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Convention season kicked into high gear last weekend with WonderCon, Anime Boston, Fan Expo Dallas and MoCCA all taking place, and the schedule just gets busier from here.

Of all of them Fan Expo Dallas had the most crowd problems. The event, which is part of the Informa family of shows (which includes Fan Expo in Toronto, MegaCon, Boston Comic Con and many other shows), is a major show, in  a major territory, with huge media guests, and as a sign of its prominence, DC used it as the setting for some big announcements. 

But it was not without hitches. Reports on social media and vendor message boards indicate that there were huge crowds in the autograph area, and the crowds weren’t always well managed. Lines were as long as 8 hours to get an autograph. Sales for many vendors and artists were also middling.

Even worse, a combination of bad weather and scheduling led to marquee guests Norman Reedus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan having to leave early on Saturday to get back to LA in time for the Talking Dead program following the season wrap-up for Walking Dead on Sunday.

It seems that a tornado watch was in effect on Saturday, and the duo had to leave early to avoid delays. However as many fans had already paid their money and been standing in line for hours, the scene late Saturday was something of a disaster with thousands of disappointed fans standing in the exhibition hall long after the doors were to have closed, leading to security concerns. One person who was on the scene described it as a “near riot.”

The show did apologize and offered refunds:

There are more than 500 comments on this announcement, and if you guessed that most are VERY unhappy, you’re on the money! Surprise! Many describe chaotic lines and crying children.

Sandy Hines Broke the hearts of my two daughters after flying from Colorado. Waited hours for Norman Reedus autographs then turned away 11 numbers away. Waited more hours then turned away from paid photo ops. Ridiculous!!!!

I’m not going to subject Beat readers to all 500 complaints, but here’s a long and representative one:

This was the WORST, most disorganized, disaster of a Comic Con we have ever experienced. We will never go back to the Dallas Con. The crowds were irresponsible, dangerous, and frightening- not to mention straining and HOT. The entire Mark Hamill experience of being in line for the ticket and then trying to FIND the line at 12:30, only to be told that we had to disperse or the fire Marshall would shut us down… threatening the fans who’ve done nothing but pay and pay and pay to be there…

Who was responsible for the crowds and the terrible organization of staff? We had to listen to the staff try and figure out their game plan for an hour while we waited for instructions. Nothing was mentioned about this ticket system prior to 10 a.m. Why on earth would you schedule him to start signing “around 2” instead of first thing in the morning? We arrived at 8 to get in the front of the line in order to get his autograph and then enjoy our day. Instead, Our ENTIRE day was spent trying to figure out getting his autograph and dealing with rude, bossy, and obnoxious staff who kept yelling at us. We paid good money to come today and were mostly treated like criminals who were a bother and in the way.

Even the staff at Mark’s autograph line were so busy shoving the next item at him to sign, after 4-6 hours of waiting and dealing with his line and complications, stress, heat, and exhaustion, we were basically signed and shoved out of the way. No communication, no time of day. Very unimpressed. And that was after the camera security guy kept asking to check phones and forcing people to delete photos (let’s make sure to take ALL of the fun out of the excitement of meeting a childhood hero) and the guy we met first to show what we were to have signed, who commented on the fact that we were having “only just one” item signed for $195. I’m sorry we didn’t bring multiples for him to sign to be shoved over followed by security and volunteers telling us to quickly leave immediately.

Blaming the fans for the crowds was unfair and insulting. Having actors not allow any photos takes away the enjoyment of sharing their love of actors. This con has become solely about making money, and nothing else. Fans are not allowed to have fun, enjoy themselves, go up and simply MEET someone they admire, if they don’t have buckets of money to shove at the con.

There was not enough food options. Where were the food trucks like at the Irving Con?

Bathrooms near Hamill were SHUT DOWN in SPITE of crowds in that area – insulting. Rude. Hateful.

