A Lost Weekend At The Virginia Comic Con A Review Of The 2 Day VA Comicon [UPDATED]

At VA Comic Con before the show begins

Man… Looks like I am two cups of tea behind the day

How do I start this? It is fair to say I had a helluva convention adventure at VA Comicon aka the Virginia Comicon, and it was a roller-coaster ride. Although I was one of the few who came out okay, there was a huge disconnect compared to last years much better run and artist friendly show. So, to review this show I am going to knock it down into two sections, the good and the bad.

The Good

The Cuddly Defenders at VA Comic Con

Let’s start with the good that came out of this show. We paid the premium for a corner booth for this event, had a good setup and found I actually had space to display my other non-Teddy Bear books. The location looked good, being placed on the main transit aisle and we even able to set up on Friday night. All of which helps to ease yourself into the Saturday morning.

Charmingly Geeky at VA Comic Con

I was joined again by Charmingly Geeky which is run by my wife, the making of geeky jewelry has been a boon for her this year, keeping her active, and motivated while dealing with a chronic disability. To be totally honest without Charmingly Geeky we would not be able to afford to attend any conventions over the last two years to promote my work (she makes the money, I don’t.) We decided she should set up facing the main transit aisle to maximize exposure of her work and help her sales, (a decision we would soon have cause to regret.)

Tristan the Teddy Bear at VA Comic Con

Tristan the Teddy Bear at VA Comic Con

And then the show began…  it was really cool catching up with Kickstarter backers, and fans of the Teddy Bear Tales work. I rarely get to see you all face to face and finally putting names to faces was a great experience. Also talking to new fans who are taking a chance on my work makes for an enjoyable time. When I could talk without having to shout over a Deadpooly Cosplayer and his Boombox that appeared on the scene to work as PR for the Gemstone booth next to us.

The Kilt

The Kilts at VA Comic Con

The Kilts at VA Comic Con

I finally met Chuck Parker and teamed up with Chris Otto of Dogs Life fame, and took an amazing Kilt picture which has been bopping around the internet. I am sure there will be several versions on the world-wide web by now. Chuck has been a backer of every single one of my book projects and I finally got to thank him for his support face to face. You are awesome Dude, and again thank you for your support!

The Commission

The Akio Commission

I only got one commission during the show hours, which is pretty normal. I don’t really go out of my way to advertise that I do commissions, as it takes face time away from me directly talking to Attendees. It was a sketch card illustration of his custom anime character.

Tristan Meets The Cosplayers

Tristan the Teddy Bear meets Ivy Doomkitty at VA Comic Con

Tristan the Teddy Bear meets Ivy Doomkitty at VA Comic Con

I’ve decided to move the Tristan meets the Cosplayers gallery over on to theteddybeartales.com makes more sense to put it in our favorite little Teddy Bears internet home.

The Writers Workshop

Nick and Tristan at VA Comic Con

I was privileged to be tapped for the Writers Workshop and I was joined again by the Yankee Cowboy in Kilt known as Chris Otto, and we had an engaging discussion with several budding writers. I think we managed to inspire them to keep writing, helped them through a few sticky writer issues and maybe one of them will be the next best seller. Just hope I make it into one of their acknowledgements;)

The After Party

On Saturday night VA Comicon threw an After Party for the VIP’s, it was a like a mini-con held back at the main convention hotel. About a dozen artists attended bringing a little bit of their booth setup’s with them. I brought my sketch card prints, did two quick BW sketch card commissions before calling it quits and going to bed.

Tristan, Rocket Raccoon and Groot at VA Comic Con

The Middle

Last year VA Comicon was a huge hit Creators and Comic book fans all in one place, great atmosphere,great show for everyone. Based on this information alone I signed up and paid the premium for a corner booth and convinced a fellow creator Scott Markley of Time of Hugs to pick up a table, getting bigger after a successful first year show is only a good thing… for most shows anyway.

Time for Hugs meet Tristan the Teddy Bear

Sorry Scott hope a hug from Tristan makes you feel better…

The Bad (Which Gets Ugly)

Before this continues, I feel it is important to point out I have no issue with Cosplayers at conventions, almost all of the Cosplayers I have met are pretty cool people, and just like us Exhibitors they add color to a comic book convention. With the exception of a teeny tiny few, most are rabid comic book fans and a joy to talk to.

VA Comic Con Exhibition Hall - Our Location Booth 85

VA Comic Con Exhibition Hall – Our Location Booth 85 right next to the Cosplay Runway at this point we really should have seen what happened next coming

But Gosh… Did this convention go sideways fast. First off it was marketed with the emphasis on it being Cosplay Con over comic books and pop culture. Proving it is true what they say, you market to certain market you only get that certain market.

Plus White Tiger Filmz (WTF) were there filming their version of Heroes Of Cosplay, called Viva La Cosplay which is airing on CW Richmond, and this too was heavily promoted. You know be nice one day if a reality TV company documents what an Indie Artist/Creator goes through before a show, I know a couple of subjects who might make good TV.

