I was going to write a long post covering my full experience at the 2011 New York Comic-Con this past weekend, but I decided to break it up into a series of shorter, more manageable posts, each focusing on a specific aspect of the show. Overall, I had a great time at the show, but there were definitely some issues that came up and I'd be remiss if I didn't write about them. To be fair, they were all pretty minor, relatively, but when you go to a show like this, you want everything to run as smoothly as possible.
Now, I had the pleasure of having VIP passes, so I can't personally speak about the line issues I heard about for entrance to the show or the IGN Theater throughout the weekend, but there were some times when even the VIP pass wasn't enough. The first time was for the Jay & Silent Bob podcast, which was on Friday night. The organizers cleared the room before the event, since it was ticketed. That part made sense. What didn't make sense was having everyone stand around -- the VIPs just outside the hall and the rest of the crowd in an adjacent queue hall -- for more than an hour after the scheduled start of the event with no communication whatsoever. Even if Smith was running late, which he admitted during the show he was, it would have been much more sensible to seat the crowd, since we were all waiting either way, and waiting in our seats would have been preferable to waiting standing up.
The situation with the panel for "The Avengers" on Saturday was much more of a clusterfuck, at least for many fans. Personally, I knew that NYCC's policy was not to clear rooms after panels, but apparently a lot of people didn't know that, and were stuck standing in line for seats that never came open (thanks to people that got to the event early on Saturday and camped out in the room all day for the sole purpose of seeing "The Avengers" panel). The VIP situation was also mishandled pretty badly. "Ultimate Access" VIPs were supposed to have guaranteed seats for any panel in the IGN Theater, so long as they showed up 10 minutes before the panel started. However, throughout the day, the NYCC volunteers were allowing non-VIPs to move up to those seats once panels started and they weren't filled. That seems like a great idea, assuming you have a plan to relocate those non-VIPs once the VIPs showed up. It became clear pretty early on that the organizers had no such plans, so what ended up happening is the VIPs (read: me and others like me) had to flag down a security person, who then had to kick out someone with a non-gold badge, and that person went from having a great seat to one further back -- or, in the case of "The Avengers" panel, no seat at all, since the room was full. Additionally, some VIPs I spoke to chose to watch the panel in the VIP Lounge, where we were told all the IGN Theater events would be streamed, only to find out that the con was not streaming "The Avengers" panel to the lounge. Ouch.
The people in the lounge that didn't get to see "The Avengers" were treated to the "Beavis and Butthead" panel, which I heard was actually quite good, which brings me to another problem: crowded scheduling. I know that this is a problem at a lot of shows, but there were a couple times were multiple high-profile panels were going on at the same time, forcing attendees to make really hard decisions. The prime example of this had to be Friday night, when the Kevin Smith event, the Mark Hamill panel and the charity art auction were all happening simultaneously. If I was ranking my "events I wanted to be at" for this show, those three all would have been in the top five, and I had to pass on two of them.
Additionally, for the cost of the VIP pass, the "tangible" benefits weren't exactly plentiful: one comic, one poster, two exclusive one-item-only signings and complimentary Jay & Silent Bob admission. The "refreshments" in the VIP Lounge consisted of water coolers and a couple of candy dishes that were emptied on Thursday and never refilled. Still, the intangible benefit of the separate VIP entrance line, the VIP Lounge itself and the guaranteed (when it worked) seating in the IGN Theater made the cost of the badge worth it (sort of...).
Still, NYCC has become so big that it tended to have all the typical con problems: long lines, overcrowded areas on the show floor, terrible overpriced food, wireless data service that just never seemed to work and, of course, "con smell". But, man, there were a few types of con-goers that made me wish I had a taser... or thankful I didn't have one, since I'd probably be in jail right now for using one. Let's break down the list -- which, again, isn't specific to NYCC, but it did really get on my nerves this weekend:
- "Rubberneckers": at large shows like SDCC and NYCC, the exhibit floor is generally set up so people can move four-wide between the aisles. This allows for one row of people to be AT the exhibits on each side, and one row of people to be moving through the aisle in each direction. The movement generally flows pretty well, until you get a rubbernecker; someone who decides to slow down in the path of movement to "check out" every single exhibit, but never moves out of the way of the people who are moving through the aisle. Actually, a taser probably wouldn't work well here, but a cattle prod might.
- Traffic stoppers: This is related to rubberneckers, but unlike those guys, this guy just flat out stops in front of a group of people that are moving along and completely disrupts the flow of traffic. Sometimes it's to put something in his bag or take something out. Sometimes it's because he's lost. Sometimes -- often times -- it's to take a picture of something or someone. Honestly, we all recognize there are times when you do have to stop to do any of these things. The key is being considerate and getting out of the way before you do so (and, to be fair, I fucked this up at one point, when I thought I'd moved out of the way of a path while stopped, but in doing so moved into the way of a different path... my bad).
- The guy who seems to think he's the only person attending the show: You know this guy. The one who tries to worm his way to the front of a two-hour line because "it's really important to" him or the guy who pulls out a stack of 100 issues of the same book for an artist to sign while 50 people wait in line behind him to get one or two things signed each. It's a better con for everyone when everyone uses proper common sense and judgment.
- The guy who complains about EVERYTHING: Ironic, I know, since this is essentially a complaint post, but I can't tell you how many lines I was in where people were complaining about the price of autographs, the length of lines, wait times, whatever. The big one had to be the Mark Hamill autograph charge, which I heard constant complaints about all weekend. Here's my thought on that: if you think he's charging too much, then don't pay it. Simple as that. Did I think the fee was a bit high? Sure. Was I willing to pay it? Absolutely. Did I stand in line the entire time, complaining to anyone within earshot that the price was way too much? Of course not!
In general, I try not to complain about the PRICE of anything at Comic Con, because what I've found is there's always someone willing to pay it, and if you're not, then that just leaves more money for you to spend on something else, and there's always something else to buy. And buy I did, which I'll get to in Part 2 of my NYCC Round-up (probably coming tomorrow): The Stuff I Bought.