I have so much to say about this and I tried to keep it short. I think I failed. But there are pictures! 😀
This was the first year for Comic Con Stockholm, but it wasn’t an entirely new convention. Gamex is the annual gaming convention and they decided to expand it this year and make it into a Comic Con.
Did they succeed? Well… Yes and No. Let me explain.
First I’ll say this, everyone goes to a comic con for something different. Some people are there for comics and art, some are there for the movie and/or TV stuff, some are there for the games, some for the cosplay, some for the panels, and some for the celebrities. I like comic cons mainly for the art and comics. I enjoy seeing the cosplay too. The rest of the stuff is interesting to me on different levels, but not most important in my book. I am also usually there as an artist exhibiting my stuff and trying to sell. So I’ll be speaking from that POV as well.
Also, I am someone who frequents NYCC, the largest comic con in the world, and SIS/SPX, the small comic festival in Stockholm, and I have a ton of friends who frequent different comic cons all over the world and I’ve read about all of those experiences. So I know what to expect at something called a “Comic Con.”
So… “Comic Con” Stockholm?
Not really. Besides Artist Alley (which was small, and I’ll get to that) there was one store selling comics that I could find, and that was the small comic book shop I go to on occasion, Comics Heaven. The Comics Heaven booth was just diagonally from us. So, besides that I couldn’t find any other place in the entire convention center that sold or even referenced comics (there were just a couple of random tables I came across that had books of some sort, that maybe had comics, I can’t be sure). The convention center was pretty much entirely taken over by gaming. Unless you were in our little corner of the hall, you were surrounded by people playing games, watching game demonstrations, or waiting in line to play games.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE games. I love my consoles and I have plenty of franchises I love to play. And it IS still supposed to partially be a gaming con. It’s complete name is “Stockholm Comic Con Gamex – Colliding Worlds,” so gaming is still supposed to be a significant part of it, but this is also supposed to be a Comic Con. And in no way did it really resemble a comic con.
I saw some people on the FB page argue “well, SDCC is a comic con and they barely have any comics!” First of all, I know some people who go to SDCC every year and can testify that it has MORE comics than you hear about, but also, SDCC worked up to what they are now. They still STARTED as a COMIC con and they earned the name. Despite the Hollywood monster they’ve become, there was comics involved. Comic Con Stockholm felt like they just wanted the “Comic Con” name and just threw in the teeniest portion of comics they could just for good measure.
How was Artist Alley?
I almost didn’t end up being a part of Artist Alley because when they announced this con, and I emailed them about it, they waited 4 months to reply to me, and then told me it was going to cost 3000 SEK for a table (which is roughly 400 USD). I LAUGHED OUT LOUD by how utterly ridiculous that was and I wondered who had come up with such a number. It made me question everything about the con. Here was a comic con that was BRAND new, with absolutely zero information about anything besides a Cosplay competition, and they expected independent artists to drop all that money for a table. Sure, I pay a little more than that at NYCC (actually, just half as I split with someone else), but it’s NYCC. It’s a WELL established con with a guaranteed 150,000 visitors. This was a con with ZERO reputation in the comic con realm, so would anyone risk spending that money?
Lucky for us artists, the generous Närcon swooped in and bought a bunch of space and handed out Artist Alley tables for free at the LAST MINUTE. Seriously. I think it was about 3 weeks before the con. I jumped in and grabbed my spot. All I had to do was buy a weekend pass. Worked for me. No risk and I could use it to research the con.
And it ended up working great for me. There are obvious growing pains, but that’s to be expected for a first con. The guy organizing the Artist Alley tables, Thomas, was super nice and just wanted it to be fair for everyone, but that was not an easy task. On my first day (Friday) there my table was in one of the worst spots. I wasn’t even facing an alley. I got NO traffic. On Saturday they decided to rearrange the tables and I got an AMAZING spot. But some people were still in less trafficked areas. There was a molding clay activity area that was making it hard for Thomas to arrange the Artist Alley tables so that everyone had an equal selling opportunity. And they’ll work on that for next time.
But my selling went pretty well, considering there was such little focus on comics. On Saturday the aisles were so packed the people were being herded through. But a lot of people still stopped and looked and purchased. Saturday was by best selling day. Overall I didn’t make as much as I make at NYCC or SIS/SPX (both much bigger and much smaller events, respectively), but it was beyond my expectations. And that on top of the fact that I had to pay very little to be there made it worth it for me.
What my view looked like during most of Saturday
Was it successful?
Apparently, it was. I was there, and I saw it. I don’t have the numbers but there was a CRAZY amount of people there. Especially on Saturday. MUCH more than I expected. They already had the Gamex fans going, but now there were a bunch more who were excited about a “real” Comic Con. And from what I could tell from the attendees and and cosplayers, and the sounds of the place, people had a really good time.
Would you recommend it?
For the most part I think I would. As just an attendee I think most people enjoyed it. I think people looking for comics and people who have no interest in games would be the only ones disappointed, but I have yet to see that vocalized anywhere. They certainly had a large share of games people could play before they’re released, and there was a cosplay competition and a bunch of panels (I didn’t attend any of those things, but I haven’t read anything negative about any of it yet).
As an artist wanting a table, as long as affordable options are available like there were this year, I don’t see why not. Especially for someone like me who already lives in Stockholm. I’d be less likely to insist people travel and pay for a hotel for this. It all depends on what you expect out of it. But I got several sales AND a lot of new fans. That was definitely worth it for me. There were absolutely people who were there and interested in comics and art, even though so little of that was represented at the con.
Organization and marketing were my biggest complaints about this. First, from the fact that they announced the Con in April and then wrote NOTHING about it until August, which ended up ruining the con for many people who wanted to visit from outside Stockholm and outside Sweden. Sure, they heavily marketed and made announcements in the last 2 months, but that is just too late. I don’t know of any other con that doesn’t at least drop bits of exciting information here and there throughout the months building up to it.
And when I walked in on Friday and had some trouble figuring out where I needed to go there was no one, I mean NO ONE on the floor anywhere to ask anything. There were maps in several areas, but if I wanted an actual person to talk to, they didn’t exist. Or, if there were, they weren’t wearing anything that made them stand out as such. After much dragging around of my suitcase I finally ran into an artist alley exhibitor who told me I had to go find the small office in the front hall to get help. Of course, I have to always remind myself I am in Sweden and that’s may not so much a Comic Con Stockholm thing, but maybe a Swedish thing in general (versus NYCC where there are people in brightly colored CREW shirts EVERYWHERE who you can go up to for any reason).
Then, when I came back the 2nd day and I tried to show my badge to get in early at the front door, security and crew just inside the glass doors completely and utterly IGNORED me. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one and I figured out from some other exhibitor we had to go in through a loading dock entrance in the back. But ignoring people like that? Way to treat the people who gave you money! THANKS!
And as a final small complaint… instead of badges, those of us who had weekend passes had to wear a fabric wrist band that we weren’t allowed to take off all weekend. They clamped it onto your wrist so it couldn’t come off unless you cut it. I guess they did that because they don’t want people sharing a pass. But it’s dumb. It’s annoying and pointless. They barely even checked the band when you walked it so you could cut it off and tape it up if you needed the next morning. Badges you hang around your neck are more fun anyway. 😉
Despite that I think the name “Comic Con” doesn’t really seem to fit for me, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. I was glad there was actually interest in comics among the people that stopped at my table, and that I sold quite a bit more than I expected. And I was so appreciative that Närcon made it possible for artists like me to have an Artist Alley table there. I can only hope that everyone involved will learn from this year and work to make next year a better Comic Con for everyone.
And now for some cosplay!