Thursday, November 1, 2012

Detroit Fanfare Report

Just got finished with the third annual Detroit Fanfare and wanted to do an overview before I forgot about everything and other things start to consume my time.  It took me a couple of days as I had lots of school stuff to do as I fell a bit behind on grading and such but getting all that caught up.    

The con was a huge success.  Sure, some minor glitches but that’s going to happen all the time but nothing major and probably went un-noticed by just about everyone at the con.   We had to divide the convention floor into two rooms.  One had the dealers in the center with the artists primarily lined along the walls.  The second room was a more traditional artist alley but off to one side were the media guests and scattered throughout were special setups such as the Pinball Expo, the giant Lego display, and other non-traditional vendors.  It worked out well because almost every artist I talked to said they were glad they were in the room they were in as they were doing well.  

Even though we had two rooms, they meshed together well as there was one hallway that led into both.  The Kids Area was the corner of the two rooms and we had our Master of Ceremonies, Chet Jacques between the two and he kept the crowed entertained throughout the day with raffles, contests, and all other kinds of things.  Ordinarily, splitting a con floor in two is a problem but the flow was smooth and didn’t cause any problems as you had to pass the first room which was virtually open to the hall before hitting the second, larger one.

Friday was a Preview Night and we weren’t sure how that was going to play out.  Traffic wasn’t real heavy but enough that we’re going to continue with it as feedback was really positive.  Almost immediately afterwards were the Shel Dorf Award Ceremony.  There was a cover charge of $10 for that and all money received is going to the Memorial Fund to purchase a headstone for Shel’s grave.

The emcee of the Awards was Scott Vertical, a local radio host and it was easily apparent that he was a fan of comics.  The presenters included myself, Tony Miello, Sina Grace, David Petersen, Dirk Manning, Rafael Nieves, Kevin Vanhook, Josh Blaylock, Bob Camp, and a few of the local retailers since the show is tied in with the retailing community.  Jimmy Gownley had a great presentation as he announced that he had been nominated for some 18 Eisners and Harvey Awards (which is just a mind-blowing number) yet had never won and he was anticipating that since he was nominated for a Shel Dorf Award, he expected to go home empty handed to continue the trend.  Unfortunately for him, he was right.

Bill Schelly was awarded the Jerry Bails Award for Comic Fandom.  If you’re unfamiliar with him, check out what he’s done here.   Very deserving.  The Shel Dorf Legacy Award given to those who have contributed over their lifetime to comics was given to Allen Bellman and he gave a moving acceptance speech and captivated the audience, not just at the Awards but throughout the entire con.

I was surprised with a Torchbearer Award as the other members of the Shel Dorf Board of Directors (which I am one): Tony Miello, Dennis Barger Jr., Jill Smethers, and Bob Smethers managed to keep it secret from me and so I didn’t find out until Dennis presented it to me.  The Torchbearer Award is given for continuing the convention aspect that Shel started.  Although Dennis’ introduction included my retailing and publishing years, I also put on the King Kon conventions in the 80’s that helped to center a large convention in the area although there were certainly others at the time but it did establish an annual event.  As I said, it was quite a surprise and as anyone that knows me, I’m not much for public sentimentality so my acceptance was short.  My appreciation, though minimally expressed, was very heartfelt.  I was glad my wife, Jennifer, was there.  She seldom comes to conventions any longer but decided to come to the Preview Night.

After the Awards, the party started with the Buddy Black Band playing live.  The layout of the hotel allowed a spill out into the lobby plus we had the hotel bar and one of the great advantages here was that everyone was at the same hotel.  Eventually, another party grew in the Pool Terrace and when I went up for the night close to 2:00 am, there was a lot of activity all over the hotel.

The hotel is a Hyatt but next year, it will be the Adoba as the owners of the hotel decided to associate themselves with a new partner.  When it was announced that Hyatt and the owners were separating, somehow it got twisted that the hotel was closing.  As anyone in the area can tell you, it’s a great hotel and conference center that does fantastic business.  We don’t know what Adoba’s plans are yet but they have a lot to work with and we heard a lot of compliments on the hotel.  It has a nice presence about it, rated very highly and we obtained special rates that made if affordable for the weekend.  It’s a four star hotel yet we had one potential guest who heard it was closing and wanted us to put him up in a different hotel as someone told him the place was a “dump” which couldn’t be further from the truth.  So, we couldn’t, or should say, wouldn’t,  accommodate him so we had to take a pass.  I think anyone that came to the con knows he missed out on something special.

