The Good, The Bad, and the Alley. Alamo City Comic Con Review

Okay. So, I just finished up my last convention for the year. I have some smaller shows and events coming up. but no more comic conventions. This is a run down of the artist alley from my perspective.

First let me just say thank you to all the people who came to my table to this past weekend. Thank you to folks who asked me for commissions, you liked my work enough to pay extra for something one of a kind, to have me represent you. Thank you to the folks who bought original pieces from me, whether in my binder or the custom toys I’ve made, you guys like my work enough to want to take a part of me home with you, it’s a great honor. Thank you to the new faces found a piece that connected with them in some way and “just had to have it”, I hope you enjoy it and please come back for more. And of course, my Frands (Friend-Fans), the folks I’ve now seen at multiple shows and folks coming just to get something from me. The folks collecting my bee drawings, supporting the comics and patreon, and the folks who keep coming back to pick up whatever my newest snarky print might be.  You guys all made my weekend great, without you this weekend would have been very sad indeed.

Fellow artists I’ve spent the weekend with, it was a pleasure. We were dealt an odd hand this weekend, but we made the best of it.  Best luck and your next shows!

ON TO THE REVIEW!

I see a lot of these Pro/Con reviews that end with the Cons, but I’m going to start with them. the list, to me, feels longer, but I want to end on a positive note with the good things about the show.

 

THE CONS:

1.  Preview Night?! There was one. I was there. I met a nice couple who commissioned me to do a Hellboy sketch for them. That being said, they may have been the only two people in the place who weren’t vendors. Vendors?! Also, half of the artist alley on both the “Professional” side and the “amateur” side weren’t there, I and I talked to several artists over the weekend who had no aidea there was a preview night. This piece of information was, at best, glossed over in the official event emails, but was later (two weeks out from the show) confirmed in the ACCC Vendor Group on facebook, that, yet again, many of the folks I had talked to over the weekend knew nothing about (I’ll get to that in a moment).  Now, it is arguable as to whether or not the weather had anything to do with the piss-poor traffic of “preview night” but I will say rain probably did not help the situation.

2.  Communication.  When running a show, it’s really important you let the people whose money you’re taking in exchange for filling your show know what the hell is going on, and in a timely manner. This has been an issue with this show from the beginning I’m afraid, 1st year I’d chalk it up to first year kinks in the chain. 2nd year I’d say it was growing pains, 3rd year. You’re not paying attention. As stated previously. A lot of information about this show didn’t make it out to artists/vendors until maybe two weeks before the show. Even then it seemed like most information had to be demanded by exhibitors in the before-mentioned ACCC Vendor Group on facebook, another tid-bit that no one was made publicly aware pf, from what I can tell, and I myself only was a member because I stumbled upon it while looking for the official facebook page for the show.  Early on, people submitting to be reviewed to qualify for a “pro table” were told their credentials would be reviewed and they’d know their status within 48 hours. Well 12 days later I finally found out, but only after publicly letting other applicants know not to hold their breath. I really don’t prefer being the squeaky wheel. Once I started corresponding with Jesus instead of Apple, I started getting answers and I will say that he is very helpful, but I wonder if the reigns were handed to him a little too late. A final note on communication before I move on. My table was by Hall B where some of the larger panels were. Never once over the weekend did anyone hear announcements over the PA system about the show, the schedule, or the end of the show day.  One area, presumably the Stan Lee section, was making local announcements via bullhorn/megaphone but that was it. At the end of every night, instead of a friendly announcement that the show was ending for the day in X number of minutes, as per usual that these events… A section of lights would simply be turned off, the way a janitor does after a highschool basketball game to get the straggling groups of kids out. It seemed lackluster and unprofessional, and that right there might be my running commentary on the show as a whole.

3.  Layout. There was one?! There must have been, because there were things all over the place, some of those things in rows, even! I’m going to cut first to an image of the show floor and the flow of traffic issues that our section (including invited guest artists who got stuck with newbs) had to deal with…
Fig1a So as Fig 1A. shows, the crowd would hug the corner of the artist alley and find the Guest Artists and Arthur Suydam, then not spread out until the publisher break, then stampede the celebrity area, which I’ve read angry things about, but I was there so I don’t really know. It was definitely an Alley that’s for sure. And while it wasn’t the worst show I’ve ever done, there were moments on Friday and Sunday that really gave me flash backs to Alamo’s Austin counterpart: Capital City Comic Con. The aisles were barren, artists began packing up early, and one attendee posted something to the effect of “I don’t understand why we’re forced to walk through the artist alley to get to more vendors” on the facebook feedback groups. This all from a show that claimed that their main focus was recognize comic creators, artists, and writers and bring them back to being a vital part of the COMIC CONVENTION. I feel like this layout was poorly thought out and counter-intuitive. There wasn’t really a solid flow throughout the show floor, one side of the show was a mash of over crowded vendors froced to make way for the celebs, then other side was like a flea market devouring a state faire, and “Artist Boulevard” was crammed in between the two.

