Saturday, June 01, 2013

Denver Comic Con 2013

Denver Comic Con is this weekend. Hence my radio silence.

This is the second year of its existence. And it's a pretty amazing event -- for all its problems. Last year, its inaugural year, the convention organizers were unprepared for the massive response to the event. It's understandable, though. Something that has never been done in Denver before, it's impossible to know how it's going to turn out.

So this year they rented a larger exhibition hall in the Denver Convention Center. But sadly, that's about all they did in regards to preparation. They didn't have their badges printed on time, so Jeremy and I went to the kickoff party at Mile High Comics on Thursday night and were unable to pick them up as the organizers had promised we could. When they opened the doors at the convention on Friday afternoon, the line was several blocks long -- they had everyone in one single line going in through one single door. People who had purchased their tickets in advance were in the same line as the people who needed to purchase tickets. We later found out that it was the convention center staff that was at fault -- they didn't have enough security to cover more than one door. For 50,000 people. Shame on the convention center for that! It was so bad, people were waiting for 3 hours to get in, WITH pre-purchased tickets, and it ended up all over the news.

We were able to get in quickly because Jeremy had a VIP pass and they allowed me to piggyback on his VIP line (THANK YOU FRIENDLY CON STAFF-PERSON! Next year we'll both be buying VIP passes.) If they hadn't allowed me to do that... well, I think I would have demanded my money back. Because originally they told us we had to wait in line to get Jeremy's VIP pass (my name was on the ticket, so I had to be with him), and then we would have to go back out and wait in the regular line (that was taking about 3 hours) to pick up my pass. Ooh I would have blown a fuse if that had happened.

The convention itself has been amazing. The artists, writers and comic-related vendors and presenters are world-class. Jeremy always stays on the floor the whole time and I spend most of my time in the panels. This con was no different. The panel schedule is so full, I had to really pick and choose what I wanted to go to (versus other cons we've been to where there wasn't more than one or two options every hour). The panel topics are fascinating and the presenters are really interesting. Some of the panels are like art/writing classes, some talk about how to break into various entertainment-related industries, some teach you about costuming or art-related technology, and some are just opportunities for the public to pick the brains of famous artists and writers. I tend to stay away from the celebrity panels. Sorry, I am not that into actors.

Unfortunately, the con staff nearly ruined the panels for me. There was no line organization, and very little door management. In one panel, there were a bunch of teenagers (obviously being sponsored by an organization of some kind, as they all had green shirts on) who were so crazy rude. Talking, laughing, texting, running in and out of the room, they were obnoxious. After that, I sat up front in all the panels so I didn't have to see that crap if it happened again. I felt bad for the speakers. A con staff person should have been in that room managing the situation.

This morning the fire marshal (so we heard) was only letting small groups of people in at a time. So even though I had a badge already, I had to stand in line for about 45 minutes to be let in. With a broken toe, I wasn't too thrilled with that. And again, the con staff didn't tell us what was going on. There was no communication. You couldn't even tell where to get in line -- Jeremy found the right place because he's psychic. (I'm only half kidding about the psychic bit -- he really has a sixth sense in crowds, whereas I get overwhelmed and everything blends together.) Jeremy had his VIP pass, though, so I insisted he go in without me. With a VIP pass, there was no waiting for anything. Totally worth the money, and we're definitely getting one for both of us next year.

There have been a lot of complaints for the last 6 months about how disorganized the con organizers have been in creating this event. And the disorganization didn't get any better when the event actually happened. Even so, the convention itself is amazing and it obviously struck a chord with Denver because tickets have sold out every day. So we both hope these are just growing pains and next year they will take these lessons and put on a much better event.

I chit-chatted with a few girls in line this morning, and one of them told me that the convention center had reached the capacity of the exhibition hall at 56,000 people on Friday. And when Jeremy was hanging out with Doug TenNapel (creator of Earthworm Jim) today, Doug said that in his experience, cons that evoke this kind of response from a city typically double in attendance each year for the first few years. So they're looking at around 100,000 people attending Denver Comic Con next year. WOW. I really hope they keep doing this and just get better at organizing and supporting the event.

Galactus just got off the lightrail (dude had GIANT stilts under his costume)

Superman statue in the convention center

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