2021 Rhode Island Comic Con: Thoughts and Impressions

For the sixth consecutive(ish) year, The Young Folks sent music editor Ryan Gibbs and photographer Megan Phelps to the Rhode Island Comic Con, held in Providence, Rhode Island. The following is Ryan’s thoughts and observations on this year’s event accompanied by Megan’s photography. More of Megan’s work will be posted on our Instagram in the next few days.

A lot has changed, obviously, since we last covered the Rhode Island Comic Con in 2019, and you all know exactly what I mean by “a lot.” Last year, I was unsure if such an event would even be possible this year, but here we are.

This was the first major event that me and my friend and regular photographer Megan Phelps have attended since, well, 2019’s RI Comic Con. It was weird to be back in a building with literally a couple thousand people in it after last year where most weeks the most people I’d be around would be at my local Aldi.

Crowd shot at the 2021 RI Comic Con
Photo credit: Megan Phelps

This year, the Saturday (Nov. 6) crowd was a pretty decent size, but it was noticeably smaller than I’d seen in past years. Still, the crowd size was definitely helped by two marquee guests this year: Star Trek legend and recent astronaut William Shatner and film director Kevin Smith and most of the cast for Clerks. Shatner had his panel the same night as we were there, and it was one of those convention panels that was already full hours before he went on.

Speaking of Star Trek and Kevin Smith, we expected those two properties to be all over the convention but we didn’t quite see that. In fact, for the first time, there was not a clutch of franchises that were heavily represented at the convention in the merchandise on the floor or the costumes. 

We did not see a ton of cosplay this year, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any. The creative spark of the convention survived the pandemic, with plenty of interesting and elaborate costumes. On our Instagram, we’ll be posting photos of some of the other photos from the convention later in the week.

Below is a gallery of images of crowds, vendors and more from this year’s Rhode Island Comic Con. You might see some of these images on our Instagram in the coming days, along with the cosplay photography.

One of the trends with cosplay this year was we saw a lot of anime character cosplay. Only problem: Megan and I are not super familiar with anime and we didn’t really know many of the character costumes on the floor. My anime knowledge kind of stopped in 2005 and goes no further than Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I am barely familiar with Genshin Impact, which seemed very popular this year. Next time we do this con, I’ll come prepared with a better knowledge of anime than I came in with this year. I know how universally popular anime is, and I wish I knew more about it to identify some of the cosplay better than we did this year.


In terms of the merchandise on the show floor this year, while there wasn’t any one or couple of franchises whose presence really made themselves known, there were plenty of the convention staples. Lots of posters, DVDs (official or… otherwise), prints, tchotchkes and – get this – comic books, were available for purchase at the event. One of the more interesting things we kept bumping into all day were booths for fudge. We must’ve seen three different ones at different ends of the convention center floor. Stephen Smith of Chocolate Moonshine Co. said his booth did well this year and there was no particular flavor that sold better than the other.

Offerings from Chocolate Moonshine Co., one of three vendors of fudge at this year’s Rhode Island Comic Con
Photo credit: Megan Phelps

One thing we didn’t see stuck out to us; You’d think that this year of all years there’d be an increased presence of masks for sale. Surely there’s a market for masks with logos or references on them the same way there is for keychains or baseball caps. I don’t think we even saw one kiosk selling masks in the entire convention. Masks were required and strongly recommended, and we probably weren’t alone in this being our first big convention since everything changed, so you think someone would have come here with a bunch to sell.

This year, as in the past, the convention was spread across three connected buildings in downtown Providence: The Dunkin’ Donuts Center arena featured some merchandise and several autograph lines for popular personalities like Giancarlo Esposito. The Rhode Island Convention Center featured the bulk of the convention. The first floor included the main show floor which included tons of merchandise, the artists’ alley and a few of the celebrities like William Shatner. The top floors featured prop vehicles, a selection of pinball machines, the remainder of the celebrities and a few other features we didn’t get around to. Lastly, many of the large panels were moved to the Omni Providence hotel, which is where Smith and Shatner did their events. 

A scene from just outside the arena floor at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center at the 2021 Rhode Island Comic Con. Most of the vendors were in the RI Convention Center, although there were several that set up shot here in the Dunk.
Photo credit: Megan Phelps

Overall, this year’s convention was a good and different experience. It was interesting to see what a convention of this size – certainly not as big as some others, but not exactly a small event – would be run for the first time since the start of the pandemic. While masks were required, there weren’t any changes from their standard crown control and flow we’ve seen at past editions. Next year will be the show’s tenth anniversary, and we are considering returning to cover that event.



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