It's a rare convention that doesn't leave its attendees with much to complain about, so it's remarkable that Amazing Houston Comic Con accomplished that in its very first roll out of the gate.
OK, I do actually have two complaints, but they're pretty minor. Attendees with three-day passes received blue wristbands that couldn't be removed for the duration of the con. That's right: you ate, slept and showered with them, looking like an escapee from an institution wherever you went. It's the only pop culture convention I've attended where the wristband system was used in favor of lanyards. Actually, as press, I had a lanyard, too. At least that I could remove.
The other issue was that the main stage area, where the larger panels were held, were only divided from the main convention floor with curtains. This worked well during the cosplay competition, which was held after the exhibit floor had closed for the evening. During the day, though, general announcements kept booming over the presenters using that area. I hope that next year the main stage panel is held in one of the rooms on the second floor. (The main announcer, however, was awesome, making hilarious announcements like "John Smith, your credit card was found and we aren't afraid to use it!")
Those two gripes aside, Amazing Houston Comic Con was great. I've been attending conventions for the past six years, but this was the first that was a pure "comic book convention," as opposed to a "pop culture convention" that also included film and television stars. I liked the tighter focus and the feeling of getting back to our roots. Comics, after all, are why many of us started going to conventions in the first place.
Some of the top talent in the biz was there, too, like Jim Lee (co-publisher, DC Comics, X-men), Bob Layton (Iron Man), Len Wein (The Incredible Hulk and co-creator of Wolverine), Rob Liefeld (X-Force and creator of Deadpool) and Scott Lobdell (Uncanny X-men). Liefeld proved he knew how to work a crowd, striding up and down the aisle and engaging audience members during his panel.
This story continues on the next page. Additionally, besides an abundance of original artwork and posters, there was more interesting merchandise available for purchase at this convention than I've seen in quite some time. Some items that I personally bought: iPhone 5 cases with original artwork, silk ties embroidered with comic character logos, watercolor paintings (8" x 10" custom commissions for a very reasonable $40) and a beginner latex casting kit.
The latter item was offered by Garage FX, a family-owned company from Arizona. You could just buy the kit for $25, or you could take a guided class from them for $50 and it still included the kit to take home. I took a class and the process of casting (which was previously a complete mystery, as I've never sculpted anything from clay, unless you count Play-Doh) is now a whole lot more understandable. I made a mold for a simple Batgirl mask. The Garage FX folks were friendly and generous with their time and knowledge, hosting panels every single day on costume creation and making available several prop weapons for kids of all ages to play with in their big display area.
The company also hosted tutorials on working with EVA (Ethylene vinyl acetate) foam, the same kind of interlocking foam tiles you might put on a garage floor. You can make cosplay armor out of that stuff, too.
The owners' daughters and their friends put Garage FX's work on display, too, as femme Ninja Turtles. Their costumes were a hit everywhere they went.
On Sunday, the last day of the con, not one person I spoke with was disappointed. As one said, "The fans are happy, the guests are happy and the exhibitors are happy. What more could you want?" This con seemed very family-friendly, too. There was a kids costume parade on Sunday and lots of entire families that were in themed costumes (like the all-Avengers family that I met this past weekend).
Was it amazing? I don't know about that, but it was pretty darn excellent. I suspect this con will return and get bigger every year. I'm going to fondly look back on this first one, when Amazing Houston Comic Con was a small convention that only took up one exhibit hall in the George R. Brown Convention Center.
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