Despite living in or near Boston since 2012, I finally attended Boston Comic Con for the first time (recently purchased & renamed FanExpo Boston). This convention was previously held in the Hynes Convention Center, but has moved to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The new location is fantastic! It’s accessible by public transportation and easy to drive to. Lawn on D is outside which (if the weather was nicer) makes it perfect for photoshoots and hanging out. Not to mention, there’s reliable and inexpensive food nearby and it’s connected to a hotel, which is perfect for out of town guests or afterparties. Plus, there’s also TONS of space within the center itself.
However, FanExpo Boston really, really left me wanting.
I reached out several months prior to the event about hosting panels but I received no response. Since Jewel Staite was a guest, my Firefly panel would have been perfect and I have a bunch of solid pop culture panels which have appeared at conventions as big as New York Comic Con. Despite not presenting any panels, I decided to check it out since it’s close to home and a ton of my friends and Browncoats would be there.
I spent Friday walking the floor in my Magic Wand Hermione cosplay and got a few chuckles before I left to teach a class at Good Vibrations Cambridge.On Saturday and Sunday, I spent most of my time at the Boston Whovians table, except when I attended Jewel’s panel. There just wasn’t anything really interesting for me to check out… The minimal panel schedule went up barely a week in advance and there were only 1-2 panels per hour. While I don’t like having to choose between TOO many good programming options, having almost no programming is worse. It’s much harder to keep up energy and way easier to get bored when all you can do is walk the floor.
Another big issue was how FanExpo Boston used the space. I can compare their use of space to Rhode Island Comic Con (one state away) and I found myself mentioning this to friends several times throughout the weekend. Both cons seem disorganized for releasing programming. Where RICC gets is super cramped in the Dunkin Donuts Convention Center & arena with big-name guests, FanExpo Boston had mostly mid to low tier guests and so much room that they did nothing with. In terms of programming, the only panel I attended was midday on Sunday and it was so far away that it was practically in the hotel next door. I saw several panel rooms completely unused and empty, which frustrated me since I offered to host panels. Jewel Staite’s panel room was smaller than panel rooms I’ve been given at similar conventions and, while I’d like to think I’m a little bit famous, I’m not on the same level as the actual cast of Firefly. These things particularly frustrated me because a convention literally one state away needs so much more space and can’t have it, while the BCEC has so much space (and room to spread into the next door hotel if they needed!) going unused. It’s such a waste.
Besides the misuse of space, the show floor was confusing and poorly laid out. I spoke with several artists who expressed disappointment that there was nothing on the show floor to point to the Artists’ Alley. It was tucked in a corner that most people couldn’t make it to. I really dislike conventions that shove their artists in a corner because the Artists’ Alley is one of the coolest and most unique places on the con floor! When it’s tucked in the corner, attendees often spend all their money before even getting to it–if they even make it there at all. Artists’ Alley wasn’t the only place that went unlabeled; several official cosplay meet ups were listed in the program at the ‘Cosplay Photo Park’ but no one knew where that was. If you looked at a small hashtag on one banner, or apparently in the app (which I didn’t download because it kept crashing), you might have figured out that the ‘Cosplay Photo Park’ consisted of 4 background banners set up near the cosplay celebs booths. But most people didn’t figure that out and I was disappointed that the turnout for the Firefly cosplay meet up was low.
I was also surprised, given all the space in the lobbies, that there weren’t droves of photographers doing photoshoots. I did meet with Nerd Caliber (which had a spot on the show floor & was making the best of it) to get some awesome shots with them, but I wanted an environment like Emerald City Comic Con, where you could walk out of the convention halls and get tons of great pics in the lobby or the surrounding parks.
Given my extensive convention experience, I would put FanExpo Boston on a tier below a convention like Wizard World Chicago. It’s a convention in a larger city with a lot of interest in geek culture but lacked enticing programming and strong guests. It’s an ongoing issue when conventions release their programming late, because many attendees decide whether or not to attend based on available programming. Without knowing the schedule, an attendee won’t know if it’s even worth going. In the case of FanExpo Boston, I’d say not. I kind of want Altered Reality, the company that runs Rhode Island Comic Con, to get their hands on this convention because I think they would actually use all the space to their advantage, but I also know Altered Reality tends to cluster everything up.. I can’t yet say if I’ll go to FanExpo Boston next year, but I am really looking forward to the rest of the conventions I’m headed to this year!