Comic Excitement Convention’s Flop and the Hubris of Man

You’d probably be forgiven for not knowing that “Comic Excitement Convention” (yes, that’s the actual name) took place this last weekend in Los Angeles, CA. Despite their touted $10,000 cosplay contest prize, it doesn’t seem like a lot of effort was put into marketing the con.

Which is probably why hardly anyone showed up.

The first year convention occupied Kentia Hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and although early promotional materials talked about expecting a massive turnout, at con observations estimate attendance to be under a thousand. The whole thing… well it seems to have been a mess.

The organizers of the show just didn’t think things through it seems. While they were clearly focused on Cosplay (again – there was a bananas $10,000 prize), the con was scheduled up against Anime Impulse, a second year show also held in the L.A. area. Comic Excitement was also much more expensive to attend than Anime Impulse, with one day preregistration costing $30, rising to $40 at the door. Compare that to Impulse’s pricing, where two day badges could be purchased for $22.

And what you got for that expensive badge was… well… not much. Beyond the cosplay and fashion shows, the entire convention consisted of a vendor room and nothing else. It’s clear the majority of the ticket pricing went into supporting only the bizarrely high cosplay prize and the guest list.

For attendees, it’s hard to see how it was a difficult choice. Anime Impulse offered a full programming track for less than half the price of the barebones Comic Excitement Convention.

Honestly, with how poorly this show was promoted, you might be asking yourself how we even found out it was happening. It actually came to our attention months ago when we were pointed towards the con’s harassment policy. You see, Comic Excitement Convention has what can best be described as one of the worst harassment policies I’ve ever seen — as defined on their official website it’s simply:

Don’t do it!

I’m not kidding. That’s the whole thing. No definitions, no penalties… just three words. It’s almost like it was a joke to them. Fortunately there don’t seem to have been any major problems that arose from this their first year, though that may have something to do with how few people actually were in the building.

The few policies the convention did enumerate didn’t seem to be closely followed at all too. The con website did spell out a vague Weapons Policy:

Costume weapons are allowed only if they are very obviously safe. Please do not bring anything sharp or that can poke out an eye.

All weapons are subject to inspection and tagging.

While not exactly detailed, it appeared that there was a clear system in place to handle realistic weapon props. Of course, appearances can be deceiving.

The at convention experience was apparently very different. According to The Sideshow Podcast host Mia, there was no at con tagging system in place, and security took issue with the painted squirt gun she was using as a prop. Security reportedly told her she would need to either get rid of the fake gun or leave the premises. This is explicitly contrary to the listed policy (which should have allowed her to keep the toy with an additional safety tag).

As this policy is still listed on the official website for the con, it’s hard to argue that the policy had changed at con. It’s an example of a con staff so poorly trained that they had zero idea what they were doing.

According to people we talked to, Comic Excitement was run by a first time showrunner, who while reportedly talking to experienced con staffs, didn’t have any experience working cons himself. It also seems like any of the advice he was given was largely ignored. Frankly, this whole show was a mess, and I’m left scratching my head as to who the heck this was targeted at.

I mean, the marketing (with that weirdly massive $10,000 prize) was clearly targeted at Cosplayers, but the rest of the actual content of the show was clearly pointed towards a Comic Con audience. The people who want vendor heavy flea market and guest focused shows aren’t nearly as interested in that.

On the flipside, those heavily into cosplay are usually more interested in shows with much stronger programming tracks too. The Anime Con scene (where competitive cosplay is taken much more seriously) doesn’t really have flea market type shows. Even the smallest event will have a solid track of panel programming throughout the con. I’m just left scratching my head wondering who organizers thought the con was for.

But I guess if attendance numbers tell us anything, the answer seems to have been no one.

  • Canadianknight

    Where’s the ball-pit? Looks like there’s room for one.

    • Everyone likes to compare con failures to DashCon, but let’s remember that DashCon had a comprehensive programming track and actual attendees in the building.

      Heck, I even know a vendor who made decent money at DashCon.

      Comic Excitement Convention WISHES it had been DashCon.

      • AnabelMartinez

        It’s so crazy, because they had a cute brand/design, and clearly some financial backing. I wonder what they could have done in a city without a huge geek con presence.

        • stardreamer42

          Pretty much any sizable city has “a huge geek con presence” these days. The market is severely over-saturated, and from a vendor’s-eye view it looks as if the shakeout is slowly getting started.

