Kapow! – The 360 Degree Review

So you’re probably wondering what the hell I mean by a 360 Degree review of Kapow. The idea came from a previous job I had where you weren’t just appraised by your line manager but also by some of yourworkmates and your customers. The idea was to give a more rounded look at the person being reviewed. Looking at my review of Kapow’s first year I thought how could apply that concept to a comic convention. In the end I decided to approach people with different perspectives and as such expecting different things from Kapow. So to that end we have reviews from myself, some exhibitors,a VIP ticket holder and your regular con goers.

Thanks to everyone for taking part in this!

Blogger/Podcaster Review – Nuge

I was not sure about Kapow! from the moment it was first announced. I wondered if the UK could handle another con?, would all the US style pre-show hype/marketing put people off? Did the VIP pass really need to be that expensive?,Was venue too small and in the right location? i.e smack bang in a very cosmopolitan area.

I arrived on the first day, looking for answers, and was met by a huge, snaking queue of comic fans. I’m hoping given the fantastic weather they weren’t too bothered by the wait. I talked to a few people who said it took them about forty five minutes to get in.

Upon entering the Business Design Center the first thing that stuck me was just how stunning, spacious and airy the venus was. It was one of the major plus points of the con. During the day there were a couple of choke points caused by signing queues and panel turn outs but by in large the flow of crowd traffic around the tables was pretty well-managed I thought.

Despite this being close to MCM I thought the crowd was different and I met a lot of first time comic con attendees who had mainly come for some of the TV and film panels but were also picking up some comics from the first time.

Big props must be given to the Comic Book Alliance for arranging a large portion of the show floor to be allocated to the indie comic creators, most of whom (at least the ones I spoke to) did pretty well sales wise.

The auditoriums where the panels were held were plush with nice seating, a large screen for panelists to show what they were working on or film footage. There were mics for all the panelist and I never had a problem hearing anyone. One of the comments I’ve heard is that the way the seating was arranged unless you were sitting at the front or at the back you couldn’t actually see who was talking. This was definitely true of the 2000AD panel I attended. I think this is something that should be looked at next year. Perhaps filming and displaying the panelists on the screen would be one way to go.

The one major criticism I had about the event it was the management of the queues. Now we had been told that people would not be allowed to queue until forty five minutes before each panel and that clearly wasn’t the case. I happened to look up from my table, saw people queuing for the Green Lantern panel way before the forty minute mark and thought ‘if I don’t go now I won’t get in’ and I was right.  When I finally made it in another thirty or forty people were allowed in before they shut the doors. I know that there were probably twice that amount still queuing to get in. Now perhaps with prior knowledge of how many people can fit in the auditorium a simple head count of the queue would reveal where the cut off point is and would save people the trauma experienced by the poor bloke in his Green Lantern T-shirt having the door quietly closed on him for the Green Lantern panel or the group of friends being turned away from movie X.

Saturday saw most of the creators and guests in various pubs around the area but eventually the majority of them ended up in the Hilton Hotel bar which was located beside the Design Center. I’m guessing it would cost a small fortune to stay there but still it’s something to think of for people wanting to stay. Also having the design center set back from the main street put to rest my intital fears of cosplayers spilling out onto the unsuspecting saturday shoppers.

With the success of this first year of Kapow! I find myself wondering how much longer they will stay at this venue. Personally I hope it’s for a few years as it’s a great location with a hotel next door, pubs and food a stone’s throw away and the tube station a five minute walk away.

There has been a lot of criticism aimed at Kapow! in terms of the way it has been marketed, the choices of guests and more. Personally I’ve taken the marketing hype as just that hype, marketing fodder to shift ticket sells but I can understand how it can rub people up the wrong way. However for me it was always going to come down to the con itself.  I think that Kapow makes a great addition to the UK con circuit and they are off to a fantastic start.  There was a great vibe during both days and I really enjoyed myself, especially when I gave up queuing on the Sunday and just toured the exhibitors. If they can sort out some of the issues around queuing for panels I think we attendees will be in for a real treat for Kapow! year 2.

