The con season is coming to an end with the holiday season around the corner. Tucson celebrated its seventh annual comic book convention at the Tucson Convention center on November 8 and 9. There has been a lot traction since the inaugural Tucson con. Mike Olivares and his immediate family members threw together a convention this city deserved in a small building outside of a hotel that has been since demolished. The second location was in what is now an abandoned hotel in the heart of downtown Tucson. The third venue was at the edge of city limits that Rob Osborne and I affectionately refer to it as the “Bookmans bomb shelter.” This was not an overnight success. But Tucson hasn’t really had a successful comic con before, so almost anything will do at this point.
Tucson con has really come a long way. The two-day convention couldn’t have been scheduled on a more chaotic weekend in the Old Pueblo. Mike Olivares, Tucson con director, normally scheduled the con for the first weekend of November. Normally, Tucson’s most popular event The All Souls Procession would compete with the con, so Mike pushed his con a week after to avoid the collision, again. All Souls is a beautiful celebration of the dearly departed with a parade comprised with music, bands, floats, puppets and elaborate face paint. However, the All Souls event coordinators pushed its event to circumvent day of the dead. All Souls weekend brings an estimated 150,000 visitors and up to $15 million in revenue for the city of Tucson.
I suspect that the coinciding events benefit each other a great deal. The con is situated near the All Souls parade route, and the fiestas occur hours after the con ends. I noticed a lot of attendees were already dressed for the event on the last day.
So, how did the con go? Surprisingly, the first day was well received. I was tabling in the D section and everyone that approached me were amazed by the line awaiting to enter the con. I was told there were thousands of people waiting to buy their tickets. I heard that there were only two people running the ticket booth, so it caused a bottleneck and huge delay. The con broke its 2013 attendance record on the first day with an estimated 15,000 visitors not including children (12 and younger), according to the con director. Olivares said one of the biggest draws was the costume contest with over 600 spectators.
There were over 250 vendors tabling the event. The Phoenix-based comic book creators and cosplayers had a strong presence at the event. The Phoenix Comicon has become so popular that a lot of the locals are finding it harder to get a table or lost their in for a comp. Table top gaming and costumed/cosplay charity groups were based at both ends of the con to avoid crowds.
L.A. creator Sina Grace (Lost My Bag, Burn The Orpahange) attended the Tucson con for the last couple of years and he sold out of merchandise and pleased with the experience. Ryan Cody (Doc Unkown) said his profits matched what he would normally do at the Phoenix Comicon. Suzana Harcum and Owen White (Tripping Over You) recently moved from Boston to Tucson and were pleased with the response from their new community. There was a serious variety of diverse creators and attendees.
I moderated the spotlight on the Eisner award winning author Vivek J. Tiwary panel. Tiwary and I had a lengthy discussion about The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story and the upcoming film adaptation. I have met Tiwary at the San Diego Comic-Con but never had the opportunity to talk much. Tucson Comic Con has found a way to keep that grassroots, intimate feel in spite of its rapid growth.
— Dr. W (@coltsnohuddle) November 9, 2014
I hope Mike and company recruit more help for next year because they’re going to need it. The main issues that need to be addressed are the panels, tickets, and lines. Overall, the event was a cosmic success and proud milestone for the Tucson comic book community.
Henry Barajas is the co-creator, writer and letterer for El Loco and Captain Unikorn. He has also written and lettered short stories for two successful Kickstarter SpazDog Press projects: Unite and Take Over: Stories inspired by The Smiths and Break The Walls: Comic Stories inspired by The Pixies. He is the Newsroom Research Assistant for The Arizona Daily Star and was nominated for the Shel Dorf Blogger of the Year award for his work at The Beat. You can follow him on Twitter @HenryBarajas and Google+.