4. Lack of Focus.  So as I was beginning to touch on in my previous point, this show felt like 14 disconnected events forced to share the same space. By the Entrance/Exit side of the show we see featured a small car show, but not movie cars or replicas (except for the stunning Pee-Wee Herman bike replica). Instead these were just vehicles froma local car dealership (obviously corporate sponsors of the show) with themed autowrap decals. The Hulk Buster Jeep was kinda neat I guess. Then, across from the mini generic auto show we had a “Rage-in-the-Cage” style wrestling wring set up. Yes, there were apparently live wrestling matches/demos? throughout the weekend on the main floor… okay. Then past that point and some odd, mall style vendors like the Scentsy booth and the Cell Phone Case Mall kiosk. once you got through those oddly placed vendors and some of the standard con/toy show booths, you could take family to the PETTING ZOO. I can’t wait to dress my family up like Batman villains and go to the petting zoo? hmm… my CONcern grows. But wait, are you tired of seeing unique things you won’t find at a fall social at a grade school? Alamo City Comic Con has you covered with not one, but THREE BOUNCE HOUSES. Okay… it may be time to panic about this show. Besides all that this year was the inaugural year for the peripheral Alamo City Film Festival, which again I was not able to check out for obvious reasons, but I can only assume was an excuse to hike up the costs of the show over all and fly Robert Rodriguez out so the organizer and sponsors could go out drinking with him. I don’t know this for sure, I actually don’t know much of any of it because THERE WERE NEVER ANY FUCKING ANNOUNCEMENTS ABOUT ANYTHING. I was worried many months ago when this film festival was announced because I feared that previous concerns and issues with the rapid growth of such a young show would be ignored because of the fancy new shiny thing they got to put an Alamo City logo on. Well I feel a bit vindicated, because I think that was truly the case.  I’ve already heard rumors that they plan to branch out to four shows for 2016, thus continuing to over-saturate San Antonio. And yet again all I can think is that none of the concerns from the first 3 years will be addressed. Layout will probably be an after thought, communication will be lacking, and smoke will be blown. That’s a legitimate fear I have.

5. Guest Artists.  I don’t have a problem with bringing out industry celebrity artists and writers, that’s not where this complaint is going. I DO have a problem with people who are comped the weekend, given a free table or two, free food and booze in a private green room, and put up in hotels with money struggling artists partly gave the show to be there, disrespecting fans by showing up late and leaving early. When the show starts at 9:30am for VIPs you owe it to those people who paid extra to get in early to be there. When the show doesn’t end until 6:00pm on the final day of the show, you owe it to your fans, fellow artists (“professional” or not) and the show itself to stick it out. When people who paid for a table leave early because it’s the only way they’ll break even after a certain point of no return , that’s on them. When you are GIVEN EVERYTHING, you owe it to the people giving you that everything to respect the show till the end, because 1. even if you didn’t sell what all you wanted to you still got a free trip out of the deal, and 2. it wasn’t that long ago since some of you were in our shoes, struggling to be seen/found. Not only is it rude to the guests who are still at the last hour of the show, it’s a real slap in the face to fellow artists who may look up to you. I can say that for myself, I lost a lot of respect for a handful of artists I used to really look up to. You don’t know that someone stuck behind a table of their own all weekend on the other side of the room was probably looking forward to sneaking away to meet you in the twilight hour of the show. Honestly, I’m really upset about that. I was upset to see Humberto Ramos gone, I was upset I didn’t get to meet Jon Layman and Rob Guillory; all of this because I was also at a table was pretty afraid to be away for fear of missing a sale. I guess I just thought that we all pretty much start out the same, and even when you “make it” it’s not an easy go for a long time. I just figured those kinds of folks might be a little more grateful and respectful. * I will admit that I don’t know the full story of the guest artist side of our alley, and maybe they were encouraged to leave early and show up late, though I’m sure that’s not a thing. Damn Shame.

