This past weekend was one of my local comic shows, the VA Comicon. While very different than events like New York Comic Con, these small, local shows are actually some of the most important in the comic industry. They allow fans of all kinds to get together, buy and sell comics and other geek paraphernalia, but more importantly they allow geeks to meet and socialize while not requiring they shell out $85 for a weekend pass. Unfortunately these small events also have some considerable drawbacks. So without further ado, Therefore I Geek presents The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the VA Comicon.
It had been about four years since I’d made the relatively short trip from Hampton Roads to Richmond for a VA Comicon, but this year I decided to do it. Much like when I last attended, there was a big name—Rob Liefeld—intended to draw people in. Last time I jump on the chance to get autographs from Chris Claremont, Michael Golden, and Larry Hama, but they were nowhere near the draw that Liefeld is.
It was so great to see that this local convention has grown so much in the past few years. The show has grown so much in fact that they had to move venues. The location, at the Richmond International Raceway, was a plain, but clean building that allowed for a rather spacious convention experience.
In addition to have more people in attendance, the number and quality of exhibitors has improved. In addition to Liefeld, Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener of Atomic Robo were present. It was nice to see these guys again, but at a smaller show after the craziness of NYCC. There were also several booths selling all kinds of interesting stuff. Check out the end of the post for links to my favorites.
Local shows like this are a great way for fans to who don’t have the opportunity to go to large cons to get out and have at least some of the experience. That having been said, a fair number of these people are lacking in convention etiquette. For starters, on more than one occasion I was accosted by the smell of someone who hadn’t showered recently. Unlike many small shows, this one was blessed with a spacious hall and therefore I was not pressed up against people. If I can smell someone from a couple feet away, they have a body odor problem. There were also several times where people would essentially block the entire aisle for no apparent reason. In larger conventions I see this as almost unavoidable given the sheer number of people who are in the space, but here more than once people could have simply stepped two feet to the right or left and made space for people to pass.
The convention layout had some incredible flaws. In my mind, the most egregious of these was how panels were addressed. Basically they had a couple sets of metal bleachers were set up in the middle of the room and the person conducting the panel sat or stood in front of them and tried to talk over the crowd milling around booths behind them. This is no way to attract people to either attend said panels or host them. Panels can be one of the most memorable things about a con and these were severally bungled. What I have seen at other conventions that don’t have separate rooms available for panels, is having a small area segregated off with curtains and a small sound system present so that panel-goers aren’t stuck in the middle of the con and the speaker can be heard. Panel isolation doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it makes a difference.
A bit of line management would also be helpful. Rob Liefeld’s line ran diagonally across nearly the entire 36,000 square foot room. This meant it had to cross the aisle twice and cut through the middle of the con floor (also right past the panel area) and behind all of the exhibitors booths. I made about four passes around the con floor and each time I passed the line, the single person running it was trying to figure out if someone was or was not in line and where the line actually was. A slightly better floor layout and a couple of extra volunteers and this could have gone much more smoothly.
This wrap up may seem a bit negative, but I had a really good afternoon. VA Comic Con, don’t get down on yourselves, you did a great job. I’m really pleased to see how much things have grown in just the last few years while I’ve been absent. I’m looking forward to the next convention.
Don’t forget to check out the links!
Altruistic – Wood products with a geek flavor
Pixel Who – Doctor Who Pixel Art
Super Sox Shop – Handmade Sox, Swords, Stuffies, and Sacks
Desktop Gremlins – Paper Craft Books
Geek Boy Press – Geek Apparel