Dallas Comic Con has had some shakeups recently. The big May con moved to the Dallas Convention Center last year, and is now being called Fan Expo Dallas (rebranding through the new owners). Fan Days has moved to February, switching places with Sci-Fi Expo, which will now be in October. Fan Days is so far remaining at the Irving Convention Center. This year’s Fan Days was held over February 7-8. Yup, I’m way behind with this write-up, and I apologize. It wasn’t helped by the fact that I became ill within a few hours of returning home from the con. Nor the fact that I had to turn around and prepare for another convention (which I just returned from). But it’s here now! So let’s talk about this year’s Fan Days.
Big names in fandom appeared over the weekend, including a second return by John Barrowman (Dr. Who, Torchwood, Arrow) and Stephen Amell (Arrow), Colin Baker (the sixth Doctor), Alex Kingston (Dr. Who), Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek TOS), Chris Sarandon and Ken Page (Nightmare Before Christmas), and more. Plus several comic industry guests, including Joseph Michael Linsner, Steve Erwin, Michael Lark, and Joe Eisma. And, of course, a room full of vendors selling everything from t-shirts, props, action figures, comics, movies, posters, costumes, and games.
Like most of DCC’s events, the list of actual things to do was minimal. The standard Q&A’s with the celebrity guests (if you could get in…or upstairs); autograph sessions (expensive) and photo shoots (also expensive, and with some problems); Saturday’s cosplay contest and and Sunday’s kids’ cosplay contest; the Cosplay Hideaway made a return; a sizable dealer room for shopping; and that’s about it. I’m spoiled by conventions like All-Con and Anime Fest where there are so many things to do throughout the day (and night) that I actually have trouble fitting them in.
It was a standard convention, everything we’ve come to expect, with the same continuing problems, but a couple nice surprises. One surprise – food trucks! Several food trucks were parked outside of the Irving Convention Center over the weekend, providing guests with options besides the over-priced concession stand food sold inside the building. Fortunately the weather was exceptional that weekend. Wild Bill’s Old Fashioned Soda Pop Co. appeared again, providing (almost unlimited, after an initial purchase) soda to guests who either brought mugs they’d bought previously or purchased new that weekend. I’m also almost certain I saw DCC branded mugs this time. Twindom was back to scan and create custom figurines (I had one made last year). There was also more than one marriage proposal (with favorable outcomes). The Saturday Night Shindig also made a comeback, with a party hosted at Love & War in Texas (link autoplays music, fyi). My broken toe and I stayed home, but I hear it was a great success.
Now for the problems. First and foremost, the con is too big for the venue, compounded by the fact that it was oversold. Tickets are sold, and sold, and sold, as guests continually file into the convention center. It got so bad that access to floors was cut off, trapping some people where they were, and often making it nearly impossible to get upstairs (where everything but the dealer room is located). I rarely ventured downstairs unless necessary, worried I wouldn’t be able to get back up. I imagine this was very frustrating for anyone with a scheduled photo shoot (since these tend to be non-refundable, though I have seen people manage a refund under certain circumstances). Speaking of the scheduled photo shoots, sometimes these are rescheduled. I know of at least one person who missed their shoot because they did not know of the reschedule. They attended a panel for the same celebrity the same day, and there was no announcement (which seems an obvious way to get word out), but they did receive an email (which is virtually impossible to access at the ICC, with poor reception to start off with and the massive amount of people on their phones). It’s possible there was an announcement made over the loudspeaker, which only announces in the dealer room, and can barely be heard above the noise of the crowd.
The Cosplay Hideaway made a return, though it had some small issues (unrelated to the group who ran it). The Cosplay Hideaway is a fantastic addition to the DCC cons, hosted by North Texas Cosplay, which provides a room for cosplayers to relax, have a snack, re-hydrate, or repair their costumes. Unfortunately it comes with some odd stipulations, like the fact that the room must be shared with the cosplay competition and used for pre-judging. Except they were using two rooms for this (including the Hideaway). And an unused room was next door. This shut the Hideaway down for a couple of hours in the late afternoon. Now, granted, that room is a privilege, but surely this could be handled differently. Cosplayers are a big part of a convention, and a definite draw for guests (plus they’re paying guests themselves, of course), and the Hideaway is a fantastic service that makes things easier for them.
This next bit was a personal issue, and also partially my fault. If you’re not an official photographer with the convention, it’s difficult to get good photos during the main cosplay competition. I’d arrived early, as I always do, but clearly I was on the wrong side of the stage; I’d expected cosplayers to move to the middle of the stage, not hang around on the corner where they entered. That wouldn’t actually be a problem, however, if I wasn’t having to shoot my photos around the judges’ table. The table is shoved right up against the stage, which is completely unnecessary, especially given the fact that the costumes have been pre-judged. It’s a small complaint, but I’m a photographer, and if I can’t get proper photos then I can’t do my job.
Fan Days is fun, but it’s becoming less fun for me as what it is, and more fun as just a way to hang out with people I don’t get to see often. Which I do enjoy, but the “con experience” is lacking, unless you’re loaded with disposable income and enjoy standing in lines all day (well, and my continuing hunt for a decently priced, not grossly sexualized Poison Ivy figure). Also, here’s a tip: Don’t pre-order your tickets. Bring cash. You can walk right in, pay, and you’re off. Unless everyone decides to do that, of course.
Come back later for the best cosplay of Fan Days 2015!