On Business: RETCon

By | Monday, August 14, 2017 1 comment
Yesterday, I attended a new convention called RETCon. (Fantastic name, but I can't seem to find if the "RET" portion stands for anything. It's frequently capitalized like it should, but I can't find anything spelling that out. Perhaps it's only meant to suggest it's designed as an older style convention.) Their stated intent was to have a smaller convention that focused on diverse comics specifically, and not tons of ancillary stuff. It felt a little sparsely attended when I was there, but most of the tabling creators I spoke with seemed to be doing reasonable well despite that.

But, as always, I try to keep my eye on the way things are run to check the show out from more of a business perspective and I found some interesting things here.

As I said, it was sparsely attended from what I saw. It was a lovely day, so I doubt anyone was dissuaded from coming by the weather. I did see signs in/around the building itself, so it seems unlikely that people couldn't find it. So I'm wondering if their pre-show promotion game was a little lacking? It did come across my Facebook feed, but I don't recall seeing anything else. (To be fair, I haven't been to any of the retail shops that were set up at the show, and I expect they had some promotion in their respective stores.) I'm also not hyper-local to the show (it was an hour-plus for me to get there) so there may have been more neighborhood ads that I missed.

When I got there and parked, I asked the security attendant about parking fees and the show and he directed to an open, nondescript door. That led to a few steps that popped me right at the back of the show floor. It was clearly NOT the main entrance, but it also seemed pretty well unsupervised, meaning anyone could casually stroll in and out without having to pay an admission fee. As I did. I strolled up towards the front of the hall in an earnest attempt to pay but the one place at the front of the hall that looked like it might serve as an admissions table was empty. I saw a photo after I got home that looked like the setup was actually by another one of the building entrances, but I didn't see anything like that while I was there. I don't know if the show lost any potential revenue (besides my $15) from people "sneaking" in the back entrance, but it seems like a review of the show's layout (if it remains at that location) might be warranted.

The show was in an auditorium, with the creators and retailers on the main floor, a raised stage at one end that was used for panels, and a kids' activities section on a balcony overlooking everything. Panels were conducted on the stage in full view of the rest of the convention. They were a little hard to see if you weren't seated on the stage, but you could still hear everything pretty easily. I liked that everyone could essentially "sit" in on the panels while they were still perusing the main floor, but at the same time, having conversations with creators was a little more challenging at times. I'm not sure where most people would fall on that topic.

One of the most interesting tidbits I overheard was that the convention was providing volunteers for creators to monitor their tables if they had to run to the restroom or grab something to eat or whatever. I don't know what stipulations or limitations might be placed on that perk, but it's a really clever idea, I think.

Interestingly, while there were a reasonably diverse selection of creators there, it wasn't focused exclusively on comics. Some -- not many, but some -- of the creators didn't have any actual comics to their name and were just selling a selection of prints. And on both days, one of the stage shows was presented by Acrobatica Infiniti, where they basically performed a variety of acrobatic routines while dressed in cosplay. They were mostly dressed as comic based characters at least, but there was one I didn't recognize at all. They were good, but seemed to me a bit far removed from "bring[ing] the comic book back to the forefront."

It might seem like most of this has been complaining about the show, but I honestly enjoyed it a great deal and was disappointed I only got to spend a few hours there. I think most of what I've talked about are issues stemming from this being their first year, and finding their convention legs. I met several new creators I'd never seen at CAKE, C2E2, or other local cons so the show's intention to highlight "diverse, up-and-coming writers and artists who are not currently featured in the mainstream comic industry" was certainly achieved as far as I'm concerned. But I think the issues I cited show that running even a small a convention isn't easy, and there are tons of things to consider that might not be immediately obvious. In any event, I hope the show did well enough to warrant a sequel next year.
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Anonymous said...

Spent an hour there Sunday. The website advised taking public transportation, specifically the CTA Green Line. Problem was you cannot catch the Green Line from Clark and Lake downtown on Sunday, which is the hub for most of the other rail lines. I did not find the back entrance, but the "limited parking" lot was maybe a third full. At $8 for the day, that would have been the way to go. Instead, I got 3 prints and a comic which I walked a mile back to the train. Might have gotten more if I had my car. The staff were very nice. Spent time at Menton3's booth as well as Megan Hutchinson's. Really enjoyed her work on the issue of Rockstars I got there.

This Saturday is Niles Fanfest: https://www.nileslibrary.org/fandom-fest

Local vendors, artists, the 501st and Svengoolie. Should be fun.