Concentrate: This Week in Con News (June 5)

Welcome back to Concentrate, our weekly news feature where we boil down the week’s news from the convention circuit plus share our calendar of the weekend’s upcoming conventions.

This week, we’re following up on a story you might recall from previous Concentrate stories. Both Wizard World and ReedPOP decided to enter the Chinese market this spring, and now both of their May shows have come and gone. How did the two domestic con juggernauts fare on the other side of the Pacific?

Cosplayers pose at the first Shanghai Comic Con in May 2015.

Cosplayers pose at the first Shanghai Comic Con in May 2015. Photo by Shako Liu.

Reportedly, not well. ReedPOP had a leg up on Wizard World – ReedPOP is a division of Reed Exhibitions, which is a massive international tradeshow and convention company. Needless to say, ReedPOP is pre-equipped with access to resources in China that Wizard World needed to go outside to find. And that’s just what Wizard did, teaming up with US-China marketing firm FansTang to produce their show in Guangzhou.

ReedPOP opted for a two show in Shanghai, May 16 and 17. Wizard World ambitiously scheduled a three day show, May 30-31 and June 1, in Guangzhou. There have been complaints about high ticket prices for both shows, and attendees of ReedPOP’s Shanghai Comic Con lamented the lack of comics at the show. But the debate of general pop culture vs. comic-specific presence isn’t specific to China – in fact, it’s so hotly debated in the US that ReedPOP spun off a smaller sister show to New York Comic Con that is explicitally geared toward comics (it’s Special Edition: NYC, and it happens to be this weekend).

The Guangzhou Wizard World show, however, appears to have been something of a disaster. There was a last-minute venue change that wasn’t emailed and was never updated on the English-language site at all. What’s worse, the new location wasn’t large enough to accommodate all the people who had pre-purchased tickets. Here’s an abridged excerpt of the account from Two Americans in China:

The new location was literally a popup tent in the courtyard of a hotel. It was so small! At 10:00, the line was already wrapped all the way around the building and out to the street. 10:00 was when they were supposed to open the doors to let people in, but they didn’t.

By 11:00, they still were not letting people in the building. By 11:30 they had let some people in, but not enough to make much of a dent in the line. The popup tent quickly filled and they couldn’t let in any more people until the others left, but no one was leaving because many of them were hoping to catch a glimpse of the stars who were going to be there.

If you were one of the couple of hundred people “lucky” enough to get inside, it wasn’t worth the wait or the money. There was literally NOTHING inside the tent. There was a Coca-cola booth, a That’s PRD booth (a local magazine), a few standees you could take your pictures with, and a documentary playing about “the history of Comic Con.” Most of the tent was blocked off to make room for the queues to meet the celebrities who would be arriving between noon and 1:00 p.m.

By 12:00 the celebrities started arriving, and they were not happy with what they saw. Thousands of guests and fans were still standing outside in the broiling sun, and inside, it was so crowded there weren’t even any chairs for them to sit and sign autographs.

About 2:30, the organizers announced that no one else would be allowed inside… and only VIP ticket-holders would be allowed inside on Sunday. A mini riot broke out, which caused the celebrity guests to be evacuated [and] the police to form a human barricade around the tent. The organizers then said they would issue refunds for all the regular ticket holders, but they didn’t give any directions about how to get the refund.

A Queen Amidala cosplayer at Shanghai Comic Con 2015. Photo by Shako Liu.

A Queen Amidala cosplayer at Shanghai Comic Con 2015. Photo by Shako Liu.

Two Americans says despite contacting all the organizers and sponsors, they have yet to receive a refund. One commenter on the site claims the con was shut down because they hadn’t applied for the correct permits.

Ray Hecht also wrote about the FansTang/Wizard World Guangzhou con on his blog:

There were rumors [the original venue] wanted to overcharge the westerners at the last minute, and/or they double-booked.

FansTang, the incompetent Chinese-based organization working with Wizard World (and Wizard bears responsibility too), only had time for this very small alternative location. Seemed all the vendors were cancelled. Couldn’t even buy a dang T-shirt. I never did get to see the inside, but a few others had and said it was extremely disappointing.

The police wouldn’t let the people in, as there were something like 7000 tickets sold but the venue could only hold several hundred people. Yes, that big a discrepancy.

