Category Archives: Comic Shops

Comicpalooza 2015

Comicpalooza Logo

Over memorial weekend I made my fourth trip to Houston’s Comic-Con, Comicpalooza. Comicpalooza takes place at the George R. Brown Convention center and has expanded from taking place an Alamo Drafthouse Lobby in 2009 to the entire George R. Brown Convention Center.

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Day 1

The first noticeable thing is that the George R. Brown is under construction. Houston will be hosting the Superbowl in 2017 so there is a lot of construction downtown. There are several new hotels being built in the area and the light rail lines are expanding. This translated to there being a lot of construction on the streets in front of George R. Brown along with some construction to the inside of the building. The good news is that other then looking messy none of this construction really impacted the convention. The actual convention floors are not getting any work done on them so other than some sheets on the walls it wasn’t any different then past years.

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The biggest bummer of the weekend happened on Friday when Hayley Atwell’s Q&A was pushed up an hour and we missed all of it except the last question. Apparently the only way to know was to be notified through the Comicpalooza app, or if you happen to see it on Twitter. Even with the app the change was made at the very last minute so if you hadn’t checked the app within the hour of her going on stage you still wouldn’t have known.

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The only other panel I went to on day 1 was for Joel Hodgeman of Mystery Science Theater 3000. He seemed a bit tired and cranky but other than that he was really funny and it was a good panel. Joel had even brought his own travel Tom Servo with him.

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The dealer’s floor was great. There were booths taking up most of the first floor of George R. Brown while the ends of the convention center held the tables for celebrities and the food court. I winded up eating at the convention, against my own advice and the food was actually pretty good and decently priced.

Funko-Logo

Funko Pop Vinyl figures were sold by almost every booth across the floor. The pricing on these was really odd. Some booths did have exclusives or some of the rare figures for higher prices ($20 to $75 for rarer figures) there were still on par for what they cost online. A lot of booths were just over charging for the common figures that are readily in stock everywhere. I saw prices of $15 to $20 for figures that you could easily find online or even at other booths in the convention for $10.

Captain-Murica

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My first days buys were a Captain ‘Murica Tee Shirt from Tee Turtle and two graphic novels, Catwoman Vol. 1 from Ed Brubaker and Darwin Cooke, and Devine Right by Jim Lee.

Day 2

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First thing we did was to see the Comic Book Men panel, which was great. Ming and Mike had come to Comicpalooza last year and mentioned what a great time they had and how they enjoyed being in Houston. Bryan was booked to come to last year’s Comicpalooza but had gotten sick and wasn’t able to make it. Having three of the guys at the panel was great, Bryan truly give zero fucks and having him there really mixed things up.

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Next we went and saw Cobie Smulders Q&A which was fantastic. She was really funny and engaging with the fans there. Of all the panels we saw Cobie seems to really be having the most fun.

secret wars

After those talks I did a lot of shopping. I bought variant edition of Secret Wars 1 (2015) from Space Cadet Collection Collection. They are a local shop in Houston that I happen to visit a couple weeks prior to Comicpalooza.

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I picked up a bunch of elseworlds stories from an unmarked comic seller. I was able to find Superman Speeding Bullets, Supergirl Wings, Wonder Woman The Blue Amazon, Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham, and a couple of the 1994 Elseworlds Annuals (Batman, Superman, and Detective Comics). The guy who owned the stand notice all the Elseworlds I bought and tipped me off that he had a bundle of 12 of the 1994 annuals which I also picked up.

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This was my most exciting find of the whole convention. I had heard about these annuals before really wanted to pick up a few of them but had no luck finding them at other stalls at the convention. Finding some many bundled was great and may or may be subject of future blog posts…

Pinup Collage

I also picked up some awesome art prints of Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Batgirl, and Catwoman from Spicy Donut. I had seen these before on Pinterest so it was pretty sweet to see the actual artist at Comicpalooza and be able to buy some prints.

