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A WORD FROM OUR FOUNDER
Here is how you DON'T run a comic book convention
Okay listen up all you convention operators or those of you planning on running a convention. I just attended FXshow in Orlando and it was the PERFECT BAD comic book convention. from conception to the closing of the doors this show was a clusterfuck. first off, for those of you new here let me list my credentials. those of you who know who i am already just skip the blue print
Writer / Illustrator for MAD Magazine circulation roughly 400,000
writer illustrator for sharkbait press, image comics, adhesive press and others.
writer/illustrator/creator of the Harvey award nominated , Eisner award nominated, cult favorite Arsenic Lullaby. Arsenic Lullaby has garnered critical acclaim as well as developed a rabid fan base that has lasted TEN years.
Arsenic Lullaby boasts over 1200 stores that carry it's books in the U.S. and abroad, and is one of the few Indy books still carried by Diamond Comics Distribution.
Arsenic Lullaby has been reprinted and translated in Greek. It's greek sales alone rival many of the Indy books currently on the market in the U.S.
Douglas has exhibited at over a hundred comic book conventions including it's yearly show at San Diego Comic-con International, Wizard World Chicago, Wizard World Philly, Heroes Con, Mega Con Orlando ect ect ect ect ect.
now that that's out of the way let me dissect the train wreck that was this years FX Show as a teachable moment for the rest of you.
running a con is no different than running any business, you have a product and you want people to pay for it. your product is the people/exhibits at your show...your EVENT. that is your product. so when people come through the door they need to see tables full of artists, writers, dealers, toys ect ect. now if you have a good product planned but a few people pull out at the last minute there isn't much you can do...or is there? let me show you what FX show looked like
lets all pay close attention to the garbage that has been piled up on the empty tables that are in the middle of the show. that's is not a good look. that is not what people want to see after they pay 20.00 to get in. I counted a dozen empty tables right in the main area alone. and this wasn't friday morning because some guest hadn't arrived yet. this was in the middle of the day satruday and sunday.
now...let's take a look at "creators alley and see if we can't find a few people who could have been asked to fill in the wide open spaces in the mail area and give the show a better look
hey, that's a nice looking set up, much better than an empty table full of garbage
i find this one particularly good looking
now why others didn't bitch on their own that they where stuck in the far back of the con while perfectly good spots where going to waste i don't know. I made a stink and got the brush off. I offered early on to move up while i was complaining about my location and the dope said "freddie williams and chuck dixion are right here" (two big shots)...don't you love when people try to explain why you don't really have a problem because other people also have that problem. yeah...chuck and freddie are also in a crappy spot...that is problem B. and C...not a reason why i don't have problem A. oh well, next year i go to another show, as i hear most of the other pros will be doing and next year FX will have alot more of this.
Use your brains...improvise. your show needs to look full of cool new stuff. Your job as a operator does not stop once the doors open. you need to be walking around and making sure that your most impressive booths are in the main area, you need to be looking around at who is drawing a crowd and who isn't so you can adapt next year. some dousche who inked wolverine who spends the whole show with his head down in his sketchbook, or not at his table at all, is not helping your show. he is hurting your show. if people come up to someone you have given table space to and promoted and he is a jag or just not very personable that leaves a bad taste in their mouth. that makes them not want to pay to come back next year.
this is supposed to be an EVENT. There needs to be a reason for these people to pay to come to your show rather than just order the crap of the internet. Give the table space to creators who know how to make it an event and not introverted nobs who treat your CASH PAYING attendees like they are bothering them.
You need to be walking the floor and watching and learning and taking notes, and when you are done doing that how hard is it you stand at the door and greet people and thank them for coming?...and maybe pick up some garbage?
Of the few times i saw the dope who ran this show after the set up day he was going around with an armful of shit apparently getting autographs and sucking up. the time for that is before or after the show hours. during the show he needed to be greeting people, and filling the tables on the fly so that the general public didn't walk past table after table of this.
I can only guess as to why nothing was done to fill the empty space. and I will make some guesses based on the mistakes i've seen at some of the other 100 plus cons i've attended.
A-he didn't want to give anything away for free or upgrade people for free. this is called cutting off your nose to spite your face
B-he already had the floorplan listed in the program ..this is NOT the case here as even two hours before the show opened his own volunteers didn't know the floorplan BUT sometimes this is an excuse to not adapt. no one is going to give a shit if the floorplan doesn't quite match up. look, if the guy at the table didn't show up the people looking for him are going to be unhappy anyway, you might as well stick someone else in his place so that the people walking by who don't know any better just see a nice display instead of this.
