Sunday, November 23, 2014

Why I Didn't Attend the New Orleans Comic Expo

Unlike San Diego, Atlanta, or even New York, New Orleans isn't known for a particular convention, but the Gulf Coast is home to several conventions held throughout the year. It's my goal, here at She-Geeks, to showcase those smaller (but no less enthusiastic) conventions. If there is a convention in or around the Gulf Coast that you'd like to see me cover, please send the convention details to

I adore local conventions. They're more intimate, and are often more focused on celebrating their fandoms than turning a huge profit. Don't get me wrong, wanting to turn a profit is not only acceptable, but necessary if your convention is expected to survive and grow, but most small conventions aren't going to make their organizers rich. These small cons are usually done for the love of the fans, and are organized by people who are fans themselves. Not all small conventions are created equal though, and it looks like this one might have used some pretty shady tricks to increase their attendance numbers.

I learned about the New Orleans Comic Expo in late September. I found their website, and was immediately drawn to the impressive list of guests they were advertising. Names like Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sylvester McCoy, Luke Perry, and Jason Priestly are not usual for a what appeared to be a relatively small convention. While looking into the Expo, however, I noticed some things that felt just a bit off, not the least of which was that it had originally been scheduled for this past June.

What geek wouldn't swoon to see that lineup at a small, local convention?!
Looking back through their Facebook page, I noticed that there have been quite a few instances of radio silence lasting months at a time. Now, that by itself might not be suspicious, but take this little timeline into account:

Nov. 21, 2013 - New Orleans Comic Expo Facebook page is created.
Dec. 23, 2013 - First post by the page simply states: "Guest announcements coming soon!"
*radio silence*
Feb. 15, 2014 - Second post by the page is a link to purchase tickets (still no guests announced).
Feb. 16-20, 2014 - The page posts a slew of guest announcements (including pretty much everyone pictured above), plus a promise of more guest announcements and a few questions to fans.
*radio silence*
Mar. 12-18, 2014 - The page posts several guest artist announcements, and links to purchase tickets and hotel rooms.
*radio silence*
May 20, 2014 - The first post in over two months (and less than one month until the originally scheduled dates of the Expo) is simply this:
"Hi New Orleans fans. We are just off our successful Tulsa event and have confirmed with the hotel convention center new dates. November 21-23, 2014. Several celebrities wanted to attend and couldn't fit it into their June Schedules. So we moved the date to accommodate several comic artists, celebs and extra programming and to add some really awesome surprises to the mix. We are very excited to see New Orleans again. Awesome fans in that region. Any questions please PM us or contact us for signing up to be a vendor in November. Thank you."
*radio silence*
Oct. 7, 2014 - After nearly 5 months of nothing, the page finally begins posting again with a new cover photo showing their new dates and a completely different lineup of guests. The main page on the Expo's website is also updated with the new guests at this time, but the guest page continues to show the original guest lineup until nearly the end of October (even though many of those guests had already confirmed independently that they would not be attending).  

Updated banner showing the new guest lineup. Wonderful guests for a small convention, but not what was originally advertised.
Understandably, the post in May giving the new dates for the Expo has a string on comments attached to it. Most of the comments are about guest appearances. This one post had consistently gotten comments/questions from fans every few weeks from May to October. Almost every question or comment posted in that thread was ignored. In fact, the Expo answered exactly one question, posted on June 22nd, asking if tickets were sold out. Despite ignoring every other comment about guest appearances that came before and after it, and despite not posting a single glimmer of information about the event for nearly 5 months after suddenly changing the dates, the Expo managed to break radio silence just long enough to reply to that single query about purchasing tickets less than 2 hours after it was posted. Are your Spidey-senses tingling yet? Mine were.

Now, I didn't want to just assume the worst about the people behind the Expo, so I did a little more digging to see if I could figure out who was organizing the event. Nothing. All I was able to find was that whoever it is apparently isn't local as there seem to be Comic Expo events in several other states using the same graphics, layouts, and guest lists. Even though I couldn't find any concrete answer as to who was organizing the event on either their Facebook page or website, I still wanted to give them the benefit of a doubt and a chance to explain their side of things. Surely there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for what may appear to be shady business practices, right? So, I sent a request in to the Expo for further information about the event's organizers and about the date change, as well as requesting a press pass. Though my generic request for a point of contact was answered within 24 hours, when I then asked specific questions about the Expo organizers, the guest lineup change, and the online complaints about the flow of information, I received no reply. (My request for a press pass was also not answered, but I will not hold that against the Expo as I was very late in sending in the application.) If, at a later date, the Expo does reply to my request for comment, I will edit this post to reflect their statements.

As it stands, I can't give the New Orleans Comic Expo the She-Geeks seal of approval. As much as I love supporting smaller, local conventions, there are simply too many unanswered questions and suspicious activity surrounding this one. I can't help but take their refusal to comment on the sudden change in dates, complete overhaul of guests, consistent silence on social media, and lack of timely updates reflecting guest cancellations as evidence that the organizers exaggerated the Expo's celebrity attendance in order to increase their (non-refundable) ticket sales.

Though I may not be comfortable supporting the event itself, I'm happy to show some cosplay love for those who attended! So, here are some of the walking works of art my friends who attended the Expo saw:

1 comment:

  1. I was one of the artist suckered into this event. I am relatively new the the comic con scene and had not run into this type of shadiness so I was unprepared for all that followed. I, like almost every single other artist and vendor (I asked) bought our tables in July and August based on the original guest line up. I discovered in late August that 2 of the guest I most wanted to see (Jewel Staite and Kevin Sorbo) were in Reno the new weekend advertised by the expo. Upon further digging I found out from their end, they were NEVER scheduled to be at the expo for any date. I wouldn't be surprised to find out this was true of all the original guest. Needless to say the event was a flop of mythic proportions. The shame of it is it didn't have to be. Some of the biggest stars from American Horror Story ended up attending the event however by then it was to late. Several of the patrons I talk to said they had tons of friends who skipped the expo either because it just seemed too shady, they didn't believe that the second set of guest were going to show, or they felt burned that the website even after the date change showed the original guest til almost a month before the new date. I doubt seriously if next year will happen and it is truly a shame because New Orleans has to be one of the best places in the country for an event like this.