Convention: Rhode Island Comic Con 2015
Location: Providence, RI at Dunkin Donuts Convention Center
The BIGGEST show in the SMALLEST state
Pre-Show: I was lucky enough to be given press passes to attend this year, I got there very early and was able to see the show being setup from both the promoters and vendors perspectives. It was hectic for those in the arena, while most in the convention center had no problem quickly setting up. In anticipation of the start of the show there was plenty of media and a few fans that were allowed in to see the events unfold in the lobby of the arena. They were witness to the ribbon cutting ceremony with the Mayor of Providence, Jorge Elorza and Lou Ferrigno to open up the event. As soon as that ribbon was cut the crown swarmed in. It was a big and colorful crowd all joined together to enjoy the wonders of comic pop culture! And so the RICC begins.
On day 1 the line was huge, being the first time I have been at a con on a Friday, I was very surprised how many fans were there, I’m thinking many folks played hooky from work that day! All in all it was a great sign that the event was taking off in a positive manner. Day 2 was even crazier, lines went around the block. Unfortunately I didn’t attend Day 3 but apparently it was just as busy.
The Venue/Staff: The venue was huge as this year they included the arena to also be a show floor due to last years overcrowding issues. The aisles in the arena were not as wide as the convention floor, but was okay, I could foresee issues with foot traffic. The arena floor and outside the arena was focused of comic culture paraphernalia such as clothes, games, toys, jewelry, etc. Outside the arena we had clothes vendors and only 1 comic book table. This is the area where the special guests such as Micheal Rooker, Barbara Eden, Ted DiBiasi and others were located. Those areas had sufficient space for fans to meet and greet their favorite celebrities.
The convention center floor was to me the best floor, wide aisles, much more room for navigation and for some odd reason drinks were less expensive. Getting to the convention center was an issue, as there was no signage indicating how to get there, took me 1/2 hour to find it on my own. There was free wi-fi, however the signal was okay to good in some areas, non-existent in others. The staff/volunteers were all over the place but it seemed they were acting more like spectators rather than workers. Security was thick with arena security and police officers. There was a time on Saturday in which they almost had to stop letting people in due to overcrowding, I realized this when I saw quite a few fire marshals on the grounds. Part of the issue was that an escalator went down on the convention center side, so there was only 1 way to get back down or up, via a walkway that connected the arena to the center, 13 and got stuck for some time trying to get upstairs, some were waiting over an hour, we made our won escape as we didn’t need our passes scanned to leave the premises, unlike fans, if you didn’t scan out, good luck getting back in. I will give props to the convention center team in getting the escalator working promptly though. Another note is that the facility had plenty of food and drinks options (a little pricey though) with plenty of restrooms as well, so you really didn’t have to leave the con unless you wanted to drop off the goodies you’ve purchased. Parking right outside the center would cost you $30 but go 1.5 blocks down and parking was $15.
Guest List: Great guest list, there were very few cancellations, which is always a plus. All the guests were absolutely a pleasure to deal with, there may be an exception or 2 where these creators seemed a little stuck up, they could’ve also been flustered by the days events, however, it’s no excuse to be cocky or act snobbish especially to fans whom have supported their work. The rest of the creators however, were very excited to speak to fans about their respective projects and were humbled by the outpouring of support that the fans gave them. I met a few of the celebrities and they were really great and courteous, Michael Rooker was such a cool guy, nothing like Merle.
Exhibitors/Vendors: Great vendors all over, BUT, as a comic con, it was less about books and more about collectibles and paraphernalia such as toys, games, clothes, etc. There were dealers selling vintage toys and games that wold take you on a flashback ride to your youth. There was a great selection of T’s and comic related goodies, many print vendors as well. There was no way you could walk out empty-handed from this show. There were also vehicles from your fave movies such as Herbie, Back to the Future and the Dark Knight to name a few.
The convention center floor was my favorite, this is where you could find all the amazing creators of our favorite comics such as Ian Nichols, Chris Claremont, Simon Bisley, Rich Buckler, Ethan Van Sciver, Chrissie Zullo, to name a few. This floor also had great comic book deals, fellow Crusader, 13th Crusader, finally found Amazing Spider-Man #121 in great condition and price, his 5 year quest over! There were a lot of .50 cent and dollar boxes, if you bin dived you would definitely find treasures, I found the 1st app of Legion, the focus of a NEW X-Men live action TV series, for only .50 cents. All the vendors were great to speak to and very helpful. There was only 1 exception, a vendor selling prints at the beginning or Aisle 900, he was very rude, I won’t mention their names but if you’re not a people person don’t be a vendor!
Cosplay: WOW!!! The cosplayers in this show were AMAZING! I saw quite a few cosplays I had never seen and some of the cosplayers definitely put great effort into their designs, I must applaud them on their creativity and the way that many went full onto character. It was fun and you can see many of the great ones below.
Final Verdict: The team that put together the event did do a bang up job for the fans in regards to making it a lively event to celebrate comic pop culture. I would definitely recommend you to make this a must go to show. If not for some issues in navigating the venue this con would’ve scored much higher.
