Greetings, comic lovers! This May 19-20 I attended the Dallas Comic Con at the Irving Convention Center in Las Colinas. It was a lot of fun, but there were certainly problems. About the best compliment I can give the convention is that they pull in some fantastic guests. Patrick Stewart, Stan Lee, John de Lancie, James Marsters, Summer Glau, Neal Adams, George Perez, Kevin Conroy, Adam West, and Burt Ward were all in attendance, plus many more. Unfortunately, as both Patrick Stewart and Stan Lee were there for a limited amount of time, and only on Saturday, the Saturday crowd was a nightmare. There were lines everywhere for everything, and it was difficult to move around. The wait to get into the convention center was likely an hour, at least, as the line stretched out the door and down the street. DCC sells daily badges, as well as VIP and Priority passes. A VIP ticket gets you into a reserved section of the main panels (front and center); Priority passes get you in the door first after VIP. VIP holders also move to the front of autograph lines for the main guests, and I believe it even gets you in the door early. For those with the extra cash, and who value priority seats and shorter lines, I suppose it’s worth the price, though it does present some problems, which I’ll address later.
I’m going to do a few posts, I think, because I have plenty of pictures, plus audio and video files to share. Today I’ll talk about my general experience at the convention. The doors open at 11 am, so I headed out just before 11 (I live in town, it’s about a 10 minute drive or so to the convention center for me) and grabbed some lunch along the way. When I got to the center, parking was a nightmare. I could tell that the garage connected to the center was full, and the police were directing people into grass parking lots, but I couldn’t figure out how to get into them. The lines for the grass lots wrapped out toward the nearby highway’s access road. After driving around in a few circles, I finally went to the garage just down the street, and rode a shuttle to the center. The shuttles were frequent, and I didn’t have to wait in line or for very long to get on one (on Sunday they used buses, though there were far less people). I arrived at the convention, and blessedly bypassed the lines to collect my media badge. Took a quick look around at this year’s layout. Similar to last years, but there were more guests, and the artists’ alley stretched around the fourth floor halls. To escape the overwhelming crowd, and fill my stomach, we (my husband was with me) stepped out onto the outdoor balcony where there was a good breeze. The center has a cafe, the wait for which was an hour to an hour and a half. I avoided that (and the first floor concession lines) by bringing my own lunch and snacks. I did have to stop and buy some water from the third floor information booth, as I couldn’t find a water fountain anywhere in the entire center. Bottled drinks were $3 each (about 16 oz bottles). Line for that, at least when I was there, was short.
After lunch, I went wandering around in the dealer’s room and searching for some friends of mine. It was very difficult to move around in there. The concessions stands are in that room, so we had to weave through those lines. Plus the line for Kevin Conroy on the side of the room which was quite long. The press of people made maneuvering between booths quite a chore, and it was slow going. Taking pictures was near impossible.
Eventually I made my way to the far side of the room where Jimmy Palmiotti was signing. Unfortunately we ended up a few people behind two guys with massive stacks of books, and of course Jimmy, because he’s a damn nice guy, signed them all. It took quite a long time, though. Here’s s tip: If you’re going to have a guest sign 50 books or something for you, wait until there isn’t a line so you’re not forcing people to wait while you gather up your next eBay sale. I finally made my way to his table, said hello, reminded him who I was (and he remembered!), and had him sign my copies of Claws vol. 1 #1 and vol. 2 #2 (which were already signed by Joseph Michael Linsner). Sean McKeever’s booth was opposite Jimmy’s so I turned around and had him sign my copy of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane: Super Crush.
To escape the crowds, and try and track down my friends again, I headed upstairs, only to find that the escalators were already breaking down, so we had to climb up a two story escalator, which was not pleasant while hauling my camera bag and pressed in the crowd. Took a breather on the balcony again, which unfortunately was a mess of spilled nacho cheese and drinks. I’d like to remark here that the convention caretakers were doing a fantastic job keeping the restrooms cleaned and stocked. There was always someone in there, it seemed. Outside…there didn’t appear to be anyone cleaning, and people obviously weren’t cleaning up after themselves. Met up with a local friend and chatted for a bit, then wandered around the convention taking pictures. I finally got a hold of my friends, somehow, with the poor cell phone reception inside (though I want to say there was free wi-fi there, which was nice). Popped into Neal Adams’s panel for a little bit while I waited for my friends (who were also media guests, from Ani.Me).
Once I tracked down my Ani.Me girls, we set up for the upcoming Patrick Stewart Q&A. The panel lasted for about an hour, though Stewart was only there for about 40 minutes of it before he was pulled away to sign autographs again. John de Lancie filled the rest of the time.
