Mid Ohio Comic Convention 2011 - Review

Mid Ohio Comic Convention 2011
  Columbus, Ohio October 22-23

This is Not Your Father's MidOhioCon.....Too Bad.....

The MidOhio ComicCon has long been regarded as one of the best fan run conventions in the midwest, if not the country.  For it being in Columbus, OH, it has hosted a wide variety of luminaries and creators.  There have also from time to time been a few celebrities.  For a few decades, the MidOhioCon has been a key stop for creators and fans to come together.  The promoters made it always about the fan and the comics, not the schlock and awe of what Sci/Fi conventions have become with more emphasis on VIP packages and exclusive photo ops and all about the money.  Well, last year, 2010 was the last year for the original promoters.  They sold the rights to the convention to Wizard, Inc., the biggest name in pop culture conventions.  Many fans were prematurely disappointed, saying that Wizard would destroy the feel of the convention as being about the comics, creators and fans.  I went into it with an open mind.  However, I must report, despite some neat new features, for the most part, the critics were right. 
This comic convention is not about the fans, creators, or the comics.  It is about the all mighty dollar.  Over twenty bucks for photo ops, vip packages in the hundreds of dollars.  More dealers and tables but the company getting a smaller space.  All of this shows that Wizard is not about keeping the awesome tradition of MidOhio together, but rather making a quick buck and who cares if they cause near fire hazards at the convention center.  It was neat to see some of the displays of the Batmobile, the Delorean from Back to the Future, as well as other things.  It was nice that they had some comic related actors and was all a little too much focused on the money and not on the experience of hanging with the artists.

The Good
Seeing the Batmobile and the Delorean were very cool.  Also, the map was marginally helpful in figuring out where the artists were located and finding one's way about the room.  Most of the creators and writers and such were very affable and were willing to talk and discuss.  Some would even look at your portfolios and give you comments, as Arvell Jones did for me.  There were a few who were not all that great.  Getting signatures on many different books was great as well.  Seeing all the clubs of sci fi and the cosplay people (Mid Ohio Cosplay) was great as well.  

The Bad
The room was way too small and cramped.  It was smaller than the previous year's space, but there were more tables.  This made it hard, especially in the creators' section, to hang out and talk to the artists or watch as they worked.  It was a nonstop cluster of wall to wall people, some of whom could not see with their cosplay masks and bumped into you, some just had bad manners.  Usually at the old MidOhio, there was enough room to roam about or hang with artists.  Wizard seemed to be purposely trying to cramp people so you couldn't have that special experience.  For me, it is easy to anchor myself as I am 6'4" of blue eyed soul, tower of power, too sweet to be sour.  The organization of celebrity row vs. the creators and such was confusing and convoluted.  There was an atrium level in the room we were in.  Why not put the celebs (who were very exorbitant in their prices for autographs compared to past MidOhios) up there, so that would take out some of the clutter of people waiting in line for their $45 dollar 10 seconds with Billie Dee Williams or their 120 dollar thirty seconds with Adam West and Burt Ward.  Poor planning. Also, the volunteers were not very organized or well schooled in what was going on.  You could get different answers to the same questions from different volunteers.  Again, poor planning. But, you don't plan very much when all you are trying to do is corral the cows into the pen.  Also, some of the handlers of the creators need to be better informed and planned.  For example, Phil Jimenez.  Fantastic Artist, seems like a great person for all the sketching he was doing.  Therein lies the problem.  When was he just signing books for people?  No signage, and the handler just ignored you if you asked.  Not good.  At least most of the artists had a sign, like Ron Frenz, for example, of what times he would be sketching and signing.  Jimenez's confusing situation caused a HUGE backup nightmare in the corner of the convention.  Again, very poor planning.  But, when your only goal is to exploit the name of a formerly fan run convention, and just use your typical cookie cutter mold from every other freakin' corporate con you run in other cities, then who cares, right?
Another bad more custom programs for the general public.  MidOhio had a history of giving programs out with distinctive artwork, and sometimes even a variant sketch edition you could have an artist sketch on or get all the signatures on (like the awesome one Chris Giarrusso did last year).  Instead, all you got was a big, plain, generic map with programming that didn't fit well in your pocket.  Lame!

