Robot 6

What I saw at Boston Comic Con

Boom BCC

This was a tough year for Boston Comic Con: It was originally scheduled for the weekend after the Boston Marathon, and although organizers worked tirelessly not to cancel the event, the venue was within the lockdown zone following the bombings, and the load-in day coincided with the massive manhunt forsuspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. In the end, they had no choice but to shut down the convention. As most of the talent was already in town, local retailers sponsored a number of mini-cons.

Despite the cheerful we-can-get-through-this attitude of that weekend, things were looking pretty bleak. And then Boston Comic Con came roaring back, in a new venue and with a new attitude. This year, it felt less like a local event and more like a big-city con, with a smattering of publisher booths and an array of top-tier talent. The convention has grown quickly, from 1,000 attendees at the first con in 2007 to 15,000 last year. This year, with a bigger venue and more guests, I’m guessing the final number will be even higher.

There are growing pains that come with that sort of expansion, and they showed in a classic con problem: long lines. As press, I was able to skip the line, but a friend of mine who arrived about 10 a.m. spent two hours waiting to get in, and I heard the line wrapped around the building. There were a few glitches with the panels as well, and the folks who packed the Waterfront Ballroom for the panel I moderated on independent comics creators were none too happy when the organizers cleared the room, which holds more than 400 people, before the DC panel. Overall, however, the staff worked hard (although there could have been more of them) and the venue was quite comfortable; I generally prefer the Hynes Convention Center, which is located in the heart of the Back Bay and feels like it’s really in Boston, over the more generic Seaport District, but the exhibit hall had a nicer feeling than the raw-concrete-and-fluorescent-lights interior of the Hynes, and the ballrooms felt downright luxurious.

The convention floor could have been arranged a little better: The first thing that greeted me when I walked in was a wall of secondhand-comics dealers, just lines of tables filled with longboxes and displays of faded comics in plastic bags. I realize this is a key reason why some people go to comics conventions, and the Boston Globe recently had an article about the importance of Boston Comic Con to local comics retailers, but visually it’s boring as hell.

Neal Adams BCC

Fortunately, there was plenty of excitement beyond the first row. BOOM! Studios and IDW Publishing both had booths — I’m pretty sure this is the first time they’ve been to BCC — and the line to meet Locke & Key creator Joe Hill doubled over on itself at one point. Scott Snyder and Mike Mignola were other big draws. Bill Willingham held court at the end of a row, and at his booth, Neal Adams seemed to be smiling the whole time. The guest list also included Steve Niles, Terry Moore, David Petersen, Colleen Doran, George Perez, Howard Chaykin, Ming Doyle, Brian Azzarello, Amy Reeder and James O’Barr. That’s a lot of talent for a relatively new con.

Tana Ford

One of the reasons I go to shows, though, is to find talented new creators whose work I haven’t seen before. This time my find was Tana Ford, a graphic novelist whose drawing style is a bit reminiscent of Evan Young’s — she has a strong line, a graphic black-and-white feel, and characters with real personalities. She also does some interesting things with paneling and two-page spreads. I picked up her graphic novel Duck and another one about the Boston Marathon, and I’m looking forward to diving into both soon. I was also thrilled to pick up a copy of Jennie Wood’s Flutter, which The Advocate called “one of the year’s best LGBT comics,” and to meet the creator of the steampunk webcomic Boston Metaphysical Society. The members of the Boston Comics Roundtable were there as well, with the latest issue of their Boston-centric superhero anthology, In a Single Bound.

The exhibit floor didn’t seem to make a strict division between Big Names and artists’ alley creators. Generally, the better-known creators had bigger spaces and often they were placed at the ends of the aisles. This made for a very nice dynamic, with big crowds going past all the tables; I would guess it made for more exposure for the emerging creators.

Aside from the glitches, everyone seemed to be having a good time. It seemed like there were fewer cosplayers than I have seen at previous shows, but that’s just my impression. There were a good number of children, and quite a few came to the panels I moderated. The show floor got quite crowded in the middle of the day, although it thinned out a bit toward late afternoon, and judging from the full bags I saw and the comments I heard from creators, sales were good.

Overall, this was a good year for Boston Comic Con. The show has always had enough big-name creators to attract some attention, but this year there were a lot more. At the same time, it’s more accessible than big shows, simply because it is small and local. The creators were simply out there at their tables, and the overall vibe seemed to be relaxed. There was just a single track of panels, but they were all strong. And there were a handful of nerdlebrity guests — talent from The Walking Dead, True Blood and The Hobbit — but for the most part, this was a show that put comics front and center, and did a good job of it, too.

Mike Mignola sketches for a fan

Mike Mignola sketches for a fan

Since he couldn't do a sketch, Kill Shakespeare writer Anthony Del Col composed a sentence on the spot for a fan

Since he couldn’t do a sketch, Kill Shakespeare writer Anthony Del Col composed a sentence on the spot for a fan

Don Rosa

Don Rosa

William Stout

William Stout

Adventure Time artists Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb.

