By Shawn Perry
The growth of comic conventions came up in a negative way at Rhode Island Comic Con last weekend and got me thinking about the important role management plays in our tribal gatherings. As I pondered as the final moments of last week's episode of The Walking Dead lead into Comic Book Men who should appear before me but the founder of Connecticut Comic-Conn and New England's resident Johnny Appleseed of Comics: Mitch Hallock.
Although I am biased as a fan of both Hallock and Comic Book Men I thought this past week's episode of was one of the best of the season and I highly recommend watching the full episode on AMCtv.com. Also, as a proud member of the masculine arm of My Little Pony fandom I am looking forward to this Sunday's episode in which the gang visits BronyCon.
As I discussed in my coverage back in August, Comic-Conn 2014 holds the prestige of being my favorite con experience of the year. While NYCC and BCC were amazing there was just something special about being at a comic-con that put the experience of comic book fans first and as CMB's Ming Chen explains it has everything to do with the passion of Hallock.
Comic-Conn has a lot of heart. Mitch is a friend of mine so I can tell you he lives, eats and breathes comics. A lot of shows out there you can tell they like comics but they're looking at dollar signs, but not Mitch, this one you can tell that they want to make a little profit but they're in it for the love of the fans out there and that's why I love being here.
The next morning it was clear to me that Hallock's appearance was a sign from the geek gods that he was the key to understanding the secrets of proper con management. Although it took a few tries to get AMC's newest celebrity on the phone I eventually caught him in-between masseuses.
Shawn Perry: First of all Mitch congratulations on your appearance on Comic Book Men last night. How does it feel to be a comic book celebrity?
Mitch Hallock: I'm sipping soda out of a gold straw, kid! Us comic con people are printing money over here! It's tough to just keep up with the demand.
SP: What are your thoughts on the incident that took place at RICC this past weekend?
MH: I keep asking myself what is going to become of Rhode Island Comic Con now and how the hell did that happen? I have had lots of occasions with exhibitor tables where I have had to say "Well, I would love to help you but there's just only so much physical space and if I were to add anyone it would not be comfortable". Ya know, sometimes you have to cut the loss and forego a couple thousand bucks to have a hassle-free show.
SP: It's that sort of integrity that has made your show so good over the years and leaves RICC in a tough spot for next year.
MH: Yeah I was thinking how do you recover from something like that? The good news is supply and demand is great. The demand is there you couldn't meet it or at least handle the supply correctly but its not the fans fault because they just want to see a show and its really not the promoters fault it just got bigger than they thought you know? It's kind of like [the film] the perfect storm you're the guy with that boat and you keep catching more sword fish but there's a storm coming so you have to decide whether you're going to head in or keep fishing and well, if you saw the movie they kept going out there and got in the thick of the storm and they all went down. But hey, it's always easier to kick someone when they are down than lend a helping hand. Why do it? Negativity breeds negativity.
SP: Absolutely, I am just interested in the positive end of how this event is going to effect future cons. If there is a strong demand that has yet to be met then there is nowhere to go but up right?
MH: I was just talking the other day with someone who was asking when the comic book bubble is going to pop and I was like obviously it's not going to pop anytime soon. You had twenty-something thousand people show up [in Rhode Island] last weekend wanting a show. That's fantastic! It's good news for Comic-Conn, ConnectiConn, New York Comic-Con…we just need to learn how to handle the demand: with great power comes great responsibility as somebody once said in a comic book.
SP: So tell me, how did it feel to watch yourself on Comic Book Men?
MH: Weird. I didn't know [my episode] was coming on and I glanced at the television after The Walking Dead and put on guide and read the synopsis and it said that the gang meets a guy dressed like Indian Jones and I was like 'Ahh that's me' I must have read it like forty times. Eventually I went to bed after watching it a few times but it is one of the most surreal experiences to see yourself on a 40-inch television in your living room.
SP: What was your favorite part of the episode?
MH: When Walt Flanagan says 'don't you think it's a little odd when you blur reality with fandom and walk around all day dressed as your favorite character' and Kevin Smith says 'well yeah if it's batman but if it's Indy people just think your from panama' and I just cracked up.
SP: What was it like hanging with the comic book men on the set?
MH: Well, it's funny cause I auditioned a few years back for a casting call because they were looking for weird fandom and I do a website called raider.net. Some times go by and when Comic-Conn was happening this year I picked up the phone and booked them to come. Since I know most of them pretty well it was weird to see them on the other end of the camera but I don't know Walt and Bryan [Johnson] so our exchange on the show is genuine and unscripted but I do know Ming, so there was a little fakeness there.
SP: Here's the question I always think about with reality shows — when you walked in did it feel like they were putting on an act or did it feel real?
MH: Well we don't see each other at all before the segment shoots. I was waiting there in my suit and all they know is someone is coming and that's it. They're down in the back of the store where the camera is set-up and I walk into the shop like I would walk into any shop and they're all just hanging out when you come in and do your thing so there's a genuine reaction. I wish it was scripted so I would have had better jokes!
SP: So for all of us Bleeders who had a great time at Comic-Conn last year what can you tell us about next year?
MH: We already have some art that celebrates the Age of Ultron and the Fantastic Four movies coming out. By the end of this month the website will be up and the dates will be locked in for next August. As we talked about demand exceeding the supply in Rhode Island I am considering a bigger location but I will open up about that once everything is confirmed. We had a great venue last year so it's a hard decision but it's definitely going to be in August I just want to make sure it's the right spot for the fans, the exhibitors and everybody involved. We're going to have a great time and be able to move around and make last year seem like a warm-up because Comic-Conn in Connecticut is on a roll like a giant boulder chasing after Indian jones its not stopping man its getting bigger and bigger and bigger and we're going to ride the son of a bitch down…or up, if you want to look at it in a positive way.
MH: Yeah right, c'mon man! This is it this is our time! The promise land is here, we've been wandering the desert for all these many years and now it's over the horizon. Let me be the Jericho guy or whatever-his-name-was that lead the people out of the years of strife in the desert where they had to hide! Let me be the Moses and follow me to the promise land of comic book cons and fandom. How bout dem apples?
Shawn Perry is a proud geek from East Hartford, CT who is striving to be here now. He enjoys yellow journalism, yellow sunglasses, Marvel's summer plans and listening to Deerhoof's new album. You can tweet him @thesperry or send him an email at Shawn.Perry88@gmail.com.