Having all actors on one floor was irresponsible. I will be writing and sending photos I took of crowds to the Fire Marshall and the Mayor of Dallas. I find it criminal how fans were treated. I find it stealing the way no refunds are given even with several last minute cancellations. The photo-ops are a joke and an insulting way to manipulate more money from fans who want a photo with someone they admire. Quit saying the no cell phone rule.

We are the fans and WE make these people worth their celebrity. If it weren’t for the FAN base, these conventions wouldn’t even take place. Stop treating us like we are beneath unless we pay top dollar for breathing within the vicinity if celebrities. Again, it’s insulting.

My back hurts from standing in long, hot, CRAMPED lines all day. I felt angry for much of the day and regretted coming. I hate that the way this Con was put on is the sole reason for how terribly the day turned out. This was the worst Con I’ve ever seen and will never go back.

A site called Nerd’s World has more on the troubles. It seems that someone started posting photos of Reeedus and Morgan in the green room signing autographs, adding more fuel to the fire, although a staffer stated that this was only a five minute thing and not something that took time away from the fan signings. Nerd’s World also has numerous photos of the immense crowds.

The crying children seems to have been the worst part of this, although why little kids are watching Walking Dead is a good question. Maybe they like JDM from P.S. I Love You?

One convention planner stepped into the breach a bit, offering a free ticket to Walker Stalker Tulsa for those who were denied.

https://twitter.com/JamesAFrazier/status/848396666554155009

Perhaps most alarmingly about the whole thing, cuddly Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays the villanous Negan on The Walking Dead, has turned into a shaggy old grandpappy.

 

I’ve always been told Informa shows were well run, but there have been crowding issues in the past and this seems to have suffered from overall poor planning. Based on what I know, the weather issues seemed legit, but the long lines and waits prior to that are the kind of things that fans won’t stand for when there are so many options out there.

Some people did have a good time though:
https://twitter.com/RebelSaga/status/848277752025362433

 

 

19 COMMENTS

  1. Lord..it looks like they left just enough room for one medium sized person to stand in that line. These cons have to stop treating people like cattle. To show contempt for fans who pay so much is ridiculous. I’ll also mention unpaid, not very well trained volunteer staff probably adds to a lot of fan frustration.

  2. I agree with Carl. I’m sure there were countless other talented comic book professionals at that show who would have loved to have met you, signed autographs for you, taken photos with you, and maybe even left you with a good memory.

    I do not understand the people who go to these conventions thinking they’ll just stroll up and shake JDM’s hand or take a quick pic with the asshole from Boondock Saints. Go to the show and meet people who are actually doing something that requires talent and not just getting fat stacks of bills for looking greasy on television.

  3. Yes. The were probably no lines for the comic guests, Because no one knows/cares who the fuck they are. (Uless your name is Stan Lee)
    That “asshole from Boondock Saints” is the reason thousands of bodies come through the door so Johnny Artist can be brought in to sell sketches from his 3 issue run on Howard the Duck in the mid 80’s.
    Most popular show on TV vs. Guy who drew a talking duck.
    Hmmmmm…….

  4. It might come as a surprise to some, but comic book conventions were a thing (successful even) before they became the place to meet ‘nerd-lebrities’. I still go for the comic book side of things, and it was great to get most of the autographs I wanted without being in lines more than 6 people deep.

    It was clear very early on Saturday that Fan Expo way oversold for this event, and iirc, some of the convention’s own posts referred to ‘temporarily’ blocking some exit doors to help accommodate lines – not a good approach.

  5. Yeah I love how BCN ragged on me about how comic book conventions should focus on comics. Seems he/she has a very specific example of being treated poorly by some Howard the Duck artist. Oh well, I’ll keep going to cons because of comics and not some shitty Night of the Living Dead remake starring pisspoor actors like the Boondock Saints cast-off.

  6. Huh!

    When I was a wee lad, it was already Quite A Wait if you’d been queueing for 15 minutes, signatures were free and you got a nice sketch too!

