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BRCC’s Art Department Finds a New Platform at San Diego Comic Con

In 2021, San Diego hosted a Special Edition Comic Con event to gauge attendance for a large-scale event post-COVID. The Black Rifle Coffee Company Art Department heads attended to gauge what would happen if people showed up to a comic convention in BRCC gear and see whether there was potential for future event participation. 

“Special Edition was a skeleton crew of what you normally see at Comic Con,” Chris Hunt, BRCC art director, said. “It was only about 10,000 people, compared to attendance in a normal year, around 250,000, so imagine mostly professionals and a handful of super dedicated fans. Among that 10,000, though, we saw people there in BRCC gear, which we thought was a good sign.”

Fast-forward to 2022, and between BRCC going public and a number of other big events and partnerships (not to mention opening over 20 new stores), attending Comic Con International: San Diego was not on the front burner. 

“Two and a half weeks before the convention, Tyr [Symank] got a message from someone asking if anyone at BRCC would want to run a panel and talk about art,” Hunt said. “The message was forwarded to me, and within 24 hours of me talking with Max, a Comic Con volunteer who is also a huge BRCC fan, not only were we attending and hosting a panel, but the art department was there as a guest of San Diego Comic Con.”

Photo by Garrett Costanzo/Black Rifle Coffee Company.

“The whole time leading up to Comic Con, in the back of my head, I just kept thinking, ‘This is never going to happen, something’s going to come up, the panel is going to get canceled, there’s just no way it’s going to happen because this is too perfect,’” Hunt said. “The only downside was, because we got added so close to the convention actually beginning, the programs had already been printed, so our panel was [only] visible on the website schedule and the trifold for the room schedule.”

For those unfamiliar, Comic Con’s exhibition hall, the large hall where all the vendors and tables are set up, closes at 7:00 p.m. The BRCC panel was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. — this is not unusual, as there are events and panels that will run past midnight. 

“If you’re accepted at Comic Con, you’re basically considered a safe entity in popular culture,” Hunt explained. “But I told the guys we had to prepare ourselves, in the same way a band does. It doesn’t matter if five people show up or 500; we go, and we do our thing. So we went into the panel room, and there were like 30 people in there. This might not sound like a lot, but when you’re not expecting anyone, and there’s not a lot of people in the building, and you see 30-something people who are die-hard BRCC fans, that’s cool.”

Photo by Garrett Costanzo/Black Rifle Coffee Company.

“Turns out, people were genuinely interested about how BRCC went from black bags to the art designs that you see on our coffee bags now,” Hunt said. “The panel itself was on the formation of the art department, our methodology, and just how we function within a coffee company as a full-blown art department. We got to cover the history of art and design in BRCC."

Photo by Garrett Costanzo/Black Rifle Coffee Company.

“What this panel represented to us is a foot in the door, the hope that we can connect with all of these people at Con, which is a place that’s so welcoming to everyone,” Hunt said. “Comic Con is just a really cool intersection of inclusivity, and it doesn’t matter what your job is, what your background is … there’s a shared love and acceptance. Not to mention, from a business aspect, this is a huge group of people that we have a new way to reach. Con is an access point for a larger cultural acceptance as well as being a place that justifies or rationalizes the creative interests of a coffee company in one of the most creative spaces.”

Photo by Garrett Costanzo/Black Rifle Coffee Company.

To be able to find new ways to continue the mission of BRCC in such a unique space is inspirational. The world of comics, video games, and pop culture is a place that can be a safe haven, not just for die-hard fans, but also for people in the veteran and first responder space who are dealing with post-traumatic stress and other trauma/stressors. 

“The BRCC art department, since its inception, has been a place where people come to visit at the company,” Hunt explained. “Our bullpen is like a place to remind people of things that bring them joy, perhaps things from their childhood. Those same ideals, like those of Con, are a place where a fandom and love can really save people who are dealing with heavier things. When we mentioned we were going to be running a panel, that’s when the true Con fans started coming out of the woodwork within the company, and we started getting messages about all the things people were a fan of, like Chris Craighead, [a former SAS operator], who started telling us about the Star Wars Imperial Destroyer Lego set he was obsessed with.”

The opportunity for the art department to be a part of San Diego Comic Con is, hopefully, the first of many for the company to highlight the talent and skills housed within BRCC. 

(Stay tuned for a recording of the panel once the con releases its media!)