Long lines, late re­vi­sions to prop ban mar Den­ver Comic Con

The Denver Post - - LIFE&CULTURE - By Gra­ham Am­brose COMIC CON » 8C

With three days of fan­dom, work­shops, celebrity pan­els and cos­play, Den­ver Comic Con brought an es­ti­mated $10 mil­lion eco­nomic boon to the city and 115,000 mostly sat­is­fied at­ten­dees.

The sixth an­nual con­ven­tion, which took over much of the Colorado Con­ven­tion Cen­ter from Fri­day morn­ing through Sun­day night, matched last year’s record-set­ting at­ten­dance, mak­ing Den­ver’s Comic Con the third largest in the coun­try.

But the high at­ten­dance also led to long waits to en­ter, par­tic­u­larly on Satur­day. A newly im­ple­mented bag-check pol­icy slowed en­trance queues, re­quir­ing some at­ten­dees to wait more than an hour to en­ter. A last-minute ban on all props re­sem­bling guns — an­nounced on Comic Con’s Face­book page a few min­utes

be­fore 9 a.m. on Satur­day — fur­ther slowed en­try and drew re­buke from cos­play­ers.

The blan­ket gun ban ex­panded on an ear­lier pro­hi­bi­tion on “re­al­is­tic-look­ing guns” an­nounced in the fall.

But con­sis­tency seemed to be an is­sue. “My son was sent back be­cause he had a bright or­ange Star Lord Nerf gun that didn’t look re­al­is­tic at all,” Lorelei Bow­man of Lake­wood said, “while other se­ri­ously re­al­is­tic look­ing guns slipped in.” Bow­man also blasted the long wait to en­ter the con­ven­tion hall.

Many at­ten­dees took to so­cial me­dia to voice their frus­tra­tions over long en­trance times and in­con­sis­tent bag checks.

“This de­ci­sion prob­a­bly should have been made be­fore the con even started,” Chad Eshel­man wrote on Face­book in re­sponse to the prop gun ban. “You will most likely face a back­lash from those people that were cleared yes­ter­day and now have to face a change. A lot of the cos­play folks went out of their way to make sure they were fol­low­ing the rules and then those rules are changed on the morn­ing of the se­cond day.”

The of­fi­cial ac­count from or­ga­niz­ers, who re­sponded di­rectly to all frus­trated pa­trons on the Comic Con Face­book page, was that they re­al­ized “that many people will be up­set. But safety is a top pri­or­ity for us, and after hear­ing from many at­ten­dees about the in­con­sis­tency around prop check, we felt the need to make this change.”

Other at­ten­dees crit­i­cized the changed en­trance lo­ca­tions, which forced many — in­clud­ing those with dis­abil­i­ties — to walk around to the side doors of the con­ven­tion cen­ter.

Sam Fuqua, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Pop Cul­ture Class­room — the com­mu­nity non­profit that or­ga­nizes Comic Con — said that due to third-party event book­ings, Comic Con did not have ac­cess to much of the con­ven­tion cen­ter, in­clud­ing the front lobby en­trances, which forced pa­trons to use side doors to en­ter. Fuqua said or­ga­niz­ers have pre-booked the front lobby for Comic Con in June 2018 to avoid the prob­lem.

While there may have been is­sues out­side the Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, once in­side, many pa­trons and busi­nesses praised the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the 700 vol­un­teers.

“Once we got in the door, the crowd seemed pretty rea­son­able,” Bow­man said. “I could tell the vol­un­teers were try­ing their best to keep ev­ery­thing or­ga­nized.”

Matt Greer of The Wizard’s Ch­est in the Baker neigh­bor­hood said that his cos­tume shop ap­pre­ci­ated the re­vised floor plan. “Our sit­u­a­tion was bet­ter this year be­cause we weren’t split up as we usu­ally are,” he said. “Over­all it was a lit­tle more or­ga­nized, a lit­tle more pro­fes­sional and a lit­tle big­ger than be­fore.”

Or­ga­niz­ers will be­gin so­lic­it­ing feed­back on­line from this year’s con­ven­tion this week, Fuqua said. An eval­u­a­tion form will be emailed to at­ten­dees and posted to Den­ver Comic Con’s Face­book page in the com­ing days.

Pro­ceeds from Comic Con sup­port Pop Cul­ture Class­room’s ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives, which in­clude lit­er­ary pro­grams and ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives that teach school-aged chil­dren about di­verse fig­ures from lo­cal and na­tional his­tory. Or­ga­niz­ers es­ti­mated that the 2017 con­ven­tion brought in roughly $4 mil­lion in rev­enue.

“That’s what makes us dif­fer­ent than other comic cons,” said Fuqua. “We have ed­u­ca­tional com­po­nents. We’re not just a com­mer­cial ven­ture.”

He added that se­cu­rity mis­steps will be ad­dressed and re­viewed for Den­ver Comic Con 2018, sched­uled for June 15-17. “We felt good about our se­cu­rity plan this year, but we re-eval­u­ate it ev­ery year. We’ll re-eval­u­ate the se­cu­rity plan again next year to make sure it works for ev­ery­one.”

He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

Ni­cole Gros­jean, dressed as Red the pro­tag­o­nist from Tran­sis­tor, joined 115,000 at­ten­dees to the 2017 Den­ver Comic Con.

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