Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Albuquerque Comic Con 2011: The News Story

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 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

Monday, January 17, 2011

Albuquerque Comic Con 2011

Last week, when Little Dragon posted that we were having a Comic Com here in Albuquerque I texted her: “Don’t you dare buy tickets.” Then I got on the phone with my soon to be daughter-in-law and told her we had to take Little D. Immediately after confirming our plans, I purchased tickets and decided I was damn well going to take care of myself so I could handle a full day out and about. This was going to be my daughter’s day.

Amazingly, we managed to get up early enough Saturday morning to have coffee before driving into Albuquerque, making a quick breakfast stop at Starbucks before heading to the Hilton. Parking was a problem, as was traffic in the hallways inside, but hey, it was a first time something like this has been done here since 1997. Give the organizers a break – they probably got way more than they hoped for.

Yeah, it was crowded and nobody really knew where anything was supposed to be taking place except the Q&A sessions and the autograph room, but it was fun. I got a bit irritated at first because I don’t have the mobility I used to and I couldn’t really take pictures from my level but I handed over the camera and put myself in my girls’ hands and ended up having a hugely fun day.

Half the fun was seeing all the people who came in costume, and so many children! Little princesses and super-heroes to a two-week-old wearing a “geekling” T-shirt (mama brought baby because dad didn’t want to come so he stayed home with their 2-year-old).

Deep Roy and Dickey Beer kept their Q&A PG because of all the kids in the room and they were so sweet about it. Two different kids asked Deep Roy whether he had played all of the Oompa-loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and he assured both of them he had. Ah, but when the Saints came marching in it was a whole different story – total R. They hooted and hollered and cussed up a storm and god we loved ‘em!

And they managed to make sure that Little D and I got our picture taken with them, even though they only had minutes to spare at that point. Being wheelchair-bound proved to be a hassle at that point because it wasn’t easy to maneuver in the tight space and not knowing what else to do, I looked up at Norman Reedus and asked, “Could you please open the door for me?” He smiled so sweetly and reached over to push the door open and hold it for us while we made our way out. As he was holding the door he glanced over at Mohawk D, who had the camera, and flashed her a little grin. Oh, we just tumbled through that door into the hallway and giggled and gasped and squealed.

Took a bit to get into the right line for the autograph room – there was a line specifically for them and it was looong. But it was a great chance to watch people and, much to Little D’s amusement, I found myself unknowingly flirting with Daniel Logan. Hey, I just thought he was this cute, entertaining young man who agreed that spikes on the front of my wheelchair might help get us through the crowds. I told him he could ride on my lap and he winked and said we’d have to take that up later. As we passed on Little D bent over and asked me if I knew who I was talking to. “That’s baby Fett?” I asked, laughing at my own ignorance and how much fun I was having.

We did make it into the autograph room at long last and I was so impressed at the consideration shown to me to make sure I was able to get right up to the Saints table. I chatted with Sean for a minute while Little D got his autograph and reminded Norman about the promised shower shot while she got his. Rocco was at the end of the table and because the people-press was off, he was really able to give Little D his attention. I thought she was going to faint while he was talking to her but then I told him her birthday was the next day and he offered to autograph her shirt! She was so excited she was shaking – I have this big grin on my face just remembering. What a birthday gift!

And then we made our way over to Peter Mayhew’s table. All I know is that there is something very special about this gentle man who took time out from a career in nursing to create a timeless character. Why Chewbacca is so special to both Little Dragon and me, I don’t know, but I have loved that character since I first saw him and obviously so has she. One of the most wonderful thing is that when Peter was offered the roll, he didn’t expect just to step into a suit and run through the motions. He went out and studied how various animals moved and thought about what Wookies were. He created more than just a character, I think. He created the species. Yes, I was as deeply moved as Little D at meeting him. We finally moved on when more people came crowding up, knowing we had met someone very special.

We left Comic Com after that, stopping only to pick me up a “Z is for zombies” T-shirt. Wow.