    Of course, that was in the Netherlands…

  7. Heidi, did you know there was ANOTHER Facebook post about this on their page that had over 1000 comments from angry fans, and they just deleted it? They’ve been deleting other negative posts on Facebook too.

  8. Very amusing that these people seem to think Mark Hamill and his manager had nothing to do with the ‘no free photos rule’ and that somehow that was Fan Expo’s doing.

    Or that Norman and company had nothing to do with deciding to leaving early, and that no, they couldn’t possibly take a 2 am or 5 am flight. (There were many available that left late enough for them not to blow off their fans) Hell Norman was late to signing and photos because he was doing private signings for cash behind closed doors.

    Not everything is Fan Expo’s fault. Some of it is. Some of it is the fault of greedy managers, actors, and photo companies too though.

  9. I was pretty disappointed in the organization of the con. Like people have been saying, photo ops were way oversold. Wasted too much time in lines. I actually got some stuff signed by an awesome comic writer, but was extremely disappointed in how they managed her line. I guess since she wasn’t a “top” celebrity, they just didn’t give a [email protected]!. Some dude got over 100 books signed, I hate that. Those people are usually the ones turning them around on eBay. But anyways, it caused a major backup into other booths/lines at he con. Many people just walked off. Also there was so much un-utilized space that could’ve solved their photo ops line issues. I’ve been to many conventions and this was by far my worst experience. My family and I are thinking about going somewhere else for our convention fun next year- you know, somewhere actually fun.

  10. This was our second FanExpoDallas show (attendees)… We came down (from Denver) last year as well.

    To many of the complaints, although valid, much is from people who have either never attended a con before or had an expectation with the One Day Saturday badge that they would just stroll up and get their stuff signed regardless of when they arrived.

    I always suggest that if you have never done a con, you should always start with a smaller one 1st to get a feel for how they are run and how things are set up.

    I also suggest that at bigger cons, ALWAYS buy at least one top tier (i.e. VIP) Badge for your group. Because last year at FED was so laid back (and they had serious talent there too – McFarlane, Miller, Lee, Capaldi, Bernthal, Atwell, etc) we opted not to buy a VIP this year. BIG mistake. Thank god a friend who was there had one and walked us through a few lines as family members with him and we knocked out everything.

    I also suggest PLANNING. Get on-line early and often and subscribe to all of the con’s Social Media to keep up to date – cancellations, changes, etc.

    We scheduled out our days and were able to get autographs from ALL of the following (and NO, I am not rich – I plan months ahead for a con and save):

    Sean Patrick Flannery
    Norman Reedus
    Mark Hamill
    Milo Ventimiglia
    Catherine Tate
    Tom Wilson
    Robin Lord Tayl;or
    Drew Struzan
    Stan Lee
    Jim Lee
    Scott Snyder
    Greg Capullo
    Adam Kubert
    Gail Simone
    Kevin McGuire
    Don Rosa
    Tony Harris
    Erduardo Risso
    Stephane Roux
    Ed Brisson
    Arthur Adams
    Brian Stelfreeze
    Mike Zeck
    Greg Horn
    Dave Johnson
    Adam West / Burt Ward – PHOTO

    It truly is all in the planning and asking ahead of time at the tables what the situation will be for the next day… and continue to ask.

    All that said, we did not have much time for shopping this year with vendors due to the lines… and Saturday (in my ‘humble’ opinion) was a clusterfuck. There were points that I guarantee they had OVER 30,000 people stuffed into the main hall.

    There was NO ONE managing traffic flow at the main ‘intersections’ of the con floor and by and large, the con goers were some of the rudest, least well mannered I have ever encountered. People were cutting in and out without a simple excuse me, they would stop and turn around and then be all irritated they couldn’t just go back through where you are now standing.

