Debrief: ATL Comic Convention + Fandemic World Tour Atlanta 2022

Debrief: ATL Comic Convention + Fandemic World Tour Atlanta 2022
Atlanta, GA – March 18 through March 20, 2022
ACCFandemic

Atlanta Comic Con was (shall we say?) interesting.

As mentioned in my announcement post, Atlanta Comic Con joined up with the Fandemic World Tour to create an earlier and larger event. It’s typically been a smaller affair with various celebrities and fan panels, but linking up with Fandemic brought a bit more star power to bear.

Honestly, I think that it dampened some of the spirit. More on that in a minute.

I teamed up with Mike Faber and Michael Gordon of The ESO Network for three panels – Doctor Who, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Podcasting 101 – and took some time around those events to take in what this new convention experience had to offer. In fact, that’s what Fandemic offers on their website: Fandemic Tour – A New Comic Convention Experience.

ACC 2022 Panels

The panels were pretty awesome. The Podcasting 101 panel was very interactive and well-attended for the size of this convention. We had a lot of input from the audience and spent some time afterward chatting with people who wanted to learn more.

Mike Faber and I have been doing these 101-style panels and classes for a while, and my metric for success has always been that if even one person learns something new, then we’ve done our jobs well. The Atlanta Comic Con panel went above and beyond that measure.

The Doctor Who panel was also pretty engaging with a lot of questions and speculation, and the hour pretty much flew by. The MCU panel was quite a bit less engaging, and a lot of that can be attributed to the timing. When we did a similar panel at Atlanta Comic Con, it was right after Infinity War so there was a lot to talk about. If we had done this in July as planned, we’d also have a lot to talk about, but doing this panel right now leaves us in the infancy of the MCU’s Phase Four with a whole lot of questions and not much else.

But, overall, the panels were fun.

So, the rest of the convention…

The rest of the convention is where I feel like the spirit of Atlanta Comic Con has been lost. Fandemic is geared toward the fans and genre of The Walking Dead, and that does not lend itself to a general sci-fi/fantasy kind of event like Atlanta Comic Con has been.

The vendor booths were geared more toward the genre and toward the general fan. There were very few comic and book booths and very few specialized toy booths. There were a lot of vendors who specialize in Funko Pops, but even the offering they brought leaned heavily into the Fandemic genre. In fact, it’s disappointing to note that I wasn’t tempted by a lot of the offerings.

There were a handful of artists with tables, but they weren’t engaged with attendees. In fact, one interaction that I saw was telling: The artist physically walked someone through his portfolio because the name was familar in passing but the attendee had no idea who he was beyond that.

This felt like a convention for people at the 30,000-foot view. Fans who have a general idea of what’s out there, but aren’t specific on any one thing. Don’t get me wrong: That level of fandom is perfectly okay, but it didn’t feel like there was much engagement for anyone on a deeper level.

It’s also a celebrity-heavy event with a ton of space dedicated to photos and autographs, but only for the genre. Lines for photos and signatures were packed, which is good for fans who dig that, but I certainly missed the old-school/retro caliber of guests that Atlanta Comic Con used to attract. 2019’s show brought a variety of actors and talent – Cam Clarke, Kevin Conroy, Val Kilmer, Rob Paulsen, James Arnold Taylor, and Bonnie Wright, just to name a few – and I expected this variety to be mixed into the Fandemic attractions a bit more. Instead, it was all pretty much Walking Dead and similar.

It felt like Atlanta Comic Con was completely replaced by Fandemic.

The entrance fees for normal attendees were a bit shocking: $50 or $60 per day on the weekend and $85 for a three-day pass. That’s not something that attracts someone who’s interested for the day. I don’t have historic information for Atlanta’s show, but the similar convention in Tampa Bay runs $20-30 per day with a $45 three-day pass, and that’s with guest lists similar to Atlanta Comic Con’s previous offerings.

I was also surprised that there was no program of events being distributed. Atlanta Comic Con used to offer a poster with a schedule of events. On that note, the schedule of events wasn’t even solidified until a couple of days before the show, which is something I’d expect from an extremely large five-day event like Dragon Con, but not from a three-day lightly attended event like this.

I don’t want to see Atlanta Comic Con become absorbed into something else.

With the loss of so many smaller conventions in the area due to money and staffing concerns, we need conventions and events for people who want to get together and celebrate pop culture.  If this was truly a merger instead of a takeover, I’m hoping that 2022 was simply growing pains leading to something bigger and better.

I don’t want to lose Atlanta Comic Con’s unique voice in the process.

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