To start off – I’ve been exhibiting at cons for the last 13 years. I have a pretty solid idea of what makes a con work and what does not, though in the Game of Cons, shows can always surprise you. Over the years, I and several other exhibitors and pros take a moment to go over the shows we attend. We talk about what works, what doesn’t and what can improve. What we have found that there are three elements that must work together for a show to be successful… those that run the cons, those that exhibit at shows, and those that attend the cons. If all these are in sync the show is usually extremely successful, when they are out of sync the show becomes unpredictable and suffers at times.
With that in mind let the con season of 2014 begin.
This last weekend was the Amazing Comic Con in Phoenix. It fills the slot of the old mesa show, which is now the incredible Phoenix Comic Con, that happens in June. This was my first experience with this show, so lets take a look at – the pros and the cons.
As a pro my job is to make the experience wonderful for the fans, as an exhibitor, this is my livelihood and at the end of the day I need to cover my expenses and make sure my family eats. If I can’t do that, than I need to reevaluate the show.
Amazing started off slow. From the vibe of most exhibitors, illustrators and pros, it was super slow both friday and saturday. Almost worriedly slow. There were people there but they were not interested in vendors or really much anything else, just wandering the hall in a daze. I dont blame the show for this. Sunday redeemed the show for me. The audience was different, more kids, more families and much more interest in the talent that was there. One thing we noticed was how many people had never been to any con. This was a new experience for them, they were testing something new that they had never experienced before. This is good for the craft, but most have no idea the diversity of the comic industry, which can be quite overwhelming, which means it can work against exhibitors and if the experience is not good for the fans, it can kill a show a quick.
Organization was good. I had no problem finding my spot, getting in or getting out. The staff was kind and friendly and seemed willing to make the show work for people. So logistically the show worked for me. Since I have never done the show before I cannot compare it against it’s previous years, which might be a good thing. The only thing though I did not agree and I dont always understand why shows do this is creating layouts that cause deadzones. There are two shows (ECCC and PHCC) that solved this problem with a grid system. 4 corner booths in a square. This allows for good flow of traffic and stops the issue of vendors disappearing in aisle. That happens. It would be good for this show and others to take a look at this system.
The other issue was that exhibitors were only allowed a half hour before each show to set up before they opened the doors to the floor. This puts a lot of stress on exhibitors and makes for an unpleasant experience.
One other issue was the loudspeaker. I know it’s important to let people know about panels etc… but every 20 min over the loudspeaker is way toooo much, especially when it borders obnoxious. Many times deals are happening on the floors, or tender moments between artist and fan and if you cant hear because of the loudspeaker, than those moments can be lost. Ending the show at 6pm was a little too late, the hall was pretty much empty at 5pm.
Last is finding out what the show is. What does the show bill itself as. It felt that the show billed itself as walking dead show yet constantly announced that is was a comiccon during the show. That’s fine but most of the exhibitors were not walking dead. If you bill your show or focus on only one aspect of the culture you alienate both vendors and audiences… Not every one is a zombie fan, and the show should have focused before hand that is was a more of a comic con than anything else. Make the walking dead part of it, but bring in the superheros, sci-fi and fantasy. Bring in more media guests as well, that brings people in, which means that the show will have to spend a little more money to do so, and that is not always easy.
Yet, honestly the show wasn’t horrible. It was nice to see sooo many friends and a few old fans and meet a lot of new ones. My biggest issue was I had lost my voice sat at 10 am and spent the whole show talking like batman. I did have some incredible moments with fans. Moments that make me realize how awesome certain fan experiences can be. I enjoyed myself quite a bit. It was a hard show as an exhibitor but it was not a loss. There are many things that can be done to make the show better. There is still much hope, yet there needs to be more of a gelling process between the owners, exhibitors, and audience.
Will I return. Yes. Part of the reason was the fan experience and the honest hard working staff. I do hope that a few changes can be made. Do I recommend it? That’s tough, if you have high travel expenses than prob not because you might not cover all the hotel/show/travel expenses. If your show expenses are low, than this might be a good show for you. Three days is a little long as well, I think two days would be perfect.
With a couple of minor tweaks, this show has a lot of potential. It might take couple of years but if they keep working on making it better, it could turn into a nice strong january show and help kick off the year.
I am no way knocking the organizers, I know that shows are a lot of work, logistics and stress. They did a good job, now it’s time to take it too the big leagues and join the ranks of some of the other major cons out there. Good luck guys and keep at it.
Show rating : C