Con Report: Jet City Comic Show 2013

For 2013, Jet City Comic Show moved from September to November, and from Seattle to Tacoma.

I offered to share my table with Xib since sharing ended up working out pretty nicely for us at Geek Girl Con, and I was anticipating another kind-of slow show — company is nice to have for kind-of slow shows.

A cute family of DC characters.
A cute family of DC characters.

This report is a hopefully digestible 2,378 words long.

Because we’re totally responsible adults, Xib and I were out late karaoking with friends on November 1st, the Friday night before the show. I hadn’t gotten much writing in for NaNoWriMo that afternoon though, so I stayed up even later after karaoke trying to get a few extra words in. It’s important to write something the first day of November, okay?? Even though technically it was after midnight, so it was already the second day… But yeah, very little sleep was had the night before the con. Surprise!

We were up around 7am, got coffee and doughnuts, and then drove out to Tacoma. Vendor setup was from 7am to 10am, at which point the hall opened to the public, so we were aiming to get there around 8am. Two hours is a perfect amount of set up the table, get everything ready, and make a quick circuit around the hall. Traffic was light, and the Tacoma Convention and Trade Center was right off the exit, so it was very easy to get to. We did have to circle around a bit to find the right parking garage because there were like five of them, but the JCCS staff guy working the exhibitor load-in dock entrance was nice and helpful in pointing us in the right direction.

The garage we wanted was connected to the convention center, with the elevator from the garage letting out right outside the Exhibitor’s Hall. Staff and registration tables were set up along the wall on one side of the hallway, and, like last year, badge pickup was quick and painless, and they gave us programs this year! Woo! All the tables in the Artist Alley were clearly marked, so evem if I hadn’t already known exactly where I was, it would have been easy to figure out!

Fake Lemonade Stand feat. Xib at Jet City Comic Show
Fake Lemonade Stand, feat. Xib, at Jet City Comic Show

Figuring out how we were going to set up a shared table was, thankfully, much easier at Jet City than at Geek Girl. The table was 8′ as expected, I had all of my PVC and other supplies with me this time, and Xib had an additional table cloth to help differentiate our sides of the table. We were ready to go at a quarter past nine, so I did get to make a quick pass through the Exhibitor’s Hall before we opened. I think the hall was about the same size as it was last year, though for some reason it felt like there were a lot more vendors this year.

Double checking the maps (2012 map, 2013 map), there were apparently 70 Artist Alley tables and 79 Dealer’s booths last year and 80 Artist Alley tables and 65 Dealer’s booth spots this year, though the map reflects that many dealers occupied multiple spots. This might have been the case last year too, though last year’s map didn’t show it. Those numbers aren’t all that different, and the exhibitor application forms for 2012 and 2013 confirm that all sold spaces were the same size (10’x10′ space for dealers, 8′ tables for artists), so I’m not really sure why it felt like there were so many more vendors.

Maybe it was because the dealers seemed to have more elaborate set-ups this year? Maybe it was because there seemed to be an even bigger variety of artists this year? Maybe I’m just terrible at gauging the size of things?

General shot of Artist Alley.
General shot of Artist Alley.

Laura, who had a table in an adjacent island, showed up to say hi while we were setting up. Apparently a bus runs straight from downtown to a stop right across the street from the convention center? Good to know! Dordgi was helping Laura and her friend at their table, but I’m not sure if he was peddlin’ anything himself.

The doors opened to the public at 10am to a modest crowd. Overall traffic was light, as expected, but pretty steady throughout the day. It was a definite and obvious step up from last year, where the show floor seemed dead half the time and filled mostly with bored vendors the rest of the time. I feel that a smaller percentage of attendees actually stopped to look at things though, so maybe that was the trade off, but I think it might have been con fatigue as well. The venue change for Jet City was a good thing — there’s actually parking now and cell phone reception and the space is just nice in general — but the date change? Not so much, in my opinion.

JCCS this year was on the last weekend of three weekends of back-to-back Seattle-area nerd shows. SteamCon and Aki Con were both the weekend prior, and Geek Girl Con was the weekend before that. None of those other cons were comic cons specifically, but obviously there’s a lot of crossover in the target audience. Still, I did hear multiple Tacoma locals say that they couldn’t make it out for those three other shows, and that they were glad that Tacoma finally had a con of its own, but for them, the date doesn’t matter much probably, so I still think it’d have been better if JCCS had stayed a September show instead of becoming an early November one. (Then again, September isn’t the least crowded con month either, with PAX, Rainfurrest, and Kumoricon, but at least the last of that trio is way down in Portland?)

Bloody Zoro for Xib because I can.
Bloody Zoro for Xib because I can.

Sales were slow throughout the day. Xib and I passed the time by drawing each other stuff and talking about things I’ve already forgotten. It was probably swimming anime. All of my sketchbook sketches dated for that day were of (band AU) swimming anime, haha. A father and son stopped by once or twice before the father commissioned Xib for a sketchbook drawing; they later circled back and the son commissioned me for a sketchbook drawing as well. Both let us choose what we wanted to draw, so I drew a werewolf, and Xib drew Super Girl.

In the mid-afternoon, Dordji did a coffee run for us, so I got to occupy myself with an ink commission for payment. JCCS was otherwise fairly uneventful in the commissions department, though I think I really need to do better at advertising commissions at conventions in the first place. My sign(s) get lost a lot amongst the prints and posters.

I wish there were a better way to display both horizontal and vertical 11″x17″ posters, or that I had a more even number of each so that it isn’t so awkward to have them together. I also wish I had more space to display letter-sized prints because only 10% of people actually flip through the binder, and man, I have a lot of letter-sized prints. <_< Also: postcards. Ugh! I’ve thought about getting one of those spinny postcard racks, but transporting one of those would probably be a nightmare…

Sketchbook/full page pencil commission.
Sketchbook/full page pencil commission.

