I’ve attended several conventions already and the year isn’t even half over. Each convention has a different atmosphere, a unique energy and an almost signature feel. This is obviously due to many different factors. Apart from just physical location, there is how well the space is utilized, the type of guests who are brought in, the variety of vendors that are present, etc. Planet Comicon in Kansas City was no exception except in how it stood out from the others I’ve visited so far. There was an almost velvety smoothness to how things went off as if literally everything had been timed out to the minute and all of the visitors & volunteers had been handed a script, were off book and had already performed their roles before.
There are so many fandoms out there that trying to satisfy everyone is a daunting task when planning a con. Me? I’m a proud Whovian which means when I saw that three of my favorite Companions from ‘Doctor Who‘ would be on-hand, I knew I had to check it out. Billie Piper, John Barrowman and Catherine Tate (in only her 2nd U.S. comic con appearance so far) all played companions to the 10th Doctor and each were a delight to interact with and to listen to at their panels. (It’s worth noting that John Barrowman was in considerable pain with his shoulder but still stayed late on Saturday after the convention was officially closed to make sure all the fans who were still waiting in line to see him got their turn. If you ever get to visit with him at a convention, make sure to put him at the top of your list!) But maybe you’re not a Whovian. No worries! Planet Comicon had something for everyone. Also on the list were Clare Kramer and Emma Caulfield from ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘, Ron Perlman from ‘Sons Of Anarchy‘ and ‘Hellboy‘, Wil Wheaton from ‘Star Trek‘, Stephen Amell from ‘Arrow‘, Ric Flair & Jerry Lawler from the world of Professional Wrestling, Jason Isaacs from ‘Harry Potter‘, Shannon Elizabeth & Tara Reid from various film roles, etc, etc, etc.
Another aspect for a successful Comic Con is to make sure that you remember the “comic” part of the show. Some recent cons have been criticized for turning their backs, so to speak, on the comic book aspect of the show. That couldn’t be farther from the truth at Planet Comicon. Chris Jackson, founder and CEO of the convention, spoke about his love of collecting comic books back in his youth. That love can be seen in looking at the line up of top-tier talent on display from industry veterans like Chris Claremont, Jim Steranko and Howard Chaykin to current red hot creators such as Jason Aaron, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti and everyone in-between! (On a side note, if you ever get the chance to see Jim Steranko at a convention or a show, be sure to go see him. I could have literally spent the entire con just listening to this man tell stories.)
As for everything else, the convention floor was spaced out well enough so that the booths didn’t feel crammed together (this is where a lot of conventions go wrong!). Even when people inevitably stop in front of you to look at something, there is plenty of room to move around them because the booths and displays aren’t tightly stacked on top of each other. Vendors sold a wide range of various goods from cosplay items to video games to comics to toys to the always popular Funko POP Vinyls. Also impressive was that I saw at least 3 or 4 food vendors pedaling refrigerated snacks around on bicycles for people who were standing in lines to get autographs and meet celebrities, thus insuring that you could keep your spot in line and still get a refreshing beverage or snack. Brilliant idea and something I’d not seen done at any other con so far.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention how fabulous all of the staff and volunteers were throughout the weekend. The “minions”, “sidekicks”, “superheroes” and everyone else were constantly polite, incredibly helpful and extremely eagle-eyed and efficient. Whoever at Planet Comicon is in charge of hiring them is worthy of praise. This was the first time I attempted a live broadcast of my radio show from a remote location and I have to thank Kirk Chritton and Chris Phelan for their help in putting me in touch with the people in charge of handling Bartle Hall’s wifi service to make a live show broadcast possible. If I had to point to any single thing that I saw as a negative, I would make note of the fact that the booths themselves were not always clearly labeled nor did the website list the booth number for the artist or creator when you pulled it up. That addition to the con’s app would have been a slight time saver when it came to tracking down where the individual creators were stationed. Aside from that and given the fact that I heard scant little else in the way of complaints from the other thousands upon thousands of attendees, I would be hard pressed to give Planet Comicon anything other than a 9.5 out of 10. My experience was wholly positive and I would have to say that Planet Comicon was easily my favorite convention which I have attended so far this year. Now…. how WILL they top it for their 20th anniversary?!? I, for one, cannot wait to find out!