By Mika Leas
Dates: April 26th – 27th, 2014
Location: McAllen, Texas
This was the first year for the South Texas Comic Con, a two day convention located in McAllen, Texas at the McAllen Convention Center, on April 26th -27th, 2014. This convention went above and beyond my expectations for a first year con.
The McAllen Convention Center is a great choice to have this convention at. It offers close parking, a variety of restaurants, and nearby hotels. The convention center also offers large ballrooms in order to accommodate a dealer’s hall, for example. While the vendor room did have a lot to offer, the organization made it difficult for any con attendee to maneuver to different booths. There simply was not enough space to alleviate the intense lines to concessions or the inevitable crowding that took place throughout the room. This only became worse when the contests and panels on the main stage, located on one side of the vendor room, would start. While the placements of some panels were outside of the dealer’s hall, it would have relieved the hall of unwanted traffic and unwanted noise, if the main stage was in another ballroom. It became difficult to find seating and to hear the guest artist during any main stage panel, having to share. This is an issue that requires immediate attention for next year’s South Texas Comic Con. It was impossible to hear any announcements over the PA system because the dealer’s hall and the main stage’s music or ongoing panel clashed. It should also be noted that some individual vendors were playing music that also affected this. There was also music playing from the main stage at times that had explicit lyrics, which contradicted the family friendly vibe the convention was giving. Any music or videos playing during the convention should adhere to this standard; if not, then there needs to be an age restriction. This is not something to overlook. Another issue that came up throughout the dealer’s hall was the lack of ATMs. This is imperative for all conventions: if not, the requirement of each vendor to accept credit cards, or at least the suggestion to do so. The flexibility of a vendor’s payment policies will only cause an increase in their sales, which is what every vendor should hope for.
Perhaps due to the expected size of the convention, South Texas Comic Con had no badges for its con attendees. Instead, they gave out paper wristbands. While for practical purposes, wristbands are cheap and hard to lose (unless broken), the exclusion of the usual badge made for a shallow convention experience when compared to other Texas conventions. The souvenir of a convention’s badge counteracts a convention’s high entry cost for any con attendee.
The scheduling of panels and events for the South Texas Comic Con was nothing less than confusing. The actual print-out schedule contained some spacing issues, left out important information (room locations for some Q&A panels), and asking any volunteer for confirmation did not help either. It was unfortunate that the volunteers were not informed. However, the website was fantastic. It was clear and straightforward in all its information. It was frustrating that this clarity did not translate onto paper or down through the volunteers. This needs to be fixed for next year’s convention.
One great aspect of this convention was the variety and amount of guest artists. They included: Ray Park, Nelsan Ellis, Esme Bianco, Verne Troyer, Richard Horvitz, Rikki Simons, Riki Lecotey (Riddle), Carlo Barberi, Caventano Garza and Ramon Ramirez. Aside from the impressive guest list, the quality is to be noted. I had the opportunity to meet with Riki Lecotey, commonly known as Riddle throughout the cosplay and convention world. Just from her appearances on Heroes of Cosplay, she seemed to be on the quieter side, but in person, she has an explosive, bubbly, and friendly personality. Riddle was personable, genuine and even opted to take a silly selfie with me. She was open to answering all questions, both at her booth and during her Q&A panel on the main stage. Riddle’s Q&A panel, based on questions from the audience, focused on the technicality of cosplay. She went into detail on the multiple processes to make solid forms, as well as her favorite techniques, and new and upcoming methods. Riddle was inspirational towards the end of her panel, when she stated that while patience and Google are musts for cosplaying, the most important thing is to never give up. This was personally my favorite panel at South Texas Comic Con.
The main event at any convention would be the cosplay contest. I was amazed by the sheer size of the contest list: it was announced that there were 67 participants who entered into the contest. I was also impressed by the quality of the cosplayer’s costumes, as well. This event made it clear that the South Texas Comic Con is in demand by the community.
The contest followed the pattern of other conventions across Texas in that there were strong presences of Attack on Titan, Adventure Time, Homestuck, Dragon Ball and Naruto cosplayers. It should also be noted that there were technical difficulties for both the Q&A panels and the cosplay contest. The microphone volume was not loud enough for the guest artist to hear questions, and the volume of the dealer’s room behind them didn’t help. The microphone was also “popping” throughout both days. However, I would like to note that the emcee for the cosplay contest was fantastic: he was fun, lively, and hilarious. He had control of the crowd and really added to the cosplay contest.
I think this year for the South Texas Comic Con was a success, regardless of all the issues. The STXCC con attendees exceeded expectations in size, and next year, I believe the convention will grow and will be able to accommodate their demand. They have fantastic guest artists, panel ideas, passionate cosplayers and the community’s support. Once these issues are resolved, the South Texas Comic Con has the potential to become the convention to attend in the South Texas region.