Sunday, March 16, 2014

Indiana Comic Con Report: TOTAL FAIL

Doug: Below is the original introduction to today's post, written on Friday evening, 3/14/2014.

Doug: Came. Saw. Conquered. Well, I don't know about that last part. Yesterday I made the 2 1/2 hour trek south to Indianapolis for my first Indiana Comic Con. Many thanks to Redartz for the tip several weeks ago, as despite my relatively close proximity to the Hoosier capital, I did not even know there was a major con in Indy. It worked out great family-wise, too, as I was able to meet the boys for lunch ahead of entering the Convention Center. My oldest is volunteering in media relations at the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Banker's Life Fieldhouse this weekend, so was going to be in town anyway; as they'd both gotten out of school Friday for spring break, I asked the younger if he wanted to ride with his brother to Indy and meet me to go to the con. He obliged, so we had a nice father-son day and then I brought him home with me for the week.

Doug (3/15/2014): Well, all that being said, here's the reality -- the organizers, promoters, whoever, of the Indiana Comic Con GROSSLY underestimated the demand for their product. Posting a rant on Twitter after I got home, I was informed by follower TropicalHippie that yes, this is the first year for the Indy Con. Man, had to be. Tickets were so affordable compared to WizardWorld Chicago, which I've lamented in the past. For my son and I to go, our admission was going to be a combined $40 ($20 apiece) and we only paid $5 to park. I was planning on some serious bang for that buck. Here's the chain of events: I arrived to an Arby's that was about halfway between Banker's Life Fieldhouse and the Convention Center. I met the boys and a friend at 11:30 and we stayed until around 12:15. My younger son and I moved the car closer to the Convention Center and entered the building around 12:30; the Con had opened for the day at 10:00 am. We entered the main entrance, to be greeted by four lines of people standing as if in a queue. Two lines faced us, two lines faced away from us. Now, Indy was pretty busy this weekend, what with the Big Ten tourney, a local St. Patrick's Day 5K, and who knows what else. However, spying many superhero t-shirts and a little cosplay in those lines made it quickly clear that this was not good.

Doug: So, mystified by what we saw, we began to walk along the side wall, hoping for a) the end of the line, and b) some information on what the heck was going on. It didn't take long before an usher (who looked amazingly like Richard Kiel, sans dental work - dude was every bit of 7-feet tall) shouted out town crier-style that the convention halls (the Con was only in halls D and E, so you know there was room not used) were full and had to be shut down. Not only were ticket sales cut off, but will-call tickets were not even being honored. Imagine this -- a line probably over 1/2 block long, but times four. If there were 1000 people in that line, there easily could have been 1500. I am not exaggerating. And think about this, too -- at 12:30, ticket sales were cut off. The con was going to close at 6:00 pm. There is no way that all of those in line would get into the two exhibition halls. So for every person who was left out, that was $20 in revenue that would be unrealized. Potentially, if most of those people did what we did and left, that's over $20K left on the concourse.

Doug: So I didn't get to meet Steve Englehart, or Keith Pollard, Rich Buckler, George Perez, or Bob Layton. I didn't get to peruse any 4 for $20 trade paperback boxes. Nothing. I did text my friend, former DC artist Don Kramer, who was on the guest list. He said that he wasn't aware of what was going on outside the exhibition halls, but that inside it was super-crowded and very difficult to move -- it was actually kind of a pain, he said. And, as fate would have it, he was seated two chairs down from Perez. Doh!

Doug: I'm sorry I don't have better news to report today. I really hoped to have some cool photos to show. Instead, all you get is the one below taken by my son when we got back home. It shows me lamenting the lack of Englehart's and Buckler's signatures on a two-page spread of the Marvel Chronicle. My loss, but yours, too. But so it isn't a total loss of a day, make the leap to this post from a few years ago celebrating meeting our favorite comic book creators. Thanks!


Rip Jagger said...

Well that sucked!

I've never encountered anything remotely like that, and I'm not that far from Indy myself. I've seen crowds in Louisville, Cincinnati, and parts around, but nothing like what you describe.

I'm amazed there's that much interest in the area. Sorry it was a fail, but thanks for the report.

Rip Off

david_b said...

Yep, Doug, you sure look 'lamentful'....

My 30yr old nephew just moved down to Indy last year to start this cool logistics job at the huge hospital down there, and my niece was attending a librarian's conference there as well, so they both went. They had a blast. My nephew's girlfriend got the tickets online a few weeks back and they entered the hall around 11am.

While I was grueling over my investigations homework (coffee and Krispy Kremes are the diet of choice..), they of course were txting me photos of the Barris Batmobile, some of the cool cosplay and sharing stories of at least getting Perez's signature on his NTT comic. My neph especially was scooping up some uber-high quality Silver Age Thor and Aquaman comics at decent prices.

Sure wish I was there, I'm so glad they had such a great time.

Doug said...

Wow, David -- I'm really happy for them. I looked at buying tickets online, but there was an $11 upcharge on each ticket, so that would have increased our 2-man admission by over 50%! And I've never, ever, had a problem walking into the Chicago Con and getting a ticket. I've been to other conventions in Indy, notably stuff related to the Final Four, and it's always done first-class. That town is renowned for their Convention Center, its proximity to everything downtown (including the sports arenas), and their hospitality.

Rip, it was interesting that you mentioned cons in other nearby cities, as I'd have thought the folks in Indy would have consulted the Mid-Ohio Con, etc. to see what similar-sized cities/venues do.

This all just really makes me wonder how Friday had gone, and what they'll do today to make adjustments. Not sure what they can do -- if the fire marshal says it's too full, then it's too full.


