The Montreal Comic-Con: Then and Now

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Hey all! Thanks for coming back. This week we're going to revisit an old topic, but put a different spin on it: Then and Now - The Montreal Comic-Con edition. I've been a fan of the convention for the last five years, and recently I've begun to notice some changes to our local superhero worshiping gathering. I know I have developed my own feelings on these changes, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comment section below. Without further ado, let's get in to the thick of it!

The New Location

So, one of the first, and frankly most obvious changes that the Montreal Comic-Con has experienced is the change in venue. My first convention was back in 2010, when the convention was still renting out Place Bonaventure to house the event. It was an interesting experience; the layout was nice and the crowds never felt too overwhelming. Bear in mind, that even though the attendance of the event was estimated at 8,300, you never really felt swamped by other people since the total was spread over the weekend. By 2011, however, Place Bonaventure could not contain the more-than-doubled attendance (the Fire Marshalls actually had to stop ticket sales at one point due to safety issues) that suddenly sprang up on the organizers, and as a result they've since moved. Let's take a quick look at what I feel the breakdown of the pros and cons of this move were:

Pro:

-Palais des congres de Montreal offers an enormous amount of space for the stalls, events, and discussions hosted over the course of the weekend.

-It allows the organizers to host multiple, and sometimes simultaneous, events throughout the days of the convention.

-Palais also provides a spacious maze of stalls, artists, vendors, and exhibits to have a respectable amount of space to set up.

Con:

-The bigger the venue, the more it's going to cost. As a result of this move, ticket prices for the day / whole weekend visits have increased.

-There are so many more people! Last year alone there were over 51,000 tickets purchased for the three day event, with this year's event almost selling out on some of the days.

Star Power

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Something else you might have noticed after attending, or seeing the advertisements, is that in the last four or five conventions, the "star power" of the celebrities attending have increased significantly. We've gone from having a handful of interesting and successful actors, artists, and icons to all-out insanity in the form of entire cast reunions and such. The first big ensemble of celebrities was during the 2012 edition of Comic-Con, when they managed to reunite the majority cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was pretty cool to see all of the Star Trek stuff flooding in to the convention. Now let's see how these changes have affected the Comic-Con:

Pro:

-We are getting better guests and stars to our conventions. Big names like Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), and Stephen Amell (Arrow) have all graced our halls at some point in the last few years. This is great and allows numerous fans a chance to meet their television or film favorites.

Con:

-The bigger the celebrity, the larger the line. During the 2012 Comic-Con, I spent over an hour waiting in line to get a signature from Wil Wheaton for my girlfriend. He was friendly and very engaging, but I seriously wonder if waiting for over an hour to have three minutes of face time is worth it.

-Most of the time, these celebrities will have a price for signature and photos. These can be anywhere between ten to one hundred dollars (depending on who you're waiting for), and coupled with the increased price of tickets, this can make the convention expensive.

800px-San_Diego_Comic_Con_2011_-_waiting_for_exhibition_hall_to_open.jpgBig Trouble in little Montreal

Lastly, with each passing year the convention brings in larger attractions and bigger events for the fans. Compared to the humble beginnings in 2006, the Montreal Comic-Con now has film screenings, wrestling matches, trading-card game areas, a costume contest, a masquerade, not to mention the numerous panels and photo opportunities over the course of the weekend. The Comic-Con has become a juggernaut of entertainment, and there is something for everyone, even if there isn't enough time to see it all. I'd say this area is where I've been the most disappointed with.

Pro:

-There really is something for everyone nowadays. You don't have to just like comic books to spend three days surrounded by like-minded people.

Con:

-In recent years, I've found the Comic part of Comic-Con to be rather lacking. The focus has shifted more from comic book artists and vendors, to a more diverse multimedia type attraction that encompasses all things science fiction, fantasy and superhero. There has been a subtle, if unintentional, move from comic book focused themes, and although there are still some attractions for comic book fans, I've found the majority of big names and pulls are closely related to Science Fiction or Fantasy based entertainment.

The Wrap-Up

Overall, I'm glad the Montreal Comic-Con has become such a massive local event; it adds to an already fantastic summer line-up of festivals and concerts. The size and appeal of the event is even starting to rival some of the other, older conventions in terms of the actors and unique offerings the Comic-Con brings in. What I'm not happy with is the continued use of the name Comic-Con. Whil I readily admit that I am not aware of all the legal and business elements of changing an events name, I believe that (through no malintent) continuning to bill the convention as a comic book celebrating event to be misleading. When I went to my first Montreal Comic-Con several years ago, there was no doubt in my mind that the focus of the event was on comicbooks. In recent years, I've passed on going to the event, whether it was due to (what I felt was) a lack of effort to recruit artists, to a focus on reuniting television cast members. Don't get me wrong, I stood in line and had Wil Wheaton sign a headshot for my girlfriend, he was nice and approachable, but I would never have expected to do so at a comic convention. To summarize, I believe the convention has outgrown it's earlier roots, those found in comic book culture, and should readily accept that it is moving on to bigger and better things. I feel as though the spirit of the event is now similar to the Fan Expo, the Toronto-based convention, and that we now celebrate all things nerdy and geeky (things which I very much enjoy) but please, stop calling it a comic convention.

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