Well, we're 4 days removed from this past weekend's Wizard World Chicago (aka Chicago Comic Con) and the interwebs is still abuzz. Lots of folks on both sides of the tables (fans/attendees and artists/tablers) sure had a lot of strong opinions on the show, and it seems like not many of them are positive. I will say that I personally had a great time at the show and I owe a lot of that to my buddy and table-mate, Jeff Couturier. I had a blast hanging out with him over the course of those four days. I also got to see a lot of familiar, friendly faces as well as make some great new acquaintances. That's what shows like this are all about!
Well...maybe not ALL about. IMHO, cons break down into three segments--each segment representing an aspect of a con from my POV.
- FANS: One of the most important things about tabling at a con is meeting established fans and also making new ones. Interacting with a fan (new or old) in person is awesome whichever side of the table you're on. Giving that person who takes time to stop by your table a positive experience leaves a great lasting impression and can only help strengthen the symbiotic relationship between the creator and that fan.
- NETWORKING: Touching base with familiar faces and meeting new ones is another important aspect of conventions. Building a friendship or working/professional relationship is a do or die part of this industry.
- MERCH/SALES: Selling your goods is a huge part of a con and many might say the most important. "Earning your table back," is kind of a benchmark thermometer on how successful a con was in terms of financial success. If you can sell enough merch, sketches, etc. to make back the cost of your table, most people would say that you had a successful con.
So over all, a successful con would be a nice blend of all three. However, up until C2E2 I never made my table back, but felt some cons were successful based upon the contacts I made. You see what I mean?
So with that out of the way, I'll just say that WWC was a successful con because I had positives in all three of these aspects. However, I wouldn't have had the financial success that I did had I not split a table with Jeff. I had a hunch WWC wouldn't live up to C2E2 and I was right. In fact, Jeff wrote a pretty nice account of the show over on his blog at jeffcouturier.com/2013/08/convention-recap-wizard-worldchicago-comic-con. I'll post some excerpts below:
From Jeff's blog: "Overall it was fun and I’d say I had a successful convention, but there were several issues with the Wizard World itself. It was poorly organized and the artists alley floor was a complete mess. They used a strange shotgun approach and put craft vendors mixed right in with artists. The two are very different, and it’s damn strange to have someone selling nothing but shoes next to an artists selling their books and illustrations. I think this dramatically hurt both the craft vendors and the artists, and none of the artists I spoke to could understand or justify the reasoning behind it. There was also a severe lack of signage to guide attendees to various parts of the convention. It took up two floors, which was also odd, and the artists alley was on the bottom. Many attendees either had a hard time finding the artists alley or never found it at all. Tables and attendee tickets were also really expensive, and no one seems to understand why. The artists themselves seemed to be treated as secondary and unimportant by Wizard World organizers. No one from WWC staff ever stopped by our table to see how we were doing or if we needed anything. They handed out update fliers early every morning stating the floor would open for us artists to set up at 7:30am. Twice, Denver and I were there at 7:30 and were turned away and told we couldn’t setup our tables until after 8am. A half hour doesn’t seem like much, but when you plan on using that time and are then told you can’t have it (for no apparent reason), it’s damn irritating. The second time around I asked staff what the deal was, and no one seemed to know. One nice lady let us in anyway, but there were clearly some miscommunications. Another huge issue was the a less-than-useless WiFi hotspot. Getting online was nearly impossible, so I was only able to use my Square reader (for credit cards) once. Because we were on the bottom floor, phone signal for both calls and data was non-existent. I couldn’t even make a phone call. When you’re stuck sitting at a table for 13+ hours a day, having at least some connection to the outside world is rather important."
"Would I get a table there again? If I had to do it alone, certainly not. Even if I were to split a table again, I’m not sure it’s worth it. It just isn’t a solid show. With other excellent cons like C2E2 in the same city, WWC really needs to get their act together. The general buzz from both attendees and exhibitors is that WWC is too expensive, pretty lackluster, and just not worth bothering with. This year didn’t improve that perception."
Overall, I had an excellent time but I attribute that more to do with the company I kept than the event itself. Will I do WWC next year? The magic 8 ball says, "Outlook not so good." I tend to agree with Jeff's take--I certainly wouldn't do it again solo, but may consider it if I were splitting/sharing a table. We'll see...