Another year, another Dallas Comic Con, only this time it was actually held in Dallas, instead of the too-small Irving Convention Center. This year the con was bought by a European company, Informa, and moved to the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Center (Dallas Convention Center) in downtown Dallas, Texas. The con (as well as Fan Days and Sci-Fi Expo) is still run by its original owners (C2 Ventures), but will now have the backing of FanExpo. The move to the new location is just a preview of greater things to come, I’m sure, as the company pushes DCC to be a Texas version of SDCC. Which of course does have its downfalls, the main one being a greater blow to fans’ wallets.
DCC 2014 boasted a list of amazing media guests, including nearly the entire Firefly cast (minus Wash and Inara, whose actors had film commitments), and a large portion of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast (as well as TOS’s William Shatner). Members of the original Nightmare on Elm Street were also in attendance, as well as Back to the Future‘s Christopher Lloyd. As usual, Stan Lee made an appearance. Other guests included Manu Bennett (Arrow, Spartacus, The Hobbit), Alice Cooper, contestants from SyFy’s Face Off, and Akira Takarada (1954’s Godzilla). Plus plenty of comic creators including Amanda Conner, Jeff Balke, Dan Slott, J. Scott Campbell, Ron Marz, and Greg Land.
Well, let’s talk about the good things first. The new location is enormous. So enormous there was another convention going on that same weekend on the other side of the building. DCC made good use of the new space, with an entire large room just for the ticket line. Which of course meant no more standing outside in the Texas heat or crammed into a stuffy garage. A huge bonus, especially to those in costume. The massive space for the dealer room was also a treat, as it meant both more dealers and more space between the aisles. Even on Saturday, a mad house by all standards, there was room to maneuver. An enormous improvement over last year’s claustrophobic-inducing dealer room and lines. Main dealer booths were up front by the doors, artist alley was in the back, and comic creator guests lined the back wall. GameStop had a booth selling general merchandise, and FUNimation a booth selling and promoting their anime. Also in the dealer room was a small shooting range where fans could shoot pictures of zombies, and a massive advertisement booth for the new X-Men film.
This particular space was so large that a lower half was set aside for all the media guest autographs. Which meant they were easy to find, easy to get to, and better organized. All media guests were in the same location, and the photo ops were also in the same space (a replica of the Back to the Future time machine was on hand for photos with Christopher Lloyd). There was also a booth in the center of the space selling frames for your new autographs; ingenious marketing there.
There were also plenty of places to rest and congregate at the new location. VIP ticket holders had reserved spaces, but there were plenty of tables, chairs, and lots of floor space. Scattered throughout the building were concessions stands, and there was even a small cafe and Starbucks. Plus plenty of restrooms, water fountains, and SPACE. So much space. The downside was that it took forever to get anywhere.
If you could manage to find your way out of the dealer room, there were panel rooms upstairs hosting sketch duels (not as entertaining as it sounds, unfortunately), Q&As with some of the guests (the big guests, like Stan Lee, the ST:TNG and Firefly casts, were hosted in Hall D, which I never did find or make my way to) including anime voice actors and Judge Reinhold, and the Cosplay Masquerade.
On the main floor were other various panels on subjects like cosplay, designing your own lightsaber, comics, anime, and Q&As with artists and writers. A new and ultra special addition this year was the Cosplayer Hideaway, an out-of-the-way room with space for cosplayers to relax, and a table filled with basic supplies for emergency costume fixes (sewing kits, hot glue guns, etc.). The room was put together by North Texas Cosplay and seemed to be a resounding success.
If you still have the stamina by Saturday’s end, DCC was hosting an off-site after party (for a little extra), with special acts and karaoke. Not a place for the kids, though the rest of the convention was very family friendly, as always. There were plenty of parents with their children, often in costume. Some entire families came in costume, which was great to see. I know of at least one mother-son pair that came in costume (as Black Widow and Johnny Storm), plus this fantastic group from Sunday:
Even I came in costume on Sunday, as Poison Ivy, and had a blast with some fellow DC villains:
There were costumes galore, including some extremely impressive builds (Godzilla, Emmet from the Lego Movie, lots of armor builds, and some great props). Way more cosplay than I could post. I’ll make a secondary DCC post to share my favorites (which are numerous on their own).