    I take a con ‘cart’ with me to all cons (I’m a disabled vet) – basically a wheeled cart to haul my comic box for signings and trades as well as an extra box to place any purchases. I try to be very aware with my cart and say excuse me, but by Sunday, I was done. I’ve had a ‘con cart’ for the past 3 years of attending cons and I swear that I ran over more toes at this con alone than I have combined in the past 3 years – and I attended 14 cons last year!

    It was mostly people not paying attention (my arm is extended behind me – it could have been a child I was walking for all anyone cared)… people continuously tried to step right behind me (between my body and my bag and got tripped, run over, etc). PAY FUCKING ATTENTION PEOPLE! I watched people cutting off people in wheelchairs as well to get where they were trying to go….

    Over all, the con did feel less ‘organized’ than last year and more of a ‘free for all’…

    Happy Con Season!

    – Smitty

    Friday was not bad

  11. >>>Or that Norman and company had nothing to do with deciding to leaving early, and that no, they couldn’t possibly take a 2 am or 5 am flight. (There were many available that left late enough for them not to blow off their fans) Hell Norman was late to signing and photos because he was doing private signings for cash behind closed doors.

    I believe there are no commercial flights that leave between midnight and 6 am, so not quite sure where this 2 am and 5 am things is coming from.

    The reason they couldn’t leave later was because of a tornado watch that could have delayed their flight until the next day jeopardizing their appearance on Talking Dead. Even without that, FED overselling the autographs seems to be a major concern here.

  12. Having been attending and helping to promote sports card shows for over 17 years, it’s clear from the posts that for a lot of people, this was their first con.

    You are very lucky if you get the celebrity/athlete to say “hello” as he/she signs your photo or action figure or whatever.

    For every story of a James Doohan or Tom Felton taking a few seconds to have a conversation with you, and possibly even remember you from past conventions, you get a Terry Bradshaw (Pittsburgh Steelers QB) or Jim Brown who have their own “handlers” they bring with them who shove people through and stop people from taking photos.

    Ironically, FanExpo is one of the few conventions that does offer mail-in service, via OfficialPix, for those that want autographs but either can’t make it or don’t want to wait in line (that’s more than likely what those ‘private signings in the green room for cash’ autographs were).

    But the one poster who flew in from Denver and apparently had delusions about standing there and gushing to Jeffrey Dean Morgan about what an awesome actor they were and then take a selfie at the table were apparently deluding themselves. This is a business, first and foremost. Get ’em in and get ’em out. Move!

  13. You know, I wish that they would start implementing reservations for panels as soon as you sign up for your badge. This is ridiculous going from one end of a convention floor to another just to find out that you can’t enter a room because it’s up to full capacity.

    I wanted to attend a panel last weekend at Wonder Con hosted by Marv Wolfman entitled “Writing Great Dialogue.”

    Who in Anaheim cares about ‘writing great dialogue’ other than Rob Liefeld ?

    Nobody, that’s who!

    You don’t expect a panel of that type to fill capacity, is what I’m trying to say.

    But there was no reason to get shut out of a measly like that. I wasn’t even allowed to hang out in the hallway to at least hear what was being said.

    Plus I have a WGA membership card – THAT should count for something!!

    ~

    Coat

  14. I was there and this comment is 100% spot on. I was there from 9 to 930. Literally minutes from getting my pic with JDM. Sad and disappointed and beaten and broken from the day.

  15. A couple things:

    From reading this (and countless similar comments about other conventions), I’m convinced I avoid 95+% of all problems at all conventions by just plain not being interested in photo ops and autographs.

    That being said, thousands of attendees willing to pay $$$$$ for photo ops and autographs is the reason why the conventions are able to book these guests to begin with, so we have to make sure that those who are spending big bucks get what they paid for.

    From reading comments here about the complainers being first time attendees…no. Being upset about waiting 8-12 hours in line and not getting what you paid for is NOT a first-time attendee complaint, period. A first time attendee complaint would be more like “I had to wait in the registration line a full hour!” or “OMG I already paid admission, why should I have to pay extra for an autograph?”

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