RI Comic Con 2015 – lessons learned from 2014

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In 2014, I reported that both the Rhode Island Comic Con organizers and convention center have some growing up to do as they were entirely unprepared for the new cohort of nerds that were quickly expanding (click here for original article).  This past 2015 con demonstrated that they had indeed adapted to that demand.  More articles discussing the events, costumes, and general other fun things will be published soon.  For now, I am focusing on the con’s logistics, improvements, and a few questionable choices for both the attendees and the vendors.

Where the con was before undersized, using just the RI Convention Center, it was now rectified with the expansion to also include the Dunkin Donuts Center.  Lines were better organized into the event; waits were not unreasonable for the volume of people at the peak times.  And of course, no one was turned away this time.

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Main entrance lines.

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Outside the Dunkin Donuts Center.  Overhead is the walkway to the RI Convention Center.

Attendees now entered through the Dunkin Donuts Center.  From there, they could experience areas with many, but not all, vendors and celebrity signings. I am not sure that the new entrance area provided any additional room or services that could not have been handled by the RI Convention Center.  However, I think there was crowd flow-dynamics wisdom applied.

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Crowd flow in the Dunkin Donuts Center hallway.  Venders and signers set up on the sides with more inside the arena.

As I made my way back and forth between the two facilities, I was asked (on a number of occasions) by vendors in the Dunkin Donuts Center if business was much better in the original RI Convention Center.  Vendors seemed concerned that they might have been set in the “B” area and that people may have been unaware of the new location.  I told them that the crowds seemed consistent to me in both areas which might be largely due to the fact that the entrance led people to the Dunkin Donuts Center first.

Crowd flow from the Dunkin Donuts Center to the RI Convention Center via indoor walkway.

Inside the walkway between the Dunkin Donuts Center and the RI Convention Center.

Movement between the two facilities using the sky walkway was a bit slow but not terrible.  I do not think that the front doors to the RI Convention Center were open but if attendance continues to improve, it might be a possible solution in the future.

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Areas at the RI Convention Center.

While most of the prior year’s problems were solved, there was one decision that I (and others) found a bit odd.  Personally, my favorite part of all comic cons are the artist alley sections, where we are introduced to some independent artists.  I make it a rule to find one artist whose work I find particularly interesting and support them by purchasing one of their works.  However, this year at RI Comic Con, there was no clear artist alley section.  Much like the rest of the venders, they were split up and distributed throughout the two locations.  This made it particularly difficult for me to explore and compare artists.  I have no doubt at all that I missed a few interesting  tables.  In keeping with my tradition I purchased a comic called “The Antihero Project” by artist Travis J. Gibbs.  This comic is simply an intro to the artist’s characters and designs but doesn’t provide a great deal in story.  I’m a fan of the artwork and am looking forward to how this comic evolves in the future.

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Cover of “The Antihero Project” Vol 1.

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Additional artwork by Travis J. Gibbs.

The other vendors were the usual assortment of toys, t-shirts, and, of course, comics dealers.  However, there were some interesting creative booths, some of which were in attendance in the past and some new.

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Yes, the Krull glaive is for sale courtesy of Hole in the Ground Productions

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Big Nazo, local puppeteer musicians, got a booth this year.

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Big Nazo also entertained people around the con with alien wackiness.

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Bill Diamond’s booth with some of his amazing masterpieces on display.

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Another Bill Diamond piece.

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The Con also had some cool display pieces set up.  Most notably was the working Goonies organ!  If you could read the music and play it correctly, you would be given a prize.  Otherwise you fell to your doom.  Not really, but that would have been hilarious.  Good thing Samwise was with us.

What are you hiding One-Eyed Willy?

What are you hiding One-Eyed Willy?

Unfortunately, my biggest gripe about the con last year was not rectified.  Again, I will question why the organizers allow booths for giant corporations when the event continues to grow.  These corporate non-sequitur booths seem out of place and worse, take a bit more of the magic away.  They weren’t an overwhelming presence but why go down that road in the first place?  It doesn’t look like the con needs them.

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How’s the coverage on Genosha?

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At least Cox was trying with a Game of Thrones display. One throne! There’s only one throne!

Finally, I was happy to see some charity booths mixed in.  One Vulcan, in particular, went all out charging people to get a picture with him for The Epilepsy Foundation.  It was worth it.  Follow him on Twitter or Facebook as “Spock Vegas”.

DSCN1085More to come soon!

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