- Posted by Johanna on December 11, 2009 at 2:24 pm
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
Ryan Sohmer and Lar DeSouza create two webcomics, Looking for Group (fantasy comedy/adventure) and Least I Could Do (dating humor). Last year, they had a booth at Dragon*Con, an Atlanta sci-fi/fantasy/comic convention. According to posts on forums for both comics, they wanted to attend again this year, but they were rejected. As Sohmer tells the story,
Upon getting to the show, however, someone had setup in our space. Confused, we asked the hall attendants what was going on, and were rudely informed that our booth had been moved. When I inquired as to where, I was shown the furthest and poorly lit section of the room, with a giant pillar intersecting the middle of the booth. I then proceeded to tell the attendants that this was unacceptable, not only because of the move but because of the new location.
… The attendants, once again, were rude and told our crew that we could take the new spot or we could go home. This wasn’t their problem. Still calm and polite, I asked if there was someone else we could speak to, because we did not deserve to be spoken to like that. …
An hour later, one of the board members of the show came down to talk with us. He apologized for the situation, note that this was the first apology we had received thus far, and inquired what could to be done to make things right. In the end, he generously offered to repay us for the booth, but still allow us to use. It was a good solution, we shook hands and all was well. At the end of the show, I again thanked him for taking care of the matter, and we signed up for the next show gladly.
However, upon trying to register to exhibit this year, the group was reportedly told “we were not invited back to DragonCon because of the incident.”
Now, I’ve only been to Dragon*Con once in my life, and the only memory I have of it is that I met my husband KC there. I don’t have anything particularly for or against them, but I’m sharing this story because it’s a cautionary tale. There is no licensing board to run a comic convention, and often no training for the volunteers who work for them. As a popular regional show — that at a guess gets tens of thousands of visitors every year — the show doesn’t really have to be nice to many of its exhibitors. Except for a few audience-drawing big names, most of them are replaceable. There’s always another webcomic, another sword salesman, another former Playboy model to fill the booth slots. And as the ongoing coverage of Wizard’s shows has demonstrated, there’s nothing preventing someone with a petty grudge from trying to take it out on an attendee or another show.
From a customer perspective, though, this is disturbing. I haven’t seen Dragon*Con’s side of the story, but as an exhibitor, it’s incredibly frustrating to think that you can be misled, have your business undermined (through poor booth placement), request the customer service you deserve… and then be punished for it. Even with lots of fans of these webcomics vowing on the forums that they won’t be attending, will the convention staff care so long as enough other fans stream through the doors?