The Exhibitors Reviews

Markosia – Harry Markos

From our point of view, I would say that the show was a success. I must confess I did have my doubts that they would pull it off, but I was pleasantly surprised. It had a good feel to it and there was a good attendance on both days, and as a publisher looking for a new audience that’s exactly what we hoped for.
On a down side there were a few organisational issues which will need addressing, from an exhibitors point of view. For example we were told that we could get into the hall at 8am on Sunday, so you can imagine there were a few ‘upset’ exhibitors who were told that we couldn’t get in until 9am due to a local by-law. Some of us travelled with re-stock and they weren’t allowed to open the loading bay, which meant us having to lug boxes from the street, some of us for more than half a mile! The loading bay was an issue at the end also, with queues for the lift which meant it took ages for people to pack up and leave.
But to be honest once we’d left those things were forgotten and we were left thinking that the show itself was a success. It would be good to have a slightly larger and more accomodating venue, but to be honest I doubt that too many people will complain if it is held there agin next year.

Beyond the Bunker – Dan Thompson

On the whole our experience with Kapow was really positive, though it should be said that we were pretty self sufficient and so I’m not sure how much we really tested things. The thing that really made Kapow stand out to me was the level of polish that the whole thing had, the fact that all the tables came supplied with matching tablecloths and backing boards for example. I know it sounds like a minor detail but it’s things such as this that gave the event a sense of cohesion. The venue itself is simply beautiful. Both in terms of layout, size and architecture it was just a really nice place to spend a weekend. I’m sure the temptation in future will be to move the convention to a bigger venue but I hope they stick with the BDC for as long as possible. I did feel it was a bit of a shame that Mr Millar himself didn’t take a quick tour of the tables to meet the exhibitors but given how busy he no doubt was, that’s understandable.
I do think they may need to look at the price that they’re charging for sales tables in the future though. Kapow was considerably more expensive for us as exhibitors than any of the other major cons and considering that it is by no means the biggest in terms of potential customers, I’m not totally sure that cost is justified. With MCM and LFCC stepping up their game this year in response to Kapow’s arrival, smaller exhibitors like us may find them offering more bang for our buck than Kapow does. I understand that the higher price is designed to discourage small press publishers and so maintain a level of exclusivity about the con and that’s not necessarily a terrible thing, but at the same time you have to be careful not to price all independent publishers out of the event or you’ll just be hurting the customers.


The VIP Con Goer Review

Drew

VIP’er here and I can say I loved the event. The Thor panel lived up to what I hoped for. I think if they can get three panels the level of Thor I’d by a VIP pass again. The IGN crew were amazing and really kept the atmosphere up. However The Stan Lee Awards were ridiculously bad, John Romita Jr and Susan Boyle did their best to save but come on. Also being told five items, then when you got to the table being told only one item made my entire group of eight people very angry.

The VIP drinks reception was at “Wax Jambu”, just a ten minute walk away, and all the comic guests showed. Chatted with most. The reception was great fun, but should have been in the hall, also a VIP lounge you could rest in all day.

Jonathan Ross was a true gent at his signing, best signing of the day. HMV Being Human signing disappeared!

This year I think VIP was not worth it due to a number of things, but I will buy it next year if they guarantee a few BIG panels like the Thor panel, and hopefully they’ll get a decent VIP goody bag too!

I’m pointing out negatives for improvements here but all in all I LOVED it, beat the pants off expo and I will return  If only to get Mark Millar to sign the other four of my books that I took this year!

The Regular Con Goers Reviews

Alexis

I think Saturday was great and even though I was on my own the whole day I had fun. I went to Kapow! mainly for the panels and on Saturday I got to go to three, though did miss out on 2 others due to overlaps. I didn’t mind so much as I enjoyed the ones I wanted to go to.

