Three things ComicCon Asia did right and 5 things it did wrong
ComicCon Asia 2018 finally opened its doors on March 24 after months of speculation and no small amount of controversy. With the first day of the convention done, here’s a list of the good and the bad that came with it.
What they did right
1. They got the damn thing off the ground. Setting up a comic convention, with its multitude of moving parts, is back-breaking work. And that’s when things go according to plan. Things weren’t so easy for the organizers of ComicCon Asia, who lost both their headlining guest (Stan Lee) and their backup (Hayley Atwell). But they soldiered on despite the setbacks, and managed to create an event that, even with its flaws, is still pretty enjoyable.
2. Set up relevant workshops and panels. Comics isn’t a spectator sport. The line between fan and creator is blurred. To help creatives refine their craft, ComicCon Asia organized a series of programs headed by established industry practitioners. These programs include Toy Making and Design by Jesse Wu, Storytelling in Comics by Carlo Pagulayan, and Basic Figure Drawing or Superhero Design by Jerry Hinds, and many more.
3. Invite guests with a real love for fandom. Without Stan Lee and Hayley Atwell, pressure was on the other guests to make the event memorable to convention goers. Featured guests include Walter Jones (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), Holland Roden (Teen Wolf), Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things), and Overwatch voice actors Anjali Bhimani, Feodor Chin, Jen Cohn, and Carolina Ravassa. We’re happy to report that the guests are all awesome.
During the press conference on the first day of the convention, each guest revealed the importance of being part of fandom. Some of the best answers came from Jones, who said, “The thing that is amazing to me is I really do find that we have inspired a lot of people. And I hear stories all the time at these comic cons where people say ‘When I was a kid I wanted to be you, and it motivated me to be this,’ by that they meant they became a marine, or a doctor, or paramedic, opened a karate studio.”
Ravassa also had some great insight to share. “It’s given us an opportunity to see how video games affect people,” she says. “I’m not a gamer myself. I grew up playing outdoors, and so I used to think games were just games, and now I realize they have a far bigger reach in affecting people positively in life then I ever imagined.”
What they did wrong
1. Not focusing enough on comics. While the event certainly has quality comic-related workshops, the convention floor itself lacks that comic-centric feel. There is no shortage of booths promoting video games, computer parts, whitening capsules, and supplements, but only a handful were in the actual business of comics.
That handful of comic-oriented booths is overpowered by the loud, flash booths of corporate exhibitors. It seems like the convention floor was organized by a sales team – particularly one that doesn’t know how to properly represent comic culture.
2. Taking Manny Pacquiao as ambassador. One of the organizer’s more eyebrow-raising decisions was getting Manny Pacquiao onboard as an ambassador-slash-endorser. I dissect Pacquiao’s involvement here. But as a summary, local comic fans weren’t too pleased with having Pacquiao – a Bible-thumping conservative who once said LGBT folk were worse than animals – entering their space.
3. Poor crowd control and coordination. Long lines and comic conventions go together like, well, long lines and comic conventions. But lines were especially brutal during the morning of the first day of the convention. Waiting times of up to 4 hours were mentioned online, in addition to gripes about the processing of online reservations.
4. Passivity towards Stan Lee’s health and event attendance. Less than a month before the scheduled opening of ComicCon Asia, Stan Lee contracted pneumonia. Despite the outpouring of concern over the 95-year-old icon’s wel-lbeing, event organizers said they were leaving it up to Stan’s management whether to push through with his visit or not. This passive stance made the organizers appear as if they delaying the inevitable announcement. More transparency towards fans would have earned the convention some good will at a time when they needed it the most.
On March 15, Stan Lee’s management and ComicCon Asia mutually agreed to cancel his appearance.
5. Mixed messages with Hayley Atwell. On March 19, ComicCon Asia announced that Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) would appear at the event. Just 3 days after, the organizers announced that Atwell was backing out due to the “political unrest” in the country. Shortly afterwards, Hayley posted a letter in her own words on Instagram. In it she claimed that a scheduling conflict was the real reason for her cancellation. Will the real reason please stand up?
During the press conference, organizer Pauline Sofia Laping provided the following explanation.
“What we actually addressed in our Facebook page is exactly what we just received from the official management of her side,” she said. “And beyond that, we of course do respect her decision. She didn’t really mention anything more than that. We didn’t ask anything else, but that’s it.”
PR people like to talk about “controlling the narrative”, and that’s exactly what didn’t happen here. The organizers had nothing to gain by posting the “political unrest” statement… unless by doing so, they were trying to take the heat off them, and place it squarely on Atwell. If that were the case, the plan backfired. Atwell charmed fans with her letter, making organizers look foolish and clueless. – Rappler.com