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Boston Comic Con’s Journey To FanExpo Boston is Not Without Growing Pains

This year’s FanExpo Boston takeover of Boston Comic Con came with not only a change of venue, but an entirely different experience for BostonCon fans. The change in venue from Seaport World Trade Center to the much larger Boston Convention and Exhibition Center was a welcome to accommodate more fans. It did seem a bit odd that Fan Expo had nearly an entire room dedicated to a line queue when some vendors and artist alley tables were on top of each other with not much room for people to ‘squeak by’.

I’m familiar with well-run conventions in the same space, most notably PAX East, so I don’t think my overall iffy experience at FanExpo was a unique one. First time convention volunteers and ushers gave wrong or poor information. The Guidebook App was difficult to track down. Signage was messed at a major floor entryway that said EXIT. Instead of fixing the sign on day 2, they just posted two guards there to send people in the opposite direction.

At PAX, major video game companies and local developers are there to showcase new talent and new games. Here, at FanExpo Boston, major publishers weren’t present. Smaller publishers like IDW, Boom and Image weren’t there either. I don’t expect these publishers to hit every show, and NYCC is coming up in October, but the lack of publishers at a big space like BCEC seemed like at the very least a missed opportunity to take advantage of the venue. Sure, Stan Lee was there, but he’s everywhere. He nearly ran me over with his Rascal scooter on his way to his panel!

To put it bluntly, my expectations of the weekend simply were not met. The history of the convention that has grown from the basement of Westin Waterfront Hotel to the Hynes and the Seaport Hotel is gone now, along with the naming, sadly. Organizers and those on staff are promising to bring back some of that history and programming for 2018, but this convention is more about photo opportunities than it is about comic books now. Such is the way of the convention world these days, I should have seen it coming. But I didn’t.

I don’t begrudge the promoter Informa for slapping a touring operational template on to a hometown show and despite my criticisms, I do welcome Informa and FanExpo to our city. This is clearly a model that works to sell the most tickets and appeals to the broadest audience. I have a lot of respect for this philosophy, however, I should have done my research and not walked in expecting what I had gotten out of the last few years at the Boston Comic Con.

I also get excited about meeting celebrities and photo ops and signings, I could have used a bit more on the comic book panel side of the programming. To say the actual comic book panel programming was light would be generous, it was barely there. That being said, I did make my way to some panels that I did enjoy, or I put my best face forward and made an effort to enjoy. This is Comic Con after all.

On the plus side, I filled in some key issues for G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and isn’t that what conventions are supposed to be about? Comics? I just wish I had gotten a bit more substance out of the programming than to have to get my rush out of haggling over $5 books from out of state vendors. And a word of advice to those digging into the long boxes? Always haggle. They don’t want to ship this stuff back!

As far as the demographics for the panels, I personally am not that interested in steampunk, anime or cosplay at my comic conventions. I’m aged out of those things, or perhaps not ye olde enough for the brass and circumstance of the steampunk guild! I strictly avoided ticketed events, like Kevin Smith and Jay Mewes because my luck is never good at landing a spot in line for access to those things.

Late Saturday, I dropped in on Mike Zeck, Joe Rubinstein and Bob Wiacek panel. Attendance was low, so moderator and podcast host Moisés Chiullán called an audible and brought the panel to a round robin on the floor with no microphones. I’m sure that the artists had a bunch to say but I had someone eating M&Ms behind me and my ears are blown out from too many concerts. I couldn’t hear a damn thing.

Sunday, I made my way to a Q & A session with sci-fi actor Alan Tudyk about his Emmy Nominated show Con Man. Seasons 1 and 2 will be on SyFy on September 9th. The Firefly and Star Wars actor was quite generous answering questions from the audience and gave each person who asked a question a signed autograph from the panel. I walked away with a signed SDCC 2016 pass for asking why they first went to the fans to fund Con Man the series. The answer was that in order to shoot what they wanted to shoot, Hollywood wouldn’t fund it without changing the essence of the show. To get the most honest and true vision of the art, they went straight to the fans first. A great philosophy that is paying off.

Con Man guest star Felicia Day introduced the panel. Also, check out Con Man: The Game on mobile where you can make Nathan Fillion pick up trash!

Straight from the Con Man panel, I made my way to Image Comics at 25 with Jason Latour, Nate Bellegarde, Steve Lieber, Matt Hawkins, Ryan Ottley, Ivan Brendon and Meredith Finch.

It was a bit of a sleepy Sunday afternoon panel but we got news of there being some extra special treats in store for the ending of Invincible from Ryan Ottley and a tease that he has another project after the superhero book is done to be announced later.

Matt Hawkins is moving Think Tank into the prose format after concluding the comic at volume 5. Matt, Bryan Hill and artist Atilio Rojo are bringing Cyber Force back in a big way for the 25th Anniversary. Latour’s Southern Bastards continues to kick ass and is a reflection of how it is to be from the South and be prideful without being hateful. The crowd applauded his efforts, as a backdoor commentary to recent events in the media.

Though the Image people seemed to be checking their watches for flights back home late Sunday, this was the closest to the experience I was expecting out of a convention all weekend. I do recognize my needs as a fan can and will change over the years, so I will adapt to the new show and hopefully my love affair with Boston Comic Con can continue.

Regrettably I missed Greg Capullo and John Romita Jr.’s panel, but I wish I had seen at least three more legitimate comic based panels on the program in 2018.

You have the space now, use it well!

 

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