I had lunch with a friend Saturday who had an extra ticket for the Niagara Falls Comic Con and asked if I’d like to join him. With no plans that day and a free ticket who could say no? He handed me the ticket and I stopped, staring incredulously: Total $46.
Yes, that’s $46 for one day. It says advanced ticket price only, so I have no idea how much more it was at the door. Walking in the door the average attendee would be down $46 and have nothing to show for it. I could see at least three movies at the theatre for that price. Will I be provided at least six hours of entertainment for my money?
From there I moved to the online Show Program. Let’s see what I can get for my $46; stuff that I don’t have to pay for outside of the ticket fee. Hmm. Page 2 is an ad. Page 3 is a table of contents. Page 4 is an ad. Pages 5-7 list celebrities appearing at the show, whom I have to pay for a signature or photo. Page 8 is an ad. Page 9 is more celebrities I have to pay. Page 10 is an ad. Page 11, more celebrities I’d need to pay to get an autograph or photo. Pages 12-13 are comic guests, you know, that the show is named for. These people may give me a free signature, maybe. Page 14-15: floorplan. Page 16 says Big Sugar is performing at the Con. Yay! Wait, I have to buy a ticket for that. Page is the legend for the floorplan. Page 18 is an ad. Page 19 lists cosplay events, and quite possibly the first thing I could get for my $46 entrance fee. A chance to enter some cosplay contests. Pages 20-21 list appearances at the con that may be free and some activities that may be free. I think I can take a picture of the Batcopter for free, but will have to pay if I want to sit in the copter and take a picture. Pages 22-23 list panels, and we’ve finally arrived at something I know comes included in the price of the ticket. Page 24 is an ad. Page 25 is a photo op schedule, so you can arrange to pay for your photos with celebrities. Page 26 is for autographs. Page 27 is an ad. Page 28 is an ad. Wow.
Perhaps I just have to get into the show and see all the wonder I’ll get for my $46. We arrived late afternoon and wandered the floor. It looked pretty busy, but the crowd seemed to be moving around and not spending at the vendors. Since I am a comic book reader my area of focus at a comic convention is, surprisingly, comics. Even though that gets bottom billing in the advertising and show program. As I went from vendor to vendor, speaking with them about how the show was doing for them, I kept hearing the same thing: not well. Now these were comic vendors, selling back issues, books and such. I was looking at prices and there were deals to be had: trade paperbacks for U.S. cover price with no tax, giving up the 35% exchange rate and 5% GST on books. That’s pretty good. Unfortunately that was a minority, with most comic dealers focusing on back issues. The older and more expensive the books, the less people at the booth. And the talk was those booths were on the pricey side.
I walked the floor twice, taking everything in and getting a feel for the show. Mark Bagley and Wilce Portacio, the two big name foreign guests, had no one at their table. Mark looked up at me expectantly as I walked by. I took in the celebrity booths, but they seemed thin as well. With Saturday being the big con day I expected to see the biggest crowds in the afternoon. The show layout was great, with lots of room for the guests and the vendor aisles roomy. The beer nut shack was the busiest vendor I saw.
Maybe the crowds were attending the panels, the “included” opportunities in their $46 tickets. Took a look at the Saturday schedule: 50 panels that day. Now that is an impressive number. Five were comics related; the rest were not.
And that’s the real breakdown of this show, in a tourist centered Canadian border town: people weren’t here for comics. They came for cosplay and celebrities, to have a walk around with their families and see what this cultural show was all about. But at $46 for a one day ticket, hardcore fans may return but casual fans and those wanting to see what the fuss was all about won’t be.
So, Niagara Falls Comic Con, or Comic Con Niagara Falls if you take the name from their logo (which is nicely designed), doesn’t offer much for comic book fans as part of the $46 ticket. That gets you in the door and the opportunity to attend a very small number of comic related panels. From there you can spend your money at the vendors or with the comic books guests.