Updated – 11/26/2014Yesterday I posted that Cosplayers got in for FREE at this convention, this was based on the Cosplay Rules information, namely Rule 11 on the Vacomicon.com website (which they removed promptly after I discovered it – but it is quoted in full below).

’11. Lastly, all attendees claiming a free cosplay ticket at the door MUST be in costume. If you are not, your cosplay ticket will not be accepted. Please remember that these rules are for the safety of yourself and other con goes. Compliance with these ensures a safe and fun convention environment for everyone! Guests and cosplayers alike. If you have any questions regarding these rules, please look back over them or be sure to speak with our friendly security staff at the event.’

It turns out I was incorrect with this information, and based on sources from a VA Comicon Officer only some of the Cosplayers got in for FREE (I guess it depends on the outfit). 

Deadpooly Dance Party

This has already been mentioned in a previous post, throughout Saturday my wife and myself were subjected to several of the Deadpooly BoomBox Cosplayer and his impromptu dance parties appearances that completely blocked the main aisle, and our booth from any foot traffic.  You can read my much longer account of the most disruptive cosplay behavior I have ever experienced here, and learn of the VA Comicon reaction to it (which as it turns out was to blame me for not having anything people wanted to see, not the Cosplayer – cause you know… They could get through the dance party crowds to get to my booth).

Was That A Saturday Award Show?

Saturday saw an odd event taking place to the right of my booth just at the top of the Cosplay Catwalk, it looked like a Cosplay Award Show of some type. It completely blocked off one side of the hall stopping trade for the Exhibitors up there for almost three hours, and in one case one Exhibitor could not get back to their booth it was that crowded. This strange event was only a hint of what we would all experience on Sunday.

Cosplay Take Over

On Sunday, I watched the crowd change from regular attendees to almost all Cosplayers, when the Award show started around 3pm they clogged up the entire opposite end of the Cosplay Catwalk, blocking up the Comic Book Vendors – these are the guys that paid the big money for their space. Until it got so bad a Fire Marshall turned up and moved the Contest out into the main lobby.

I was seeing Exhibitors packing up and leaving, (three hours before the show ended) it was done, the hall was all but deserted and would remain that way until the show closed. We left around 6pm after packing up our Booth, and as we drove off the Cosplay Contest was still going on in the main Lobby, the show had left. I wonder if the Cosplayers even noticed those funny looking artists and comic guys had gone?

I know I wont be returning to VA Comicon again. I also know I am no loss to this organization, in fact a certain VA Comicon Officer has told me I wont be any loss to their show. This is the way of things when you exhibit in the artist alley, I am really a nobody and ultimately seen as disposable with my only worth is the cash paid for my space.

Sum Up

As you read I had some fun experiences during this show and my part of the show wasn’t as bad as what my wife suffered. At least I could get foot traffic to my side of the booth.

Sadly poor planning by the VA Comicon managed to generate a lot of unneeded ill-feeling towards Cosplayers, which largely had nothing to do with Cosplayers. A lot of that blame should go on the shoulders of the Convention Organizers getting it complete wrong and not giving Cosplayers their own space away from the show floor, or dealing with disruptive elements, the VA Comicon policy seemed to lean towards lying to Exhibitor faces that they are dealing with the problems,  then blaming Exhibitors behind their backs for the problems.

I don’t really know what else to say… Just complete disappointment, especially after an amazing event they put on last year. As for VA Comicon, or the Virginia Comicon, or Virginia Comic Con or whatever it is calling itself now I cannot in clear conscience recommend the show to any of my artist and exhibitor friends. Especially after the actions of one of the shows main Officers and the blame the Exhibitor culture they have, (the joke being they claim to be indie friendly.)

Surprising Updates

After Publishing Reaction

Update 11/26/2014This article was originally posted late on 11/25/2014 and I got a lot of heat for it from mostly VA Comicon Officer Ben Taylor who ran the Show’s Panels who bombarded my Messenger on Facebook with accusations, demands and a couple of unexpected threats. This was the very same VA Comicon Officer who was actually my initial source for most of the Deadpooly revelations and a lot of the background information for this report.

While I acknowledge I did get the Cosplayers got in for FREE information wrong, it was caused by misinformation on the VA Comicon website (which they redacted). The rest of this article is pulled from my own observations, sources within the Voluntary VA Comicon staff  (those poor bastards left to deal with the shit on the floor with zero support) on the show weekend, and the two dozen Exhibitors, (some of whom want their money back) that I talked to during the show. 

The very same VA Comicon Officer admitted the show was understaffed which may have led to some of the chaos of that became the Cosplay Take Over on Sunday, only two of the ten volunteers turned up over the weekend.

Threatening Staff?

Ben Taylor via FB Messanger demanded I tell him who told me about the Fire Marshall and who was my source, and like a good Journalist I refused to reveal my source. The VA Comicon Officer then said he would talk to the staff to find out who did talk… WTF?!?

