Brittany Miller

Another new addition was an art contest. Attendees were presented with someone dressed up in Batman cosplay and prizes were given to both adults and children who submitted their interpretation of the character.

Wildrick said how many different interpretations could branch off of Batman based on the various movies and comics.

“You have your movie Batman, your 60s Adam West Batman and your cartoon Batman,” Wildrick said. “And so people would have a lot of opportunity for what they wanted to do with the character.”

“We don’t fit the typical comic-con vibe, but I think that just shows how different this con is.”-Allison Myers

He said some people would even utilize the tables filled with art supplies in between the different panels to just sit and draw Batman as a destresser.

Wildrick said another goal he wanted out of the con was to establish a sense of community, whether national or international. He said during some of the online events people were tuning in from the Philippines and central South America.

“If you’re a geeky kid from a small town who thinks it’s cool to dress up like a superhero, you might feel kind of alone,” Wildrick said. “But when you see there are people doing this all over the world, it makes you feel like you’re part of a bigger network.”



Yvonne Ogbechie: And this is my social media.

Yvonne: I prefer a really cutesy style. I use a lot of pink, especially in the shading. I also tend to do a lot of fan art, but lately I’ve been leaning towards original characters and stuff.

Chris Wildrick: I’m a conceptual performance artist and I do things that involve sort of organizing things in a community. You can think of in the same way that a painting might be organizing images on a page, creating a relationship amongst the visual elements, for me a comic con is that kind of thing, organizing relationships between people.

Chris: Different people like different things and you just kind of walk through and find things that attract your attention and then we have signs and whatever so if you’re looking for something specific you can certainly find it, but I like the idea that it’s a process of exploration and discovery and you’re like ‘oh I didn’t know this thing existed.’ Like we had people come in and say ‘Oh I’m just coming in to do my homework today’ and they say ‘What is going on here?’ we’re like ‘I don’t know. We’ve got cats on the fourth floor.’ They’re like, ‘We’re going to the cats.’

Chris: For our cosplay contest we’ve had an online version where the in-person one is for anywhere around here who wants to come along, but online we’ve had people from literally all over the world. For the past couple of years we’ve had a lot of contestants from the Philippines, a lot of contestants from Central and South America, as well as around the rest of the state. So it’s a nice way for us to just show how international that community is and people just interacting all around with each other.

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