I need to begin by mentioning that I had a different role at Texas ComicCon (TCC) this year. At the 2010 event (see my write-up here) I was an attendee like most folks, but this year, I was an exhibitor. I manned the First Storm Manga table in order to get the word out about our second Mezasu Mini-con coming in September. I also helped out some with the game tournament, so I was aware of their issues as well.
If I had to pick one word to describe the difference between the 2010 and 2011 Texas ComicCons it would be ‘bigger.’ They had bigger guests, such as Brent Spiner, Cindy Morgan, Margot Kidder, and some notable comic guests as well.
There was a bigger selection of artists and dealers. The San Antonio Event Center was jam-packed with dealers and artists. If you look at the picture of the Ghostbusters from my 2010 write up, you can see lots of empty space in the background. This was not the case this year; the organizers packed as much as they could into the building without it being too crowded. There was plenty of room for people, stormtroopers and the occasional Dalek to get around.
Sadly, there were also some bigger issues. Nearly all of them only affected exhibitors, though, so if you were at TCC 2011 as an attendee, then it rocked pretty hard.
Once again, there were problems with badges. Last year, the badges sucked. This year, we didn’t have any at ALL until Saturday (or at least that’s how long it was until I got mine). At this point, I have to wonder if it’s a problem that just happens to follow me around…so look out, San Japan!
I am a little shocked at the size of the staff working the event; if it was more than half a dozen people, I’d be surprised. If TCC is going to get bigger next year (and I have no reason to doubt that they will) then they are going to need to have some volunteers helping out. To the best of my knowledge, there is no safety staff and nobody helping out with Artist Alley. Other cons have volunteers that are available to keep an eye on a dealer’s tables for a few minutes if they need a bathroom break or somesuch, but this was not the case at TCC. I saw one of the guys running the event at my table maybe four times the entire weekend.
The remainder of the issues I am going to discuss all involve the location. As I said last time, the
WalMart San Antonio Event Center’s glory days are way behind it, so yeah, it hasn’t gotten much better since last year. It is what it is and so I can’t place too much of the blame on the organizers. That said, there were a few things that could have been anticipated:
The facility was supposed to have WiFi, but sadly, the signal did not extend to the back right corner where I was situated. It didn’t affect me much, because I didn’t really need it and I have a hotspot device for when I want it, but the guys in the booth next to me needed it and were pretty miffed that they couldn’t get a signal. I gave them the password to my device and it was good enough to keep them going for the event. I can only imagine they would have raised a pretty big stink if I hadn’t. According to the TCC webpage, WiFi was supposed to be available.
Electricity was an issue on two fronts. For starters, unless you brought your own extension cord, you couldn’t get squat. Luckily, the guys I had lent WiFi to were kind enough to let me run a power strip off their extension, which was nice. I was later able to borrow an extension cord from the San Japan table, which allowed me to set up a monitor so that I could play a video from our first event (thanks, Proz!). I’m willing to concede that okay, I should have bought my own cord, but considering how many folks use laptops and cell phones, it shocks me (ba-doom, tish!) that electricity keeps being considered an afterthought at these events (see also: Mizuumi-Con). I don’t mind paying for juice (if the cost is reasonable) but let me know ahead of time if I need to bring a 25-foot cord just to get access.
The second electrical problem had to do with the video game tournament. The Original-Gamer.com guys bought along eight Xboxes, eight monitors, four television sets, and four Playstation 3s to use for their tournaments. Unfortunately, there were only two outlets within reach, and when all that stuff got turned on, the breaker tripped. This was eventually resolved by moving some of the equipment to another outlet, but I’m a little surprised that this wasn’t anticipated. Even the game tournament guys should have known that many machines was too much.
There were some doors near the back corner where I was at. With no staff around to keep the doors closed, it got a little warm in the afternoons. Unfortunately, at least one door was open nearly all the time because smokers were constantly running out to get their fix. Before you think I’m being nitpicky, keep in mind that there was nothing to stop people from sneaking in without paying. I don’t know if anybody did, but with no security staff around to check badges it’s a strong possibility.
Except for perhaps the staff issue, the stuff I mentioned are mostly minor nitpicks, because Texas ComicCon 2011 was a great event. I had a lot of fun, and judging from the reactions I’ve gotten from friends and seen online, it looked like lots of other folks did, too. I look forward to coming back next year, and look forward to seeing it come back even bigger and better. Great job, guys!