Editorial: Dallas Comic Con Aftermath – Ranting on the Rants

Let me start off by saying that the opinions expressed in this article are NOT the opinions of SciFiFX or the other members of the writing staff.

There are times when you just miss things that are right in front of you. In this case, I missed a YouTube video that was posted after Dallas Comic Con.  Apparently it got picked up by the NBC affiliate here in D/FW; Channel 5, yet I still missed it.   It consisted of a cosplayer; who gives her name as Diane Tran, and proceeds for over an hour to give a dissertation of the problems that the convention had. There were a few, admittedly. However, there are  other things that need to be brought up about this rant, things that were completely wrong. I’ll be as fair as I can be in this editorial. There was a good reason, at face value, as to why this letter was made and posted. There are quite a few issues that I will bring up and I do have my poison quill in hand.

Let’s start with things we can agree on:

*The lines. There was very little organization to the event in the sense of placement. The escalator on one side was next to the dealer’s room door, which happened to be right next to the ticket and information booths. And on the other side of the escalator was a concession stand. It was fanboy cattle for all intents and purposes in there. It got warm from having a lot of bodies pressed into this space, and would’ve benefited greatly from having a rope separation of where people needed to stand for what place. Even moving the door to the dealers room would have been of great benefit to help that congestion out. I know why they used that one, but for Comic Con purposes, this would be far better. Even possibly putting GameStop in the alcove just off the dealer’s room would have been great use. Whenever I got to look at their end of the con, they were barely busy. Putting the info and ticket booths back to their spots from previous conventions would have helped to free up the escalator and the concession stand.

*Food: I’ll also agree that having people moving around with drink and food carriers would have been great. The prices were going to be up there (it was $4 for a hot dog), but it’s a convention. I know that I didn’t eat that day, but I did manage to get a couple drinks when I could get through the line. In future, I hope that’s something that they can do for everyone’s benefit.

*Volunteers: A lot of the newer and less experienced people were having trouble helping people out. There were times when I tried to get some information from one that I’d never seen working the circuit before and he was more confused than I was. It all worked out, and hopefully the next time he’ll be aware to keep certain info in mind. I’ll admit that some of the workers have a problem being rude, but for the most part I commend the people you do get. The one veteran, whose name I never get, was of great benefit. All I can say is that I hope some of these people stick around, learn the ropes from the others like him, and will be veterans themselves someday.

*Seating: Downstairs needed it badly on Saturday. I don’t think there’s any point of contention there. The third floor has plenty. I always had a seat during the Q&A’s, but downstairs was a much floor as you could find.

I also want to point out that while these complaints are very valid; Mark Walters said on Sunday that they were aware of the problems and would be fixing these issues for the next convention. He and Ben Stevens coordinate these events into what they are. I’m going to take it on faith that he and Mr. Stevens will do everything they can to make the event what it should be. If you don’t believe me, then take a look at the Dallas Comic Con website.   Their comment is next to the picture of the kids dressed as Thor and Iron Man.

Now that I’ve gone through the things we all agree on, let’s get to the rest of this….

Having read the comments on the YouTube page, I have come to the understanding that Ms. Tran had gone without sleep for four days before the con. She was exhausted and hot after spending time in full costume in the heat. There have been things she’s come to understand since the event as being overestimation, such as the 500,000 to 800,000 people that she believed to have attended the event. Now, I’m not going to say I was standing on the stairs counting every head that passed me by, but I’m fairly certain that a turn out that size would’ve rivaled ANY Comic Con. San Diego’s attendance for 2011 was roughly 126,000. To put this into perspective, the population of Irving (as of 2010) is 216,290. That number has likely changed, but it says all it needs to. Yes, I can understand exaggeration, however to continually say it made it sound like it was stated fact. The estimation I’ve heard from people comes somewhere between 15,000 to 25,000. I’ve only recently heard the 25,000 mark myself. I believe it to be somewhere between 18 to 20,000.

If that’s a petty complaint, then let’s get the other petty complaints out of the way. The A/C and elevators were working. I went up and down the elevators on a couple of occasions, due to the escalators being so jam-packed. The A/C was a blessing in my book. The reason it was hot in the building is because of the aforementioned 15 to 20 something thousand we had crowding the place. That many warm bodies pressed together is likely to cause heat. The A/C kept up as long as you weren’t standing in a line or being crowded among the people. That’s just going to happen. It also doesn’t help that Ms. Tran mentions that she’s also sick and can’t handle the heat. I know I’m not the best at it myself, but it was relatively cool inside and even outside in the shade. It was low to mid-90s from what I read on a few weather sites that day. Inside a costume, it was likely more sweltering due to the nature of the materials that were used in the costume design. The Loki costume that Ms. Tran is wearing in her video looks to be warm, and it is Texas in May. This complaint isn’t something that they necessarily have to consider. Why? Because while they have the costume contest, it’s also understood that you should not put yourself at risk with something that will likely boil you! My hats off to every cosplayer (especially to those out there in the 501st and Rebel Legion) who wear thick outfits and armor. If I had the money, I’d buy all of you a round of waters!