After assessing my own experience, and reading up on the experiences of others, I found plenty of negatives about the convention, most of them not enough to dampen things, however. The biggest: money. Ticket prices went up this year. A 3-day pass was something like $70. VIP passes (which get you in the door earlier and help bypass some lines) were $200 I think? Even just to go on Sunday was $30. Autographs for the media guests and cost anywhere from $20-80 depending on the guest, and photo ops can run on the high end, as well. The ST:TNG panel was an extra $20 for general admission (more if you wanted up front, and VIP passes did not count toward getting you in). That I can actually understand, because such a panel would obviously draw a huge crowd, so charging for a seat is a form of crowd control. The Firefly panel was almost extra too, except they made it free when two members of the cast cancelled. Food prices seemed about average for a venue like this, but they were big on no outside food or drinks. Then there’s parking, which averages about $10-12 depending on where you park. Parking wasn’t atrocious, to be honest. Friday I got right into the convention garage and there was plenty of space. Saturday I had to park a bit further away, Sunday I was a touch closer. Fortunately there’s plenty of parking in that area, and some spots even had shuttle service. Of course you could also take advantage of the DART system to get to the center, or anywhere downtown. Hotels, of course, because of the downtown location, are very expensive, but if you live nearby it’s easy enough to drive in daily since the con doesn’t run all hours. Still, it adds up, and fast. To top it off, dealers were upset over the jump in table prices. A new, bigger venue includes expected higher expenses, so it’s not a total surprise. What did seem to be a surprise was yet another increase for next year. That coupled with some bad management, and the location of the artist alley hidden behind the massive dealer tables, gave some AA members a bad taste (and bad sales) and they don’t plan to return. [Editor’s note: Someone reminded me today about the $80 for wi-fi internet dealers had to pay on top of the nearly $300 table fee. That’s PER DAY, by the way, for the wi-fi. Wi-fi that vendors needed to make their sales, since many people wanted to pay with credit cards. Wi-fi that wasn’t working properly, which meant dealers lost sales.]
Speaking of things shoved into the back of the con, I saw several complaints, not only of the hidden AA, but the hidden artists themselves. People like Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Bernie Wrightson, and Steve Erwin were shoved into the back of the dealer room along the wall. The main part of the complaint stems from the fact that this is a COMIC CON, and therefore people in the comic industry should be front and center, not the dealers with their massive merch booths. A viable complaint to be sure. For my own part, because the space was so large, I missed a lot of booths. Every time I walked down an aisle I saw something I hadn’t seen the last time around. And as I mentioned before, it just took a long time to get from one place to another, a downside to such a large area. So while the extra space was fantastic (especially for my anxiety), it did have its downsides. Especially since you had to traverse a sizable chunk of the center to get to the con from parking locations.
One thing I found odd: VIP members had early access to the convention, for whatever that meant. What I’m sure was a disappointment for them (and anyone on Friday), were the late guests, or those who didn’t show up until Saturday or Sunday. Understandably things like flights, hotels, etc, can’t be controlled. However, better information and management can be. Some simple signs saying things like “Nathan Fillion won’t be here until Saturday” or “The Star Trek cast will arrive by 6pm,” or even signs that detailed a guest’s temporary absence and why (“This guest is currently at an interview/panel/done for the day”) would have been very helpful. Of course late guests are going to be a huge negative for people who could only afford to come to the convention for one day, only to find the person they came to see won’t be there until the next day. The website does warn that some guests will only be there for a limited time, but it doesn’t supply details on who or when. Another disappointment regarding guests: many of them aren’t allowed to personalize autographs. Yes, that means they’re not allowed to take a few extra seconds to write “To: XXX” on your item. Some of them asked their managers for permission, or asked for permission to take special photographs, etc. Photographs I can understand, because they’re under contract with the convention to take professional photos for a cost. The personalized autographs thing though I don’t understand at all. In fact, I’d think it would be encouraged so the item isn’t just eBay bait. Fortunately the three autographs I obtained were personalized; I might not have bothered otherwise, to be perfectly honest.
I think the positives far outweighed the cons, however, even if I didn’t manage much in the way of panels, and didn’t have time to get any interviews. The convention was a lot of fun for me. I made new friends, met up with old, bought some new art, had fun strolling around in costume, and came home tired and sore every day, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The new location had its ups and downs, but the extra space is undeniably the most positive. The con now has room to grow, which means topping this year’s 50,000+ attendees.
Come back later this week for my favorite cosplay photos! And if you’re looking for another con this year, Dallas Fan Days will still be held at the Irving Convention Center this October.