Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dallas ComicCon 2012 - A Report

The lines.  The endless lines.

Yes, I know that lines are something to be expected at a convention.  But the lines at Dallas ComicCon 2012 on Saturday were beyond belief.  I cannot say for certain that the convention may have been oversold relative to the maximum occupancy of the convention center but given some of the stories I heard from fellow convention goers and the evidence I witnessed with my own eyes, it would not surprise me if that were the case.

Don't get me wrong - this was without a doubt the biggest convention, in terms of talent presented, of any convention held in the Dallas area in recent memory.  For the comic fans, you had living legends like Stan Lee, Neal Adams, Len Wein and George Perez along with dozen of other popular artists and authors.  Or say you're interested in media guests?  Start with Professor X himself, Patrick Stewart.  Bring in Summer Glau of Firefly fame.  Adam West AND Burt Ward?  .They were both there.  And I'm just scratching the surface here.

Unfortunately, while the management of DCC did bring a fine collection of attractions to the DFW area, the management of the crowds left much to be desired.  Perhaps it wouldn't have been so bad if, like last year's Sci-Fi Expo at the same convention center, the convention layout had created one large area in the main room for all of the celebrity guests rather than sequestering the media guests on the third floor as they did this year.  The escalators broke down early on and the lines up to the third floor quickly overlapped with the lines for the concession stands on the second floor.

This led to another problem I ran into and heard about from my associates - the concessions issue.  Ignoring the long lines that wound up blocking the aisles making it difficult for many vendor tables to operate, the concession stands reportedly ran out of bottled water early on .  To make matters worse, unlike every other convention I've ever attended, pitchers of water were not made freely available in the hallways or far corners of the main convention room.

But before I embark any further on this discussion about the problems of the day, let me speak a bit about the good things that happened and the many things that the convention did right.

I arrived about half an hour before the doors were to open, clad in my newest cosplay outfit - a Green Arrow costume loosely modeled on the design used during Brightest Day.  I was not the only Green Arrow in attendance but I was the only one with a boxing glove arrow.  :)


After posing for a picture at the request of one of the volunteers (and letting them snap one of me with my camera), I continued on to wait in the line immediately outside of the elevator for the parking garage on the backside of the convention center.  After a brief wait, we were let inside and I was able to buy my pass.

The first order of business was to hit the vendor's room and seek out a certain book.  In all the preparation for the convention, something hit me - apart from a collection of Green Arrow/Green Lantern stories, I didn't have a single Neal Adams comic anywhere in my collection.  Thankfully, I was able to find a copy of Green Lantern/Green Arrow #86 at a reasonable price at a booth run by one private collector.  

The autograph area for the comics professionals took up the entire back wall of the main convention floor.  Deciding not to brave the crowd that was already lining up for Neal Adams, I decided to hit some of the other pros on my list.  The first was Brian Stelfreeze, long-time cover painter for the Batman: Shadow of the Bat series, followed shortly thereafter by artist Norm Breyfogle.  I had them both autograph a copy of Batman: Shadow of the Bat #13 - which was one of the first Batman comics I ever read back when I first started getting into comics.

I got my copy of The Shade #1 autographed by Cully Hammer, who illustrated the first few issues of the current mini-series as well as redesigning various DCnU characters along with Jim Lee.  We had a nice discussion about the Arrow trailer as well as the progression of Green Arrow's costume through the years.
After that, I played hero for a few minutes.  When I got to the table of artist Kristan Donaldson, I found it seemingly abandoned.  Not seeing any convention security around, I opted to hang around, figuring that if nothing else I could be first in line when he got back.  It turned out he had gone off to take a smoke break.  I had him autograph one of my The Guild comics and he asked me about how I built the archer's glove for my costume.

Finally, I buckled down and got in the line for Neal Adams.  Getting to the front took me the better part of an hour, which wasn't that bad relatively speaking.  What was bad, however was that several people never learned the basic con etiquette which suggests you ask someone before cutting through their line to get from one side to the other.  This became particularly problematic as the lines for the professionals stretched back far enough that it denied the creation of two lanes (one going in each direction) near the dealer's tables in the middle of the room.  Still, the aggrevation was worth it when I finally got to meet Neal Adams, thank him for everything he'd done to define Green Arrow over the years and get my new book signed.
This left me with one autograph I wanted to get that day - Kevin Conroy.  The Voice himself.  The voice of Batman in darn near everything that required a voice actor for Batman in the last 20 years.  Sadly, it was not to be.  When I got to the end of the line around 1:30, I was informed by a Con staffer holding a sign that he did nor mark the end of the line but rather the point at which autographs could not be guaranteed.  At that point, the line was stretching from Conroy's booth at the far left side of the main room, running along the left wall and then running along the close wall before ending just shy of the concession stands build into the close wall.  This line, coupled with the lines for the concession stands , made navigating the aisle between the concession stands and the first rank of dealer tables all but impossible.

Deciding I'd had enough of lines for the day and having too much else to do, I made a quick trip to the car to drop off my swag and decided to go check in with some friends and snag a few cosplayer pictures myself. 

A sweet-looknig Supergirl I ran into on the way back from my car.  She was with a young mother, who was showing her toddler the different heroes while waiting in line.  To my shock, the toddler was the only person all day to call me Hawkeye - a slight I was willing to forgive in his case.  He's still learning, after all, and mom was quick to correct him. 

A gender-flipped Blue Beetle and Booster Gold.  Why couldn't we have gotten this in the DCnU?

The first Black Canary I saw at the convention.  Naturally, I had to get a pic with her.

I met up with my friends Halo and Terry from ShoNuff Studio and picked up a copy of their limited-edition convention sketchbook.  The following scans are presented here with their generous permission.

I can't pretend to understand Halo's obsession with sentient cupcakes modeled on popular characters.  But damn me if I don't want a Hellboy Cupcake at my next birthday. :)

Terry Parr's Steampunk Hitler. That is all.

I stopped by the table of  Something Positive/Super Stupor creator R. K. Milholland.  I had planned to purchase a copy of his first printed Super Stupor book (mine disappeared after I loaned it to a friend, but I can't remember precisely which one) but he generously insisted on me taking it gratis.  Besieged by another line of people waiting for concessions (this one running directly up one of the columns between the vendor tables), it took some doing for me to finally escape.  Until then, I had a lovely chat with R.K and his girlfriend about libraries and geek-themed brothels.

I posed for a few more pictures over the next hour.  The following people either took my picture or were generous enough to allow me to use their table to hold my props as I rewrapped my bow.

Damien T. McDaniel - Freelance Artist

Rotten Pumpkin Studios

Deciding I didn't feel up to hanging around for the costume contest, I made a break for it and began heading back to the parking lot.  It was then that I unexpectedly ran into my friend Phil, a local journalist who had was late in getting out to the convention that day.  Phil was cosplaying Agent Coulson from the recent Marvel movies. 

By that point, the line for Kevin Conroy had been moved out of doors in the close left corner of the main room and into the main convention hall, stretching back to the exit for the parking lot.  While I didn't feel up to waiting around with Phil, I did pose for a few more pictures including one with my second Black Canary of the day.

One heartening note, though this is Phil's story not mine.  Apparently Kevin Conroy, after everyone had been ushered out of the convention center by the police, came out and signed autographs for all the people who hadn't been able to get to him and had demanded refunds because they wound up spending the entire day waiting in line for one autograph.

I'd always admired Kevin Conroy as an actor.  Now I admire him as a man.  Kudos to you, sir!

Overall, I had fun.  But I hope that this year will lead to improvements over how things are run in the future.

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