Coming back from Imagicon last week I was sat with some cosplayers discussing rumours about the Dutch Comic Con, being held this weekend. Apparantly the organiser had run into money troubles, various guests had cancelled or were supposed to threaten to cancel and it was all a shambles. Worrying news, as I’d just bought tickets for it, but on the other hand most of the guests were of little to no interest for me, various actors and such, some coasting on their appearances in a fondly remembered decades old SF classic, some being supporting actors in a current telvision fantasy hit. All great for those who like that sort of thing, but it’s not my fandom. For me therefore I didn’t matter too much as long as the con went ahead: worst case scenario it would just be another comics con, where the main attraction is the opportunity to buy loads of shit at reduced prices. Best case scenario it would be something special, more in line with English or American comic cons.
The end result turned out to be somewhere in the middle. The con seems to have consciously modelled itself on the San Diego Comic Con and similar, with the main attraction being the media stars and the comics reduced to a supporting role. The disadvantage there being that if you’re not quite as interested in that sort of stuff, there was indeed little else to do but walk around and look at the various merchandise and retailing stands. Unlike Imagicon, there was no real programme other than the various Q&A sessions with the guests and the movie programme running in the cinema, no real room to sit down for a while otherwise. After a few hours of this, I really felt it.
What made this more than just another “stripbeurs” was the audience, which like at Imagicon was young and very much into cosplay, as the pictures here show. Some indeed, like Hawkeye in the first pic there, were at both cons. What I liked about the cosplayers was their enthusiasm, skill and generousity. People were more than happy to pose and some groups and people were very popular. There was some real creativity there as well: not just your Deadpools, Storm Troopers, Black Widows, Lokis and Thors (this time both in male and female versions), but I also saw a captain Haddock, a trio of Giffen era-JLA cosplayers doing Guy Gardner, Fire & Ice and an absolutely adorable father/baby combination dressed up as Where’s Wally. As always the cosplaying seemed to be roughly equally divided between immediately recognisable movie/tv superheroes, obscure to me but apparantly massively popular figures from anime/manga/videogames and the occassional sui generis character, like the frog man from Fables I saw.
Now I could’ve taken many more pictures of cosplayers, were it not for the pressures of the crowds. I’ve heard reports that at its peak the con had some 16,000 visitors and I can well believe it. At times getting through the crowd was … difficult… The layout of the con didn’t help. There was a huge, largely empty hall for the Q&A/music sessions, there was the main hall where you came through which was badly lit and confusingly laid out with the main sponsors and retailers, as well as the space for the autograph sessions, which took up a huge chunk on the side of the hall with crowd barriers and such but where you could only see which person was signing once you skipped the barriers and walked to their table. The secondary hall, where all the smaller retailers and standholders were located, also had a lot of wasted space at the edges and at least one lane that was too narrow, leading to huge traffic jams. It didn’t help one of the ways to reach it was through one of the con center’s food outlets. What happened to the artist alley was even worse, a few picnic tables put together in a corner inbetween the main and secondary halls, easily overlooked. Not helping matters was the lack of sign posting everywhere.
These are all typical first con growning pains and if the con is repeated next year, I hope they’ll go for a different layout. For my part, I had a blast visiting and talking to the people manning some of the smaller stalls, like the people at the new comics artist collective Taus Art, your archetypical indie comics makers. I also spent half an hour talking to Eelco Koper, whose Superhelden magazine is busy addicting a new generation of readers to the best of all ages superhero comics, including Paul Grist’s Mudman and Dave Sim’s Cerebus (!). And because the audience wasn’t quite in the Eppo range, I could also spent some time chatting to Eric Heuvel and Marissa Delbressine while they were sketching, which I’ll scan in and post separately.
Considering it seems the con has been a success and assuming it will be repeated last year, what would I like to see done differently?
- A better layout, with less wasted space, room for people to just sit and hang out that’s not part of a food court, better lighting in places, more room for cosplay and photographing of same outside the main traffic
- Much better signposting as well as more announcements of what’s going on
- A proper artist alley, preferably combined with all the fan organisations and others now lost in the crowds amongst the stand retailing overpriced statues
- Multi track programming with more to do than just listen to Q&A sessions with actors or getting your picture taken with the Batmobile and a larger emphasis on the comics part of the con.
- Less perhaps of the traditional Dutch comics con stuff, more of a focus on US and Japanese comics/fan culture.
That should do it.