C-he didn't think giving that table space to the people in the Indy section was a good image.
let me explain something to you dipshits. if you promote a guy who drew spiderman and a guy who drew wolverine and a guy who drew the fantastic four and a guy who drew batman, you are throwing four stones at the same bird. these four guys are all going to appeal to the same type of person and NOT appeal at all to the rest of the comic book readers out there. You need to appeal to ALL kinds of comic book fans to pack in the attendees. you need to promote some OLD SCHOOL illustrators, some INDY comic book people, some horror comic book people, some guys who do crime comics or vertigo ect ect. you can't just pick "super hero" comic book people and expect to pack in the show, because that is a niche inside a niche inside a niche. are you understanding what i am saying here?
Jim Lee may bring in more fans than anyone else but he alone is not going to bring in enough for a successful show. his large fan base needs to be supplemented by many other people with smaller but respectable fan bases and for the love of pete use you fucking brains and start plugging local talent! bring in some local kid who's trying to make a go of it and promote him. this is a nice reason for local people to get excited and for that local kid to put out the extra effort to promote himself at the colleges and tattoo shops and places you might not have time to or knowledge of. it's going to get his friends to show up and fellow students, and co -workers and family. just on his own extra effort spend because you are giving him a good spot and a plug he might get an extra 20-30-40 people to show up that would not have otherwise. and you are creating goodwill. ambition and extra effort is contagious. but if you take that same kid and stick him next to the fire exit...he just out of embarrassment might not tell anyone. that's just human nature sometimes.
I've said it before and i'll say it again the people at www.MNCBA.com know how to put on a show...go to their fall con. they have a very diverse exhibit hall, comic book makers from all genres are there and given respect and they do alot to plug the local guys and they treat the guests and attendees like they are happy to have them at the show and you know what? everybody who goes there has a great time and tells everybody they know. and because of this that show has gone from a little hotel show to a con that rivals and possibly surpasses wizard world philly and heroes con. not bad for an all volunteer show in the midwest.
it's about atmosphere. this dope at FX had a staff that two hours before the convention couldn't find badges, couldn't find tables, he had an announcer on the PA that sounded annoyed to be there, this irritates the pros who in turn are in a shitty mood when fans come by and they in turn decide next year to just buy the stuff on ebay instead of paying to go to your show and get treated rudely.
he had an assbackwards table set up, aside from the fact that so many table where empty there was no rhyme or reason to the floor layout. here are two ways to do it folks
1-you stick all your big names right in the center so people walk in and are impressed
2-you stick your big names on the four corners of the floor so the attendees have to walk around and see the whole show to get to the big shots.
what you don't do is stick the big names in one end and arrange it so fans walk past dollar boxes and tables of used toys that are spread out like a rummage sale and empty tables, and anything else that looks interesting and professional is clear on the other end of the hall blocked from view by empty booth after empty booth.
it's called putting your best foot forward.
stupid is as stupid does...here an example of the advertising campaign. The week before the show my editor who lives out there said he heard advertisements for it on “the rush Limbaugh show” now…I may not know everything there is about comic book conventions but I do know there is not a big crossover of people who are entertained by rush Limbaugh and people who want to pay 45$ for a autograph with lenord nimoy. If I had to guess I would say my editor was the only one who came to that show who also listens to rush Limbaugh. And I also know that advertising on that show costs a lot of $$$, Because a lot of people listen to Rush. But the people who listen to rush don’t buy a lot of comic books. Mostly you’ll hears ads for golf clubs, and stocks, and accountant firms. So I’m gonna have to say that every dollar spent there was a complete waste. a sucsessful con is based first and foremost on grass roots stuff -flyers at colleges, flyers at comic book stores, ads on college radio stations, and in local event type papers, AND it is based on word of mouth and reputation...so this guy is fucked next year. the talk of this show was how much it sucked compared to Mega-con. did i mention that the largest comic book show in that area was on a few weeks prior? why would someone schedule their show anywhere near that juggernaught? because he's a dumbass and when you're a dumbass you do stuff like that. A better question is why didn't i go to mega -con? I'm the dumbass pot calling the dumbass kettle black...but i won't make that mistake twice. and it doesn't sound like many of my piers will either. in case you con operators didn't know...we talk about things like this when you are not around. how we are being treated, what is good what is bad. Indy guys, and marvel guys and horror comic guys..we all know each other you see and sometimes talk shop.
so to recap-bad floorplan, many empty tables, poorly trained staff, the announcer harmed the overall atmosphere, advertising dollars where pissed away, the operator blew off my suggestions which means he probably blew off alot of people, and when he wasn't doing that he was restocking his personal collection instead of greeting the attendees. the show ended with the lights being turned off. no announcement, no thanks for coming, no see you next year...just "click".
just awful...one of the worst shows i've ever been to and it is all souly because of bad leadership. don't be that guy.