A small highlight of the afternoon was when both Xib and I flipped out at this girl’s Attack on Titan x Sailor Moon shirt. I think we might have scared her with our over-enthusiastic gushing about how awesome it was and asking to get a picture of it. OH WELL. It’s a cool shirt!

For whatever reason, we closed an hour earlier this year than last, at 5pm instead of 6pm. The afternoon had been dragging along with not much to do, but it felt really strange to pack up when we did, like the day had only just started. It felt like a waste to tear down after just seven hours when it took an hour and half to set up in the first place. One day cons are like that, I guess, but I don’t think I felt that way last year?

We had a long, stupid adventure trying to find a Chili’s for dinner after the show. In case anyone wanted to know, the only Chili’s in the entire Seattle-Tacoma area is at the goddamn airport. Past security. So if you really want to eat Chili’s and you aren’t flying in or out of Seatac International Airport, TOUGH. ~___~ (We ended up going to Rock Bottom again because I guess that’s a thing now.)

Shingeki no Uchuujin.
Shingeki no Uchuujin.


I found it kind of interesting that last year, I wandered around a fair bit because the con was so dead. I got to chat, however awkwardly and briefly, with a number of folks in the Alley and got to do a trade and make some purchases. This year, because it was noticeably busier, I stayed at the table basically the whole day and didn’t socialize much at all — even the attendees didn’t seem as talkative as they had been last year. Xib did get up once and made a circuit around our island and a few nearby tables, but he reported that a lot of people didn’t seem too interested in chitchatting. I think the presence of more attendees put everyone into selling mode, especially those of us that were there for last year.

And yet, I actually did worse this year at JCCS than I did last year by about 14%. So both sales and socializing was down. Not ideal.

I guesstimated last year’s attendance at around 500. JCCS’s official figures for this year are 1600, plus “50-100” that “didn’t have wrist bands” (maybe because they came in late at the end of the day?) and 350 staff/volunteers, but honestly, I didn’t feel that number at all. I saw a lot of the same folks pass by multiple times, but at least at our table, very few people were doing much in-depth browsing, and that was reflected in the fewer sales and commissions.

Missing a Slytherin, but that's okay because I'm a Slytherin. And I totally had my scarf with me.
Missing a Slytherin, but that’s okay because I’m a Slytherin. And I totally had my scarf with me.

It’s interesting, too, that there really wasn’t all that much else going on at JCCS from what I could tell. There was some card gaming and some panels, but with only two panel rooms on the floor below, the main thing at the show was obviously the Exhibitor’s Hall. So, a one day con with 1,600 attendees to divide between roughly 145 vendors. (Actually, there were probably a lot more vendors than that because at least half of the artist tables were being shared.) It’s a hard balance to strike when there’s not much else at the show — attendees want as much to look at as possible, but that makes competition super tough amongst vendors.

And for me, there’s that demographic and target audience thing again. Comic con crowds are decidedly not my crowd, and maybe they never will be, because I don’t really see myself doing a long-form comic any time soon (ever?). The minicomic format appeals to neither the typical mainstream comic fan nor the typical anime fan, but most of my subject matter isn’t really for the indie comics or zine crowd either, so that’s a lose-lose for me in comics. I think I’m pretty okay with that though.

I actually have no idea what this is, but it's cool.
I actually have no idea what this is, but it’s cool.

So I guess most of JCCS’s disappointments for me are things outside of the con’s control — namely, attendee browsing, spending, and conversation habits. Still, the show could probably use a lot more events and panels. It’s exhausting just roaming the Exhibitor’s Hall for the duration of a con, and probably a lot of people go through the room once and never come back. People are more likely to come back and look again if they have something to do in between browsing.

I also think JCCS needs more exposure and press.

Most of my local friends seem to only know that the show even exists because of me. I haven’t seen JCCS advertised at any other local cons, though to be fair, I rarely seek out non-artist tables and only occasionally glance at the postcards and flyers scattered on free-for-all con advertisement tables. JCCS’s Twitter was quiet for the entire year and suddenly woke up around October. Their Facebook page was somewhat more active, but I think it’d be beneficial for the JCCS Twitter account to be active year-round and to participate more actively in the community, even outside of straight-up promotions for the con. After all, both the Geek Girl Con and ECCC Twitter accounts are active year-round and tweet regularly on relevant nerdy things, and I think this really helps keeps people engaged.

It’s probably JCCS’s intent to stay a small, low key, one-day show, in which case being active year-round on social media may be overkill — especially since I’m pretty sure JCCS has lots of crossover staff with GGC and ECCC — but in that case, utilizing more traditional means of advertisement is probably in order, especially in the Tacoma area. There’s definitely room at the venue for the show to grow, attendance-wise, even if it stays a one-day show, which I hope it does.

JCCS loot. They totally printed the wrong date on their badges, lol.
JCCS loot. They totally printed the wrong date on their badges, lol.

Jet City Comic Show will be returning to the Tacoma Convention and Trade Center and their date for next year is confirmed as November 8th, so it’s staying in Tacoma and staying November. But Geek Girl will be a week earlier next year (October 11-12), people continue calling for Aki Con’s demise, and the grapevine tells me that SteamCon might not actually be happening next year? So maybe JCCS will end up being in a less crowded con time anyway.

Either way, I’ve already sent in my application for next year. What I can say, the tables are cheap, the staff is nice and responsive, and it’s a pretty stress-less affair all around. There’s no reason for me to pass it up, so I’ll probably keep going back until there is.