It’s a funny time to be a comics fan.
Like a lot of people, while I love my LCS, and I love hunting and sharing comics online, for me, the Comic Con is the heart of this hobby.
Crammed together, shoved around, desperately looking for a space where you can adjust your backpack; yes, there is nothing quite like a comic con.
I kid, but honestly, what comic fan doesn’t like a con? Even if you can’t afford everything you see, there is always something worth just looking at, including more than a few amazing key books you might never see anywhere else.
Plus, it’s just so great to see other people who love collecting as much as you do. I’ve met some of my best friends at cons, and have had some of my best weekends hunting books and digging through bins all over the country.
If not for cons, I might never leave my state!
The last major con I went to was C2E2 2020, right at the start of the Covid outbreak. I remember seeing some people in the airport wearing masks and thinking to myself “That’s crazy. They said you just need to wash your hands.”
Two years, three shots, and one three week bout with Covid later…
In the years since, a lot of major cons have shut down, or had to drastically scale back. More than a few have had to impose strict masking/ vaccination/ testing protocols to be able to stay open. The results of these efforts has been mixed, with many people resisting the requirements, and others outright defying them. Meanwhile a number of vendors, many of whom are older and more susceptible to infection, are keeping their distance. As such, a lot of smaller cons have either shuttered entirely, or are struggling to have enough draws to bring in big crowds.
As the latest wave of Omnicron starts to fade, and the CDC issues new guidance, however, some cons are slowly starting to get back up and running, even if it is in more limited capacities. I’ve personally been a bit hesitant to venture back to them, but since I have been vaxxed and have infection immunity, I felt the time was right to check out one of my favorite smaller cons to see if there was anything worth checking out.
The results were mixed, but overall I am glad I went.
So here is is, my breakdown of The Great Lakes Comic Con, including a little bit of extra advice for people working at/ holding cons in the future. Want to know how to get my business? Want to know how to lose it? Then this is the guide for you.
What I liked
The GLC has been around for a while, and each year they genuinely put real effort into putting on a good show. There were a lot of different vendors, groups, and minor comic celebs there who were all friendly and happy to talk. The con itself was laid out in a way that made sense, and other than a bit of a choke point at the entrance/ exit, I generally found it easy to navigate around.
And there was variety, for the most part. Since this is a smaller con it makes sense that a lot of vendors are not going to bust out their top stock, since most people are not looking to drop serious cash at this kind of con, but there were enough books in the higher end price range to make it interesting. That being said, it’s clear this is a Marvel world right now, and so my deep, deep, indie loving heart was a little disappointed that every booth seemed to have a lot of Marvel and not a lot else.
Vendors: Huge advice and I don’t know why I have to say this but please listen to me: PUT YOUR PRICES ON YOUR WALL BOOKS IN A WAY ANYONE CAN READ!!!!! Anyone who has been to a con knows it can be a bit chaotic around certain booths, and it can sometimes be difficult to get the attention of the person working behind the counter. Putting larger price stickers on the books so that people can clearly see what you are asking for each book really helps out. More than a few vendors had no price stickers, and one was actively looking up prices online before telling people what they wanted for certain books. That’s a huge no no to me, and if I have to haggle with you and eBay, I’ll just go somewhere else.
Overall though, the vendors, while “optimistic” in their pricing, were willing to negotiate for better deals. It helps when you are paying in cash, so not a terrible idea to bring some with you.
The con was also clean, with staff walking around to keep an eye on garbage, and there was a security presence, which is not something you generally think about until it’s too late. Several police officers were walking around the con, or, at least I think they were police. They might have just been really devoted cosplayers?
So clean, safe, and generally a good time. So far so good! That being said there were some issues, some of which are pretty common to all cons. Let’s take a moment to address those too.
What I didn’t like
So, when you go to a small con you have got to understand that there isn’t going to be the diversity of vendors that you’ll get at something larger. That being said, I was a little disappointed that so many vendors seems to have the exact same stock. There should be a bit more effort put into the wall book assortment by many of these vendors. They also need to put a bit more thought into how they are arranging things, especially since some vendors are very cranky about you walking behind to booth to see the books more clearly, and others are confused why you don’t. Clear, visible, and a bit more variety would always be nice.
I shouldn’t complain too much, since I know that multiple vendors having multiple books makes it easier for me to price shop and negotiate, but it also makes it a bit boring for me when booth after book has the same 5 books behind them, and not much else. I know everyone is trying to make a profit, but unless you are way underpricing your books, you’ve probably just put a bunch of books out to just have to put them back away later.
Also, and I mean this with all the love in the world, vendors, please, take some time to look at the condition of your booth and the condition of your products! So many longboxes of unsorted, dirty comics that had clearly never been arranged. Many boxes unlabeled, unpriced, and weirdly situated in corners that you had to crawl to just to find them.
I mean, I love hunting, but there are lines not to be crossed. There were at least 3 booths that I went into not even knowing they had comics until I found a few shortboxes hidden in the back corners. At that point why even bother with them in the first place?
Plus, I know there is a bag and board shortage, but seriously, put your books in new bags with new board. Some booths had every book in Mylar with clean backer boards, and those booths were seeing major traffic. Booths with boxes on the floor, full of unbagged comics were getting passed by with nary a glance.
And branding people! Have some kind of signage, even if it isn’t much, to let people know who you are, where they can find you online, and what kinds of stuff you sell. There were a few booths where I was legitimately confused where one ended and the next started.
Again, I get that it’s a small con, and most people are not looking to do much more than hang out and show off cool stuff, but if you really want to make money, a little bit of extra effort to catch people’s eyes wouldn’t hurt anyone. These cons get crowded, and there were many booths I skipped a few times because I just didn’t see anything worth the effort, only to later realize they have some great stuff, but there is no way to see it unless you are on top of the books themselves.
What’s the verdict?
Overall, The Great Lakes Comic Con is a fantastic mid level show that is defintely worth your time. The staff are friendly and helpful, the venue is small, but not too crowded, and if you know where to look, and are not afraid to haggle a bit, you might find yourself taking home some new treasure. If you’re fully vaccinated and feel safe heading out, now might be the perfect time to start looking into small cons in your area. Hopefully we’re on the good side, finally, of this pandemic, and we can all get out to see our friends and hunt for deals!
Until next time, stay safe and happy hunting.