Before I get into scoring the various aspects of this convention, I think it’s important to explain why there is an asterisk next to each letter grade. The Boston Comic-Con was originally set to take place on the weekend of April 20-21, at the usual Hynes Convention Center location, but the horrific events of the Boston Marathon bombings mere days earlier—and the resulting citywide lockdown on April 19th while the police searched for and apprehended Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—forced the event organizers to shut down the con.
It’s a testament to the resilience and the heart of the showrunners—and the Boston geek community—that the Convention even happened at all. It would have been perfectly understandable if the event was simply held off until 2014, but Bostonians are made of sterner stuff, and they weren’t going to let the actions of madmen deprive the fans of their opportunity to celebrate the things they love.
So, because the Boston Comic-Con had a mere three-and-a-half months to secure their previously booked guests, vendors, events, and find an entirely new location – it’s difficult to accurately or fairly grade the show. The asterisks are there simply to signify that the grade may have been different had things gone according to plan.[divider]
The Seaport World Trade center has undeniable scenic charm. Surrounded by the ocean and huge ships, the actual building fittingly resembled the classic ’70s design of the Justice League of America’s Hall of Justice. Inside, 118,000 square-foot exhibition space was covered in a pleasing blue plush carpet and was laid out beautifully for the approximately 18-20,000 attendees that streamed through the doors. The food court area was very small, and didn’t have nearly enough table space, but the food quality was better than a lot of other conventions I’ve attended. There were also the standard separate areas for the celebrity guests and tabletop gaming.
This facility had all the makings of a solid convention space, but came up short in one very crucial aspect – panel/event space. The Seaport World Trade Center offered only two ballrooms, and they were woefully inadequate for the panels – especially the costume contest, and the Hobbit Q&A panel with the actors who portrayed Fili & Kili. Hundreds and hundreds of people were turned away at the doors, which is simply unacceptable. Of course, it’s impossible to know if the Hynes would have been better equipped to handle the panel crowds, but as it stands, the Seaport’s grade takes a big hit.[divider]
No asterisk for this grade, as I have a feeling the Boston Comic-Con would have offered up a very strong and creative cosplay contigent regardless of the date or location. Cosplaying has never been more popular in the geek community, and that was certainly evident as I strolled the convention floor. The Seaport was chock full of awesome, sexy, strange, and creative cosplay, and you can see a sampling of that in our gallery. Highlights included appearances by “celebrity” cosplayers Nicole Marie Jean, Destiny Nickelsen, and Yaya Han, an INSANE steampunk Batman, Zealot from WildC.A.T.S., oodles of Doctor WHO and Adventure Time characters, and more.[divider]
This is where the move and the time crunch really hurt the Boston Comic-Con. While the layout was spacious, signage was nearly nonexistent (there were one or two floor layout maps on stands out on the main floor; usually cons have large numbered banners hanging from the rafters for easy navigation), and there were no programs made up for the show. Also, the Con was inadequately staffed at the front door, and unprepared for the admittedly unexpected 15-17,000 people who showed up on Saturday, resulting in an up to 2-hour wait in line to get in. A simple flyer listed off the panel schedule, which was fine, but I was irked by the fact that the organizers ran out of lanyards and plastic badges. My “press pass” consisted of nothing but a purple paper wristband.[divider]
Boston Comic-Con is a mid-level Con, so in terms of media guests, it cannot compete with the major media events like San Diego, New York, or Dragon Con in Atlanta. This year’s event was due to be dominated by three or four cast members of the hottest geek TV show on the air – The Walking Dead. However, due to the extended postponement, only Laurie Holden (Andrea) was able to attend the show for panels and autographs. Other media guests included two of Peter Jackson’s Hobbits – Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner, Kristen Bauer (from HBO’s True Blood), and cartoon voice superstar Billy West (Ren & Stimpy). Representation from the majority of the hottest geek film/TV commodities – Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Marvel Studios films, Star Trek, Doctor WHO, Firefly, etc. was completely nonexistent.
However, there is one area where the Boston Comic-Con measures up to the big boys – comic books and comic book artists. The Boston Comic-Con kicks it old school and puts the “comic” back in comic conventions, in stark contrast to the Hollywood/Video Game studio-driven multimedia mayhem of something like SDCC. Walking the con floor, I saw dozens of heavy hitters in the comic book publishing world signing and sketching away – names like Neal Adams, George Perez, Mark Bagley, Tim Sale, Howard Chaykin, Brandon Peterson, David Mack, Scott Snyder, Tony Daniel, Phil Jimenez, Barry Kitson, and dozens more. There were also dozens of vendors on the floor offering great deals of trade paperbacks, back issues, and even original artwork. The Boston Comic-Con is a haven for comic book enthusiasts.
In addition to the heavy comic book content, the Boston Comic-Con offered a film festival for independent genre creators, a costume contest hosted by Yaya Han, a wide variety of panels, tabletop gaming, autograph signings, photo ops, and hundreds of exhibitors and vendors – including the Star Wars charity group the 501st Legion, who had a life-size, moving Jabba the Hutt![divider]
The Boston Comic-Con is actually a reasonably priced show. $40 will get you in for both days, with access to all the events/panels, etc. That’s the best deal, but $25 for a one-day entry isn’t that horrible, either. Compared to what they charge at a dinky show like ConnectiCon in Hartford , CT, it’s practically a bargain. I’ve added the “minus” to the grade due to the expenses you’ll incur outside the venue, like food, hotel accommodations, and parking. None of these things are cheap in a city like Boston. I paid $15 to park for six hours. Yikes![divider]
Boston Comic-Con is a solid mid to upper-tier (more mid) event, and even though it focuses on comic book artists and fans – cosplayers, sci-fi/fantasy fans, gamers, and other segments of the geek-o-sphere will feel right at home. And on a personal note, I honestly got choked up on more than one occasion during the day, as I saw young, enthusiastic geeks with beaming smiles enjoying themselves and reflected on the resiliency of Bostonian geeks in the aftermath of a horrible atrocity.
Make sure you check out our cosplay/show floor photo gallery!