 

THE PROS:

1 Venue.  The Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center is a beautiful space in a great downtown area. Compared to the Austin convention center, it’s like a home grilled burger over McDonald’s. The difference is immediate a severe. Also, downtown San Antonio doesn’t smell as much like frat boy piss like Austin’s 6th Street, so that’s nice. Seriously though, I always look forward to exhibiting or attending events at the Henry B. It’s a great venue.

2 Potential.  Alamo City Comic Con has a lot of potential, but in three years it feels most;y squandered as they try to chase an unsustainable business model like that of Wizard World. It’s quickly becoming sloppy and haphazard. They can have a really great show if they would focus on making a great show and not on making it a large spectacle. It’s feels at time as if they feel those two are one in the same. Alamo City can undeniably draw a crowd and pull in the right celebrities to entice the city. That seems to be something they’re doing right. If they would listen to genuine feedback from the folks who fill up their show and reel it back in a bit, they could have a really great long running, history making show. Just start fixing the problems you’ve had 3 years to fix instead of spreading out so rapidly. This can be a great show, but you’ve got to reign it in a bit and start fixing leaks early, otherwise you’re the Titanic; big and flashy and gone in an instant. I want to believe in this show, I want to love this show. Right now, you’re only in my ‘Maybe Pile’ for next year.

3. Volunteers.  The show volunteers I encountered seemed really friendly and I watched supervisors walk the floor with them and give notes every morning I was there; While volunteers may not always have all the answers, I respect anyone who puts up their free time to help a show for nothing more than a bright t-shirt and their love of the show. Good on you guys, thank you for your hard work, shows of this size would be absolutely up doo-doo creek without your support and hard work.

4. It’s over for this year.  I broke even pretty much with this show, which I was hoping I’d do better, and should have been able to do. For now it’s over and I hope that soe of this information I’ve shared finds it’s way to folks who can make a difference for this show. Like I said, it has the potential to be great, it’s just getting a little ahead of itself.

 

I’m exhausted, and a little depressed by all this to be honest, but I have a few small fun events coming up. Smaller, mostly stress free events.
Thank you all who came out and supported me at this show, and thank you to all who support me from afar. My Con season is mostly over for 2015. Now to catch up on other work.

 

-Zach

4 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad, and the Alley. Alamo City Comic Con Review

  1. Absolutely no disabled arrangements at all!! Told me it didn’t matter since I had purchased VIP badge!!! NONE WERE IN PLACE!!!!! Had it not been for the kindness of Wolf Studios Photography, I could have spent hours in line–which would have been all but impossible for a 68year old old Con nerd. I actually went back to regestration at one point and was that I should write to the Con operations at the end of the Con’s feedback feature. HELPFUL?????? Really? Seriously?

    1. Miacheal, I am sorry to hear that. That doesn’t seem helpful at all. Like I said, my view of the show is skewed from sitting behind a table in a row hardly anyone was walking through. It really sucks that there were guests being giving the run around and that is a HUGE issue for them to have missed. This is why their rapid growth worries me so. Will this issue be addressed in the future? We’ll see I guess. Thank you though, for sharing this with me.

  2. Sorry we missed each other, Zach. Shows, particularly ones that last until 8pm each night, can be a lot to manage. I typically leave a little early for shows like this, so I can grab a bite to eat before a long night of commissions. And I left early Sunday so I could catch a flight home and not spend another night away from my family (half of which was vomiting at the time).

    I’m sure you know this as someone that goes to shows, but fitting in convention appearances can be a lot to manage, particularly when you’re juggling a heavy work schedule and a real life. And being shackled behind a table for 8-10 hours a day, meeting and engaging hundreds of peoples per day, and being expected to produce commissions, sketches, interviews and autographs in the midst of all that, can be exhausting. So, for me at least, it’s not a matter of me not being grateful or respectful. It’s that I have limited time, energy and resources.

    1. Hi Rob!

      Thank you for reaching out to me first and foremost.
      I do understand how hard it is behind the table, and I totally get wanting to get back home to your family.

      It hurt all of us on the back side of you guy’s aisle, because after you all left in mass exodus, the crowds left with you it seemed. We were on the back end.
      I do know the flow of traffic isn’t your job by any means. and I’ve been a fan of Chew since the first printing on issue #1 I still have it in my comic spinner in my studio.

      I am sorry for seeming miffed. I was, and seeing two rows of empty tables with an hour left to survive felt like a killing blow.
      It really does mean the world to me, however, that you saw this post somewhere and reached out to me. I know that everyone has a different story and a different set of circumstances. Thank you for that. I hope to finally really meet you the next time we’re at the same show.

      All the best (as if you needed me to wish that for you, lol)

      -Zach

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