Dallas Comic Con (2014): a Q&A Review

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The All-New, All-Different Dallas Comic Con wants to wear big-boy pants. See if they fit.

When:
Friday May 16th through Sunday May 18th

Who’s going to be there:
 Nathan Fillion, William Shatner, Akira Takarada, Christopher Lloyd, and partial cast reunions of Firefly, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Nightmare on Elm Street. Notable comics guests include Stan Lee, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, David Finch, Mark Bagley, J. Scott Campbell, and Dan Slott. From Firefly, cast members included Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Adam Baldwin, Ron Glass, Sean Maher, Gina Torres, and Jewel Staite. From Star Trek: The Next Generation, cast members included Jonathan Franks, Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, John De Lancie, Denise Crosby. From The Walking Dead, cast members included David Morrissey, Emily Kinney, and Michael Rooker. (Thanks Wikipedia)

 

THE Q&A

What exactly is a comic con?

Originally comic conventions were one or a few rented out small conference rooms where some industry professionals (writers, artists) would discuss their craft with a handful of like-minded comic book enthusiasts. Eventually, some conventions grew from hundreds to hundreds of thousands in attendance, and some of the bigger venues not only command tens of millions of dollars in non-profit earnings, they regularly dump their yield right back into the fan experience for the upcoming years—translating into bigger and more.

Comic books can draw that much hoopla?

To be honest, no. What was once a gathering of comic book fanboys listening to a creator discuss how to be as awesome as he is has expanded to include other entertainment mediums that have a vastly larger draws. Not to mention blurred the definition of Geek (now read Pop Culture Enthusiast).

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Really? What other mediums?

While there are still a few small conventions that maintain a high percentage of comic book centric offerings, most of the heavy-hitters have fully embraced pop culture in general. Everything from sci-fi/fantasy novels to board or card games to video games to movie and TV entertainmentAuthors, celebrities, big name producers, even plain amateur Internet personalities have all become standard guests and or fixtures for which geeks and non-geeks alike can gather around in intersocial harmony (in theory). And let’s not forget the exhibit area.

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Exhibit Area?

Usually the most populated area of a show whereDallasComicCon_David_NerdsAndNomsense-6 vendors peddle their wares in a giant nerdy flea market. Models, posters, movies, shirts, toys, gadgets, boobs, it’s all there for the buying. Some things are exclusive, others can be online-shopped, but it’s a great place to network and/or lose your ass on collectibles. Also, not for the faint of heart or anyone with an aversion to tight quarters, being touched, bumped, or talked to. One might even run into a celebrity or two.

Wait. Did you say boobs?

Oh, right. Cosplay.

Cosplay?

OK, I won’t go in depth on this because it deserves its own post. Cosplay is an art form where fans (sometimes paid models) dress up as a character from any of the above mention genres. Some costumes are lovingly hand-made, some bought, some are amazing, and some are like CVS Halloween costumes. Some are sexy, some are funny. Some will get you thrown out of a convention. Let’s just say that boobs are a commodity at these things. They sell products, services and networking. Dudes will kill themselves to get a shot of a good Slave LeiaDallasComicCon_David_NerdsAndNomsense-4 in her teenie-tiny space harem bikini, and drop big dollars on posters of a provocatively posed Jane Cosplay outfitted in a two sizes too small Lara Croft getup. And, they’ve certainly been proven to draw crowds to booths that may or may not otherwise be attention-grabbing on their own. But, some of these people have a genuine love for the characters they’re representing and if one can peel his or her eyes away from the heaving cleavage and bare bottoms long enough to look around more carefully they won’t miss the meticulously built Godzilla wandered the food court, or the really creative kid in the cardboard ATST (see Star Wars) carefully navigating a pile of stairs. My favorite was a hilariously accurate Barf from Spaceballs (1987) carrying around a box of dog biscuits.

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Why would anyone walk around half naked in a big open space filled with thousands of people?

You’re missing the point. Don’t get distracted.

Right. Everything you’ve mentioned does sound really fun. How was the Dallas Comic Con?