Cosplay is great, and I love seeing the fans out there showing their fandoms. I admit, I wish I could find a costume that would work great with me, but my body-type doesn’t allow for things I want to wear. If I want it bad enough, I’d do something about that. I also know that I’m prone to heat exhaustion, which means I need to keep myself hydrated and not try wearing cool stuff like that in the oncoming Texas Summer. Even in October, the temperatures around here stay warm. It’s fun, it’s pricey, and it can be dangerous in the right circumstances. If you want to wear an outfit, know the risks behind it. If you can find a better breathing substitute, I recommend it for those who can’t stand up to the heat. It might not be as 1:1 as you’d like, but it’s better safe than sorry.

In line with this, let’s talk about the floors of the convention center. Yes, they are concrete. They were concrete the last 3 shows before this one, they’ll be concrete the next 3 conventions and likely will not change. This is a non-issue. You go in knowing this and accept it. As for mats to put on the floor, I’m not sure what Ms. Tran is expecting here. Putting mats where lines would go is an exercise in futility. A few people will be able to stand on one, and the rest will still be on the concrete. Sure, any port in a storm would be nice. However, I know the mats that they put on concrete floors. They’re good stuff, but they are also easy to trip on. I’m not sure how many of these they would need to place down in order to make this work, and likely would have to carpet the entire dealers room and a few other choice locations with them. This isn’t cost effective, where as wearing comfortable shoes would be. If you’re a cosplayer wearing boots and heels, my recommendation is go through the lines for stuff in your everyday sneakers. When the time comes for a contest, put the costume shoes back on. It’s a hell of a lot more effective for you than for them.

Now, let’s address the ticket prices. This one I’m not even sure how you miss what they are. A quick look at their website and even searching through Google gave me what I needed to know. VIP for this con was $75 bucks and it was $40 for Priority. Yes, that’s still a bit pricey, but it’s worth it. It’s also a far cry cheaper than the $400 to $600 price tag that Ms. Tran stated. I’m not even sure WHERE those numbers came from, but as far as I can remember going to these cons, they’ve never been THAT expensive. It’s going up a little, but it’s also understood that the move to the bigger facility and the guests they’re getting will cause prices to go up. I’d like for them not to, and will ask that they not going too much higher. However, I have been willing to spend my money to get in.  That expenditure tells them that they’re right, and I’m fine with that.  I like having these events here and while I don’t want to pay more, I’m going to anyway.  I want to be a part of my section of culture in this big way.

The lines are the lines, what can you do about that? They’ve always been longer than anyone would like, but when you’re meeting celebrities it’s likely to happen! San Diego Comic Con made it popular to be into geekdom. The closet fans of stuff came forth and those who don’t know the deep information came forward. Shows like the Big Bang Theory and Comic Book Men put the lives of those who live in geek culture to the forefront. People want to see that up close. Now we have a slice of that in our backyard, and though the majority of it is still we fans doing what we fans do, it’s obvious that others have found themselves at the Irving Convention Center looking to meet the likes of Sir Patrick Stewart, Adam West, Kevin Conroy, etc. In one fell swoop I’ve mention Star Trek: the Next Generation, Batman, and Batman: the Animated Series. The old fans know it, but the newer people will know things like X-Men, Family Guy, and Batman: Arkham Asylum/Arkham City. These people are legion and will not be denied the chance to meet these individuals. That’s also not forgetting that Stan Lee is in town three weeks after the Avengers has dominated the box office. Then you have the true comic fans out in style meeting the legendary Neal Adams, George Perez, and Len Wein. Let’s also not forget the host of other great artists that came! Yes, the building was going to be crowded and lines were expected to be atrocious.

Here’s the real catch to the Patrick Stewart line; I was in the General Admission line. Yeah, I was for a few hours of my time as VIP and Priority went through. It also should be pointed out that Sir Patrick got to have a 30min lunch and went to the restroom. He came back and signed the artwork I brought with me, though he had quite a few photos ready on his table. He was in good spirits and joked with me a bit. All in all a very pleasant experience. The line moved quickly, but anticipation gets in the way. I know that, because it seemed an eternity for the line to move. Once it did though, I was in and out in no time. Sir Patrick, from what I was told, got all the autographs in and the photos. He left around 5:30 or 5:45. Regardless, it wasn’t an 8 hour wait.