Saturday was, of course, the main day.  Attendance was heavy, especially early on, and we had a good lineup at the beginning.  Chet and Mike Roll entertained the waiting crowd for a bit before they were allowed in.  We were surprised of the impact of the costume contest as the attendance for that was fantastic.  The traffic flow was maintained throughout the day…not NY or San Diego heavy, of course, but busy…very busy.

Throughout the show we had a number of panels and workshops and all of them seemed to be well attended.  Probably the most shocking event in terms of response was when we had the mermaid appear in the pool area (which was also the kids’ area) and the crowds that rushed in to see her.

Saturday night was another party with the adult costume contest during the party and both had a great reaction.  The guest judges for the contest were Dave Santia, Bob Camp, and Dirk Manning, and Freddie Nova stepped in to help out.  The live shadow cast performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show started at midnight and had the audience participation.  I stopped in towards the end and it was a packed house, guessing somewhere around 125 people and they all looked like they were enjoying it immensely.  I ventured back to the party but I didn’t stay until the end as the short sleeping time was catching up to me so I bailed out before 2:00 as I knew we had a staff meeting the next morning.

The convention opened up at noon on Sunday and though we had some questions about such a late opening, we certainly received a lot of thanks from all those who stayed up late at the parties.  The kids costume contest was actually prior to the opening of the convention and we had a packed house.  After the contest the kids were the first into the show floor and they could go trick or treating as most everyone had candy for them.  The initial onslaught of kids rushing it to get candy from over 150 vendors was fun to see although where I was, we were directly in front of the door they came in and it hit us fast and hard.

The kids were steered towards the area that we had set up with Kids Read Comics convention from the Ann Arbor area.  I was on hand to pass out my young adult hardcover book from a couple of years ago, The Spirit of the Samurai.  Those were passed out free and I autographed over 100 of them in about 45 minutes.  The mermaid came back and other events started happening so I could get back to my table.  Sunday was steady traffic butI got a chance to visit with a lot of the creators set up.  The response was overwhelmingly positive, even enthusiastic. By the end of the show, we also had over a dozen artist alley booths prepaid for next year.

For me personally, it was a great time.  I got to hook up with some friends that I don’t see often enough such as Rafael Nieves, Kevin Vanhook, Dirk Manning, Vince Locke, Mark Bloodworth, Joe Pruett, and others.  I had an opportunity to meet and spend some time with others such as Allen Bellman, Bob Camp, Sina Grace, Yannick Paquette, and more.  I met in person finally Danny Boyd of Chillers and his friend and writer, Bill Bitner.  Mala Mastroberte was also there.  It’s funny when you’re a publisher that you can publish someone and have a relationship yet never meet them…so that was good.  I also got to meet Alonzo Simon who was there with Shawn Lee at the IDW booth.  Alonzo is one of the editors on the War of the Dead series I did with IDW.  Sam Jones of Flash Gordon fame (and Ted, of course) was very nice and we talked a bit.  He had a great rapport with fans. There were a lot of people that I knew there such as Paul Storrie, Tom Orzechowski, Rob Worley, Keith Pollard, Bill Morrison, Ryan Stegman, Arvell Jones, and Josh Blaylock that I got a chance to talk with and so many others that listing them would fill a page.  David Finch, Natalie Sanders, Mike Costas, Nick Spencer, William Messner-Loebs were some that I didn’t really get an opportunity to talk too much with but that happens at every con. 

I had set up as myself and also had a spot for Transfuzion and Binary, two publishing companies I’m involved with.  The Voices from the Deadworld made its debut there and between the contributing artists getting copies and sales, I went home with just a single copy of the 150 I brought.  It was a hectic time throughout the convention but because it worked out so well, it was a good hectic.

We’ve already had a meeting to discuss some things to evaluate on the con and ideas for next year.  With the new management taking over, we don’t have a solid date yet but plan to shortly and they seem very eager to work with us and even expand the event possibly.  

There was a fantastic vibe to the show with lots to do outside of visiting the dealers and artists as we had panels, workshops, movies, and other events.  We had a few people come in for Saturday and then ending up staying the night so they could enjoy Sunday.  

The overwhelming sense of the show from most attendees and exhibitors is that it felt like an old time convention and that’s a good thing.  Sure, there are bigger shows around but we felt we really had a strong comic audience that appreciated our guests and we know the guests appreciated them.  Of course, what makes a convention special above all else are the people and we had a fantastic staff and volunteer corps and received numerous compliments about them.  

Great times, great con.  And we have some surprising things that we're already working on for next year.

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Blogger Templates