  • ABruntStorm

    1000 is generous. Extremely generous. I can’t see there being more than 500 between both days. Not to mention the serious 195 price tag for AA and 450 for standard tables and all the spots were the same size. 🙄

    • Yeah — we were being generous. It’s just really easy to underestimate how many people are there when the room is so sparsely laid out, so we skewed towards the larger end.

  • Colin K. Bass

    I can’t believe they charged so much! I was in the fashion show, went up to the dudes at the door and said why I was there, without any question they put a wrist band on me and my friend and we walked in.

    After the fashion show I walked around, expecting something cool, but it was dead! All day!

    I feel bad for the owner, but $10k on a cosplay contest is just…stupid. There are so many smarter ways to use that money. -_-

    • negativezach

      Don’t feel bad for the owner. Feel bad for the vendors and artists trying to make a living and getting duped into overcharged table fees and promises of bug numbers of people. The show runner sounds like another scumbag wanting to win big with his fly by night convention. These shows and the people who run them are equally as at fault for the oversaturation of convention culture as Wizard and Amazing.

      Find smaller local shows, art fairs, local markets; support salt of the earth, homegrown shows and tell these modern snake-oil selling assholes to take a long walk off a short pier.

      • Colin K. Bass

        Jeez…I guess I know why your name is negativezach…lol.

        I try to give first year cons a chance, I do. But I think the owner of Comic Excitement went to a local con and was like, “Hey, I could totally do this and make bank!” and then bit off way more than he can chew.

        I wonder if he’s even a fan of any of the things that we love…

  • Chad Townsend

    Looks like Capitol City Comic Con a few years ago in Austin Tx. everyone paid to stand around and talk with each other a couple days in a massive convention hall. Listening to Manu Bennet wax eloquently to a crowd of no one over the loud speaker. Glad To know I paid for the guy that put the convention on to go hang out at dinner with the guy and be his chum.

  • Mel

    If you see a first year con in a convention center rather than a hotel, it’s an almost guaranteed failure.

  • Mia Skala

    Thanks so much for referencing my podcast and experience at the con! This is a very well written article that completely and accurately articulates all of the very strange things that occurred both before, and during, the Comic Excitement Convention. I made a point to address on my Instagram that following weapons policies at conventions are very important and that I support and respect them completely. I do want to mention that only one member of security had an issue with my squirt gun, and that the others that were standing at the door (even the general security that’s present at the Los Angeles Convention Center during events) said nothing about my prop. This is what struck me as unprofessional. The other cosplayers did not have tagged props, not to mention there were several other Suicide Squad Harley Quinn cosplayers that had actual wooden baseball bats as props for their costumes, which could definitely do some damage should those people choose to use it against others in an act to harm. I also want to bring up that that specific security guard threatened to call down LAPD if I did not put my prop away, specifically saying “there’s going to be a much different discussion if LAPD has to come down here”. I was completely cooperative and put my prop away. I event tried showing him the fact that the trigger was not only oddly cylindrical (such as on a squirt gun), but I also left it painted orange in case something like this occurred. In any case, the con was definitely a disaster, and I having a very rude and confrontational security guard harass me about my squirt gun did not help. I spoke to vendors near the end of the Saturday show and they expressed that despite the organizer of this convention having visited other conventions to get a feel of what they would need to recreate to be successful, they obviously weren’t sure on how to achieve it.

    • Yeah — threatening to call the cops was bizarre as hell.

  • As someone who was invited to Artist Alley at the con, I can tell you that even before the con there were a ton of red flags for me. I hadn’t heard of it, and still continued to not hear of it EXCEPT for the e-mail invites I received.

    I considered doing it, but for a FIRST YEAR con it was $200 for a AA table. Not only that, but the Terms of Agreement for Artist Alley literally said that, even if the con was up and CANCELLED, no one would be refunded. Here:
    I brought my concerns to one of the promotions staff of the con via an e-mail, and instead of easing my concerns he just danced around the subject, linking me the founder’s linkedin profile and telling me the con wouldn’t be cancelled. It seemed extremely fishy to me, so I opted not to purchase a table after all and boy howdy am I glad I made that choice.

    For anyone curious, read the TOS for vendors/artists:

    The whole thing is a little off to me, like the founder is REALLY trying to cover all his bases and make sure he loses absolutely no money.

  • Jeff Hartz

    Is there any news or update regarding who actually won the $10,000 prize? Did they receive the money without any incident?

    • I know who won, but haven’t verified if the prize was distributed. At the very least, he hasn’t complained about NOT getting it on his cosplay Facebook page.