Speaking of celebrities; I learned through this video that Leonard Nimoy nearly staged a walkout while he was here last year. Now, I again remember clearly being in that line and how anticipation killed me. I was so waiting to meet Spock! I had heard nothing but nice things about him from everyone I’d ever talked to that had met him. As I recall the event, there were a ton of people that came out to see him. That much I can agree with Ms. Tran’s statement. That being said, I also remember this man seeing the line and understanding that there were so many people that he was going to generously start signing 30 minutes before he was supposed to. There wasn’t a great deal of time to talk with him, but I got a smile, a thank you, and the appreciation of the artwork I had done for his signing. I’ve tried looking up rumors to the idea that he was about to do this, and have found nothing. I would love to hear from some source to know if this were true or not. I’m treating this as suspect at best. At worst, I could treat this as vicious rumors. I won’t go THAT far.

As far as cancellations go, the one that I remember off the top of my head being mentioned was Val Kilmer. On the site it mentions that Val had a conflict with his one-man show and couldn’t be there. It wasn’t like he took a look at the venue and decided to up and quit. Yes, I’ve heard he can be quite the abrasive star. I’ve met William Shatner, so I’m used to the brush off personality. However, Mr. Stevens and Mr. Walters CANNOT be held responsible for someone having to bow out. It’s something that happens; these people have lives. Those lives are filled with filming and theatre schedules. Obviously they found a great replacement in Summer Glau.

There are a host of other things I really want to talk about. Like the fact that she states that autographs and food are far too expensive. I talked a little about the latter part above.  As to the former; going into an event with little money when you could have looked up the prices for all the autographs well in advance is not their fault. They’ve stated that the actors set the prices. It’s not a cheap proposition, and that’s a sad thing. The simple fact is, you have to go in there expecting that a ton of cash will be blown. She said that she spent $180 on outside food. For a two day event, that’s a lot of food. Regardless of the pettiness on my part, I too am on a budget. I saved up my money for this convention as I do for all of them. I go in knowing who I’m going to get in line for and then adjust my wallet accordingly to deal with other stuff like buying things from dealers and artists. I also make sure that in my budget, I’ve also got cash for food. She mentions going to a ton of cons and having to do so on a budget… I’m sorry, but that’s a matter of choice to go in like that. A touch more research says all you need to know.

If I’ve been lightweight up to this juncture, here’s where I draw blood and talk directly to Ms. Tran.

“We buy stupid stuff.”

Excuse me? I DO NOT BUY STUPID STUFF! You will not speak for me, and I’m sure you do not speak for ANY fan that has bought a collectible from a dealers table.  My dealers room purchases were the first volume of Urban Jungle, Stalled Trek: Amutt Time DVD, and a loose War Machine action figure from the Iron Man 2 line. None of this is stupid! The book and the DVD were funny and gave me something to smile about, the action figure is part of an ever growing collection of characters that mean something to me. If your comics and other collectibles mean so little to you as to be reduced to being called stupid stuff, then I’m going to suggest giving or selling it to a real fan. Why is it stupid stuff? If a person loves their comics, their statuary, their action figures, DVDs, CDs,  cars, baseball cards, stamp collection, whatever; that does not make it stupid! It means something to them. It’s a connection to something that they need or remember. Sometimes we outgrow it. It happens, and we pass the things down to the next individual we hope will love it as much as we do. Consider that the next time you decide to make it sound like we spend our hard earned money on wasted materials. If that’s not what you meant to say, it sure as hell comes across that way.

And let me put something to rest here; Superdickery.com is a funny site to look at. It’s also the most misleading site on the planet. It’s not meant to be used as a site to show that Superman was a jerk. Thanks to io9 for giving me a list of some of the covers. I think you’ll find that the covers are just a draw to read the story inside the book. The Lois Lane issue 81 is on the io9 site. READ THE SYNOPSIS!

Why am I so passionate about all this? Simply put, this hour long amount of disinformation has been made public. This means that you’ve made a lot of hard working people look bad. Instead of sending an email or putting this video on private to where a select group could respond to it, you released it into the wild. You made the event runners sound amateurish, at best. You also circumvented just saying that we fans are freaks. I don’t take kindly to the implication, nor do I think a great many would. If that seems like an overblown accusation on my part, my apologies to those who didn’t hear it that way. I certainly did, and I’m certain I won’t be the only one. We can’t always get all our facts straight. It happens that way. When info gets screwed up here on the site, we have to do a retraction. If it’s on the podcast, we mention it next recording time. You blitzed the event by this. You could have taken off the costume, showered, put on something cooler, come at this with a clear head. You didn’t. You came into this recording with a raw nerve and spoke up for the masses. Next time, speak for yourself and not the rest of us. My personal opinion, for what that’s worth. You are not our spokesperson, at least not mine.

To Mark Walters and Ben Stevens: I want to extend out my thank yous for the great time I had. There were issues, you know it, we all do. Thanks for taking the time to listen and recognize them. I sincerely look forward to coming in October and reporting the fun we have. I had the best time, and was sorry to see it come and go so fast. I was sore for a few days after due to all the stuff I got into, and I’ll do it all over again! Congratulations from me and I’m sure the rest of my colleagues for the record breaking event. Here’s to many more!