Comic book conventions, which have evolved into celebrations of all things pop culture and geeky obsession, usually take place over a weekend filled with costumes, music and art.
Constant Con — a combination art gallery, workshop and event space — wants to keep that party going year round.
The shop, located at 117 North Sixth Ave., sells drawings, illustrations, self-published comic books and t-shirts and hosts events during the weekend that seek to replicate the convention experience.
“It’s good for patrons who’ve never gone to a comic con,” said Holly Randall, owner of Flying Frog Illustration. “It’s a real treat that they can get kind of a taste of what it’s like, because it can be an intimidating place to go to at first.”
Randall is part of an initial group of 10 artists who signed on to the idea of having their own space downtown, said Frank Powers, who was looking for something for himself when he came upon the almost 1,800-square-foot location near the Ronstadt Transit Center.
He figured if a group of people could split the $2,200 rent, they could be up and running in no time.
“We’re all businessmen and women who do comic cons, but we only do them once a year, maybe twice, maybe four if you can travel. And then all this talent sits in a plastic bin, and that’s ridiculous,” Powers said.
He tried not to sound like a timeshare salesman, he said, as he pitched the idea to people — tables for $175, booths for $250. If they go over the rent cost they can get Wi-Fi, he joked.
Artist Hector Ceniceros, who met Powers at a convention, said people had different reactions to the idea, but he didn’t need much convincing.
“A lot of us said A-OK. A lot of us said, ‘Sure.’ Some people were like, ‘No, why?’ But once Frank had the plan I didn’t even need the details. I just told him: ‘Here’s my money. Let’s do this,’” he said.
The store came together in less than four weeks and was open by mid-December.
“We were all prepared. We have stores that we can set up in three hours. You get 10 people together and you a have a real full store,” Powers said.
The walls of Constant Con are filled with a who’s who of popular fantasy, comic book and science fiction characters — sometimes all within the same canvas — as well as original creations from local artists.
So far, events have included a DJs and PJs pajama party and a Deadpool-themed Valentine’s Day. Future events include a Bob Ross paint night, Mario Kart tournaments, puppet shows and macaroni art for adults.
“It’s been a blast. It’s definitely something I wouldn’t have imagined. Just the few events that we’ve done, the people that I’ve met,” Ceniceros said. “I want everyone to experience what we experience.”
Financially, the few weeks in business have been solid, artists said, and they hope as word spreads about what they’re doing, sales will improve.
“It’s been going pretty well, so far. I’ve been able to make the rent on my booth with the events that we’ve done,” Randall said. “I’m in the black, it’s a good thing. It just needs to get more awareness.”
Constant Con also wants to be more than just a store. It wants to be a place where a variety of people can monetize their talents, Powers said. It wants to be the place for people looking for a stage — whether it be as an artist, a musician or a strict grammarian.
“That girl does chess lessons, she does proofreading, copy editing,” he said, pointing to one of the tables in the store. “Do you know how to play guitar? Then you can teach guitar 101. You do Photoshop? Teach Photoshop 101.”
Things have changed in the culture, Powers said. Constant Con wants to be another outlet, just like the Internet and social media, for people to make money off their passions.
“We live in a new age of entertainment. Entertainment is the new gold rush,” he said. “You can be the world-famous juggler on YouTube. You don’t have to get that job at McDonald’s. You can figure it out for yourself if you find that creative thing that you do.”
At Constant Con, people can teach a class, record a podcast, sell their art or put on a show, either by renting a space or by sharing a percentage of their sales.
The building has room for about two more booths and a couple of full table setups, Powers said, still trying not to sound too much like a timeshare salesman.
“You have a store downtown and it costs you less than $200 a month? Less, if you split it with a friend,” he said. “Everyone that’s here is investing in themselves.”
Both Randall and Ceniceros said they are lucky to be able to make a living out of their art, and that it’s a risk worth taking.
“To be able to just be home and draw or be here and do what I love is amazing,” Ceniceros said. “It’s a wonderful experience.”