A few days back I ran a rundown of one particularly crowded weekend for comic cons, among them one called SuperFan ComicCon in Toronto, which I had never heard of, and which had…well, a somewhat dodgy website, something I was too polite to mention. It turns out the show itself did not please attendees or vendors. Organizers predicted 15,000 attendees, and about 2000 showed up, proof that even in this day and age you can still throw a pretty crappy comic-con if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t promote it and have a subpar guest list.
I don’t know anything about the show itself or the organizers, but I did note that the venue, the Exhibition Place Better Living Centre in Toronto is not the most hospitable place for a show. I attended a show back in the day there, the Paradise Comic-Con which was a great show in many ways, but not overly attended. The Exhibition Center is (or was then and I assume still is) kind of isolated with little in the way of amenities. I’m sure there were other problems.
Anyway, Bleeding Cool has a round-up of complaints from Facebook that were deleted, something the organizers admit was a social media blunder. You can still see some apologies and anger on their page as this from the organizers:
Thank you to all who have patiently been waiting for your questions and concerns to be answered. We at SuperFan ComicCon wish to welcome all feedback from our online community, fans, and vendors whether it be negative, positive, or somewhere in between. We want to thank you for being a part of our first comic convention show and for your patience. The show had a few hiccups which you may have experienced, but we’re working to address these issues for future events.
We do want to acknowledge that the event was still a success. We would like to thank all our fans and vendors who enjoyed their time at the show and sent their support. We were all brought together by our passion for comic conventions and everything they include and we had hoped for this event to bring everyone together to celebrate those passions. Even we at SuperFan ComicCon are people who have a love for all things comics. Our goal was to bring a community together.
We understand that some aspects of the show didn’t go as planned or turned out as we had hoped. We thank those fans and vendors who have shared their experience (both negative and positive) as we will take this feedback as lessons learned to be applied to future shows. It is our intent to address any and every issue.
Which drew angry responses, especially considering the hype pre-show:
And one typical response from one Herbert Kwan:
lol what do you mean a success. Vendors and artist were packing up and leaving for good by mid Sunday, and by Monday 2pm 1/2 the vendors and artists are totally gone. You guys were even late opening for people who spend extra money to buy VIP passes. This is probably one of the worst show I attended, even compare to other first time cons. With that much unhappy vendors telling others how bad it was, who is going to buy booths and table for next year’s show? You guys were even classy enough to deleted bad review comments. I really really think that all the vendors, exhibitors, and artist deserve their money back after the lies and being mistreated by you guys.
Anyway what have we learned here? As con culture gets bigger and bigger and more lucrative, it’s obvious that more and more sharks and clueless newbs are going to get into the business. Maybe vendors could have done more due diligence, but although obviously big claims were made—it pays to vet people.
But also a reminder to people who are jumping on thee comic-con bandwagon. Vendors and artists need ACCURATE information about shows before they lay out money for booths, let alone travel, accommodation, sandwiches, and so on. It’s why when I hear claims of huge attendance numbers I try to verify ones that sound out of whack. GIVING OUT INFLATED ATTENDANCE NUMBERS IS FRAUD.
Some of this is self-regulating. Word spreads and people soon know who are the con men and who aren’t. There are a couple of other Facebook sites where vendors and guests share experiences at cons, and we’re going to see more of this. And there are may levels of “succcess.” I personally don’t get excited about most of the guests at Wizard World shows, but I know a lot of people do well at them, and the roster is expanding, and no one ever said those shows aren’t very well run.
There is a LOT of competition for boots on the ground and dollars in the pop culture event sphere. I recently wrote a story about comics events in libraries, and there are dozens of these and some of them draw 2000+ people. More and more comics shops are getting into throwing shows, and they have intimate knowledge of the local fanbase. And of course, big corporations are throwing cons too. I guess what I’m saying is if you want to throw a con, know what you are getting into and don’t try any flimflam—this is NOT easy money.
And once again, I’ll point to the CONversation series by Mike Scigliano, which is, I believe the only step-by-step guide to throwing a comic-con available.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.