The last event of the evening was the Cosplay Costume Contest, which has notoriously been a hot mess. Last year it started over an hour late and was completely unorganized. One would think that this year they would have learned from their mistakes. However, learn they did not. This year it also started nearly an hour late and we had seats close enough to the stage to see some of the drama go down.  The organizers had not actually selected judges and were pulling some of the minor celebrities from the audience to judge.   We waited until the event was officially 50 minutes late before bailing.  Literally as we stood up to leave some one did announce things would be starting shortly.  However, we were pretty tired by then and there was still no sign that it was actually going to start, so we just left not having seen any of the show. The saddest part was we could see the cosplayers in the back lined up and ready to go with no hope in sight. It seems to have just been a complete logistical failing on part of the Comicpalooza organizers.

Day 3

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Day three was the biggest day for panels. We started off the day with the man, the legend, Stan Lee. He was as charming, sharp, and funny as ever. If I have even half of charisma and wit that Stan has when I’m 91 it will be a godsend.

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Next we saw the Gotham Panel which had Camren Bicondova who plays Selina Kyle / Catwoman, Sean Pertwee who plays Alfred, Donal Logue who plays Harvey Bullock, Cory Michael Smith who plays Edward Nygma / The Riddler, and Cameron Monaghan who played Jerome (the Joker). Everyone on the panel was really great and were super excited about the show and that it got picked up for another season. It had been Camren’s birthday the day before and the organizers had gotten her a Catwoman Birthday cake and the whole crew got to spend the day at NASA. It was really cool of the organizers to do that for them and give them a taste or our great city during the short time they spent with us.

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Chloe Bennet aka Skye aka Daisey from Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. was next. Chloe was schedule for one of the smaller rooms and it was clear that it was going to be too small for all the fans. The organizers did a amazing job of moving all of the people from the ballroom to the main auditorium and Chloe was still able to start her panel on time. Chloe was really funny and outside of Colbie Smulders really seemed to enjoy being there the most.

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Last we saw Rosario Dawson aka Night Nurse. Rosario was great she answered a lot of questions about being on Daredevil and Rent along with some of the activism work she does. Because Chloe’s panel was moved to the auditorium, Rosario’s panel started as soon as Chloe’s was complete which seemed to be fine and people were able to get into the room without any issues.

Wonder Woman 614

My only day three buy was Wonder Woman issue 614 which was the last one I needed to complete the Wonder Woman Odyssey arc.

Comicpalooza is a four day convention but I didn’t make it out to the fourth day.  I had pretty much bought and seen every thing from the floor I wanted and there weren’t really any more panels I wanted to go to.

Overall it was a great time.  I really enjoy going to Comicpalooza and it’s been amazing to see it grow as much as it has over the last few years.  I’ve already got my calendar marked and ready to go for next year’s convention.

Full disclosure I was not paid to write any of this and paid for my admission with my own money.  Comicpalooza does have an official blogger/podcast partnership which this site would love to be a part of next year…

Lastly I have a selection of pictures of Cosplayers from the convention.

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How to Prepare for a Comic Book Convention

Me at Comicpalooza 2014

The beginning of the summer generally means the start of comic book convention season for a lot of us. For me it will be my annual attendance to Houston TX’s comic book convention Comicpalooza.

The First Things To Do

The first thing you’ll want to do after you figure out where and when your comic convention takes place is buy tickets. Comicpalooza has never sold out as far as I am aware of but I still buy tickets in advance (You can buy them here). Even if your convention doesn’t sell out buying ahead of time can mean getting tickets cheaper using promotional codes and also cut down your time spent waiting to get in. As far as how early to buy, really decides on the likelihood of the convention selling out. If you are trying to get into San Diego Comic-Con it is near impossible. You have to sign up well in advance just to get in the lottery for the chance to buy tickets. If you are not signing up and online the second each of these steps appear online you will not get tickets. The good news is this isn’t the majority of cases, outside of San Diego and New York Comic-Con you can generally get your tickets a couple of weeks to days ahead of time without any issues.

The next step, which seems like a no brainer, is put it in your calendar to go to the convention. Most of these conventions last anywhere from 2 to 4 days and although you can come and go as you please you should probably just block off the whole weekend.

