Rhode Island Comic Con came and went this past weekend. For some it was a just a blur, and those were the one's that got in. This was the biggest RI Con to date, also, the third one ever. So when I say the execution needs work, it shouldn't feel like as colossal an understatement as it does here. But, hey, it's a Comic Book Convention, anything can happen and this time, it did.
It was that time of year again, time for Rhode Island Comic Con! I woke up nice and early, picked a comfortable outfit, got extremely "baked" for proper costume spotting and enjoyment and had a great breakfast at a local bakery. MEANWHILE... Across town, our producer, Ryan Fox, was strapping on his surprisingly infamous Scarlet Spider costume and then driving across town to pick me up. It was raining hard, like when Spawn fought the Violator. Once I finished my breakfast of a Roasted Turkey Sandwich and Apple Turnover with Sparkling Lemon Water, did I mention I was high? Fox picked me up and we were on our way to pay for parking. Twelve Dollars, all day. We didn't know then that, that would be really funny not much later in the day.
We got a pretty good spot in the parking garage on the third floor and headed toward the con entrance to pick up our press badges. The line, even after the con had been open for a few hours, still stretched around the building and into the parking tunnel. At the end of the line we encountered a very friendly security guard. He told us, since we were press to just bypass the line and head to the press table to the right of the entrance. Once there, we were in, leaving behind a few hundred line mates made of families and nuclear-family nerd clusters. See you all inside... or when we come back out. But we will come back to that. Fox and I grabbed our badges and headed through security, one quick look in our bags revealed my iPad and Fox's Spider Mask, respectively. Just a couple of harmless latent teenagers, let us at the Nerd Fodder! We're in! Once inside Fox and I spent two and a half hours walking the floor. That is just how long it took to make it around the vendors, celebs and artists alleys. Heck, even then we only saw two-thirds before the atmosphere became oppressive. There was little room to walk forward. Even when you weren't in line, you were completely stopped and confused as to why. I mean, I was walking, I had every intention of moving peacefully toward the exit. Normally there are thousands of people at a convention, yes. This one however was just too crowded. We could all feel it in the air. My Spidey-Sense was tingling, or I had to pee. Either way, our only hope was to have fun along our Mordor-like walk to the Exit.
During our two hour walk of the floor we didn't get to see everything. However a childhood dream did come true and I met Bob Polio, Art Director for "The Tick" comic series. A big influence on me as a teenager. I loved the style of art and the humor of the Tick cartoon show and books. I read comics and I also read Mad Magazine and loved satire. The Tick was something different all together to me, it was satire but with original characters? It replaced Darkwing Duck in my mind, which when watched today does not hold up. The Tick, however is still a classic. I stole Polio's attention for quite a few minutes, got a drawing and autograph and we talked about the Toy Line and some other cool Tick related anecdotes. Now this is what the Con is all about. The freedom to be into whatever you are into and access to the people that made it all possible. But something was bubbling under the surface. Some evil black cloud. It was Darkseid in Smallville all over again. A Darkness was coming. An annoying, ill conceived and poorly executed Darkness. In the form of code violations.
Simply put, the Convention Organizers oversold the venue. And yet were still selling "day of" passes at the gate. What was happening behind the scenes was that the Convention was becoming a fishbowl. While we were inside they had stopped letting people in until others had left. Which left a lot of con-goers in the lurch. If you went out to drop off swag at the car, you were not allowed back in. Even press, yes, Ryan and I headed out for lunch and were told we would not be allowed back in. I was actually a bit panicked when I spoke to the security guard because I could sense an unrest and in the main hall when we were trying to exit, one man said to me, "I tried to go out a door over there and they blocked it with a table. How can they have only one entrance and one exit so far apart from each other? Haven't they heard of the station fire? This is Rhode Island, Hello!" He yelled that last part. In fact, the man wasn't far off. The Fire Marshall was not pleased with the amount of people in the building and it did make the enjoyment of the con extremely difficult for this fan boy. And apparently for others as well. It was cramped inside for sure. And outside, it was raining. As I left I saw families with small children in adorable transformer costumes, soaking in the rain and disappointment. Many paid for weekend passes and rented hotel rooms and this lockout went on for hours. I followed the mess on social networks. The hash-tag #RIcomicconfail emerged. The Con Organizers were deleting posts and claiming in their own posts that it was the fire Marshall and he is only upset because the con-goers are leaving. Whoah- did they just blame the consumer? The truth is, someone saw dollar signs and forgot to count tickets. They got in their own way. Some got full refunds and I am hearing rumors that the con will not be back next year. It may be, but perhaps in a different venue?
I for one would support a well run Comic Con in the Ocean State. This was not one of those times. More Comic Con Content coming up on the next LIVE Episode of Comics Corner. Wednesdays 7pm. And in the new Comedy On Us 2.0 Occasional.