“awesome con” …awesomly not happening

AWEFAIL

I remember starting out.  I wasn’t always an elder statesman of independent publishing.  I didn’t used to have a resume full award nominations from here to Europe and credits on Mad Magazine and Comedy Central.   I remember what it was like, and what you had to go through.  I remember having to compete with guys like me.  I remember an earlier time before people would come up to my table and say “WHAT DO YOU  HAVE THAT I DON’T OWN YET…AND TAKE MY MONEY!”  I remember when no one knew who I was and didn’t care.    When you start out you are throwing yourself into the battleground of ideas against EVERYONE.  You wrote a comic book…well guess what? You are now competing with Marve,l DC, Image and everyone else.  It is about willpower, and guts, and brains, and doing whatever it takes to survive long enough for people to see how good you are..and frankly long enough to get as good as you think you are.

When I was starting out a normal comic book convention trip entailed driving 6 hours to a new city, in a car that has no business making past your drive way, with ONLY enough money to get there, because that is ALL you have.  You drive there without money for a hotel or even enough money to get back because you KNOW you will sell enough books to cover that, because your books are that good and because you WILL IT to happen. That’s what I did, and that’s what up and comers are doing at every show.  If a show bombs, you can’t be too hard on the promoter since they are running their show under the same principal or “WILL IT TO BE A SUCCESS”  that you are, and if only 50 people come through the door, then it is your job to get 50 people to buy your book.  As I say, I remember how is was, and so I know how it is for many new independents.  But it’s not just independent comic book makers who take risks.  Exhibitors, and guests have to rent vans, ship product, reserve hotels and plane tickets.  It is an investment and a risk and we all roll the dice and accept the risk.  It is fair…as long as there ARE dice.

Awesome Con, a newly founded chain of comic book conventions needs to be made an example of.  We all need to realize what they have done.  Awesome Con Milwaukee was cancelled by it’s “president” on November 5th.  The show was supposed to be on Nov. 21st.  That’s right.  He cancelled the show with less than two weeks to go.  It wasn’t advertised as some back room of a bowling alley comic-con either.  They had advertised it to be held at the Midwest express convention center in the heart of downtown Milwaukee.  Those of you not from the area…that  is a very large building.  Close to the size of the building C2E2 uses in Chicago.  The put up a big fancy website and had the normal glut of TV and wrestling celebrities.  What they advertised was a substantially large con worth driving to from a different state and perhaps even worth flying to.  Plans were made by indys, pros, exhibitors and attendees.  Investments where made.  MONEY was collected by Awesome con.

and two weeks before the show was to go on.  they pulled the plug.

giving such BS as this

***Hi guys, this is Ben Penrod, President of Awesome Conventions. It is no fun to say this, but unfortunately we have made the extremely difficult decision to cancel Awesome Con Milwaukee.

We initially planned for this event to be a huge celebration of comics and pop culture, but we had a number of challenges, and things just weren’t coming together in a few areas. Providing an unforgettable convention experience is key to Awesome Con’s entire existence, but it was looking more and more like this con wasn’t going to be able to live up to its name or your expectations for what Awesome Con is. Rather than falling short, we have decided to cancel this year’s event.***

Now if you believe they cancelled the show because they feared not being able to give an unforgettable convention experience, that you probably believed the story about a woman having a third boob surgically attached.

 

I contacted the “president” after getting an email…here is that exchange

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Awesome Con Milwaukee Canceled
From: Ben Penrod
Date: Wed, November 05, 2014 7:56 am
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Hi guys, this is Ben Penrod, President of Awesome Conventions. It is no fun to say this, but unfortunately we have made the extremely difficult decision to cancel Awesome Con Milwaukee.

We’ll be making an official announcement soon, so keep an eye out for that. I’m really sorry and I wanted to work with you. We will be in touch in the future, we are planning to make it back to Milwaukee at some point. I appreciate your support for the event and I wish we could have made it happen!!