Getting to the Convention

A little planning ahead of time can really save some time and heartache. Most of the time going to the convention website can give you all the information you’ll need. You can find out the hours, hotel information, parking, what items are prohibited, and rules / regulations. You can also get information like schedules, maps, and other information.

If your convention is out of town and you’ll be staying at a hotel your best plan is to book early. If you want to stay at a hotel that is in walking distance to the convention you will probably be shelling out a lot of money. You may be ok with paying more to have the close proximity but if you don’t book months in advance the hotel will be booked solid. In a city like Houston there are enough hotels where if you are ok with driving to the convention each day you can get at a fair price and not have to book that far in advance.

You should do what you can to find out what else is happening that weekend in the town you are staying in. Last year I went to Austin City Limits Music Festival which happened to take place the same weekend as Austin Comic Con and a University of Texas Football game. You may not care about Austin City Limits or Football but if you were planning on going to Austin Comic Con that weekend you should have been hard pressed to find a Hotel anywhere in the city that wasn’t fully booked.

If you are driving to the convention scope out the parking situation ahead of time. Most convention websites will have maps and parking information. It is likely you will have to pay for parking and it could be anywhere from 5 to 20 dollars so bring cash with you.

First thing you’ll need to do is to pick up your badge before you can get in. Since you were smart and ordered it ahead of time you just have to wait in the will call line to pick it up. Once you have your badge you can come and go as you please and you won’t have to repeat the process on the other days of the convention.

I Have Arrived Now What?

This seems like a question you don’t need to ask but comic book conventions can be huge. Comicpalooza is at the Houston George R. Brown Convention Center which takes up an entire city block in length and has three floors. There is a ton of things to do and it can be pretty overwhelming.

There are five main activities that you can do while you are at the convention.

1) Look at the Vender Booths and Buy Stuff

The vendor floor is huge and has anything and everything comic books, tv shows, movies, and all things nerdy for you to go through. Typically just walking through and not stopping to buy anything it takes me about an hour to two hours to go through the entire floor. So give yourself a plenty of time in your schedule to just spend going through the booths.

The dealer area is also where the artists will be and where you can buy and commission art. If there is an artist you are particularly interested in for a commission (and that you know is doing commissions) go to them first so you can get on their list.

Sometimes the dealers will have discounts on the last day but I wouldn’t count on that if you are trying to get the best price. Someone else might pick up that special item you are waiting to get marked down and you’ll be out of luck. I’ve seen stuff go on sale but it’s usually like 15-20% off on a limited number of items and usually not a huge difference in price

2) Meet Celebrities and get Autographs / Pictures

Comic Book Men Picture

A big pull at Comicpalooza (and all conventions) is the celebrity appearances. Now you might think by the way they advertise them that with your four day pass you can just walk to up any celebrity there with their autograph and picture. You would be wrong. Celebrity autographs generally run you between 40 and 60 dollars and Celebrity photo ops can cost from 60 to 150 dollars. It is expensive and if you want to get a few of these it’s probably going to eat up your entire budget (here is the pricing for Comicpalooza).

All hope is not lost! The good thing about these conventions is that each of these celebrities will also have panels that they speak at which are included in the cost of your ticket. At these panels the celebrity (or sometimes they will be in a group) will talk and generally answer questions from the audience. Be sure to check the convention schedule ahead of time so you know when and where the panels are for the celebrities you want to see.

 3) Play Games

Comicpalooza has almost an entire floor dedicated just to gaming. They have a ton of space for table top board and card games along with areas set up for video game tournaments. Whether you bring your own games or you come looking for new people to play with if you so choose you can spend your whole weekend playing nothing but games!

4) Check out all the People in Cosplay

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Comic book conventions have become famous for all the awesome costumes that attendees wear and you’ll be able to see them throughout the entire convention. I’ve had nothing but good experiences and if you ask the people they will generally let you take their picture or even take a picture with you. You’ll want to take some common courtesy and not bother people if they are say eating or busy buying something. But in general, if they are just walking around they don’t mind taking pictures as long as you ask.

