Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's Not You, It's Me: Wizard World Breaks Up with Louisville After One Year

That's right, Louisville Comic Con is no more. Wizard World has just released a list of shows for 2015, which includes a minimum of 22 shows. Looking at the list, Louisville Comic Con, which debuted in 2014, is no longer part of the circuit of over-priced media-driven shows that have saturated the pop culture con circuit in the last few years. What we do see on the list are a bevy of new shows which include a new Indianapolis Comic Con in February and ... wait for it... Raleigh Comic Con March 13-15.

Lexington Comic and Toy Convention had competition in 2014 with the new Indiana Comic Con. As I understand, the convention had its problems, its own set of growing pains, but looking at their website, they'll be back in Indy during the same weekend as LCTC. But it's this new Raleigh Comic Con that is especially troubling for me. Lexington is situated in such a great location. We've got folks coming from North Carolina, Mississippi, and all of the states contiguous to Kentucky, including Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio. LCTC 2014 saw an even larger turnout than last year. Growth has been exponential and that is really very remarkable. I'm concerned, however, that having two conventions within driving distance of Lexington on the same weekend will pull people away from what has become my home show.

The addition of Raleigh Comic Con to Wizard World's circuit is just one part of a larger picture. WW is a publicly traded company (OTCBB: WIZD). It is a business and one that has to be successful, otherwise they'd just scrap the whole thing. They're adding this new show in Indianapolis in February, which is just one more addition to the ever-growing convention list for the city. Tony at Geeking in Indiana has a great post about the saturation of the market in Indy and with the addition of Wizard World shows to cities, this presents a similar problem across the country. More and more "franchise cons" are cropping up, like Awesome Con, Fanboy Expo, another con in Louisville that I don't like talking about, etc, and those are just cons on the East Coast. I'm sure that are even more franchises across the country. I know many folks who wanted to go to both LCTC and Louisville Comic Con this year, but wasn't sure how they'd be able to afford both, including autographs, photo-ops, merchandise, and more.

And that's not just the folks who are going to drive to attend these shows, that also includes the artists and vendors who want to be a part of the experience as well. Table prices for Wizard World Louisville Comic Con were exorbitant. If you wanted to do well at the show, you were going to have to evaluate not only your table price, but also gas, food, lodging, etc in order to turn a profit in what is a livelihood for many artists. When I attended the show in Louisville, I noticed that so many of the vendors made the Wizard World circuit because they were large companies. I asked almost proprietor that I spoke with, "Are you local?" and I received many, many responses in the negative. I was so incredibly happy to see artist Andrew Heath and Chris Wicker from Collectibles, Etc North at the con and I was happy to support them both with purchases. Sure, it's something that I could do here in town, but it's very important to show that support when you're out on the road as well.

I'm not sure why Wizard World decided to withdraw their show from Kentucky. As someone who has now been to quite a few conventions, I will say that especially on Friday, the vendor hall/show floor was not well attended. Saturday was very steady, in my opinion. But the huge draw for this show was the Doctor Who representation. Karen Gillan and Matt Smith were both an absolute delight to get to see. And while photo-op and autograph prices were much too rich for my blood, I was thrilled that I was able to attend their Q&As. Regarding that, I would have thought that WW would have considered the show a success based on the attendance of those two events alone. They were turning folks away from the Matt Smith Q&A. Once the VIPs were settled in the hall, the overflow was being held in the same hall in which Derby City Comic Con started out. The overflow filled that hall almost 3/4 full. Maybe WW's definition of success is different than mine, but I would have thought that the numbers for Matt Smith alone would have been impressive enough to call it a win.

Maybe it was a scheduling issue. Perhaps KICC couldn't find a date for Louisville Comic Con. Perhaps the powers that be felt that it was a better move to take their shows to Indianapolis and Cleveland, the latter of which from my observations had not had much in the way of conventions. Could it be that the only dates for Louisville would have conflicted with other large conventions? But it just seems like a coincidence that they would scrap what could have been a profitable convention and pick up a date 2 weeks prior that just happens to fall in line with one of the fastest growing independently owned conventions in the South.

I have seen different sides of the convention world over the last few years. I have seen the profit-driven mega-cons who want to win the favor of the market by bringing in big-name celebrities. I've seen conventions that are an epic fail in terms of PR and the way that they treat their guests (and celebrities in some instances) but still manage to book huge celebrities because their organizers are smooth talkers. I've seen franchise cons move into areas which already have great local shows in an attempt to saturate the market and make the hard-working every day folks who want to have a good time choose. I've also seen the folks who want to run a show for the fans because they're fans themselves. The people that would bend over backwards for their guests, for their attendees, and for their staff.

In the end, I'm disappointed that Louisville Comic Con will not be back in 2015. I actually had a good time, especially considering I gave my first solo presentation at a convention. I was absolutely delighted that their programming director reached out to me as Kentucky Geek Girl because he wanted to feature a panel with someone local. There was a Doctor Who fan panel, but I don't know if they were local folks. I think that there was a panel with some Louisville-based artists, but I feel very honored to have been approached to be a part of the show.

Conventions are popping up all of the country at an alarming rate. I'll help do what I can to be a voice in the Kentucky community to let you know what conventions are going to be worth attending, but in the end it's the convention-goer's job to be discriminating and decide what convention is going to support the community but also be the most cost-effective.

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  1. I call the one you don't like to talk about "the con that shall not be named." (Except I'm going to name it. It's Fandom Fest. Google it before you buy tickets.)

    1. It was actually MUCH better this year. I've put up 2 vids and am typing a small report for

      If it keeps up this rate, I say the con might well deserve a name next year or so.

    2. Unfortunately, Nate, I'll never go back as long as Ken and Myra Daniels are running the show.