Thanks,

Ben

_________

Oh sure, no problem Ben and hey…thank you!  Can you believe this guy? That’s all he has to say for himself  to me and everyone else after promoting and planning for his show for three months or more.   Trust me, he had plenty of time to write something better, this was no last minute decision.   Ben here probably knew his show was doomed for at least a month.  It was about three weeks ago he lowered the ticket prices, so we can assume for sure at that point things were not going as he planned.  “planned” that’s a good one.  When someone starts to panic about advanced ticket sales, it always leads me to believe they A- bit off way more than they could chew financially and B- think comic cons in medium sized cities work like they saw NYCC and Comic-con International work when they saw them on the news.    That they are going to rake it in hand over fist with advanced ticket sales ( the cynical among you at this point may even be thinking he made a bunch of promises or even planned to pay for things NEEDED by the time the con opened with the advance ticket money).  Here’s a tip to  him and all you other starry-eyed buffoons who think you are going to turn your mid life crisis into a giant chain of comic book conventions and rival Comic-con International itself!…In a small or even medium sized show, you don’t sell as many “advanced tickets” because no one is worried about you selling out,  it’s just a comic book convention…they’ll pay when they get there.

Which if you actually know what you are doing, is a good thing because that leaves more opportunity for them to get a few more friends to come along at the last minute.  If you plug away about “advance tickets” it just makes you show seem like it’s going to be a pain in the ass, instead of a laid back event they can just go to and drop some cash at.  Everybody knows they won’t need “advanced tickets” to get in the door at a comic book convention in the Midwest…or frankly any city outside NY , Phoenix or San Diego.  I saw more promotion from this guys show about buying tickets online than I did about why to go in the first place.

Ugh…

anyhow..here was my response.

 

_____

Hello Ben,

Is this a joke?  You convention was supposed to be in TWO WEEKS, just a few days ago I received confirmation on hosting a discussion panel.  You are pulling the plug with only two weeks warning? This is about the most irresponsible thing I’ve seen out of a convention operator, and I have been doing this for 15 years.  What about the people who made and paid for travel arrangements?  Exhibitors who paid to create and ship product.  People who arranged to take off of work?  To say nothing of people like myself who wasted time and effort promoting this show.  I can tell you this much, you will get even less ( probably zero) enthusiasm in the future for a show in Milwaukee, or anywhere else. Milwaukee is 90 minutes from Chicago, 60 minutes from Madison and a short drive from several mid sized towns.  In short, you had a population of about 20 million people and roughly 50 comic book stores from which to cull attendees and from that you managed to have to pull the plug at the last minute.  Although I suspect this wasn’t so “last minute” at all, and that you where staring failure in the face for months and simply didn’t know what to do…so you sat there saying nothing until now. Now, as in two weeks prior to the supposed date of your con, leaving everyone who planned to be there for one reason or another holding their respective bags.  There are two words for this Ben, failure and irresponsible.  Please, let me find out that even ONE person did not get a full refund.

Douglas Paszkiewicz

__________

his response, in the spirit of election day I suppose, was as vapid as any politician

_________

——- Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: Awesome Con Milwaukee Canceled
From: Ben Penrod
Date: Wed, November 05, 2014 7:11 pm

Douglas, I’m really sorry. I had a really tough decision to make, and I probably should have made it sooner and I’m sorry that I didn’t. It wasn’t easy, and I had considered canceling it last week but I convinced myself we could pull it off but things never improved and it just wasn’t coming together the way we needed it to. We could have run the show, but it wouldn’t have been the show we promised people, and we just can’t do that. Exhibitors would not have made money. The attendees would not have gotten what they were expecting.

We aren’t a fly-by-night company. We aren’t going anywhere or changing our name or any of that. You know where to find us and we’re always accountable. We’re paying all of our bills. Everyone will get a refund. Attendees may have already gotten theirs, I’m not sure how far into the process Eventbrite is. I hope we’ve built enough of a reputation that people know this isn’t how we normally operate. If that isn’t the case, I’ll work my butt off night and day as I have for the past three years until we have earned our credibility back. I don’t ever want this to happen again and you can bet it will be on my mind as we move forward.
 