There is also a costume contest at some point during the convention which you can find the time and location on the schedule on the convention website. This is a great opportunity to take pictures of a lot of the costumes at once as well as seem some of the best costumes at the convention.

5) Go to Panels!

We already talked about celebrity panels but there are also all sorts of other free (well included in your admission cost) panels to go to as well. These can be discussions on comic books or tv shows, how to demonstrations for cosplay, nerdy trivia, etc. There really is all sorts of panels to go to so be sure to look through the schedule before you leave so you know where and when you panel of choice is.

What to Bring?

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You may have seen in pictures at other conventions these giant bags that they give out for people to carry stuff in. Comicpalooza does not have these so you will need to bring your own backpack. You should also leave a good amount of empty space in your bag so you can fill it with things you buy (I use a Timbuk2 Medium Messenger).

First I bring a small amount of snacks and a bottle of water. I stick with things like Peanut Butter Crackers or Granola bars that are filling but don’t take up a lot of space. There will be food at the convention but its nice to have a little something if you are waiting in line or at a panel and don’t want to go all the way back down to the floor to get something to eat. There are big water coolers of purified water scattered throughout the George R. Brown Convention center so you can refill your bottle of water as you drink it through the day.

I print out the complete schedule and keep it in my bag with me. This is helpful but can also be accomplished by downloading the Comicpalooza app on your phone which has the complete schedule. It is easier to use the app which doesn’t required internet service so you can use it even if the mobile network is overloaded. I like to keep a paper copy just in case for some reason my phone dies.

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A camera! I know for most people their phone is their camera so you are likely good to go already.  But if you have a nicer camera then this is the place to bring it.  There will be lots of opportunities to take pictures of and with the cosplayers along with celebrities.  I use a Sony NEX 3 it is a hybrid between a full DSLR and a point a shoot that uses interchangeable lenses.  I like that it has the functionality of a DSLR but is a lot smaller and easier to carry around

Battery Hub

External USB Battery for your phone. There will be thousands of people at the convention and the mobile networks will be overloaded. You can still use your phone but the strain on the network will cause your battery to drain faster than usual. There may be plugs around the convention to use but with an external battery you can charge on the go. These external batteries come in a lot of different sizes but I suggest going with one that has over 10,000 mAh (this is what I use). It will be bigger but will have enough juice to fully charge your phone about 4-7 times.

Pen and Paper

Pen and notebook. Panels may change rooms or autograph / pictures may change times so it’s good to have pen and paper on hand to make notes of changes that occur.

If you have a Nintendo 3DS bring it. You’ll get more street passes then you even have in your entire life.

Lastly I keep a printed off copy of the comic books I own with me. I do a lot of searching through bins so it’s good to know what back issues you already own. I also keep a copy on my phone which I will use first but it is always good to have a backup.

Pro Tips

Make room in your schedule and go offsite for lunch. There are a lot of restaurants around the George R Brown Convention center and they are surprisingly not swarmed with people from the convention (I suggest Phoenicia they have great pre-made food so you can buy your food quickly and it’s only a block away). The food at the convention isn’t the worst food ever but its typical stadium food and pricy. But more so the food areas are packed you might not be able to sit down. After all the walking you’ll be doing, lunch is a good time to take a break and sit for a few minutes. Don’t rush through lunch, sit down, take a little time, your body will appreciate it.

When you are making your schedule it is good to put on your list everything you might be interested in seeing even if some of the events are occurring at the same time. However, make note of 3-5 events that you are the most interested and make those your priority. There is a lot to do at these things and you can go from panel to panel non-stop from when the doors open to when they close. It is ok if you miss some things, allow your schedule to be flexible enough that after you go to your must see panels you can still go to the vendors floor, or wait in line for pictures / autographs.

If you want a photo / autograph of a certain celebrity find out when they are before you leave. Some of the celebrities will be there all week but some will only be there on a single day and have very limited windows for autographs/photos. Some of the photo ops can be purchased online weeks before the convention occurs, so do that. But make sure you check the schedule before you get to the convention so you know when to be at their booth.


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