Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dallas Comic Con: Or Why I Won't Return

I'll need to start this off with a note that this is an opinion piece. The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone and do not represent CosPod. And I say that because I was Press for the event over the weekend, and it's important that the two be separated. I gave a fair and honest review with CosPod, and I will be giving a more honest and more fair review here. This is my opinions as a DCC fan and once attendee.

FanExpo Present: A Dallas Comic Con Production of Fan Days!

That's the unofficial title of this article. I don't know what DCC is calling itself anymore. It's so confusing! Initially Dallas Comic Con held one event that grew to three throughout the year. February: Fan Days. May: Dallas Comic Con. October: Sci-Fi Expo. Each one had a theme. Fan Days was the free-for-all, all topics covered. DCC was more comic focused. Sci-Fi Expo was more sci-fi-centric. It made sense.

DCC was purchased by FanExpo, an event group based in Canada, early last year. Since then, it's been going through quite a number of changes, including the name. Which is why we're having trouble figuring out what to call this event. The e-mail I received for press had DCC, Fan Days, and FanExpo all listed as titles. The website swaps between FanExpo and DCC. So there's really no way to know what the heck this exactly is, other then it's some form of a comic book convention in October in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

Some of the biggest changes have been nabbing bigger named guests and securing larger venues. While the February and October shows still maintain the smaller location in Irving, the "big show" in May has moved to one of the largest convention centers in DFW. And it was sorely needed. When you have William Shatner and Nathan Fillion on the same billing, you need the bigger space. Badly.

When I attended last year, the "new owner" changes weren't completely in effect. I saw many of the same staff members, and a lot of the usual hi-jinks ensued. But over the year it has changed. The con that I loved, and allowed me to nerd out more often then naught, has altered into this lifeless version of itself.

Walking around this weekend, I couldn't stop wondering where all the people were. There were no lines at 9:30 am to get into the convention hall. None. On a Saturday. Which is always the busiest day of this event. By noon, it was still fairly empty. There was plenty of walking space. And that doesn't happen in this particular convention center. Usually about that time of day the escalators break down and people have to go in small groups up the stairs. The vendor's room is packed and you need to squeeze by people to make it through. The lines for autographs and photos are jammed, and snaking around the little space that exists on the third floor.

But this was not the case. It was quiet. And creepy.

By the time I left, which was early in the afternoon (I had a foot injury and it was screaming at me to go), half of the cars in the parking lot that arrived early in the day were already gone. Just as many people were leaving as they were coming in. I snapped a photo of the scene outside that seemed very poignant about the lack of people in the area (see end of article). It was disturbing.

And I think a lot of it has to do with how very stagnant FanExpo is with their programming. There was only one panel room. One. If you didn't like what was being featured that day, then you're out of luck. In my case I was there for the cosplayers. Fortunately they had their own panel, but someone in the press booth was on a power trip and would not allow me to bring in any form of recording equipment or tripod (which is funny because I counted 10 tripods the next day and no one said a word. Hmm...). So I couldn't video the panel. Other then, that's it. I had no interest in the guests attending this year. Which knocks out roughly 3-6 hours in a day of line waiting. The vendor room all had content I've seen before, or that I can get cheaper online.

Unless you were there to see Y celebrity or to trade in old comics, there was nothing to do at DCC.

It. Was. Boring.

I'm amazed I lasted as long as I did. If I had been a paying attendee ($75 for a weekend pass), I would have been very unhappy that I spent all that money for nothing. By the time I left some more people started to trickle in about 2-3 hours after me. Mostly friends. And it seems like they had an okay time. I'm glad that they did. But I think there's just a general "ho-hum" vibe about the entire experience. You spent $75 on a few hours of hanging out with your friends, when a night out eating pizza and bowling would have been a better use of those funds (not to mention much cheaper!) and you'd get a better experience.

Staff members seem to agree. A number of them are calling this their last show since FanExpo is taking DCC into a different direction. When you have to beg and plead with the parent company for content, there's something wrong with the system. While it may work for their audience in Canada, it's loosing the Texas charm that we love about our conventions.

On the plus it was nice to have a bit more walking space since it wasn't crowded, as usual. And they finally opened up the food "court" area on the second floor so you can purchase meals inside (for a really stupidly high price - $10 for a hamburger? Wow). Granted you can't get back inside once you go to the dining area outdoors. You have to walk downstairs, back through the front around the building, and then start the arduous climb back up. But it was another food option that had been closed off for years.

The higher ticket prices did not make up for the fewer crowds, less activities (seriously, DCC should have multiple panels going on at a time. Why not have one of the FaceOff competitors come in and do a demo?) and extra food vendors.

It was all dull and boring. Maybe the peak hours are now 3-6pm on Saturday and nothing more.

With the big event in May now landing on the same dates as A-Kon, I didn't even have to think twice about it. I'm not going to FanExpo. And after this weekend, I get the feeling we're going to see a lot more comic book and sci-fi fans showing up to A-Kon instead.

But I won't be returning. If this is the type of blandness we can expect from FanExpo in the future, it's not worth my time or money to even consider it. My funds will go elsewhere.

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