Thanks for getting in touch. I appreciate your honesty and I hope we are able to work together in the future.
 
Ben Penrod
President
Awesome Conventions
________

To which I replied

____________

Your credibility will go up once you stop using vague terms like “not coming together” to people you committed a convention to. I’m not a 16 year old fan boy and neither are the other pros or exhibitors.  A case of someone who was relying too much on advanced ticket sales is plane as day to those of us who have been doing this for awhile. It is a shame you cancelled, because This is not a town that pays in advance for a trade show, this is a town where they just show up. And comic book convention in late November in Milwaukee, when it is too cold to do anything outside, only a couple miles from two major colleges, right in the heart of downtown, would have been packed with people, and they would have made it fun on their own.
In any case, I will have my ear to the ground on how well you handle returning people’s cash.
 
 
Douglas Paszkiewicz

_______________

 

Please note that be claims he is not a “fly by night ” company and has “worked his butt of for three years” building credibility…the awesome con website itself seems to be at odds with that–

***Ben started planning Awesome Con full-time in 2012, and the first one launched in April 2013.***

…It is Nov. of 2014.

That’s about a track record of what?  a year and a half?

As far as working his butt off day and night, so did everyone else that planned to got to Awesome con MKE.  If they had decides to pull the plug on going would Ben have given them any pity ? a refund? Not according to the Awesome con “exhibitor agreement.”

Which says that for their show in DC slated for MAY if you cancel by JANUARY ( that’s FOUR MONTHS NOTICE) you only get 75% back ( a restocking fee I suppose for putting your table back) If you cancel by MARCH ( that TWO MONTHS NOTICE) you only get 50% of your money back.  Again, he cancelled the Milwaukee show with TWO WEEKS NOTICE.

as for refunds because of his cancellation ?  I talked to a few people who gave Awesome con their hard earned money.  So far this seems to be the standard response-

****It may take us a few weeks, but you will be fully refunded any amount that you have paid to us. If you are interested in rolling your payment forward to our Washington, DC convention, we will apply a credit of 125% of what you’ve paid for Milwaukee. Please contact us as soon as possible so we can set that up.***

L…O…L… Sure I’ll roll that cash over into the next show to muddy the waters even more as far as getting my refund when THAT show doesn’t happen.  BUT…even more diabolical note the 125% refund.  What , you may ask , good is the extra 25%.  Why…that’s because the DC show costs more.  so that extra 25% goes towards the remaining amount  you will OWE THEM if you decide to invest in that DC show.  The 125% will not cover the difference in cost between MKE and DC. That’s right…they have the balls to propose you give them MORE money, for a show that may or may NOT happen sometime next year.

If you think THAT is a good idea you probably sent a marriage proposal to the woman who claimed to have a third boob surgically attached.

 My myself personally, I was a featured guest, and I live in Milwaukee so all I have to do is not show up and thank the 25 year old version of myself for busting his ass all those years to get me to the point where my tables are compt.  But make no mistake this was devastating for some and at best a hardship for others.  Things started looking grim and they bailed out on everyone.  They get no sympathy from me..having slept in my car from time to time in the beginning of my career,  and showing up each day at a show even though the first day made it obvious that attendance would be close to nil.  You show up because you are a professional and you told the show, and told fans that you would be there.  The show must go on.  You do not bail out.  If you roll the dice and you get snake eyes, that is the risk you take.  These people took the dice and went home, and left everyone else standing there.

I don’t have the time to spell out why things like this are bad for the industry as a whole which is more and more reliant on the success of comic book conventions for credibility and public awareness.

I don’t have words for the contempt we should all have for this convention operator.  This much though is clear. Their word and their website and their plans are as worthwhile as a fist full of smoke.  If you see “Awesome Con” coming to your town, keep in mind before you hand over one red cent, or make any  plans what so ever that they may not actually be coming.

 

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