For this I want to say sorry to the Staff Members (and Volunteers) who talked to me at VA Comicon. I didn’t mean to put my sources into a situation where they might feeling pressured, threatened or humiliated by a bully into admitting they dared to talk to an Exhibitor about some of the shows problems. I hope they do not suffer any repercussions for being generally helpful and having to deal with some real awkward and out of control situations on the show floor with no support from any of the invisible VA Comicon Officers ‘running’ the conventionWhile I understand VA Comicon might want to do damage control, it stinks if they single out a Volunteer and speaks of a bully bullshit attitude behind the scenes that will scare away future volunteers for this train-wreck.

My Rebuttal

I was accused by VA Comicon Officer Ben Taylor of seeking attention and of click baiting for ad revenue, and as such I should be ignored as this is my third article about VA Comicon (one was fun, honest!). This is my answer.

  1. I posted what happened, I didn’t think any of this would have got attention.
  2. I don’t make ad revenue on this website- although I am sure I may have a Google Ad on one of my satellite pages somewhere.
  3. I retracted the information about all Cosplayers getting in for FREE because VA Comicon redacted it from their website (turns out only a select few cosplayers get it – depending on outfit)
  4. I paid for my space at VA Comicon I have a right to run review about the show as I saw it.
  5. VA Comicon did nothing to address my concerns about the disruptive Cosplayer accept blame me for complaining, but only behind my back. Yet Ben Talyor stupidly flapped his mouth about me in front of my son, and a friend of mine?!?
  6. I have zero issues with Cosplayers, except for Douchepool, but he made his own problems.
  7. This article would not have happened, and the ensuring updates, if it wasn’t for the two-faced and threatening Facebook behavior of VA Comicon Officer Ben Taylor, yep, it was you that prompted most of this article and was my information source (bet you never told Brett that, eh?)

I don’t like being bullied or threatened into to taking down an article on my website. While I will post retractions and corrections, what content goes up on my website and stays on my website is my choice, no matter how much you rage about it. 

Be thankful I am not posting everything that was revealed to me although I am was sorely tempted, especially the duplicity towards my wife, a Asshat Hack would do that, I’m not an Asshat Hack, just a Hack – hence why I never really got anywhere as a Journalist. 

The Show Runner Chimes In (WTF?)

Update 11/27/2014 – Looks like my link on Facebook attracted the attention of VA Comicon owner Brett Carreras, I’m just going to post the screen grab of his reply below. This is the first acknowledgement of the issues I heard and as you can see I am being blamed for my poor sales, not the Cosplayer Douchepool Dance Parties and then huge crowds of herded Cosplayers who blocked my corner booth up for two days.

Fair is fair… If the foot traffic could have got to my booth and then I don’t make sales then his accusation would make sense… Since my wife got very little foot traffic (so few would fight through the crowds to get to get to her), his accusation falls flat. But, hey easier to blame an Exhibitor than take responsibility, but after talking with folk that know him, this is Brett Carreras normal modus operandi.

Facebook screengrab from VA Comicon Owner Brett Carreras

Even though he is being economical with the truth (must have forgotten about the 120+ minutes of floor sharing on Saturday as well) He actually is accusing FORMER staff on the show floor passing on false information. Rogue Staff members loose in the hall giving VA Comicon a bad name?

WTF?

What a farce… ROGUE STAFF?

If you had rogue former staff in the convention, out to give you a bad name then they had no control over the VA Comicon at all. I am surprised we didn’t get all burned down. Epic levels of FAKE NEWS THERE.

VA Comicon 2015

UPDATE 11/24/2015Gods… It never end with VA Comicon. I received information from a reliable and respected member of the Mid-Atlantic Artist Alley Scene about the VA Comicon 2015 show. After the events of 2014 the show was half empty of artists and vendors leaving huge empty gaps in the hall. (I reviewed pictures of the event posted on Facebook and there were huge tracts of space)

The source stated that Saturday was good for a convention and largely trouble-free. It all went south on Sunday as the VA Comicon Organizers decided they would hold a three-hour Cosplay Dance Party (with Rave/House/Dub music) on the show floor effectively killing the con for any Exhibitors in attendance and driving out a lot of attendees – it should be noted that Sunday is seen as a family day as you see a spike in families attending a comic con. 

Wow… Just wow… I can only imagine just how annoying that would be an unwilling attendee too… But, also having to be party and sponsor to a Cosplay Dance party that you didn’t want. I guess it was too much to run a Cosplay Ball that Saturday night. My source said they spent most of the day texting with friends as there was nobody walking the show…

Do Not Attend

So my final verdict on this fuck up of a show is: Danger, Danger Will Robinson – if you are an Artist, Vendor, Small Press, Exhibitor do not waste your money with this show with VA Comicon.

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About Nick

Just an Englishman lost in the USA who happens to write now and again... Anyone got a cup of tea?

2 Responses to A Lost Weekend At The Virginia Comic Con A Review Of The 2 Day VA Comicon [UPDATED]

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