This was my first visit to Boston Comic Con in four years, since the Marathon Bombing forced the shifting of the con from April to August and from the Hynes Convention Center in downtown Boston to the World Trade Center at the Boston Seaport.
The shift in dates has been made permanent but the location has shifted once again, to the Boston Convention and Exposition Center, just a block away from the World Trade Center. This is the convention center where PAX East is also held, and it’s a larger location for the growing con. It was also the first year under the con’s new ownership, Fan Expo. Previously, the con was run independently.
That left me with many questions as to how these changes would affect the con, with one overriding question for those of us in the Northeast and within close proximity of two big shows, Boston and New York Comic Con: Would this new revamped Boston Comic Con work as a substitute for the bigger and slightly insane show that has become NYCC?
Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: Boston has a number of advantages: better location, a more congenial area outside the con, and a better chance to see the celebrities you want. But that doesn’t mean it’s without problems.
So here are ten things to know if you’re thinking of adding Boston Comic Con to your con attendance list.
Boston Comic Con: The Good Stuff
It’s easier to reach the celebrities. (Also, Veronica Taylor is a lovely person to her fans.)
Our trip to Boston Comic Con was a last minute decision, fueled by discovering that Veronica Taylor (the voice of Ash from Pokémon) was one of the voice actors in attendance and that the cost of her autograph and a selfie was reasonable $25 for each. Just a few weeks ago, my younger son reminded me that I once pulled him out of an autograph line for Taylor at New York Comic Con because it was impossibly long. Boston Comic Con 2017 offered me a chance to rectify this and, well, my son was seriously ill this winter and I wanted him and his twin to have a little something special this summer.
Success! They stood in line for Taylor for only about 20 minutes, received not only autographs for their DVDs but selfies for each of them, plus a joint selfie with Taylor.
And here I must commend Tayler for her manner with fans. I sent my twins (age 18) with cash for the full price, but she only charged them $40 total. I suspect it’s because my daughter obviously presents on the autism spectrum, or perhaps Taylor makes a habit of not charging the full price for teens and younger kids, but whichever it was, my twins came away beaming, and thrilled, and having had their con made after only being there for two hours on Friday. Which brings me to point #2….
Arrive on Friday
I bought two 3-day deluxe passes, at $99 each, just a week before the con for the twins. (I had a press pass.) First, I was thrilled that tickets were even available, and that’s a decent price for three days of a big con. That price also included early entry at 2 p.m., rather than the regular 4 p.m. entry.
Those two hours mattered in respect of crowding on the exhibit floor, which was minimal, and, overall, the crowd on Friday was not bad at all, as compared to the crowd on Saturday, which was extreme and turned into a wall of people.
The easiest days for kids were Friday and Sunday, as Saturday’s crowd was significantly larger in terms of room to move on the con floor.
Easier to Attend Panels
I wanted to attend two panels: the DC Metal Panel and the DC Rebirth panel. I arrived at the panels about thirty minutes early and had no trouble getting in. The rooms were crowded, yes, and they did fill-up, but a half-hour wait was definitely much less than, say, at New York Comic Con and San Diego, where if you wanted a DC panel, you’d probably have to give up a whole morning or afternoon. I also checked and the Main Theater on the con floor more than accommodated everyone who wanted to hear Stan Lee talk.
My twins attended Taylor’s panel on Saturday, which was accompanied by a special showing of Pokémon: The First Movie. They had to wait, but only for about 45 minutes. That was doable, as opposed to giving up a half or full day at NYCC to get into a desired panel.
There were spots, even on Saturday, where younger kids could take a break, such as the booth hosted by the Boston Children’s Museum, which had hand-made remote control robots, and the area hosted by the 501st Legion, which had robot R2-D2 and other droids. There was also a kid’s room available on all three days.
The Ink Area
GeekMom Karen talked in depth about this, which was under the umbrella of an exhibitor who specializes in tattoo artists for cons. I’ve never seen ink at a con before and it was a great addition, especially since you could contact and book the artists ahead of time.
However, it was cramped.
Much more cramped a space than NYCC, even. Making it difficult to navigate between the aisles. The good part :most of the artists were kid-friendly, many had prints available for great prices (yay, Joe Quinones and his Captain Marvel). For budget conscious families, the prints were a great option.
But there was one artist who didn’t seem particularly thrilled to be there. My son approached Tony Harris (admittedly, a known comic curmudgeon) about possible Starman art or commissions and Harris brushed him off, saying he didn’t do that anymore, and was kinda rude about it, though he expressed surprise someone so young would have read Starman. When my son found me, he shrugged, and said he liked the later Starman art better anyway (burn!), but, even a small word of kindness or a different attitude would have won Harris a fan for life. (Indeed, in all my time attending cons, this the first time my kids have been brushed off by anyone.)
