My name is Tom Croom. I started going to fan conventions as a teenager in the early 1990s. I grew up in a world infused with the excitement of sharing passion for popular culture that carried over to my professional career working for Universal Studios and the Walt Disney World resort. In 2001, I started an anime club that – in 2011 – became my production company: Green Mustard Entertainment, Inc. I currently own three active pop culture conventions (Florida Anime Experience, Florida Comics Experience, and WasabiCon) along with others currently in various levels of production (including InvaderCON, the “Invader ZIM” convention, and a forthcoming Disney fandom convention). Aside from my own wholly owned events, I have been paid to consult and design for some of the largest and most recognized pop culture gatherings in North America including Anime Expo, Gen Con, Megacon, Origins Game Fair, and many others.
So there you have it: the highlights of my professional geek resume for what I affectionately refer to as “my hobby gone horribly wrong.” My reason for sharing all the is to benchmark my level of understanding of consumer focused media shows (aka “comic cons”) in North America.
In short: I regularly speak out against the stereotyping and negative characterization of fan convention attendees online, in print, and even on the occasional radio show/podcast. Fans of anime, cartoons, comic books, myths, legends, science fiction, and popular literature are some of the best human beings I have ever met. Many of them are actively involved not only in their fandoms, but with groups within their fandoms that work to strengthen their local and global communities. My own conventions have hosted fundraisers to assist a myriad of wonderful organizations including Give Kids the World and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. There are dozens of organizations with their roots planted firmly in geek culture that actively work towards helping causes in need that I’ve worked with including the 501st (www.501st.com), Extra Life (www.extralife.org), and Cosplay for a Cause (facebook.com/CosplayforACause).
Is fandom perfect? Of course not – but it’s sad to see (time and time again) conventions and events villified based on the unfortunate actions of a couple dozen individuals in a sea of hundreds of thousands of active fans. Doing so is tantamount to assuming all professional sporting events are populated with animal abusers, criminals, and deviants based solely on the tragic actions of a growing list of individuals.
Stereotypes are fodder for the ill-informed time and time again, so I’ve always welcomed the chance to help educate and inform in regards to the fan community that I’m proud to be a part of. Remember to look past the click bait and cliched rhetoric about geeks… and you’ll just see an amazing and creative group of human beings.