Indianapolis hosted Star Wars Celebrations II and III in 2002 and 2005, which each attracted over 20,000 fans. Every year since 2003 we’ve hosted Gen Con, which keeps climbing in attendance and turned out 49,000 strong in 2013. We’ve hosted Super Bowl LXVI, the Big 10 college basketball conference, the Indianapolis 500, the Pan Am Games, and other large-scale sporting events. Indianapolis is centrally located in the Midwest and easily accessible from four different interstates in four different directions. The Indiana Convention Center is conveniently located in downtown Indianapolis, where visitors have easy access to countless restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions they can visit in their off-hours or when either hunger or alcoholism strike.
But no one’s ever thought we were worth blessing with a comic book convention to call our own. Apparently word on the streets was that we suck. Or something. When the Indiana Comic Con was announced, that was kind of a major deal. Finally someone scrimped together enough sense to realize Indianapolis might be ready for the kind of geek conference that Louisville, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Columbus, and other Midwest cities have had for years. Chicago even has two of them. This, we reasoned, might be our chance to join the big boys and show all of fandom that Indianapolis is, in fact, a real, live city.
When I went through our pre-planning this week and noticed the con only had two exhibit halls, I foresaw trouble a mile away. That’s why stopped in and picked up our tickets the day before, why we arrived today nearly an hour before open, and why we insisted on doing our rounds through the hall before everyone else showed up. When we finished and left for lunch at 12:30 the hall was already elbow-to-elbow. When we came back at 1:30, the line to hypothetically “get in” was one of the worst we’ve ever seen in all our years of convention-going. Around 3:00 it’s our understanding they officially, finally closed ticket sales and began confessing that all those thousands who didn’t already have tickets needed to go away.
The Indiana Convention Center recently expanded its space to over 749,000 square feet, but this weekend it was split three ways: (1) a librarian conference took up roughly half the entire center; (2) some insurance convention had three exhibit halls reserved in their name, even though they weren’t even there today; and (3) the Indiana Comic Con, which was left with two exhibit halls and a few meeting rooms.
Of those two halls, one was divided up between box office, the line to the box office, and actor autograph lines. Of the sole remaining hall, a big chunk was set aside as a theater for actor Q&As and the costume contest.
What was left over after all of those deductions…that is what they tried to cram thousands of attendees into. On Sunday morning the showrunners revealed their estimate that at least 15,000 were on the premises. I saw complaints from many, many people who were eventually turned away after driving for hours up to Indy, waiting for hours in line, and then finding out all their efforts and accommodations were a complete waste of time.
For those of us who arrived early and had no reason to stay late…sure, there was fun to be had. We made the most of it, though I regret giving up on the 4:30 costume contest. Longtime MCC readers know my wife and I love costume contests, but we didn’t want to be around when the scene got even uglier, and I wanted to escape before the oxygen ran out.
We won’t be attending Sunday, but we send our best wishes to anyone planning to be there, and strongly recommend you arrive no later than 8 a.m. to get in line. The Indiana Convention Center is surprisingly cool about, and used to, letting people hang around at weird hours.
These, then, were very nearly all the photos we took in our half-day experience — the costumes we saw, the talents I got to meet, and the happier sights to see during those moments when all was well and the experience felt pleasant. Enjoy!
Balloons also signal intermission as we digress for pics of three of the many comics professionals on hand:
And now, more Indiana Comic Con 2014 costume photos: the grand finale.
…and that’s what we saw of the first annual Indiana Comic Con. Not nearly as many as I’d envisioned us taking.
If the showrunners are allowed to leave town alive, perhaps we’ll see everyone again next year, maybe even attend a panel or buy an autograph if they bring in a guest from a show we watch. Frankly, after today’s wildly mishandled experience, I’d rather see Wizard World make them an offer and take over.
And to anyone who thought holding a comic book convention in our centralized metropolis was a money-losing proposition; to those who assumed Indianapolis would have no taste for comics in particular or pop culture in general; to those short-sighted coastal elitists who thought we weren’t worth the consideration or effort:
WE TOLD YOU SO.
[UPDATED 3/16/2014, 2:00 p.m. EDT: Corrected two figures that had been misstated above. The management regrets the errors.]