Midwest Convention Watch: What’s Next, If We’re Lucky?

Marvel Booth

Merchandise and props are keen to look at, but every convention needs guests, fans, and a functional staff. (Photo: outtake from our C2E2 2014 collection.)

After our mixed experience with the first last month, my wife and I were disappointed to learn today that their next show, Awesome Con Milwaukee, which had been scheduled for the weekend before Thanksgiving, has been canceled. On November 5th Awesome Conventions President Ben Penrod posted a statement on their official Facebook page that read in part:

We initially planned for this event to be a huge celebration of comics and pop culture, but we had a number of challenges, and things just weren’t coming together in a few areas. Providing an unforgettable convention experience is key to Awesome Con’s entire existence, but it was looking more and more like this con wasn’t going to be able to live up to its name or your expectations for what Awesome Con is. Rather than falling short, we have decided to cancel this year’s event.

I’m truly sorry, and I’m sad, and I completely understand that you will be upset with us (and we are upset, as well). I appreciate everyone who signed up for the con, everyone who bought a table or booth, everyone who supported us and all of our partners in Milwaukee. It means a lot to us and we’re very sorry that we are letting you down.

We hadn’t been planning on driving to Milwaukee for the occasion, but we’re sorry to see cons fall apart and the fan disappointment that follows. To their credit, it’s nobler and wiser to pull the plug on a compromised show up front than to follow through and watch it all crumble down around you. We’ve seen cautionary tales recently in which cons didn’t recognize their boundaries, such as the Rhode Island Comic Con (where the showrunners oversold by a broad margin and capacity overload forced a fire marshal lockdown) and Epic Con in Dayton, OH (where multiple guests canceled on short notice for a variety of reasons, largely blaming the promoters). The regrets and rage-filled anecdotes are many, it seems.

The 2014 midwest convention explosion has been a wondrous convenience for fans like us with dim hopes of ever traveling to San Diego. We’ve been spoiled by having many more options in our backyard. For many years Gen Con has been the only large-scale geek gathering to grace Indianapolis with its presence. When a bunch of entertainment promoters unanimously decidedly over the past year-plus that the Circle City needed more spending opportunities, for a while we felt like prom royalty. As we’ve reported here on MCC in checking out some of these cons throughout 2014, we’ve had our ups and downs, our victory laps and our letdowns. At this point it’s hard to predict for certain what the 2015 convention landscape will look like, but we hope it reflects recovery from hard lessons learned.

The end of 2014 is near, but we already have at least four cons penciled on the calendar for the next five months. If the shows go on and everything’s awesome, here’s what our future may hold:

* Starbase Indy 2014 (November 28-30): It’s a smaller-scale gathering than all the other cons under discussion here, but it’s long-running and it’s the one con we’ve attended more times than any other. To be honest, we had considered skipping this year’s for the sake of responsible budget cutting. That decision was made months before a very special name was added to their guest list: Deep Space Nine‘s Nana Visitor. In our household DS9 remains the greatest Star Trek series of all time, but my wife’s Trek autograph collection has several holes in it where their cast’s should be. When Visitor’s name was announced, my wife had our tickets lined up within 24 hours. So that’s where we’ll be when Black Friday ends.

* Wizard World Indianapolis (February 13-15): At last, Wizard World likes us! They really like us! So far they’ve lined up The Shatner, convention mainstays Lou Ferrigno and James Marsters, five folks from The Walking Dead (Sasha, Abraham, Beth, the cannibal Gareth, and Merle Dixon from Guardians of the Galaxy), Ensign Mayweather from the lamentable Enterprise, Carroll Spinney (THE Big Bird!), and actors from shows we don’t watch such as Arrow, Spartacus, and Vampire Diaries. On the comics side, they’re featuring several artists who frequent our usual Chicago cons. That’s a healthy list for an inaugural con, but we’ll see how many Hoosiers will brave the winter weather for it and be willing to consider this their Valentine’s Day plan. We haven’t bought our tickets yet because I guess we’re waiting for the roster to keep growing, or for Wizard World to shut it down and admit it’s all a prank to mess with us.

* Indiana Comic Con (March 13-15): The show that disappointed the largest number of citizens in 2014 has much to live down with its sophomore effort, but they’re doubling down and swearing they can change. Consider the names they’ve allegedly signed so far: Carrie Fisher. Doctor Who‘s Jenna Coleman. John Rhys-Davies. Prim from The Hunger Games. Jason Momoa and Carice van Houten from Game of Thrones. Several voice actors including Billy West and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Comics legends like Jim Steranko, Mike Zeck, Mike Grell, Barry Kitson, and quite a few more. This could be the greatest Indiana convention of them all if they’ve quintupled their Convention Center space, learned how to communicate, developed training programs for their volunteers, and consulted with other convention companies to figure out how things are supposed to work. I’d buy us three-day passes right now if I had any confidence in them. Current mood: still skittish.

* C2E2 2015 (April 24-26): Just because we have more local options doesn’t mean we’ve turned our backs on Chicago, especially since it’s the only convention within decent driving distance that any of the major comics companies acknowledge and attend. It’s too soon for them to have much of a guest list pinned, but I already bought our tickets.

Naturally all plans are subject to change without notice. Other cons may pop up as time goes on, though as of this writing Indy Pop Con is still struggling to negotiate a date for their second annual gig, and Awesome Con hasn’t shown any optimistic signs of returning. Here’s hoping for a more successful 2015 for any and all showrunners who dream of making it here. You’re all welcome to try. We hope you watched closely in 2014 and took a lot of notes.

2 responses

    • They certainly have an interesting guest list. (George Wendt would be fun to meet!) We visited Madison last summer on vacation, so at least now I know how to get here. It’s the weekend before Wizard World Indianapolis, so I’m not sure the timing would work for us, but anyone bitter about Awesome Con bailing out on Milwaukee should give it serious consideration. Thanks for the heads-up!


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