I’ve been to the San Diego Comic Con for the last ten years or so, which is the largest convention of its kind in the world. When someone says, “Comic Con” they’re referring to San Diego. If they’re not, they’re wrong. The Dallas Comic Con is a much smaller event. To my worldly eyes DCC was like going to a Disney Store inside a local mall after just coming from an adventurous weekend at Disney World.  That’s not to say that DCC was terrible because it wasn’t. But it did some things wrong that I’ll get into later and hope some lessons were learned by the event handlers.

Um, is this going to be an objective review?

Nope.

Fair enough. Proceed.

After twelve years in smaller venues this is the first year for the DCC inside the Dallas Convention Center’s one million square feet of space (likely not all used for the convention). Brand spanking new overseas owner, Informa, who brought the world, Fan Expo Canada, the third largest pop culture convention in North America all but guarantees big, big plans for the future of DCC.
The three-day event ran from Friday May 16th through Sunday May 18th, with programming from 4pm-9pm, 10am-7pm, and 10am-5pm respectively. Parking didn’t seem to be a problem, which surprised me after years of the OTHER convention selling advanced parking passes throughout half the city five months in advance that sold out in minutes. DCC also pre-sold parking but I didn’t see any advantage to it. We just rolled into the Convention Center itself for ten bucks at around 9:30, found a spot, walked right in. That’s not to say that this will work next year so plan ahead.

Thanks for the history lesson. Do you plan on talking about the content of the convention?

Yes, yes. Hold your horses.
Arriving early gave me the advantage of wandering the whole show floor uninhibited. For the uninitiated it can be intimidating, but in reality the isles are easily navigated with the floor map provided with the program book. Or, if you’re like me, memorized after passing the same five endcap vendors twelve times. After a few hours the place started to get busy. But it was never an issue. I have a feeling that next year will be different. The only interactive booth I remember was an X-men: Days of Future / Norton exhibit that normally sets up in a parking lot inside the back of a trailer at San Diego. So it’s safe to assume that as the big studios start claiming spots on the floor, they’ll run out of room pretty quickly. There was a Back to the Future DeLorean replica (which I believe had a fee for the privilege of sitting in), the ’67 Impala from Supernatural, a Jurassic Park Jeep, a Land Speeder (see Star Wars, again), an artist area where one can meet a favorite artist and buy a print or a custom sketch, a few pro cosplayer booths with the same deal, (one cosplayer even had a photo tip jar), a Zombie Zone where a person could shoot zombies for $10, and very, very little swag.
That being what it was the floor wasn’t really the attraction people came for.

No? What were people there for?

DallasComicCon_David_NerdsAndNomsense-9Celebrities. The autograph area offset from the main floor was at least a quarter of the size of the room,  populated with mostly, I don’t want to say has-beens, but pop culture icons and fan favorites from entertainment long gone. Some of the regulars like Alice Cooper and lesser knows sat out in the open along with a few current favorites like Manu Bennett (Arrow, Lord of the Rings), while some of the more popular cult favorites like the Firefly cast were hidden behind curtains for photo ops. Although, some did manage to brave the floor like Jewel Staite (Firefly), who passed within inches of me, without drawing unwanted attention to themselves. Unlike, say San Diego, it was pretty easy to get a glimpse of most if not all of the celebrities on-hand. I’m not much of a signature/pose-with-stars kind of person so seeing was enough for me.

Did you go to any of the panels?

No. The lines were more than I could bear. But I have heard good things–particularly the Firefly Reunion and the Star Trek panels. Maybe one of our readers can enlighten us with a firsthand experience in the comments section.

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Ah. What were some of the issues you mentioned earlier?

