Three days after Albuquerque Comic Con 2011 closed, Jim Burleson was already out talking to people about a larger location for next year's convention. I happened to catch him on the phone just as he walked into his store, Tall Tales Comics, after spending the afternoon talking with people about possible venues. Burleson, organizer of the Albuquerque Comic Con 2011, said this year's fledgling event, the first of its kind since 1997, was a huge success.
A count of wrist bands showed that about 6,000 people attended on Saturday, Jan. 15, and another 4,000 showed up on Sunday, Jan. 16. (This number does not include people who showed up for pre-convention and after-hours events on Friday and Saturday.) While most of those were paying customers, Burleson said about 500 tickets were given away free to fire fighters, police officers, and military personnel. Children under 12 were admitted free with a paying adult and it was obvious from the crowds that for many this was a family event. The youngest attendee was a two-week-old wearing a "geekling" t-shirt. The oldest? Who knows, but seniors were there in abundance.
Local vendors and artists lined the hallway and filled every available booth in the ballroom set aside for that purpose. Not only did this provide them with an opportunity to display and sell their wares, it also exposed many attendees to shops and businesses they were previously unaware of. Burleson said he deliberately kept the admission price low ($15 for a pre-purchased 1-day ticket, $25 for two-day passes) so people would be able to spend money on merchandise and autographs. VIP admissions were a bit more than twice the price of regular admissions but allowed those people first place in line for events, entry into drawings, and other special features.
"I didn't want it to be like one of those conventions where it costs three hundred dollars to get in and then you have nothing left to spend," he said. His strategy worked: "Everyone did well and they're looking forward to next year."
Burleson himself was able to recoup the money he personally put out to set up Albuquerque's first Comic Con in 14 years. The money, he said, came out of his children's college account and he has repaid every bit of it. His four children, however, weren't put out about shelling out the money. "They told me, 'It's ok, dad, we don't need college. Let's do Comic Con."
As with every first-time event, there were glitches: facilities at the Hilton weren't large enough to accommodate the crowds adequately and parking presented a problem for many people. However, some of the things Burleson looked for, and is looking for as he talks with other facilities, are things like free parking and availability of reasonably priced food. "I want to keep it affordable," he said, "so people can afford to come and have fun."
All preparations and publicity were done by willing volunteers who were just as eager as Burleson to see Albuquerque have a successful Comic Con. The first new post at http://www.albuquerquecomiccon.com/ is a thanks to all the volunteers:
When the metamorphoses happens, I can't control it. I don't even know what it DOES!
But I do know this
Being a superhero isn't always easy
We appreciate all of you who have volunteered
to help make this a great event.
If you didn't get to do it this year,
2012 will be even bigger :-)
See ya at the show.
Maybe next year, the local news media and tourism department will be a bit more eager to help with pre-event publicity. The Albuquerque tourism department declined to have anything to do with the Comic Con venture and Albuquerque's three television stations wanted in only at the last minute. Shame on them for not supporting local endeavors!
"Z is for zombie" t-shirt is available at http://www.johnsumrow.com/2011/01/16/the-2011-albuquerque-comic-con-day-1/