On the other hand, there was the talented Michelle Scuito, who not only drew an adorable Steven Universe postcard for GeekMom Karen Von’s son, but she had a clearance on her prints, mainly because I suspect costumes and characters have changed a bit. But I loved the art and picked up all the prints in the gallery above for $18! (Wonder Woman is my favorite.)
N. Steven Harris of Watson & Holmes fame had a terrific selection of prints. This one above was my favorite, but he had an entire wall of prints that could be purchased and signed for under $20. (Doesn’t that make you want Harris to draw a Cage/Knight series? Get on that, Marvel!)
Artist’s Alley also had a nicely diverse lineup, not only in creators but in the type of work available, from all-ages comics to LGBTQ-friendly exhibitors to well-known writers and artists like Tom King, Adam Hughes, Quinones, and Phil Jimenez (who was in a literal corner, see above comment about the need for more space) to jewelry, costume, and craft vendors.
Mix It Up!
Other than the new Ink area, there is nothing super-different about Boston Comic Con that makes it stand out from other similar cons. It has a celebrity lineup, voice actors, comic stars, vendors with back-comic issues, gaming things, etc. It’s basically New York Comic Con but smaller and easier to navigate. (For how cons can different in focus, see my round-up of What Con is Right For You?)
I saw the same or similar clothing, comic, and gaming vendors at NYCC. I do give Boston credit for having a larger number of jewelry vendors, which is terrific and which were in seriously short supply at Comic Con in San Diego. But you can find them on Etsy, too.
On Saturday, the exhibit floor was as crowded at NYCC, and, like NYCC, it’s a long, long wait for food in their Food Court area, especially on Saturday and Sunday. Bring your own food, especially if you have kids.
In short, Boson Comic Con is a standard con. It’s not like the interactive experiences of ConnectiCon and it’s definitely more skewed to the mainstream comic fan, though neither DC nor Marvel or any of the major comic vendors had a booth.
Relieve the Crowding
It also clearly could have used more space, as it occupied only about the half the space PAX East did at the convention center. I’m sure this was for cost reasons, but more room overall would have made the con going experience, especially on the exhibit floor, much more pleasant, especially on Saturday.
Add More Personnel to the Security Line
Because Boston does have the history of the Marathon Bombing, the security lines were much the same as at an airport, with metal detectors for everyone, not just a bag check, as I’ve seen at other large cons. (I didn’t have to go through any bag check or metal detectors at Comic Con in San Diego in 2016, for instance.) I can’t fault the need for security, but this meant an hour-long line on Friday to get in–and every time you left the con, you had to go back through that security line to return.
There should have been more security personnel available for those entering the con, allowing more people to enter or re-enter without such a long wait. Having to go back through the security line meant basically being penalized for leaving the Con to, say, eat. Our hotel was only a five-minute walk away, but even though I had prints/art I wanted to put in the hotel room, I carried it around because I wanted to avoid another wait in the security line.
I know getting people to and from the exhibit floor and panel rooms from the front entrance is limited by the Convention center itself, but the way the people-moving was set up made it more difficult. Attendees were funneled straight to the Con floor through only one entrance–which meant, when first entering, you had to walk through the exhibit floor (and its crowd) all the way to the other side, to take the elevator to get up to the panel rooms.
Maybe this was for the benefit of vendors, I don’t know, but it certainly made it harder to be on the exhibit floor and to get to the panels. If you learned the layout or were familiar with the convention center from other events, you might know to take the first-floor bridge over the con floor. But this was something you had to discover for yourself, and the con employees didn’t ever mention it when asked about getting to panels.
Similarly, leaving the con (and the convention center) was made more difficult by the fact that only one pair of escalators leading to the first floor from the con was in use. If you walked the ground floor hoping to take less crowded escalators up, nope, sorry, they funneled people down to the con, not up and out.
On Sunday, I discovered you could stay on the first floor, near the panel rooms, and follow that side around to get to the main entrance, which saved a walk back over the con floor, to the escalators, back up to the first floor and out, but, again, personnel at the con were not informing anyone this could be done–I only tried it because I knew the layout from PAX East.
In Conclusion: I’d Return
Given it was their first con there, I hope Fan Expo learns from some of the logistical and space issues, but the experience was certainly pleasant compared to NYCC and I’d definitely choose it, especially for the neighborhood and space around the Boston Convention Center, which is so much better than the area around the Javits Center in New York, where NYCC is held. (For all that Fan Expo puts on Boston Comic Con and ReedPop does New York Comic Con, they have remarkably similar approaches.)
I also hope that Boston adds more in the way of interactive experiences, perhaps providing more space to the Boston Science Museum or more interactive exhibits/space for younger kids on the Con floor.