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King Con 2: Pros and… Sigh… Cons

(Photo stolen from the awesome and talented Julia Wertz’s Facebook page, because I didn’t get no pictures myself.)

I didn’t make it out to the first King Con for, I’m sure, some perfectly valid reason*. But I was bummed about it… I live less than five blocks away, some good comics friends were camped out there, and I’m always interested in checking out a convention that isn’t packed with loud video game booths, and more focus on cosplay than content.

Lucky for me, The Daily Crosshatch’s Brian Heater gave me a convenient way to force myself to attend this year’s Con: he asked me to moderate two panels.

And I’m glad I did so, in no particular order, here’s some thoughts on this year’s King Con:

It’s Walkable: It’s nice to be at a Con that’s walkable. Granted, I didn’t have the best perspective, being trapped in the Newsarama glass box all weekend at this year’s New York Comic-Con, but my general impression was that it was overwhelmingly large. Most people I talked to had no idea that there was an entirely different Con – the Anime Festival – going on under the New York Comic-Con, and couldn’t even find it if they were asked. This isn’t even mentioning Artist’s Alley, which was actually pleasantly ensconced in it’s own little room – but also a huge trek to get to from the main Con floor itself. The less said about San Diego’s walkability, the better.

On the other hand, you have King Con, which is safely nested in the confines of the otherwise massive Brooklyn Lyceum. Massive when filled with one comedy show, or a band – not so much when there’s an abundance of comic book fans and creators. Rather than a multimedia extravaganza, it’s more like a flea market, but for comics. Which is nice. There’s enough to see if you do actually want to shop, from a classic comics table in the back, to shirts, to indie comics, to even a few more mainstream people like the always nice Stuart Moore. If you want to cruise through in five minutes, you can – but if you spend some time, you’ll be nicely rewarded with some neat indie gems, or some good additions to your sketch book.

On the negative side, there was so much interaction, and so little space that at times you couldn’t actually move. The solution is to have less tables, but that’s not much of a solution, is it? It’s also because there was a healthy crowd there – again, not necessarily a problem you want to solve, but one that should be addressed next year, maybe by expanding where the tables are to the upper floor, as well.

Panels: But that’s where the panels were! Except, and I’ll start with the negative and work to the positive, the panel room was waaaaaaay too large for what was being held. Even more filled panels like Fred Van Lente’s interview or Chris Claremont only took up a fraction of the space of the panel room. I’d love to see the Con expand a bit – maybe work something out with a space across the street, or at the nearby Bergen Street Comics to host panels, and give the space over to the marketplace. It’ll also help the other large problem with the panels, which is that they were uniformly meant as intimate chats, rather than Cup O’ Joe style blockbusters. Put ‘em in a smaller space, and you’re golden**.

That said, the line-up of panels was kind of awesome, and I was glad to be part of it. The Claremont panel was informative, I snuck into the end of the Daily Cross Hatch taping which was fun, and it’s cool to have a Dr. Sketchy’s meeting as a programmed panel event. I’ll give you the honest rundown on my two panels now!

Comedy in Comics: Every single person on the panel came up to me before-hand and said, “We’re not going to actually talk about comedy, right? That’s how you kill it,” as I nervously clutched the notecards covered in comedy dissecting questions in my sweaty hands. I think there’s two ways to approach a comedy in comics panel: either you treat it as, “Hey, these are funny people, let’s get goofy in here!” or “Let’s talk seriously about comedy.”

I chose the lesser of two things that make me uncomfortable, and decided to push through and do the serious comedy discussion. And it kind of worked. I think people warmed up as we were going, but it probably wasn’t the raucous fart-fest some of the audience wanted. There were some laughs throughout, and I think there were some interesting discussions – certainly there were a lot of good lessons I whole-heartedly agree with, and teach in my sketch writing classes that came through. Was it a rousing success? Maybe not, but I take that wholly on me. Next year, it’s a goof-a-tron all the way.

Zuda Comics: What Happened? Weirdly, this panel was the opposite: a serious topic taken lightly. We had Kevin Colden, Bobby Timony, David Gallaher, and Matt Petz on the panel, doing a post-mort on Zuda. Given that I’ve talked each of them a ton of times on this very subject, and they all know each other very well, we were bale to have an honest, frank discussion on the subject while still razzing each other. Again, maybe not what the audience wanted: these are all guys who had a good experience at Zuda, so there wasn’t any serious dirt. But it was informative, fluid, and I hope/think, a good time.

In Conclusion: Congrats to the organizers of King Con. I may have made some (hopefully) constructive criticism, but they’re definitely on the right path to making something special and unique, a hometown comic con with a friendly vibe that feels more like a hang-out, or a town fair, that a corporate sell-a-thon. As I said, it was an honor to be part of it, and I hope I can chip in next year, too. More fans, and more creators need to see that this is the way comic cons can be… Rather than overwhelming, exhausting, and more about the announcements than the fun and joy of comics***.

*According to my calendar, this weekend last year, I had dinner with my parents. But that couldn’t have lasted all weekend… Right?

**Though of course the second you do that, people will complain the panels were too packed. You can’t win.

***And I’ll also mention, for the record, I had a great time at NYCC, and Reed puts on an excellent show – it’s just a totally different type of show than King Con, and there’s room for both.

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