Published on March 18th, 2020 | by Ron van Rutten0
Review: Comic Con Ahoy – March 7/8 2020
The last convention that was held in Ahoy was Comic Con Rotterdam by Showmasters Germany, 2 years ago. This convention wasn’t exactly a hit, and that’s bringing it mildly. Walking in was walking into a convention that bit off too much to chew. Which is strange as it’s not exactly a company without convention experience.
So, was this convention (by the same organisation, just under a different name) any better?
Yes and no.
So as I’m pretty much a local I decided to skip the car and grab the subway. I mean, it’s only a 20 min ride to Ahoy from where I live.
I arrived about 15 mins before opening and getting off at Zuidplein/Ahoy station I noticed a few things. No big crowds, no cosplayers heading out all excited to get to the con, and most importantly, no signage pointing me to the Ahoy complex. As I’ve been to the complex several times for concerts and events I know my way, but I kinda expected at least a sign pointing me towards the convention. Walking to the Ahoy, more of the same lack of signage. Arriving at the entrance, still no signs. The first sign I saw of the convention was way in the back of the hallway hidden half behind a pole. Anyway, it could have several reasons but this lack of advertisement of HOW to get there worried me.
Like with all conventions they had (two) guests cancel, but with the current fear of the Covid-19 virus two guests canceling isn’t too bad. It happens to the best of cons.
Another thing that worried me is that in the days leading up to the convention the organisation started sending out free tickets for people. I go to several conventions a year (new and more established) but I have never seen a convention give out free tickets unless their presale had tanked.
The Sound of Silence
Walking in I was surprised that I could just walk on through (after checking my credentials). Openingsday 10.15am in convention time means long lines waiting to get in. Not here. Everybody that had been waiting was already inside.
Getting inside it was evident that the ticketsales had been bad… very bad. I saw quite alot of guests but not the amounts you would need to call it a success. Dealers having animated conversations with a lone customer or their neighbour dealers, local artists drawing without visitors and loads of space for walking.
The Walking Dead
With The Walking Dead still a big hit on tv, Comic Con Ahoy invited 4 guests from the show. Laurie Holden, Addy Miller, Alana Masterson and Steven Ogg. Unfortunately Laurie Holden was a no-show on the day I was there due to either an illness or food poisoning. The organisation has yet to say why she was absent. She did show up on Sunday so fans could get to meet her.
Little side-note about that. I hate it when conventions do stuff like this. Communication is key. If a star guest is not available, be honest about it. People depend on it and plan their visits. This goes the same for critical or negative feedback online. Yes, this happens to all conventions, but if you handle it correctly, negative feedback won’t bite you in the ass. Removing them however, will. I’m not saying that this was done with this convention, but I have seen many a convention censor their social media, so this is why I mention it.
The other thing I noticed was a lack of comic artists. But I feel this is a Showmasters thing. Looking at the conventions they do, there’s always been a low number of artists. This show had 3. Amsterdam had a few more, but this organisation tends to focus on Hollywood stars. From a business point of view I understand. Actors bring in the bodies on the floor. They have a face that people recognise. Artists have their own specific set of skills and being on camera isn’t exactly the skill in question. Artists have always been a niche part in a niche type of event. But it would be nice to see them invite more of them.
Bringing me to another irk, no comic dealers. While walking around I saw one dealer with three short-boxes of comics. The dealers were mostly the same you see at all conventions. Toys, movie memorabilia and funko’s. So many funko’s. The only thing missing from the dealers were the ones selling comics. I later went to my local comicshop (5 mins from Ahoy) and their explanation was that the sales were so bad in 2018 it wasn’t worth closing the shop for.
Even the hall where the actor’s were was mostly empty. Actor’s twiddling thumbs is not something you want to have happen.
The end is nigh
So what went wrong? Why did it fail here when their sister convention in Amsterdam does so much better.
Location? No, the Ahoy is 5 mins walk from the subway and bus station, ample parking and one stop by subway there is a free park and ride parking lot. From central station it’s 20 mins by underground.
Weather? It was dry and hardly would call it cold weather. So that’s a no.
Covid19? Ok, several conventions around the world have been cancelled due to this, so this would explain the lack of visitors? Doubtful. We were just at the beginning of the virus crisis (as of writing, all Dutch events with 100+ visitors have been either moved or cancelled between now and March 31st).
I was told later that the convention was almost sold out, but due to fears of the virus, hardly anyone came. So if the virus was the reason, I would like to know why the tattoo convention next door had quite a-lot more visitors and the horse show in the main hall was pretty much sold out. If the virus was the reason, both events would suffer just as bad as Comic Con Ahoy. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but I have my doubts.
Advertising? More a lack of. I hardly heard about this convention outside of Facebook. Nothing in local shops in the form of posters, nothing around town, no sponsored ads on Instagram. The fact that I missed em doesn’t mean they weren’t there, but other conventions seem to be a bit more active online.
Bad reputation? Well, to be honest, the Showmasters shows don’t have the best trackrecord in Holland. Amsterdam is doing ok-ish, but it’s far behind on the main shows in the Benelux, FACTS and Dutch Comic Con. Comic Con Rotterdam in 2018 was terrible. Half a hall with hardly any visitors and actors looking around desperately for some attention so that their day will be done sooner. The space this year was about the same, and the same bad layout. My advice would be to do it all in one hall and think about the layout a bit better. The info and convention booth itself was the largest there. They could have done with half the space and made it feel more cozy.
All in all I didn’t have a bad day. I hardly get a chance to chat to certain dealers at a convention, so that was nice. Same with the artists, always nice to catch up. And the people working the convention really are doing their best to make the guests feel at home and to make sure the visitors have a good time. 10/10 for the volunteers.
The next edition has been announced for Feb 2021. Let’s hope they learn from their mistakes and finally put up a show Rotterdam deserves.
Comic Con Ahoy – March 7/8 2020
Visited: Saturday March 7th
Where: Ahoy, Rotterdam