The only problem with the panels was that in the Gallery Hall you couldn’t see anything if you weren’t in the very front or upstairs. This could have been solved by placing the guests on a high chair or by filming it and showing it on the massive screen that was inside room. It meant that you had to just listen to the Q&As which was a little bit tiring. Even thought perhaps overnight they could have gone and sorted this out.

On Sunday, I was very disappointed. Because of the shorter day the panels were overlapping more than Saturday and because I dared to try to fit in 3 of them I had to leave the first two early to get to the ones following (or to get to their queues) and then the third one which was the film I missed because the queue was too big. The queuing was not supposed to start until 45 mins before the film. I knew this wasn’t the case as I had seen people “resting” there hours before but when I spoke to you and Dave the queue was already too long and that was 45 minutes before the film was due to start so I had no chance of seeing it without a VIP pass or missing lots of panels. SO when I was denied at 2.20 I then started queuing for a Frank Quitely autograph only to be told that this too would probably not happen as the line was too long. Luckily I came back 40 minutes later to the same lengthy queue and after 20 minutes or so managed to get my stuff signed. If i hadn’t managed to get this I would definitely have been asking what exactly I had paid for in terms of sunday – two half hour panels (because I left them early)  and hours and hours of queuing.

In terms of everything else to do I think it seemed good – I was just slightly less enthusiastic because i was on my own and didn’t have much cash so only really looked at people’s stalls from afar. Though I did buy a couple of new ones which was good.

Oh and when you are waiting in line for forty minutes it was a little bit annoying to be told on the tannoy that the Misfits cast or on the stage when you can’t leave your place. But I guess that’s unavoidable.

Hope that isn’t too much ranting and raving. I would give the Saturday 4 stars and the Sunday 2. Overall 3 stars.

 

 

Luke Halsall – Kapow was awesome but badly organized. The Stan Lee awards were a car wreck. The spidey panel was good too. They allowed people to queue for things like Green Lantern before the forty five minutes time. It meant you couldn’t go to the panel before.  My girlfriend missed out on Merlin because we had to stay in the Green Lantern queue.

Steven Stone – In short the handling of the film panels was a bit poor but everything else was top stuff

Michael J Nimmo –  Kapow! was great for me! Some feedback from writers and artists about mobile comics, a lot more than got last year!

 

GS Reporter: Nuge

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2 comments

  1. Nice review, and covers most of what I was thinking, both good and bad. The queuing system should have either been enforced more effectively or abandoned, and the panels might have been arranged differently, but on the whole I really enjoyed it – the venue was fantastic, the crowds were friendly, and I got autographs from Cornell and Quitely which made my weekend. Really got the convention bug as a result, and I guess that’s a key thing with a new event.

    Still can’t believe I watched Jonathan Ross talking to Batmite though…

  2. Sharlene M /

    This is a great review and one I was looking forward to! I like the approach you took – not only getting your own POV out there but those of the different types of attendees at the con. Interesting stuff about the marketing hype – it’s very much an American-style of promoting a convention and the one that most closely resembled how things get done for San Diego Comic Con.

    The thing about lining up doesn’t surprise me — it’s something I’m very used to going to the bigger conventions here – but they should stick by what they say – if no queues are supposed to happen until 45 minutes before, then they need to have someone breaking up and sending people away from the area who are “resting” or “waiting for a friend”. Same goes for autograph queues. What they actually should think about doing is a ticketing system that I’ve seen where you lineup to pick a ticket out of a bag (for a specific auto session) and if yours has a stamp on the back, you’re in. If not, you can get back in the line until they run out. It’s really just a matter of luck, perseverance and the con can control the # of people who line up because you’ll know how many can get things signed in the allotted time.

    Good thing that the venue was awesome 🙂 Nothing worse (besides not getting into anything at all) than a crappy stuffy venue!

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