Redartz said...

Doug- Sorry to hear of your misfortunes there yesterday. My story is much the same as yours; my nephew and I rode bikes from his home nearby and locked them outside the Convention Center (to save parking, of course). We must have arrived about the same time you did,because we spent about 45 minutes vainly standing in line. Upon hearing that tickets were suspended, we gave up and went to a flea market instead.

Did see some nice cosplayers, but regretted not being able to enter the show. Don't know how much they can change that situation today, but if they repeat next year I'll bet there are some changes made. And you are right; I've never seen a hall as crowded; even at Wizard World Chicago...

William said...

Damn Doug, that is extremely disappointing. You had to have been a little more ticked off than your post sounded. Thank goodness you got to see your sons, so the 2 1/2 hour trip wasn't a waste of time.

In Florida our major convention is MegaCon in Orlando, but I haven't braved the trip (about 2 1/2 hours as well) in several years. However, the last time I went the crowds were insane. Luckily I had gotten my ticket in advance.

I went to NY Comic Con in 2012, but I got in free as the guest of a vendor. It was on a Thursday, and again the crowds were at capacity. I can't imagine what the rest of the weekend was like.

On the other side of the coin. Last year was the second year for PalmCon, a decent sized local convention close to me in West Palm Beach. I decided to take my nephew, as he likes comics and had never been to a convention. The event was pretty well advertised and I was expecting it to be a madhouse. So, I got us tickets in advance online, and I made plans to get there about 30 minutes before the doors opened. I still expected major traffic, big parking hassles, and long lines. However I was pleasantly surprised to drive right into the convention center, and easily find a parking space close to the entrance. There was a decently long line inside, but it wasn't insane or anything. Early on it wasn't too crowded on the floor either, but by the afternoon it got busier, but never to the point that it was aggravating. My nephew (who was 12 at the time) had me take pictures of him with every cute cos-play girl we encountered. It was a lot of fun, and we plan to go back this year.

Who would have ever thought that conventions for our nerdy little comic book hobby, mostly associated in the past with people considered outcasts and geeks, would become the hottest ticket in town whenever a gathering is organized. And in the case of SDCC, one of the hottest tickets in the country, dwarfing the Super Bowl in popularity. Crazy. It's kind of aggravating that once the "popular kids" suddenly decided that it's OK, (or even cool) to like comics, we longtime lovers (and true fans) of the medium kind of get lost in the sea of humanity.

Anonymous said...

Doug, I feel your pain.It must have been a real downer to go all the way to Indy only to be greeted by a sea of people in an immovable line.

It seems (and I'm only half joking here) that the only way to get in would be to come in at the crack of dawn like those kids who camp out in a sleeping bag in the freezing cold just to buy the latest iPhone! Not a fun prospect by any means.

Seriously, though, it really does seem like the organizers grossly underestimated just how many people would attend this event. I hope you guys get some sort of redress from this.

I don't have any experience with cons like you guys do but it really seems as if you have to plan an outing like this with military precision - maybe David_B might have some tips here! The closest thing I have done similar to this is viewing Trinidad's annual Carnival celebrations. Every year I trek to our capital and believe me, you really have to gear up as if you're going camping - backpack, hat, sunglasses, sunblock, water, assorted supplies ... you get the picture!

- Mike 'sadly, Trinidad has many cons - ex-cons, that is' from Trinidad & Tobago.

david_b said...

William, great thoughts.

To quote a song lyric.., 'We were Country when Country wasn't cool..'.

BazZINGaaaa, dudes (and dudettes..)

I feel terrible for our parents. My mom's trying to sell this really expensive camera she bought back in like 1982.., obviously seeing NO interest (obviously..), yet I see comics I recall begging her to spend a quarter to buy me are raking in over $500.. Go figure.

Edo Bosnar said...

Ah, man, bummer squared (maybe even cubed)!
Well, as William noted, the most important thing is that you met your sons, and took a road trip home with one of them.
I can only imagine the utter disappointment if you had made the trip solely to attend the con (especially with the added anticipation of meeting some or all of those creators).

Doug said...

I've been around Twitter today and have seen reports from people who got in but also from folks who were left out; regardless, everyone says a) the lines were/are crazy and b) the Con was wholly unprepared to handle demand. It's too bad, because it looked to be a great show!

It was a bummer of a ride home, and even this morning when I got up. Indeed.


mr. oyola said...

I've never been to a comics convention before, but I hope to go for the first time this summer at a new con that is starting up in NYC - - and I hope they will be better prepared - since it is the same folks that do Comic Con, they should be - but like Indy Con - it will only be in a couple of hall.

Sorry to hear it was bust, Doug. :(

Dan Toland said...

Wow, sorry to hear about that. Cons in general seem to be growing faster than they can handle; Boston Comic Con last year was a zoo. The line for pre-sold tickets was HOURS long, whereas people could just buy a ticket on the day and walk in in under an hour.

Needless to say, there was more than a little grumbling.

Two years ago, the Boston Con was barely bigger than a card show. Now it's so big that more than one vendor told me that in terms of elbow room/breathing space, it felt like San Diego. (It's still far, far smaller than that.) Cons are growing so fast that the organizers can't keep up.

Tony said...

Too bad. Sorry it was a bust for you. We sort of had the same experience at Fan Expo in Toronto in 2012. We had VIP passes, but it took us longer to get in than walk-ins off the street. George Perez on his FB page stated that he didn't have an assigned table and the volunteer didn't understand how George's ticket system worked. It was inconvienient for him, and the other dealers who would have benefit from the fans waiting for their turn. Hope if you decide to go next year, the organizers will have the bugs worked out.

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