From November 2nd to 4th this year the Central Canada Comic Con was held at the Winnipeg Convention Center. Boasting vendors, a games room, showing rooms for classic anime and cartoons, high-caliber guests, and a costume contest – it painted the picture of an extraordinary event and I can tell you I was excited to be attending.
I’m not going to beat around the bush… C4 was not well set up. They made terrible use of the space they had, they made some really strange decisions, and they just overall seemed unprepared. How much of this had to do with C4’s absorbing of Shy-Con and how much was just poor planning, I don’t know… but overall, C4’s lack of organization really hurt my enjoyment.
So, as I mentioned just prior, C4 absorbed the content that was intended for Shy-Con. Doing so must’ve been a rather jarring change since it happened a mere 2-ish months before the convention actually occured. However, what they did with the Shy-Con content was positively unacceptable. Let’s take a step back though and talk about the space the convention center booked for what is supposed to be a rather large convention. They booked the third floor room to use as their main floor, they booked a second room just below it to use as an overflow floor, and they booked a third room to use as a gamesroom. The final space they had was one panel room for their Guests to hold Q&A panels in. The second floor ‘overflow’ room was where all of the Shy-Con stuff ended up – a room that they paid so little attention to there wasn’t even anyone checking to see if you had actually paid to be there before entering. To give a basic run-down of how each of these rooms were divided.
The main room on the third floor had a large artist area that blended into an even larger vendor area. Next to that on one side was a large table where they had their special guests signing autographs. On the other side of the vendor area were two ‘event areas’, one of which was a wrestling ring and the other was a performer’s area – this was used for such attractions as a juggler, a magician, and other such things. Finally, next to the wall they had a section for clubs and the like to set up with ads and displays.
The second floor games room was devoted entirely to trading card games and miniature games. It had a pretty straightforward setup with tables devoted to people who wanted to participate in those various games, or even just compare decks, cards, or miniatures etc. Overall it was a pretty straightforward room, but they seemed to have a fair bit of extra space in there.
The other room on the second floor was their ‘overflow’ room. Here they put those they didn’t have room for upstairs, or those they didn’t feel fit in with the upstairs room. Apparently, despite being an equally large convention, Ai-Kon didn’t qualify as a ‘club’ and they had to set up on the second floor. Baffling, but to get back to the layout… this room had a line of tables for vendors and artists, a table at the back that seemed entirely devoted to Valve entertainment, a section curtained off for panels – this was also where the Allen Oppenheimer Q&A took place. They put what they called ‘Viewing Rooms’ in here, but what were really small curtained areas with crappy tvs and about 6-7 chairs each. Yes, what they called ‘viewing rooms’ were in the middle of a crowded vendor room and mere steps away from a panel stage. The audio was terrible, you could barely see the tvs, and they only had a few chairs in each… just terrible. Oh, and right next to these viewing rooms were where they put the only little bit of attention they paid to Video Games – a genre more influenced by comic books than almost any other – a few classic consoles playing games such as Duck Hunt and the original Mario Bros for the NES; and one or two modern consoles for a Marvel vs Capcom tournament.
The final room was the mainstage. Not much to say about it – it was a pretty good setup. It had enough seats, more than enough for many of the panels, and spacious hallways and a good view of the mainstage from prettymuch every seat. Overall a good setup.
Odds and Ends
While many of the organizational problems were related to how they set the place up… there were also a number other problems I encountered over the course of the weekend. Rather than using something that can be taken on and off for people attending for the weekend, they gave everyone the snap on wristbands. This wouldn’t be so strange if you retained your ticket and could just go get a new one the next day – but they also took the tickets. Which meant that if your wristband broke, or it impeded your sleep and you had to take it off, or anything else like that… you had to bring it to them and beg for a replacement. Not a huge deal, but since the volunteers were reticent to replace them, it was a bit awkward. In addition to that, they didn’t actually take your tickets at the same place as they gave you the wristbands (but rather afterwards), it felt like it would’ve been easy to cheat the system had we been so inclined.
There were two entrances to the top floor, yet only one of them was being actively monitored. So when the call came that the top floor was ‘overcrowded and they weren’t letting any more people up’ several people just turned around and went up the other way rather than waiting their turns. In addition, I’m not sure how they could tell how many people were upstairs since they didn’t monitor the one side at all. At one point they had a giant crowd milling around the stairs and the upstairs area wasn’t even that full – I have a picture of the crowd milling, it’s kind of ridiculous how many people they had waiting around unable to do anything since almost everything that was worth seeing was up there – unless they happened to see the other entrance.
