REVIEW (Part 2): BALTIMORE COMIC CON - An Otherwise Terrific Con With A Slight Case of Growing Pains
* This is Part 2 of my review (as an attendee) of Baltimore Comic Con. See Part 1 of my review here.
Baltimore Comic Con is growing. What was once a 2-day con with only comic book writers and artists has since expanded to include entertainment guests and an additional day. However, as people continue to come, some growing pains are starting to show as a result of the show's increased attendance.
With that said, let me first start with the things this show does right:
Comic Book Lovers Dream. If you love comics, this is the place for you. From back issues to comic artists, this Con’s strength is undoubtedly comic books. Looking to spend some coin on a graded issue? You will find it here. Wanting to try your luck on endless comic book bins: You can try that here too. Want to meet artists like Marc Waid or Neal Adams. You can do so here. This is comic book nirvana.
Central Location. The Convention Center has lots of (paid) parking around it, hotels a few blocks away, and the picturesque harbor next door. Looking to just come up from DC for a day? The Marc Train station is just 3 blocks away.
Well Prepared Staff. The staff sport highly visible volunteer shorts, and are everywhere. And they are not only friendly, but well trained to answer your convention questions. Other local Cons could definitely learn from them as weapons check worked very smoothly.
Very Good Cosplay. This is where to break out your Cosplay! Its an endless sea of Cosplay - from the very simple to the very elaborate. It’s a people watchers dream. This is a Con where you definitely admire the excellent work people put into their costumes and be a hero yourself for a day!
Some the things to possibly tweak:
The Baltimore Convention Center: As difficult as it is for me to say, this might be an outdated location for the Con. Let me explain. In 1979, back before Camden Yards and Ravens Stadium were not even a twinkle in developers' eyes, the waterfront wasn't nearly as nice as it is now. As a result, it makes sense that the Convention Center was likely built like a fortress purposely having its back to the waterfront. Then (of course) came the National Aquarium on the other end in 1981, Camden Yards in 1992, and also an extension to the convention center in 1996 that incorporated some more glass into its design.
Today, the Harbor is a glimmering beauty that the existing structure has no access to. Nor does it have any views of it. These days convention centers oftentimes take advantage of access to green spaces or waterways. Therefore I believe that until the convention center is modernized (or replaced) to take advantage of its location it could possibly become a hindrance to the Baltimore Comic Con experience down the road.
Larger crowds means larger crowds for Guests. As mentioned before, one of the great things about Baltimore Comic Con is that it's able to attract both legendary and in demand comic book scribes such as Denny O’Neil and Tom King. However, as attendance increases, it also means more people wanting to see these superstar artists. The Con may need to have a strategy of how to deal with the increased amount of people who wish to see the most popular scribes. From observation, guests were oftentimes running out of room (literally) of where to put the lines of people coming to see them. Perhaps having official signing times for the most in demand artists at tables set aside (much like those of the entertainment guests) might be the way to go? Also, setting caps on items that can be signed by the most in demand guests might be another solution?
Make better use of livestreaming. The distance between the room for the main guest talks and the vendor room is a good 7 minute walk as there is 3 floors separating them. The Con should consider live streaming both the talks and the Cosplay contest at the entrance to the main vendor room as a way to help move people from the vendor room to the talks. Providing a password to view the livestream would also allow people stuck in lines waiting for a sig to also enjoy that part of the Con.
A place to store items. Baltimore Comic Con should provide (for a fee) a room where attendees can store some of what they purchase from vendors. With no hotel or parking available on site, attendees are forces to carry around all day whatever they purchase from the dealers room. It would help both attendees and sellers if there were a space on site to store items as guests enjoy the Con. Doing so may encourage attendees to possibly purchase more if they know that they have the option of not carrying around their items all day.
Have a Quiet Room. Sometimes Con attendees just need to take a break. And the Con can do better than allowing people to hang out on the carpet. Providing a small room where people can sit and catch their breaths at a busy con would go along way for attendees and provide them with a second wind to enjoy the experience.
Baltimore Con is a comic book lovers dream convention. You can meet some legendary comic scribes, or peruse through comic book bins for hours to find that first appearance of a character. Or you can pay top value and get a book that is already graded. The Cosplay it attracts is also very good. The issue is that Baltimore Comic Con is evolving before our eyes into more of an Entertainment Con, with a growing list of celebrity guests. And this is fine and the way things should be. If we want Baltimore Comic Con to be with us for the long term, they need to adapt to the changes in the market to keep attracting both returning and new attendees. The larger question is how they handle this change over the next 5 years. I think Baltimore Comic Con can become as well known as Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. But there are going to have some organizational growing pains. Among those not moving the convention date around so much (mid October in 2019).
I give Baltimore Comic Con a B.