Tickets. Tickets. Tickets:

The tiered ticket system was a bust. Here’s the rundown:
Friday $25 | Saturday $40 | Sunday $30 | DELUXE PASS $79 | PREMIUM PASS $109 | VIP $299
Here’s what VIP Admission gets:

  • 3-day deluxe pass (I believe the deluxe gets you into the deluxe lounge)
  • Early admission on Saturday and Sunday (by half an hour)
  • A special entrance (instead of the servant’s door I suppose)
  • VIP Lounge access (first-come, first serve)
  • An express pass for autographs/ photo (which have their own fees, and still lines)
  • Oh, and the special, exclusive Dallas Comic Con bag (not free for everyone?)

Probably didn’t bring enough money:

Photo ops started at $30, autographs were more. Stan Lee’s was $60 (he used to do it for free before Iron Man). But people got to eat I guess. The problem was, in order to get to these opportunities one had to buy autograph/photo op tickets. And, even then, because of the lines and schedules of the guests, there was no guarantee of getting either. Some people waited hours in line only to be told that the guest was leaving and they could try again another time/day. It had to be frustrating.

Mobile service:

First, thank the Maker for iPhones and mobile credit card devices. Second, vendors have really come a long way to bring quality, convenience, and variety to these things. However, I’m sure that many a merchant lost more than one sale to the unreliability of the mobile data service chugging along one bar at a time due to the massive volume of users. It also made it difficult to Instagram or tweet from the floor.

On-site food:

There was A (pronounced, “uh”) Starbucks and a “food court” that had pretty much what people would expect from a state fair—including the prices.

Extracurricular events:

Friday night, Fan Expo ran the Rue Morgue Festival of Fear as a part of the convention. And by part of the convention I mean pay a fee similar to a DCC day pass to go to a secondary convention where all of the horror themed guests show up again for more photo ops, autographs, and panels. Did anyone go to this? Leave a comment.
The DCC after party was another fee based event for the 21 and over crowd that happened Saturday night. At that point I had made plans to go see Godzilla instead, so again, if anyone went, leave a comment.

None of that seems like a deal breaker. Did you enjoy yourself?

I sure did. Dallas Comic Con seems like the perfect entry level convention for anyone. Just keep in mind that it’s long, it’s exhausting, it’s expensive. But for fans of pop culture, art, and just new experiences it’s all worth it. On the last day there one might even be a bit sad that it’s over. Next year I think I’ll go all in and experience everything I can afford, because I think that next year it will be huge.

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Did you learn anything while attending the Dallas Comic Con?

  • Some cosplayers with ask YOU to take a photo with THEM.
  • Even Mannequins with big boobs draw people to booths.
  • You’ll need a second job to love pop culture the way pop culture wants you to.

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Have any pro tips?

  • Carry your own food, save hundreds of dollars.
  • Bring your own bag for things you need and things you buy.
  • Wear extremely comfortable shoes,. Your feet, calves and back will pay you back in spades if you don’t.
  • Consciously blink (TRUST ME).
  • Arrive early, get in lines early, go to favorite spots early, buy things early.
  • Don’t harass the cosplayers. Be respectful. **Important!**
  • Wear a good antiperspirant. Reapply if needed.
  • Don’t make eye contact with booth merchants. They’ll draw you in like a Death Star tractor beam and use mind tricks to sell you things you might not want. You’re weaker than you think.
  • When getting an autograph, having something to sign is handy, and cheaper.
  • Read the map and the schedule the night before (online) and plan the day. Expect changes and line cutoffs, be flexible.
  • The last day of a convention usually has deals, look for them.
  • Don’t hand out business cards to everyone you meet, just the ones that seem genuinely interested in what you’re offering. Chances of said business card ever being seen again are pretty slim, so get theirs.
  • Don’t travel in packs. Everyone wants to experiences different things at different times. Groups will slow you down immensely.
  • Look online before you buy at a booth.
  • Schedule a meetup time with friends. It’s possible to lose a group member within ten feet of floor for an entire day.
  • Don’t rely on a mobile phone. Unless you check it regularly you probably won’t hear or feel it.
  • Pack chargers/extra batteries for electronics.
  • Expect to be hit at least once by a complete stranger and let it go.
  • If you can, take accumulated weight to the car/room. It helps a lot.

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