Notice the rather large amounts of empty seats at the front of the room? Those seats are reserved for VIP ticket holders. And here is one of the problems I mentioned earlier. That’s a lot of empty seats, and they’re in the front and center of the room. And they’re empty. And they’re right in front of the guest. Every panel I went to, the guests speaking, including Patrick Stewart, remarked on the empty seats, and encouraged the audience to move up and fill them, which they readily did. The problem is that those seats are permanently reserved. The convention holds them open in case VIP members arrive late (though what they’re doing running late when they have no lines to wait around in all day is beyond me), and the FAQ in the convention handbook states that general admission is not allowed to fill them. Unless Patrick Stewart tells you to move your butts, of course.
Somewhere in all that I sent my exhausted husband home, and sat giddily through Sir Stewart’s far too short Q&A with my friend Amanda. Later this week I’ll post the audio, video, and photos I took during the panel. Also, did I mention I was in the same room as Patrick Stewart. Because I was. After the Q&A was the costume contest, and Amanda’s photographer, Heather, joined us. I should note that press was generally pushed to the back of the room, but when the crowd allowed, we typically moved up, but stayed out of the way. For the costume contest, we just plopped down on the floor next to the stage, because it was about the only way to get any decent pictures. The entrants moved across the stage quite quickly, though, so it was still a little difficult to get really good pictures. I’ll post the photos from the contest as well as general cosplays I found around the con in a later column. Though this was undoubtedly one of the best there.
After the costume contest, the convention was basically over, so some friends and I went out to dinner. Well, first I got lost in the damn parking garage, because there were no signs showing how to drive to the exit. Then we went to dinner, and had amazing, awesome, Freebirds burritos. Then we popped next door to a Marble Slab for delicious ice cream. Then I went home, exhausted, sore, and hoarse, and learned that while i was gone, my ferret had jumped off the balcony (don’t worry, he was totally fine). Then I went to bed. Sunday was immensely better, right away. Went closer to noon, but parking was a lot easier, and there were no outside lines to get into the convention center. It was far, far less crowded inside. I’d say at least half the amount of people as there were on Saturday. It made a huge difference. It was easier to walk around, the escalators stayed working most of the day, getting into the main panel room was a cinch, and walking through the dealer room was much more comfortable. I finally got to take some good pictures, and was able to actually talk with people. There was less to do overall, and the con was only until 4 pm (open until 7 pm on Saturday), but it was a better experience. I attended the James Marsters Q&A with Amanda and Heather (audio later, with the Stewart Q&A). I’m not a fan, but the guy is incredibly nice, and it’s obvious he loves and respects his fans.
After that, we went shopping in the dealer room, but I didn’t find anything really worth buying (apart from the Romeo and Juliet: The War trade I had bought on Saturday). There were plenty of shirts, posters, action figures, and comics, a lot of which was over priced, and there wasn’t just a huge variety. After that, the day was over and the con was going to close soon, so after a few words with Jeff Balke, we all went home.Take a look at some pictures from around the con floor, or just scroll down to the bottom for my final thoughts on the con.
Costume pictures, plus more images of Stewart/de Lancie and Marsters (along with audio and video) later this week.
Now for the lowdown on the entire experience. Dallas Comic Con is basically an event where you stand in line and pay money to go stand in line and pay more money. The headlining guests charge money for autographs (and usually photos, too), which can run you anywhere from $20-85 (for a photo with Patrick Stewart). The crowd was so bad on Saturday, that the lines were awful, and it was difficult to move around. It’s clear that having two major guests on the same day resulted in an enormous flow of people, though understandably this is what their schedules allowed. I suggest the convention either move to a bigger venue, schedule fewer big name guests, or schedule such guests on different days if at all possible. A bigger venue would also allow for more onsite events. There’s really not much to speak of in terms of entertainment at the convention. There’s the handful of Q&A’s with the headliners, the dealer room and artists’ alley, and just a couple “panels.” Saturdays’ panels included (all of these are in a single room) “Carl Macek’s Robotech Universe” (which was promoting an upcoming documentary), “The Downfall of the Anime Industry” (which is what I wanted to attend, but was running an hour late), “War Stories from the Conventions,” and “Robotech Industry Panel.” Kevin Conroy, Summer Glau, Stan Lee, Neal Adams, and Patrick Stewart/John de Lancie all had Q&A sessions in the main room, if you could get in (the room seats about 2,000 people, with 500 of those reserved for VIP holders; more than 15,000 people attended the show). On Sunday, Q&As featured Adam West/Burt Ward, James Marsters, and Dave Prowse/Jeremy Bulloch/Peter Mayhew. The tiny panel room hosted “Robotech: Free-for-All” and “Do Anime/Comic Conventions Have a Future?” That’s all there is to do all weekend. Granted, the hours of the convention are short (11-7 on Saturday, 11-4 on Sunday), so maybe that’s enough for people. And since most people spent Saturday standing in line just to get inside, it probably is enough. Other problems included a lack of signs and information. There were sign boards scattered through the halls, but they were blank. The convention center has flat screen panels on the wall outside of every room, which could be better used (like rolling a schedule or something). The guests are great, but right now that’s about all this con has going for it. Hopefully they can move to a bigger location soon, and expand on their offerings, because I for one would love a really great comic convention so close to home.