HeroesCon 2016.

If you are a creator of mainstream comics who is situated in the East Coast, South, or Midwest, HeroesCon is your convention. It is a decidedly inexpensive event to attend. Table costs are fairly low for the size of the convention, hotel rates are very reasonable, and one doesn’t have to compete with a bloated Hollywood machine for the eyeballs of attendees. Everyone who is there is there for comics. It’s a convention of readers.

The host hotel—the Westin—was surprisingly and stunningly swanky. I am extremely picky about hotel rooms. If it isn’t quiet and the fixtures aren’t up-to-date then I am going to be unhappy. Even with construction going on directly across the street I was able to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep every night. And the bathroom was bubble-bath worthy. Four stars all the way.

As for the host city? Well, Charlotte honestly leaves much to be desired. The region is pleasant, safe, affordable, and walkable, but is also rather dull and mainstream. Every event tied to HeroesCon was held at Buffalo Wild Wings. To have a party in the same commercial venue every night, one that is the height of pedestrian, was frustrating. I’d advise the showrunners to branch out—perhaps with themed parties in the Westin or a street fair at the Latta Arcade. But the final post-show wrap-up at Heroes was amazing. And honestly I was a bit envious. If I had a comic shop of that quality near me I wouldn’t have to depend on Amazon and Comixology for everything. And, good Lord, I had a pulled pork grilled cheese sandwich there that I still think about fondly a week later.

Convention reviews don’t usually talk about this, but I’m going to discuss it. As a woman and as a black person? I felt comfortable there. And I spotted other members of marginalized groups who looked happy and content as well. This is important and is something that isn’t reflected in all conventions. And honestly, showrunners can neither take the credit nor the blame. That safety and comfort is tied not to the comics community, but to the local community. And I was pleasantly surprised to see how welcoming it was.

2016 was my second time attending HeroesCon and the crowds seemed a bit thinner than the last time I attended. During my time in the beautiful—and too cold!—Charlotte Convention Center it seemed spacious and at times downright sparse. While the lack of a Hollywood presence was blissful, I think the absence of major comic publishers impacted the convention negatively. I believe those big-name booths have the power to boost crowd numbers. While publishers should not put the amount of money into HeroesCon that they would reserve for SDCC or NYCC, company representation on the floor would allow editors to scout for new talent that simply can’t afford to attend larger conventions—and I’ll get to that in a separate entry! Three tables, two editors, and a large number of digital freebies and knickknacks would suffice. And I believe knowing DC and Marvel would be there would increase fan interest and attendance.

I promise to get to the event itself next, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about the surrounding city and host hotel given the impact both have upon a show. After all, guests are shared by everyone, but it’s the local flavor that makes a convention unique!

ECCC: Comic convention contemplation.

The Washington State Convention Center is an exceptional place to host a convention—airy with ample space and fantastic lighting. Plus, there are restaurants, hotels, tourist traps, drugstores and department stores all within a short radius. It’s what sets Emerald City Comicon apart from its larger competitors. NYCC and SDCC have been unpleasant experiences for me due to terrible locations that provide no respite from the overwhelming convention crowds unless I’m willing to travel long distances from the convention. At Emerald City, one is able to pop across the street and eat at a cozy restaurant or take a nap in one’s hotel room. There’s no escape from the Javits Center without walking at least a dozen very long Manhattan blocks. As for San Diego? Good luck finding anything affordable.

And good luck finding anything affordable at the closest contender to claim the title of ECCC East—Dragon Con. Not only are ticket prices ridiculously expensive compared to other conventions, the nearby hotels charge exorbitant prices designed to gouge attendees. Rates often double those found at Emerald City. And while the location is perfect—countless amenities are only a block or two away—the comics industry is treated as a mere afterthought. Film, television, and prose reign supreme.

Comics come first at Heroes, but the convention’s location is horrifically dull. While Seattle, San Diego, New York City, and Atlanta offer an amazing array of activities apart from their conventions, Charlotte offers little in the way of excitement.

Given that Emerald City is quite a trek for me, I’ve been thinking about how best to recreate the magic of the convention closer to home. I’m sure many convention organizers looking for a lucrative investment are too. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

The Location: Atlanta, Georgia. Specifically? The Atlanta Convention Center. However, a set-up similar to Dragon Con where a few smaller hotels share space would also work well.

The Date: Like Emerald City, the event should be scheduled during “Spring Break.” Weather in Atlanta during that time is exceptional, and a late March or early April date would provide a great kick-off to the convention season for those tired of winter weather. Plus, being such a great distance from Emerald City would allow it to occur at a similar time without “poaching” guests from that convention. Those who would attend “Peachtree City Comicon” would likely never consider Emerald City due to the distance involved. And Megacon, currently showing signs of weakness, could easily be cannibalized.

Key Factors: If one is going to host a comic convention in Atlanta, three organizations/events should be involved or showcased in some manner. The first is Cartoon Network/Adult Swim. The second is the Atlanta branch of the Savannah College of Art and Design. The third is the ComicsPRO annual membership meeting. Also, making a deal with hotels in order to keep rates in the range of $100.00 to $150.00 a night is essential. Expensive hotels hurt attendance.

I’m sure the last thing Jim Demonakos and his crew want is to launch yet another large convention, but they have shown that they can succeed where many others have failed. Plus, there is a clear “convention vacuum” here on the East Coast that no one has been adequately able to fill. I’d like to see someone fill it—and I’m willing to put my money and muscle where my mouth is to make it happen.