Adventure Time artists Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb.

Broxo creator Zack Giallongo

Broxo creator Zack Giallongo

What I got at the con

What I got at the con

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Comments

10 Comments

Speaking as a creator and publisher tabling at the show…I hope the Seaport Locations is the ONLY location for the Boston Comic Con going forward. Great location, plenty of parking, super easy move in and move out, great options for eats and drinks after the show ends.

Also helps that ComixTribe sales were up 45% from 2012. : )

Great show…becoming one of the best on the circuit.

I was there, but by the time I got in there I was too tired to do much but grab a few back issues. That line was long.

This year was wayyyyyyy too crowded. You couldn’t even move through the floor due to all of the cosplay photo ops. It appeared that there was a huge section of the hall that was blocked off also over by the signing area. Why not open that up so there is more room to move around? The lines to get food were so long that it was worth just not eating. Even the few food locations outside the convention center were too packed to wait. Not to mention the panel room debacle referenced in the article.

Regardless, it was worth enduring all of that just to hear Howard Chaykin’s stories. Hopefully next year its even bigger and better!

Aisles were crowded, but once I was able to get through, I found more often than not that the snags weren’t caused by cosplayers or people looking at booths, but people stopping to talk to their buddies right in the middle of the aisle. Cosplay phototaking happens, shopping spills over into the walkways… those can be annoying, but they’re inevitable. Blocking traffic for a conversation that could easily happen almost anyplace else, that’s just inexcusable.

I do think a lot of the photo ops could’ve moved into the big open space by the media guests, though. I noticed that’s where a lot of the Homestuck kids were gathering for their photo-taking activities, and that seemed to work out pretty well for them (and there were a lot of them, too). It was also a great spot to duck out, sit down, have some lunch, and take a break from the crowds.

Overall, great show, and even if the date moves back to April next year, I hope they keep it at the Seaport WTC. Much better spot, easily accessible by car and T, better food options… wins all around.

Tyler and Bill are correct, NOBODY prefers the Hynes. The Seaport WTC is superior for this event in every respect. I hope it stays there.

On Sunday the line to get in moved fast as they gave out the wristbands before opening for the pre-payers. The retailer section is ALWAYS at the front and yes it was the most crowded throughout the day. The artist/creator had a great setup with plenty of room to move around.

George Perez is the happiest person on the Earth churning out sketches endlessly. Chaykin is the most unfiltered entertaining artist ever. You should have checked out the boys from FatCatFunnies.com for some nice comics too.

Who in their right mind eats at the concession at these things? The restaurants in the Seaport District are great. I hit up a nice local deli (no line) and had a fresh sub with chips and drink for $11, ate outside and watched boats float by.

@Batman – that area wasn’t closed off, it just looked like it. You could walk past the curtain with impunity, so we used it as a wormhole to quickly get from the front of the room to the back both days. I’ve been told that BCC will be back at Seaport again next year (April, not August), so keep it in mind.

And the con volunteers were pre-wristbanding people on Saturday too, but we got there at 9:30. So once the doors opened, we were inside by 10:10 a.m… but apparently the BCC people have acknowledged that they need to do better with the pre-reg line next time. Sounds like they just got overloaded once the early arrivers passed through.

It was a great show for my first con as a comic creator! the Con brought in all kinds of people, of all ages, which was a great help to me to find out who my audience is. I’m looking forward to next year already!

P.S. It was also swell meeting you in person Brigid!

Brigid Alverson

August 7, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Nice to meet you too, Rich!

OK, I guess I’m the only one who likes the Hynes—I used to live around the corner, so I’m a bit sentimental. But I like that you can step outside and be in a real neighborhood, not some could-be-anywhere complex of hotels and tourist restaurants. I have to say, though, the Seaport World Trade Center was pretty darn nice inside.

Hey Brigid,

Well from what I know is that they hit over 20k in attendance. I was also the horrid person who cleared out the the room from your indy panel. I had to make that call. I try not to do refreshes if it can be helped, but I had kids(not even the teens) and people who were trying to get in. Sure I got yelled at and boo’ed but I got more thank you’s from people who moved and from the people outside.

So thank you for coming and Moderating and looking forward to seeing you next time! And thank you to everyone who came and made this show fantastic!

-e
p.s. And yes Seaport is our home base next year again!

Brigid Alverson

August 9, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Thanks for the info, Eric! You had one of the toughest jobs at the con, and you were handling it with grace, so kudos! I totally got why you had to clear the room when I went outside and saw all the people waiting—and that was a big room. It was a great show, and I guess I can live with it being at the Seaport again, especially as my favorite restaurant, Sel De La Terre, is no longer down the street from the Hynes.

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