They also didn’t print up maps, schedules, or any informational pamphlets for their guests. They had a map and a schedule at the main desk, but only one and they would only let you look at it if you asked when nobody was around. Each room had a schedule, but the ‘showing rooms’ didn’t – at least not that I was able to see – and while the info was available online; their website was quite poorly coded which makes it a real pain to read the schedules online, and the websites barely worked at all on smartphones. And if you asked them how you can plan your day their answer was ‘just wander around, you’ll find something’.
The Cosplay Contest
The costume contest really felt like it was their first time trying, but it obviously wasn’t since there were references to last year. The entrance for the cosplayers was way at the back of the room, and it took them quite a while to walk from the back to the stage yet it wasn’t until right at the end that someone had the brilliant idea of having the cosplays all walk up halfway along the wall and then get called from there. They had 5 sections to the contest: Miss C4, Children, Anime, Pop Culture, and Comics. For these 5 sections, they were supposed to have two hours – I think they ran over 40 minutes over that because it wasn’t until the comic section, I think, that they actually got their act together.
They put the ‘Miss C4’ portion before the children’s portion, which seemed kind of unkind since the children were in some elaborate costumes and I’m sure some of them would have loved to get out of them, since the children were mostly under 12 it looked. When you ssee the photos, you’ll see what I mean. In addition, they seemed to be confused as to what counted as a ‘comic book character’ and what was ‘pop culture’ since there was at least one Thor costume in the ‘pop culture’ section. Judging seemed to take a very long time, implying that there was no pre-judging; and they just sort of put a stop to the show while judging took place rather than moving on to the next section or doing something else to not waste time.
They did try to fill that time with some interplay between the host, who was dressed as the Joker, and a cosplayer dressed as Batman. This interplay was pretty well thought out, and was quite entertaining, and did manage to fill the time up fairly nicely.
Taking pictures during the contest was a pain. The stage had some really strange lighting, and it felt like the cosplayers were never told to come center stage to pose briefly so everyone just sort of walked to their spot in line(Thank you to those who came and did a pose without being told!). For the people who were to the left, not such a big deal – they had to walk across the stage and it was easy to snap a good shot there. For people on the right, they just sort of walked into the corner and hid behind the podium, leading to a really awkward time getting pictures.
The Price is Not Right
If you were to tell me ‘I’m holding a weekend convention that consists of a vendor room, a small secondary room, and a games room’ and ask me what I think it would cost, I can assure you the answer wouldn’t be ’40 dollars’. I didn’t mention the guests or the costume contest here… because those weren’t a part of the ’40 dollar’ pricetag. Nearly anything involving a guest cost anywhere from 10 dollars to 75 dollars extra, and the costume contest was another 5 dollars. The pricetag prettymuch just gave you access to the large vendor/artist room, the secondary room, and the games room; as well as giving you access to purchase admission to the other parts. Now, I will admit, you could buy daypasses for slightly cheaper, but even they felt a bit extortionate for how little was actually included. You didn’t get any special deals on nearby restaurants, no special exclusive discounts, no coupons, no map, no schedule… just access to a place where nearly all there is to do is buy things.
The artists and vendors had some fascinating stuff. The vendor area included several really unique stores like one where someone was making all sorts of items out of chain links, a few vendors selling all sorts of steam punk items, one selling swords both decorative and bearing an edge, and even one selling classic games and consoles – they even had an intellivision. Prettymuch anything related to the genres represented by the convention could probably be found there in some form. On the art side, every type of artistic application was being sold. Some highlights were a young lady selling all sorts of knitted items bearing images pertaining to gaming; a few people selling art pertaining to the web-comics and series they do, and a number of jewellers selling some rather amazing jewellery. They even had a henna artist right by the main entrance to the vendor area who would do tattoos on the site.
On the subject of guests, they did have some pretty big names, ranging from Relic Hunter’s Tia Carrere to Star Trek: TNG’s Patrick Stewart. All told I believe they had 7 or 8 guests, so the names were definitely there. Many of these guests held q&a panels, and they all had autograph signings and photo ops scheduled. If you didn’t know exactly where to look, figuring out when these were could be a pain due to the lack of a schedule, but they did have these available, if in most cases at a cost.
Probably the biggest draw of the weekend was actually the one thing that didn’t cost money. Hanging out on the main floor watching the cosplayers come and go.
I was severely disappointed with C4, as you can probably tell. When a convention provides no incentive to come multiple days, it’s not a very well orchestrated event. Which makes me sad, I had high hopes for this. But there were almost no informational panels, the showings were handled utterly terribly, the price was prohibitive, the lower room was unforgivably neglected(yet somehow more expensive to set up in), some of the volunteers were obnoxiously pushy, and all of the good parts had absolutely nothing to do with the setup of the convention itself – the artists, the vendors, and the cosplay. Those elements are those that the congoers themselves bring, and what can I say? Winnipeg has a fantastic convention population. Energetic, excited, talented, and creative… if only the convention itself were worthy of them.