The Stupid
The first day registration and admission procedures were ignorant, poorly put together, and not conducive to a good fan experience, especially if you had a handicap or if you had a cart or something.  Not good.  You had to go up to the second floor to get your bracelet, standing in a line.  Then, you had to go stand on stairs down to the first floor and beyond to wait in line for hours to then have to go up another set of stairs when you were on the second floor again to the third floor, where everyone flooded into a couple of glass doors.  STUPID!  In the past, you had your ticket, you got a badge, and you waited in line without having to go up and down stairs and escalators.  But, again, why change things to fit your environment in a convention space....let's just keep our nice little wizard procedures that we just roll out at every other venue.  Again, the workers were not helpful and confusing.  It got better the second day because you already had your bracelet.  Again, there was not the usual caring for the fan experience and more just a cattle mentality.

Another stupid thing....where was the announcement that Rob Liefeld wasn't going to show?  Where was the announcement in the flier/map that Mark Texiera was out with an injury and wouldn't be making it?  Poor planning, again. 

The Awesome!!!!
Getting to see some of my favorite creators, getting books signed, and getting some artwork.  Arvell Jones did two commissioned pieces for me at a great price and even gave compliments on my own poor attempts at artwork.  Arvell is famous for his work on Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and especially a long run on the All Star Squadron over at DC.  Also, getting to meet Ron Frenz again was awesome.  I got two awesome prints from Chris Giarrusso where he playfully redid Captain America 1's cover and a famous Avengers cover in his own cartoony form like in his excellent series Gman.  I also got two prints from Joe Corroney, who did covers for IDW, of some of his work on the new Star Trek comic.  Also, seeing Tony Isabella is always a treat, as he is a walking encyclopedia of comics.  Gary Kwiapicz was also excellent, and I would suggest you check out his Civil War Adventure series.  Not only is it well drawn, but very accurate as well.  I also met some other up and comers, and saw some of their wares.  However, the highlight was the two pieces Arvell did,  as well as his compliments on my own sketches.  And, getting over 170 books signed in two days ain't too bad either, ya know?  Oh, and I bought some awesome action figures--the Justice League Unlimited 3 pack of Golden Age Hawkman, Green Lantern and Flash; as well as the DC Universe Classics of original Hawkman, original Sandman, Star Girl, and the Golden Age Atom.  
Overall, it was a productive con, and it shows some potential for future greatness.  For Wizard's first foray into this area, it wasn't horrible.  However, it was less than one would expect from a company that is supposedly professional and well organized.  I miss the old MidOhio Con.  You could stretch your legs out.  You had some room.  Wizard MidOhio was all about cattle herding and getting you to shell out geld for the celebrity signatures.  People who wanted these were willing to wait in lines that cluttered up the smaller space, along with the added features like the Batmobile and the delorean.  This made things claustrophobic and hard to maneuver and engage in banter with artists, etc.  The staff was not very with it and not very up to date on where was what.  Also, while the map was helpful, it was not always very accurate with the reality on the floor.  Wizard could have learned alot from the old promoters.  To me, this con was no longer about the fans and the creators, but just about getting bodies in the door.  It reminds me of what scifi/Star Trek conventions have become.  Instead of a chance to maybe get some affordable signatures and reminisce about the characters and stories you love, it is all about certificates of authenticity, graded signatures and books, and 30 dollar photo ops and line jumping.  If you want an old style con the way things used to be, try out the Cincinnati Comic Expo, which was a great success and for being only in its second year, had great organization and planning compared to these so called experts from Wizard.  I will go back, but my heart will not be in it anymore.  The MidOhioCon I loved is gone.  This is something else, but it isn't the same.....

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