The first Comic Con in Portugal happened this past weekend, from Friday to Sunday. To give you a bit of context, there aren’t exactly a lot of conventions such as this one in the country. We do have one or two that could be considered big, but nothing of this magnitude, with so many international guests and so many people expected to attend. And unfortunately, that inexperience showed.
(This is an overview of the event, my opinions about it included. I will also post about the panels I could attend, but for now this is about the event itself. I thought it could be interesting to give you a look into events out of the USA and UK.)
First I want to acknowledge that organizing such a big event is no easy feat. There were names such as Natalie Dormer, Morena Baccarin, Paul Blackthorne, Clive Standen, Tom Riley, Blake Ritson, Elliot Cowan, Seth Gilliam, and even Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, Ian Boothby, Randy Stradley, Miguelanxo Prado from the comic world. Stan Lee was even confirmed at one point, but unfortunately had to cancel. This plus the association with the “Comic Con” brand and name brings certain expectations, and I’m certain the organization was counting on that. But even after they said how many people they were expecting, I hadn’t quite realized how that would translate into actual people.
I went as press, so I didn’t have to wait around in lines. But I have friends who did, and I know it’s one of the main causes of annoyance with the event. The first day was fairly quiet, although not without some hiccups, but the second one… People waited hours and hours in line just to get in, and the system was nowhere near ready to make this a quick process. There were 8 entrances and only 4 of them were being used, and the lines went on and on before actually leaving the precinct.
Inside, these lines were absolutely everywhere. I can understand them outside panels and autograph tables, that’s normal and to be expected, but there were just 5 or 6 places to eat and thousands of people looking to do so. There was even a line to get out of the event.
Even I was caught in this line madness. After waiting almost 5 hours sitting on the cold floor and losing 3 panels, just to get a picture autographed by Natalie Dormer, she had to go before I could reach her. Again, this would be understandable if the staff hadn’t guaranteed me I would get there, and if there had been any sort of control. But people will be people, and there were so many cutting the line to get in front of everyone else, that I can’t help mentioning it. More organization would have been enough – and really, the following day there were a lot more people controlling those lines, but it was already too late.
Some of the activities on the last day were only announced minutes before they happened, which caused even more chaos, seeing as they were photography and autographs sessions with the guests. I suppose it was a way to answer the requests they were getting, but perhaps there was a better way to handle it.
But despite all of this, don’t think I only know how to complain. I’d rather start with the bad parts and then try to end on a happier note. And there were indeed good parts about this first Comic Con which I can’t leave out.
First there were the zombies. With some amazing make-up and costumes, there were zombies roaming the halls, running after people and showing up behind them to scare them with their growls and attempted bites. You could even “rent” one that would walk around with you for a while, doing your bidding and attacking whomever you wanted. Some amazing actors with what I’m sure was a lot of patience.
The Portuguese/Lusitanian Outpost of the 501st Legion was also present (along with some members from Spain and Ireland), and they were excellent. They were always up to take photographs with people, and it was amazing to see them walking around, occasionally “arresting” people (I was one of them, as I participated in a small game where they searched for “droids”. I was indeed the droid they were looking for). From time to time they’d do a parade and the venue would be filled with the Star Wars theme as Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, and the Emperor marched by us.
I can’t forget Simon Wilkie’s C3PO. The costume is amazing, the voice modulator perfect (EDIT: I’ve been told by Simon Wilkie that he does not use a voice modulator! Everything he does is only his own voice, which you can hear in his Soundcloud page!), and, as important as everything else, so are his manners! He’s a perfect Threepioh.
There’s was also an exhibition with a lot of props from movies, including the Terminator head from Terminator Salvation, and an Hydrobot, Tony Stark’s “heart”, swords from The Lord of the Rings, chocolate from Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, Back to the Future‘s flux capacitor, among others. A small but good exhibition.
The panels I got to watch were great, the actors friendly and funny. The community was fantastic and there were even more cosplays than I anticipated, and some with a great level of quality (gallery with photos later). There were artists drawing live, a lot of merchandising booths, console games… the only thing lacking was more boardgames, I barely saw any of those.
It was a shame that a lack of organization led to some people not enjoying the con, and others (including myself) losing the opportunity to see things they were expecting to see. I know this is merely the first edition, but that still doesn’t justify a lot of mistakes that were made. I suppose they weren’t prepared for 30000 people and that showed in many ways.
Also, the prices, although not super expensive, were a bit excessive for a country which is supposedly in a financial crisis, especially the ones to have a meet and greet with certain guests (although, yes, most of it went to a specific charity). A lot of people only bought the tickets after the prices went up because a lot of guests were still unannounced one month up to the con. Some were actually announced the week prior to the event. Again, I know it’s a first edition, but I still feel like this could have been avoided.
But still, I think it was a positive experience, mostly because of the community and the guests themselves. And, after all, I got to meet Morena Baccarin and tell her to aim to misbehave. She laughed and thanked me in Portuguese. So, you know, it made a Browncoat and a Star Wars nerd happy, albeit a very tired (and slightly frustrated) one.
Just one more thing: if the guests want to hug the fans and talk to them, please let them. They’re people too, and they know what to expect. If they still want to approach the fans, talk to them, take photos, let them do it and don’t treat them like zoo animals. Their words, after all, not mine.