Monday, March 16, 2015

Wizard World Comic Con: Sunday Review

I love conventions. Heck, I even love business conferences (yeah, I know, I'm weird). A well-done convention with good programming is a sight to behold and a joy to attend. You make new friends, you get to wander around a dealers' room, and you learn some pretty great things at the programs.

But I also don't have the money to attend many, so I pick a couple and hope they're worth it. That's why local conventions (y'know, within an hour or two of driving) are nice--save the hotel room and spend the cash on tickets.

What don't I love? Having two conventions under the same name at the same time, linked by location and divided by the amount of cash you drop.

I only hit up Sunday, which was the last day of Wizard World Comic Con. My local chapter of the RWA had a meeting Saturday (and it was amazing), so Sunday was the only day I could make. Sundays have a reputation of being when everyone hits the dealers rooms at most cons anyway. And there were a couple of panels we found interesting, plus a couple that were fairly appealing but just not the right cup of, uh, coffee (there's not really such a thing as a wrong cup of tea for me).

So, the good first.

For an $85 three-day con, the programming listed sounded pretty good, if more sparse than most of the cons I've been to. A panel with Sean Astin, with Vampire Diaries' Ian Somerhalder, panels discussing costuming, geekdom from a minority perspective, steampunk, William Shatner, meeting the cast and crew of Star Trek New Voyages... Saturday had a very nice line-up. Friday barely bothered with four programs total, but it started at 5, so it was the pre-party anyway. Sunday was lighter on the programming, being also a short day, and really most cons expect Sunday to be dealer room day anyway. But although there were a couple of programs I was glad we caught on Sunday, Saturday was the true day to go.

The dealers' room was nice. I mean, besides the fact that it's a fandom kingdom of joy. There was a good variety of items to purchase, with a mix of collectibles, swords, handmades, local artists and authors, and even a couple of photo ops (Batmobile, Scooby Doo van, Dinosaur van). While I've been in larger dealers' rooms, for a relatively small convention this room was bigger than I'd expected. There were a few big names doing photographs and autographs, too. (We got a Master Sword, which will be treasured like the Precioussssss it is.)

They also seemed quite organized, with the registration moving quickly (on Sunday, anyway), and the area nicely laid out. The Raleigh Convention Center staff know what they're doing when it comes to conventions (seriously, it's in the name; it's literally their job, and they're good at it). The location is nice, and there's a parking deck right beside the convention center, so easy to get a spot.

And I can't help but note the cosplay. Raleigh's got a lot of good cosplayers, so many of those wandering around were, shall we say, well attired. Although the concourse would have made a great area for cosplay display, it was more a thoroughfare and there wasn't as much in the way of posing as I usually see, with much of the photography going on in the registration room and dealers' room. Still, some people were taking advantage of the great lighting.

Posing with K9 was free, though, and you better
believe I did. Sick 'em, K9!

So what did I dislike about this con?

For a con that made a really big deal of bringing in David Tennant, if you didn't pay more than twice the price for a VIP pass (or an extra $100 for a photo op), then you didn't see him in person. Even his autograph was extremely expensive (I've seen $20 for big names at other cons; this was more). Basically there was Wizard World Comic Con, and David Tennant Con with Wizard World access included This wouldn't bother me that much, since he was added to the docket later, except that much of the merchandising and advertising made a huge deal over his presence; the convention seemed to be missing its cornerstone if you didn't pay the extra. Had there been a "budget" package that said "budget members lose the chance to see Tennant in exchange for a lower price," it would have been better played--as it was, it felt like going to see The Hobbit at a theater advertising cheap tickets, but unless you pay the full price, you don't get to see any scenes containing Gandalf. Still a good movie, but there's something missing.

They didn't hide that Tennant was extra, by the way; it was pretty clearly implied from the beginning that he was extra. And everyone could watch the Q&A panels with him the same way they usually see him--on TV, or specially on ConTV. So... I guess we can say we got to be in the same building, and I have some friends who got to see him, which is something, at least.

Besides Tennant, the autographs and photo ops seemed pretty pricey on the whole, too. At least compared to the other conventions I've been to. The program list, while nice, was also less extensive and varied than other cons, with fewer tracks and fewer overall options. Good quality, small quantity. I note here that I've gone to smaller cons with more programming of equal and even higher quality, so I knock off some points here. And on the whole I got a "very commercial" vibe. I mean, it's a con, so I expect they're there to make money, but this was more than usual.

Would I go to this convention again? Meh. Not likely. I had fun, but if I have a limited number of cons I can attend, I'd rather go to different one next year.


  1. Big names being super pricey is unfortunately standard for cons. Last time I was at Dragon*Con, getting an autograph and photo from Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, or Leonard Nimoy was $200. And from what I understand there was no time to chat because the line was huge.
    My guess is that part of that price goes to the convention to pay back the price of bringing them out, and their agents are going to make the cost of having them show very steep. I don't think that high a price is worth it, but plenty of people are willing to pay it, so it continues.
    For an even crazier example, if you look at the Con Man crowdfunding, there are (currently) two people willing to pay $25,000 to attend Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion's birthday party. ....I can't conceive of paying an entire year's income (both mine and Bob's!) to hang out at a party where you get to spend a little bit of time with a couple admittedly cool celebrities....

    1. Yeouch! That much? This must be why I never visited Autograph Row. It makes sense that the money goes to the price to fly them out. What people pay to hang with celebs is crazy. $25K? I'd rather spend it doing something awesome with my closest friends. Or, you know, mortgage or charity or something. But then again, maybe the world looks different when you have crazy amounts of money lying around.

    2. Most of the people in Autograph Row only wanted $30 (that was the minimum enforced by D*Con). Only the very big wigs get away with asking for more.
      But yeah, I totally agree about there being better uses of $25,000.