Wizard World puts on Comic Cons all over the country, including Toronto, Philly, Chicago, Mid-Ohio, Austin, and New Orleans. Their latest acquisition is the "Big Apple" Comic Con for 2013, but that's not the same as the New York Comic Con. Comic Cons in other areas of North America are put on by other companies, like the San Diego "International" Comic Con and, of course, East Coast Cons like Baltimore and Boston.
The Boston Comic Con was a lot of fun. Toronto had a ton of celebs and so, was more about individual fans of individual celebs...and, Yu Gi Oh. There were lots of tween, teen, and young adult boys looking for the opportunity to play in tournaments. You had Artists' Alley, of course, but there were more browsers than buyers because the crowd was more interested in celebrity-sightings and photo opps, using the vendors as a sort of time-filler/killer. In Boston, the focus was on comic books themselves. The celebs? Guys like Al Jaffe of MAD magazine. There were also a ton of families--including mom, dad, and older teens with younger siblings. There were great costumes at both Boston and Toronto, basically, fans who dress up as characters from everything to Star Trek and Star Wars, to X-Men...there was one Merlin from the SyFy show of the same name in Toronto, and one Katniss Everdeen in Boston.
The space was different in Boston, all encompassed in one long, very wide hallway, or branch, of the Hynes Convention Center. The Hynes Convention Center is accessible via the Prudential Center and Copley Plaza off of Boylston Street. Great location near high-end shopping and eateries, as well as more family friendly venues, right in downtown Boston. The hallway was lined with vendors selling all kinds of interesting things, but also, lots of comic artists and indie film-makers, as well as people in costume for photo-opps with fans. On the right side of the hallway, or plaza-level, there were separate rooms for speakers like me, as well as a zombie movie-marathon, while the left had a very large space used for Artists' Alley. There were artists from all the major Marvel and DC groups, as well as Th3rd World and the artist for Cinderella, a great female-hero driven graphic novel. There was about 8,000 fans trolling the Boston Comic Con, mostly in costume. There were no lines, plenty of space and lots of friendly, smiling faces. There was a real fun-vibe happening at the Boston Comic Con. And I was there on the second day. Which tells the whole story, doesn't it?
In Toronto, the speaker rooms and celeb Q&A's took place in one wing of the Metro Convention Centre in downtown Toronto, also near restaurants as well as the famed Rogers Stadium and CN Tower; the featured rooms were in the center of the wing with hallways and access doors on both sides. Further down, you could find tournament rooms and on the second level, there was Artists' Alley--a warehouse-sized space that had food vendors all around the perimeter, artists and authors in the center and at the back, celeb photo/autograph stations. Like the Boston Comic Con, Toronto had two main rooms for speakers--one large (480-person capacity) and one smaller (350-person capacity). I was originally scheduled for the smaller space, but like Boston, we made a few last minute changes to accomodate the show. Wizard World offers VIP ticketing so for every event or speaker over the course of the day, there were two lines--one for VIP ticket-holders and one for people with general admission day passes. There were two long lines of people waiting to enter the room for my show...which somewhat freaked me out when I realized what was happening. I've had large audiences before--but never people willing to stand in line for 20 minutes to see me. And in Toronto, unlike Boston, no one in attendance was a family member or friend--but I did meet plenty of fans of my books, and, of vampires in general, and, of the supernatural, and, of paranormal romance, and, of superheroes...so it was a real mix that made for a very enthusiastic, engaged audience.
The fans for my Boston show numbered upwards of 120 or so. In Toronto, my audience was almost double that. Of course, the room in Boston seated about 120 (as opposed to Toronto--which seated 480!), and yes, there were people standing up in the back in Boston. Now, what made the Boston audience even more awesome was the surprise. What surprise? Let me explain:
I was scheduled for a room without a projector; the problem there is part of my show at all Comic Cons depends on a multi-media presentation I made specifically to go along with my talk. Without the visuals and sound to go with my presentation, it would be like serving pancakes...without the syrup. Dry. And tasteless. So, the promoter for Boston had offered to rearrange the zombie movie-marathon so I could do my show properly. Very generous of him, because it meant tweaking the schedule. Unfortunately, we weren't able to make the changes in time to get into the program. So as I spoke to a full room yesterday, while the fans were just awesome and super-engaged in my talk, actively asking questions and sharing comments, I mistakenly thought most were in the room for the zombie-flicks. After I closed my talk, and the kind applause resounded around the room, not only was I bombarded by pop culture enthusiasts, but I realized as we cleared the space before getting George Romero's Night of the Living Dead on the silver screen, that the room was empty of all but five people. That crowd, the people who squished-in, even stood up, to listen to my talk weren't just being polite, they were there specifically to see my show. I am a Native Bostonian and there were five people in attendance who knew me--so what about the other 110 +/- folks???
It was awesome to see so many people pack the room just for my show. I loved my time in Toronto, too--don't get me wrong. It was fabulous. But being in my hometown and having people who didn't know me show up just to see me was pretty amazing. I was humbled, and grateful.
My Comic Con tour continues this fall. Stay tuned for more details! What am I doing in the meantime? Well, for starters--TED. No, it's not what you think. I'll be presenting in the field my Doctorate is in, Medical Humanities, for a TEDx talk in New York this June. I'll also be participating in an event at Yale this summer. By September, I'll be back on the Wizard World Tour for at least two of the three fall Comic Cons scheduled in Mid-Ohio, Austin, and New Orleans.
So what's the big deal? Why are hundreds of people packing into rooms at these Cons to see me? Well, you'll just have to see it for yourself. I can tell you that I do have a book chapter coming out on vampires in popular culture in the definitive book edited by Jody Pennington, Evil in Pop Culture, coming out next year. And yes, there are other projects in the pipeline. A hint? Sure!
Things aren't always black and white...sometimes, they're in Shades of Grey...and other colors, too: Purples, golds, reds, blues, but I've already said too much. ;)