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Alamo City Comic Con 2014 Review

When I heard about Alamo City Comic Con (ACCC for short) last year, I didn’t expect much to be honest. That’s due to the fact that it was a first year con. But when I went on that Saturday, I couldn’t believe that so many people (about 34,000 in fact) were in attendance at the HBG Convention Center. Neither did the ACCC staff as they were so overwhelmed that they had to turn people away. It’s been a year since then, and ACCC has returned with the promise of more room, bigger guests and of course comics galore.

 

Heroic

 

Stan “The Man” Lee- I’ll be honest, when I heard that comic book legend Stan “The Man” Lee was coming to ACCC, I shrieked like a teenaged girl who found out that One Direction is coming to town. It’s been said many times before by many different people and very cliche to say, but it’s true never the less: the stories and characters that Stan Lee help create so many years ago have been a big part of my life. As a nerd growing up, I could relate to the problems that faced Peter Parker/Spider-Man and the X-Men. It gave something that my dad and I something to talk about when I would accompany him on long trips. And even though he is no longer at Marvel, Stan still continues to inspire and entertain fans. For many people at ACCC he was the main reason that they went, and I don’t blame them.

 

Broad range of guests- The beauty of comic cons is that they don’t just focus on one type of guest. They try to cater to all fronts of the pop culture spectrum and ACCC is no different. For their second year, ACCC really tried cover all their bases with a broad range of guests. From Kevin Eastman, one of the original creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, the voices actors to the 80’s/90’s TMNT cartoon show, cast members of The Walking Dead and iconic 80’s horror actors to cosplayers, video game voice actors and comic artists, there was a wide variety of guests to meet.

 

More space- When ACCC debuted last year, they didn’t expect that many people, since it was a first year con. Maybe a thousand or so tops. To theirs and everyone else’s surprise, over 43,000 people showed up for the convention, with many being turned away due to fire code. This year to make sure that everyone gets a chance to get in, ACCC took up three of the exhibit halls instead of the one they had last year. This made for a larger dealer’s area, more artist and most importantly tons of breathing room.

 

Variety of vendors/artists- With last year’s ACCC most of the vendors and artists that attended were some of the same people that make the rounds in the Texas convention circuit. With the added space, ACCC was able to increase the number of dealers and artists they could get and even invite many new dealers and artists not seen in Texas before.

 

Badges for VIPs, 3-Dayers & media- One of the complaints that I had last year with ACCC is that they went with a wristband system. You know, like the kind of wristband you get if you go to a club and you’re either underage or the designated driver. It itches, looks plain ugly and if you are attending for three days, you can’t take it off. So this year ACCC went with a badge system, sort of. Fans who had paid for one of the several themed VIP passes, a three day pass or was a part of the media received badges. This is a solid start however, its not enough.

 

Sidekick in training

 

Post up autograph prices prior to con- I know that comic cons have different policies in place when it comes to getting autographs from guests and I understand that the guests charge in order to make up for dropping whatever it was they were doing previously to attend the con. However anime and gaming cons do something that ACCC didn’t do: they mention if autographs are free or not (this also includes photo ops). These cons make the effort to let the fans know ahead of time if guests will be charging for autographs and in the majority of the anime/gaming cons that I’ve been to, they do not charge. In ACCC case they did charge, and I have no problems with that, however it would have been nice to see how much the guests were charging or if they were charging at all. I know that I’m not the only one when I say if I had known how much the guests were charging for autographs, I would have had accounted that into my budget.

 

Better communication regarding guest interviews- As a budding journalist, conducting guest interviews is a great way to generate content, especially if the guest that you plan to interview make rare appearances in your region. At the majority of conventions that I’ve been to, in order to conduct an interview with a specific guest, you would have to go through the con’s press liaison in order to schedule interviews. In ACCC case, in order to get an interview you would have to ask that guest’s agent on the day of the con. While I don’t mind having to go through the agent, I don’t think the dozens of fans that i am holding up will mind. The guests’ time is very limited and they want to interact with as many fans as the allotted time will let them. By taking that time away from the fans, that will definitely anger them. Not to mention that a con’s busiest day is Saturday. It would have been nice if ACCC has time schedule for the press to interview guests or have a media day a day or two before the start of the con.

 

Give all con goers badge not wristband- As I mentioned before, this year VIPs, 3-Dayers and media received proper badges. But those who bought their tickets on site were relegated to the annoying wristbands that I also mentioned. If you could afford to print thousands of paper guidebooks, then printing one day badges shouldn’t be a problem.

 

Need more room for artists- While I’m glad to see that there were more artists at ACCC this year, I can’t help but feel as if they were a bit too cramped. Especially when you factor in con goers who are walking through the lanes and stopping every so often to look at art and maybe buy something. It must have been hard to try to do commissions while in such a cramped space.The artists of Artist Boulevard need a bit more breathing room not only for their safety but to also give con goers more room to walk through the lanes.

 

No need for two areas for gaming- I’ll keep this simple, the Box Lounge gaming area was not needed and no offense to the guys that run it, but it was a waste a space. There was no need to have two gaming areas, especially if one area (Box Lounge) charges to enter. The should have been merged with the Red Bull Gaming area to free up space. If its too nosey for the tabletop/card games section of the Red Bull Gaming, it would have been best to have them setup in one of the panel rooms on the river level of the convention center. Less noise for GMs who are trying to teach the game and trying to run tournaments.

 

Not a lot of panel diversity- Come for the guests, stay for the panels and everything thing else in between it extra. This is what I believe that all cons, be it anime, video games, comics etc, should strive for. Most cons do a pretty decent job of providing various activities for con attendees to enjoy. Basically there’s something for everyone, and even if an attendee isn’t into the main attraction of the con, odds are there is something that will peak their interest. ACCC did have a ton of panels, however there was a lack of diversity. Each of the panels, while diverse in subject matter, basically fell into the same Q&A pattern. It would have been nice to see something like “evolution of the female super hero”, “hero/villain creation 101”, evolution of super hero/villain costumes” or have some panels that encourages active audience participation like Comic Jeopardy. ACCC needs to give its attendees more things to do once they get their autographs or bought the swag they wanted.

 

Invest in GuideBook- While some cons are barely adopting GuideBook, it is the one of the most helpful apps that a con can offer. While I do like the traditional paper guides, having an electric version of the paper guide is much more handy, and its green friendly too. GuideBook allows you to see maps of the con, the schedules of the panels, gives general directions, allows you to schedule reminders and so much more. ACCC need to invest in GuideBook for next year. And I will not accept the excuse that not everyone has a smartphone. Smartphones are starting to become more commonplace thanks to affordable brands and plans.

 

ACCC’s second year was the conventions biggest year so far. With a huge star studded lineup of guests, artists, awesome looking cosplays, panels  and tons of swag to buy how could you not help but have fun. However ACCC has a bunch of backend flaws that they need to improve on. These flaws include posting autograph prices ahead of the con, replacing wristbands with actual badges, better communication with press regarding guest interviews, more panel variety/diversity, consolidate gaming areas into one section and more room for artists. These things can be easily fixed. But I do have one major concern that I didn’t mention above.

 

I am worried that ACCC went too big too fast. In the comic convention scene, Stan Lee is like the Holy Grail of guests. He rarely attends cons unless he’s promoting his new company POW Entertainment or some new venture. Not to mention he is 91 years old. How can ACCC top Stan Lee? Well we have a whole year to worry about that. For now, ACCC 2014 was a huge success regardless of its flaws and a con that I will continue to attend, with or without Stan Lee.

 

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