Friday, February 14, 2014

Sci Fi Expo AAR

I have some tough love for the Sci Fi Expo.

I feel I have to state that this could just be a one time experience and that even established conventions can have bad days.

This was my first time at the Sci Fi Expo of Dallas Comic Con. I expected something run fairly well since I have been to Fan Days, another Dallas Comic Con event, twice and there were no issues. Maybe this was just an anomaly, but this ended up being my worst con experience so far. I think the issue was primarily the fact that they did not expect the drawing power of Doctor Who, specifically the fandom in attendance for Karen Gillan, aka Amelia Pond.

First off, my wife and I did the smart thing and preordered our wristbands. Doors opened at 11 am on Saturday, which ended up being very cold and windy. Anyone without VIP admission was forced to stand out in a windy parking garage, preorder or not. While I understand VIP does come with its privileges, such as early entrance, volunteers yelling at fans to go outside does not make for a good experience. In my humble opinion, they could of at least under the circumstances of bad weather let people in to an area outside the dealer floor, where there was space, and even perhaps let people enter the dealer room to get out of the cold. Especially when there was plenty of kids present. The VIPs still had VIP seating and VIP autograph line cuts that would make their higher admission worth it. I’m pretty sure the sellers would not have minded a captive public around their tables an hour earlier too.

The next fumble came in the handling of the autograph line for Karen Gillan. They ended p having two section of the line that winded back and forth and then a third section that snaked along a wall. Again there were volunteers yelling out contradictory information. The apparent solution was to sell tickets for her autograph. Everyone in line would buy a ticket, pick the photo they wanted signed, and then go to the back of the line. Once every one in line had purchased their ticked, theoretically the first person to buy a ticket would end up first in line again. In practice, the line order got jumbles here and there and volunteers were not giving consistent instructions. To top it off, the pushed everyone through in rapid fire, forcing Karen Gillan to not only not have time for any kind of personalization with the autographs or moments with her fans, she only had time to sign her initials on the pictures before another photo was pushed in front of her. Part of the time she didn’t even have time to even look up while she was signing. She was also only there on Saturday and had to fly out that evening. Again, con organizers failed at anticipating how many fans would show up and did a poor job of adapting. There was also a security guards who did little to make the situation better. My wife rhetorically asked “Why does everyone have to yell?” When we were walking away after getting our autograph. The security guard who was directing people away apparently had to put his two cents worth in by saying out loud, behind our backs, “That’s what we do.” Adding comments to an already tense situation was not appreciated. The next day, the con’s organizer apologized, but didn’t mention specifically what the apology was for.

There was some good that came out of the Sci Fi Expo. On Saturday, Arron Douglas was great during his panel. Like everyone else I have seen from Battlestar Galactica, he seemed very appreciative of his fans and enjoyed entertaining them. He even led everyone to mass Tweet Wil Wheaton, “Frack You.” Next was the Defiance panel with the Tarr family, Tony Curran, Jamie Murray, and Jesse Rath. I first saw them at the Defiance panel during San Diego Comic Con last year. Here they had more time to talk and they all were great. They acted like a real family and took pleasure in embarrassing each other. One of the great moments of the panel was when Jamie Murray invited a fan, cosplaying as her character Stahma, up on stage to take pictures with her. Next was the Doctor Who panel with Karen Gillan and the seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy. This was another great panel with Gillan and McCoy enjoying each other’s Scottish company and entertaining their fans. Gillan even posed for a selfie upon request from a boy cosplaying as Mat Smith’s eleventh Doctor.

On Sunday, we just made it in into the room for Carl Urban’s panel. He escorted onstage by a cadre of Judges in full uniform and dismissed them with a salute. He didn’t need a moderator and jumped right into fielding questions. Carl Urban has a great sense of humor about his long career and the roles he had taken. He is also very appreciative of his fans. One girl asked for his autograph and he invited her to autograph the inside of is jacket. The next panel was for Peter Weller, who can be intense. Some may know that he is an art history professor, and sitting in his panel at times felt like being in class listening to an intense lecture. Not in a bad way though. Weller is very intelligent and is very interesting to listen to.

I should also mention that I was able to get a great deal on two comics I had been meaning to purchase. I know, buying comics at a comic convention. Such a novel idea. I won’t say what I bought or how much was spent, but Joe Kopra of Beacon Comics (here is the link to the store) treated me very fairly and I really appreciated it.

While this con experience was not the best, out of 3 cons I've attended from Dallas Comic Con, this one was the only one that disappointed. I've had a good time at two their Fan Days cons. It could have just be an anomaly all things considered. Hopefully things go better at the main Dallas Comic Con in May.

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