Like any other major market, China has had their own locally-produced cons for years. But many fans had hoped these big new shows hosted by known entities would draw bigger celebrities. Hecht sums up his biggest disappointment with the Wizard show:

What bothers me the most is how much it embarrasses China. Talk about losing face. All these celebrities, who have much social capital, are left with a terrible impression of doing business in China. These people are not impressed with Guanghzou. If this worked it could have been a lot of fun for fans and opened up Western pop culture to this grand country. Instead, it reinforced the worst examples of how China is not quite yet ready to be a modern country. I’m very sorry about that, but what other conclusion can be drawn? It’s true.

The lesson is to tread carefully in China, and don’t have high expectations.

A valuable lesson for many American companies who blindly rush into business in China -and con organizers are no exception.


  • Denver Comic Con decided to host a Women in Comics panel at their show last month – except they didn’t bother to put any women on the panel. Denver CC argued it was because the panel was about the “historical view of women characters in comic books rather than the current role of women creators in the industry,” but Janelle Asselin of Comics Alliance breaks down why that theory doesn’t quite track.
  • Netflix is hosting a fan event for Orange is the New Black, which premieres its third season on June 12, and dubbing it OrangeCon. It’s set for June 11 in NYC, but don’t get too excited – it’s invite only. Following OITNB on their social media is the only way to get a chance at an invite.
  • Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 3.17.10 PMCosplayer Luna Lanie says she was kicked out of MomoCon after reporting harassment from attendees. Her claim is that the con organizers and security took issue with her revealing costume – but she certainly wasn’t the only cosplayer wearing something revealing, and it’s no excuse for the lack of response to her harassment concerns. While many cons have adopted large “cosplay is not consent” signs similar to ReedPOP’s notices, Lanie says that not only were there no signs like this, but that it was a conscious decision by the organizers not to have signs (see discussion, at right).
  • A brief run down of only the recent SDCC news that we found interesting:
    • This is your friendly reminder that the last day to request badge refunds is Monday, June 15…
    • …and Monday, June 8 is when the remaining parking permits will go on sale to all those who didn’t get earlier access through the email-based lottery. There are reportedly still quite a few permits left even in prime lots, though the underground convention center lot is long sold out.
    • If you’re looking for a swankier con after-party, Geeks Go Glam tickets are now on sale. It’s Thursday, July 9 at 8pm and “tuxedos, dresses and high heels are not only encouraged – they are part of the fun.”
    • ESET has partnered with Nerdist News for a contest – win badges, accommodations, and transportation to the con!
    • Our friend Pink Bunny updated her SDCC guide, if you’d like a nice brief SDCC guide with a little extra hop in its step.
    • After a year off, Doctor Who is coming back to Comic-Con, with Peter Capaldi in tow for his first SDCC appearance. Notably, the panel moves this year – from its long-held Sunday Hall H spot to Thursday, time and location to be announced (but there’s no way it won’t be in Hall H).
  • Even Forbes has noticed that Marvel is eliminating the X-Men and Fantastic Four wherever they can, particularly when it comes to merchandise. “…Disney is comfortable with starving [these properties] by cutting off merchandising opportunities to promote the films. With all these glaring changes, it’s getting harder for Marvel to deny that their actions are deliberate.” Pair this with Marvel’s rumored absence from SDCC this year (in favor of their own show, D23 Expo) and Disney’s attempt to distance itself from the rest of the pack screams premeditation.
  • Image Comics fans, take note: Image Expo is back this summer on July 2, just a week before SDCC. It will once again be held in San Francisco; tickets are already on sale. Comics Alliance adds: “The Expos have become a widely anticipated part of the comics calendar — not least because publisher Eric Stephenson usually offers a keynote speech in which he criticizes everybody else in comics. It’s ace.” Truly.
  • Anglicon, the recently reborn Pacific Northwest Doctor Who con, is still in need of volunteers for their show coming up next weekend.

  • Holy crap, you guys: not only is CatCon LA a real thing (as you may recall, since we’ve mentioned it here before) but two-day badges are sold out. Sold. Out.
Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 2.20.56 PM

Seriously. Even CatCon sells out.

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What’s Happening This Week (Wednesday, June 3 – Tuesday, June 9)

Organizers: hosting a con soon? Fans: want to help get the word out about your favorite event? Contact us to have it added to the calendar.

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