Do you like shopping for eclectic toys and comics, big crowds with cosplayers in bigger costumes, and paying to meet actors for 30 seconds? Then do I have the convention for you! For just the low, low cost of $100, you can spend 3 days in the mecca of pay-for-pleasure nerddom that is Boston Comic Con!
Glibness aside, Boston Comic Con 2015 was a mixed bag; started in the early 2010’s, BCC was originally a smaller scale convention located at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center that had a laser focus on comic vendors, creators, and indie and small press titles. My first experience with the con was when I attended in 2012 to do interviews for my senior thesis. The convention was manageable in size, not overcrowded, so it was a wonderful and fairly easy opportunity to speak with big industry names, like Cliff Chiang, Kevin Maguire, and Jamal Igle, for a good amount of time, without feeling like you were hogging them or holding up a line. The convention relished its smallness, running few, but well-topiced and well-attended, panels including the standard Marvel and DC panels, as well as some focused on female creators and non-Big 2 content. BCC was never a convention where announcements were made, unlike SDCC or NYCC, but it was a convention where connections were made, but that didn’t seem to matter to attendees, vendors, or presenters. The biggest problem BCC 2012 had was that they cleared the room after every panel, so people who attended the DC panel could not attend the subsequent Marvel panel.
Boston Comic Con 2013 faced a different set of issues. When the Boston Marathon Bombing happened on April 15, 2013, the convention made an executive decision to cancel the festivities and move them to August, relocating to Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center. The creators who had traveled to Boston for the convention in April were supportive, making appearances at local comic shops, who held mini cons in honor of the canceled event. The convention went off without a hitch that August, and saw record attendance that year.
From then on, BCC called the Seaport World Trade Center home, and continued to hold the convention in August, instead of April, and attendance grew steadily.
Along with attendance, the price of admission grew, and luxuries like press passes became increasingly rare and hard to get. For BCC 2015, a number of reporters and bloggers who attend conventions like SDCC and NYCC as press found themselves unable to pass the rigorous (unspecified) specifications that BCC required of its press. And that was only the beginning.
All conventions are going to be crowded; be it anime, Trek, or comic, but Boston Comic Con, at times, felt out of hand. BCC 2014 dealt with fire code violations that cause a number of attendees to have to wait in line for hours in the sun and then discover they would be unable to enter the convention at all; this caused BCC 2015 to cap their ticket sales, some of which sold out even before the event. Even with the ticket cap, the convention was packed. It was hard to navigate the crowds, and even harder to participate in classic convention activities, like shopping, talking, and taking photos, without being swept away in a sea of people.
Of course, because of the crowd, getting pictures of cosplayers was also a difficulty. Cosplayers are often viewed by some as car wrecks: a spectacle, hard to look away from and the cause clogged walkways. That much is true, to some extent, but most cosplayers and photographers barely had the room to take the pictures they wanted, making it difficult for some to fully enjoy the experience.
The convention also had a strict no loitering rule this year, rumored to be caused by the fact that paramedics couldn’t make it to a child who’s leg was broken in the convention center in 2014, but this caused problems for a number of individuals with medical issues that precluded them from being able to stand for long periods of time. Simply getting an open chair in the convention food court was a task in and of itself, and the no loitering, no sitting rule extended to such extremes that chairs available in the upper levels of the convention were actually turned upside down and pushed against the wall by con staff.
The location is a bit of a pill, as well. Much like NYCC’s location of choice, the Javits Center, Seaport is not located near any sort of public transportation. One can only get there by foot, by cab, or by car, and if you don’t know your way around Boston parking lots, you’ll likely end up paying upwards of $20 to park for a few hours. Seaport is a necessity due to the size of the convention, but even expanding to include all three levels of the building, the space felt too small and restrictive for the number of people in attendance.
I had a chance to talk to a friend who’s been an indie art dealer at BCC for the past 3 years. Each year, she said, it seems like the convention has more artist tables and more attendees, but her sales go down. Talking to many dealers, it’s difficult to make back the cost of a vending space at BCC if you don’t have the exact right spread of whatever is popular that year. Comics sell less, and less well, as the convention goes on, and BCC seems to become more about the paid photo ops with celebs (which often cost an exorbitant amount), than comic books and creators.
Also instituted this year was a ticketing system for panels; the week before the convention, popular panels had free tickets offered up online through EventBrite. I made an attempt to get tickets to the Marvel panel, but each time I refreshed my browser, the tickets were listed as “unavailable” until, 15 minutes after they purportedly went on “sale,” they were listed as sold out. I email both BCC and EventBrite about this issue, telling them simply that the system made it difficult, and I never even had the opportunity to try and get a ticket to the panel. I still have yet to hear back.
There were some bright spots in BCC, like the fact that they offered East Coast debuts of new indie documentaries like Archie’s Betty and Doomed (a stellar film on the never-released Fantastic Four movie of the 90’s), and that they improved the in line system outside of the convention, but overall, BCC 2015 was a disappointment. I was unable to attend the panels I wanted to see (of a paltry few, most of which were celebrity panels), unable to see the people I wanted to see due to lines, and unable to experience the con the way I had in past years.
BCC started as one of my favorite local conventions; a place where I could spend quality time with close friends and enjoy shared interests with other great people.
This year, I left Boston Comic Con feeling unsatisfied, and unsure if I want to return again.
Additional reporting provided by Bobby D.