Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An Essay: New York Comicon has it become too big and too impersonal?

The last two days of Comiccon wore me out. I essentially got home and crashed into bed. Since I wasn’t officially covering the convention I didn’t feel the need to post anything. Mondocurry was Unseen’s official reporter on the ground and he’ll be chiming in with reports from show floor and panels.

For the record I had a great time. I saw several panels, spent too much money and even got to help my brother hawk his wares. Other than being a guest on a panel or signing autographs I think I did a little bit of everything.

I’m not going to report on what happened rather I’m going to ponder what’s next for the convention.

Having attended every year except the first one, I’ve watched it go from only part of the convention center to taking over the entire space. I’ve watched as it went from two and a half days to four. I’ve watched the crowds and the excitement grew.

My question is what now?

Has the convention gotten too big and has it jumped the shark?

I think it might have.

My feeling it maybe have jumped the shark comes from the fact that a comic convention had two booths hawking new cars and another hawking Craftsman tools. Yes there is cross over but tools and cars really?

What also troubles me is that there were some weird hiccups.

Because of construction the southern side of the convention center was ignored by most of the guests. Unaware that there were pass throughs most guests never traveled to the 2500- 3300 aisles It seemed that until merchants began to complain on Saturday no effort was made to channel people over that way.

What happened this year? The last couple of years there had been construction and there never as a problem with people finding any of the booths but this year there was. Several merchants I talked to said they took a bath financially on the first three days and only made a slight dent into their costs on Sunday.

I heard mixed things from the officially credentialed press. Apparently the interview area shared the hall with the lines for the IGN Theater. This meant that for many people doing interviews the echoing of crowd noises ruined their recordings because the sound echoed on the stone and steel walls and floors. Didn't anyone think what the press might need to provide them with adequete coverage?

And then there was the crowds.

They were huge, bigger than I’ve ever seen them. There was talk from some con staff that they over sold tickets. I know it sold out across the board which meant the normally sedate Friday was like the old Saturdays. Saturdays were just f-ing insane (SO insane I really don’t want to ever do Saturdays again).

How bad was Saturday? They were holding people in lines outside and trickling them back in as people left.

I know how they channeled them into events sometimes proved to be frustrating as lines occasionally stretched to infinity and beyond, and frequently crisscrossed into other lines with some people wondering just which line they were now on.

I understand they were trying to control things as best they could but being in the middle of it resulted in frequent confusion.

And then there were the givaways at 8AM that resulted in people camping out to get an exclusive ticket hours before the con started two hours later. So many people were showing up they had to open the convention sales floor early just to give them some place to go.

And the make up of the crowds is changing...

No longer is the crowds just full of hard core comic/anime/film and other fans. The crowd is full of people who are there simply to be able to say they were there. This isn’t a knock, hell I think everyone should release their inner geek, rather it’s to point out that NY Comiccon is now a hip happening that all the cool people go to. It’s clearly broken through on a larger level than pure fandom, but will this spell the ultimate end of the con? What will happen if comics stop being hip?

I’m guessing that that the convention won’t really have to worry if comic movies stop being the top of the box office.

On the other hand the con kind of feels more about being a media event then about a gathering of like-minded folks. The point at which this notion hit me was when I was being herded into the con and I was watching the crew of the con. They were so happy about being part of this hip thing that they seemed aloof and distant. Many seemed to have the drawn a line in the sand as if they were better than the rest of us and couldn't be bothered. It was a party for them, and we merely cattle to be herded to have our wallets emptied.

This was most apparent with the crew members with the bullhorns outside. They stood, or sat with a recorded message blaring over and over again while they talked and joked with their friends. They made no effort to talk to or enage anyone in line (this is a change from previous years). Those that did talk to anyone usually were interacting to say that we were heading in the wrong door.

Don’t get me wrong I had a great time but the con has grown colder since its inception. My observations are more my wondering if things are heading into a truly less friendly direction. These are not complaints, merely observations.

My only real complaint with the con was the lack of printed programs. Only a limited number were available each day at the information booths, maybe. It took me 3 days to run one down. That’s ridiculous. When I asked why, I was simply told that it was all on the smart phone app. I neither have a smart phone, nor did I want to scroll endless through one to find out a something I could find in the flip of a page. I understand the cost of printing one, but most people I know actually used the program over the app because it was easier. (Alternately they could have had something I could have printed off on a home computer that wasn’t a little bit at a time)

Is the con heading in the wrong direction? Has it gotten too big? Has it jumped the shark?

I don't know. I think it's on the road toward some sort of change, whether it's a good one or a bad one will be revealed next year. I say this because every time I've had a similar feeling about something I was either proved right or wrong about something the following year,as if the feeling were a warning of changes to come.  For example last year I wasn't sure about the New York International Children's Film Festival, something felt wrong. Then this year it roared back better than ever. On the other hand there was a certain other New York comic convention that suddenly had a similar feeling of going wrong, and it was borne out the next year when it all went wrong and folded.

As for New York Comicon, the next year will be when we know if its here to stay or if it's gone off the rails.

Again I had a great time, but I can feel the con changing into something else. I don’t know into what, but it’s changing, and I’m not sure it’s for the better.

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