This weekend, thousands of comic book fan -boys, -girls, and -kids descended upon the Greater Columbus Convention Center for the Wizard World 2011 Mid-Ohio Comics Convention. A celebration of all things “comics,” Mid-Ohio Comic-Con wasn’t limited to serialized graphic novels. Webcomics, movies, and television were all represented by both fan groups who attended en masse and by celebrities who ply their trade in those media.
While the star-power of the assembled non-comics celebrities makes for a good headline, the focus was clearly on the books themselves. This reporter was personally shocked at the amount of slipcase’d “used” comics had been lugged into booths on the trade floor, in their ubiquitous long white cardboard boxes. A collector or casual fan could spend days sorting through them all, and not even make it to the tables hosting the artists and writers of new books.
Although Mid-Ohio Comic-Con has been running for over 30 years (giving it a storied history in company with conventions like San Diego Comic-Con and Tokyo’s Comiket), this is the first year in which the con was organized and run by New York-based Wizard World. Wizard World has recently altered its business model, eschewing magazine publishing in order to focus solely on comics conventions. Their “con tour” now handles the production of seven comic-cons in the U.S. and Canada, with Mid-Ohio being the most recent acquisition.
Because of the change in management, this year’s convention was–perhaps–a little smaller and more restrained compared to events like Marcon. In fact, it seemed like quite a few vendors and attendees were “testing the waters” to see whether Wizard World would be able to run a smooth show. There were only a handful of events (e.g. themed costume contests and screenings) and lectures (including celebrity panels and instructional workshops), with the main focus being the trade booths in the second-hall Battelle Grand room.
Unfortunately, the end result was that the con felt dwarfed by the enormous footprint of the Premier Beauty Classic trade-show (which took up almost the entire northern section of the convention center and pushed the Comic-Con’s panels into the GCCC corporate boardrooms) and the legion of uniformed cheerleaders competing in the regional Cheersport championship (who swarmed the food court like jaded, midriff-revealing bees.) (…you know, if insects had midriffs. And lensed eyes. And cheeks. And mammalian ge–actually, you know what, never mind. Forget the bees thing.)
However, the momentum definitely seems to be on an upward swing. Vendors with whom I spoke made specific reference to the organizational improvements made by Wizard World, and even during the “dead hours” of Sunday morning, costumed attendees enthusiastically prowled the merchandise area while other con-goers snapped photos.
My guess is that next year’s con will be larger both in terms of attendance and scheduling, once word disseminates through the tight-knit world of comics fandom. As a friend noted, Columbus is a huge center for Information Technology companies. The 400lb gorillas Marcon and Ohayocon are clear proof that this translates to an enormous comics/sci-fi/horror-loving demographic. As large as the show was, the vendors, collectors, cosplayers and panel-attendees were only a small representation of the local nerds comic-appreciating community–each of whom is a potential attendee or volunteer. And if anyone can mobilize the locals into rebuilding Mid-Ohio Comic Con into a huge pan-fandom event, it’s probably the people who manage conventions all over the country.
As Mid-Ohio Comic Con 2011 proved: It’s a great time to be a comics fan!