Averaging out the above scores, the OVERALL rating is 3.8/5
I want to thank my beautiful wife Arelis Perez and senior contributor 13th Crusader for their assistance in coverage of the show. (See 13’s thoughts below)
*ALL Photos by Al Mega and Arelis Perez
I do have to add a side note here, this does not affect the score as it does not relate to fan experience, this is in regards to the vendors/creators at the show and their feelings towards the event. I spoke to several of them, and there was a consensus, they felt that the organizers were not prepared for the amount of people who were going to show up as well as the lack of staff being available to assist them with questions/concerns. The Convention Center vendors/creators were upset over lack of signage pointing to their side of the con, while the arena vendors/creators had issues with their booths being allocated ahead of the show. There were a few, very few, vendors/creators that mentioned to me that they will bypass next years show in hopes that the organizers can get all the issues sorted. I can understand their frustration, however, the show can only get better as the organizers learn through continued experience the intricacies of running a big show.
Below is 13th Crusader’s assessment and score of the show:
The RICC has been in existence for the past few years, but it wasn’t until this year that I was able to attend for the first time. Prior to attending the year’s show, I did some research on this con plus followed up with a few friends of mine (artists, collectors, and vendors alike) who were at this event in years past, just to see what their take was. Their reactions overall were not too good. Most of the complaints about this show centered mostly on the size of the venue and its capacity to handle large crowds, as well as prices overall. However, I didn’t let any of those negative comments stop me. I wanted to check out the “Biggest Show In The Smallest State” for myself, especially after I found out that this year’s RICC was able to acquire more space for hosting the event.
So, here’s my candid perspective of the 2015 RICC:
- The RICC program booklet was very informative as to which artists, vendors, and celebrities were supposed to be in attendance; however, it didn’t list where in the venue they would be located, as no map was supplied, nor did it list the times celebrity guests would be accessible during the event. A downloadable app was available for up-to-the-minute news and announcements, but this leads into my next point…
- The WiFi service throughout the facility was not strong. Unfortunately, I was not able to download the con’s app with my cell phone, so I resorted to marking up my printed program booklet with the locations of any vendors, artists and celebrities after I found out where they were set up. After several trips throughout the venue, I didn’t need my booklet anymore, as I memorized were everything, and everyone, was.
- The event staff did make it clear to everyone that if they wished to exit the facility during the event, they could do so; however, their tickets would need to be scanned out prior to exiting the building, and if they wished to gain re-entry, their tickets would need to be scanned again. Sounds easy right? This leads into my next point…
- The crowd…what can I say about the crowd? To mention that there was A LOT of people in attendance would be an understatement. The show was open to the public at 10am. I would say somewhere between 11am and 2pm, some areas of the venue were nearly impassable. This raised other concerns…
- There was a VERY long line for people coming into the venue and there was just as long of a line for anyone trying to exit…
- With so many people on hand at the RICC and seemingly trapped in a couple of areas of the venue, one couldn’t help but feel bad for any handicapped individuals or children that were trying to navigate their way through the massive crowd. Al and I were in the middle of that logjam at one point, and we witnessed several people exiting the building through the fire door exits because they didn’t want to wait around or try their luck plowing their way through the crowd, nor did they seem to care about not being able to gain re-entry into the facility…
- I am not a security expert by any means, but people being able to exit through a fire door during a non-emergency definitely raised my eyebrow. I didn’t notice any security or police personnel outside of some of those fire door exits. So, if someone were to commit a crime, say perhaps like steal something from a merchant or someone in attendance, they may have stood a good chance of escaping. I’m sure this wouldn’t make anyone feel comfortable, including merchants who are trying to make an honest buck or two. Maybe installing a 15 second delay mechanism within the fire doors with proper signage should be in order? Just sayin’.
- Did I mention the large crowds? Yeah, I think I did. Even if you reached your desired area of interest, chances were that after standing in long lines to cross the venue, you had no place to sit other than the floor.
- I’m not an individual completely consumed with providing you with pessimistic viewpoints. So I will share some areas where this con did do well, and perhaps even outshined other conventions I have attended, starting with the vendors. This convention had plenty of vendors on hand with boatloads of books, collectibles and other comic book related paraphernalia. This was great! Chances were if you had a specific book in mind that you were looking for, you stood a great chance of finding it. This included indie titles, which I noticed some vendors carried an ample supply of. It’s always a plus when a vendor brings a variety of choices for collectors.
- Speaking of the vendors, a majority of them were very pleasant and knowledgeable, plus they provided above and beyond customer service. I don’t ever recall mentioning that about any convention I’ve ever been to.
- There were plenty of creators on hand. I was very excited to finally meet some of them in person and talk about their work and ventures at length, with the exception of two “legends”. I won’t call you out this time, but I’m not very fond of “legends” that are too stuck up or think that they are the best thing to ever grace the pages of comic books. Remember, “us fans” helped you achieve your “legendary” status.
- The RICC hosted some of the best cosplayers I’ve ever seen in person. Every cosplayer I met was very polite and enthusiastic about the event. Most of them stayed in their role of the character they were portraying which made it especially fun. Their amount of preparation and effort was most certainly admirable.
- I wouldn’t rule this event out for next year despite room for improvement from the event’s organizers. Hopefully, there will be a lessons learned meeting prior to next year’s event where they can implement needed changes in order to make the “Biggest Show In The Smallest State” into the “Biggest Show On The East Coast”.
Until next time Crusaders!