This Past Weekend’s Dallas Fan Expo 2018 Was The Best Comic Book Gathering, Cosplay Celebration And Celebrity Showcase To Date In Dallas, But It Wasn’t Without Its Flaws.
All photos by Jason Kauzlarich.
After last year’s Fan Expo Dallas, we talked a lot about the enormous crowds, the awful line management and the many disappointments involving the event’s guest roster.
So it was a pleasant surprise, then, that all three of these issues were (mostly) solved by the time the convention returned to Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center this past weekend.
Let’s give the Fan Expo’s organizers some credit: At this year’s event, they addressed the complaints of fans, changing up the floor plan of the event to include a much larger (and more spread out) space within the convention center, going a long way towards relieving any major bottle-necking. Even with enormous crowd’s this year’s widened exhibitor areas gave fans the option to not feel like herded cattle. Of course, they still had to stand around and wait for hours.
The 2018 Dallas Fan Expo definitely provided a few opportunities for that, with the boldest-faced names attending the convention — Ben Affleck, Jeff Goldblum and Chuck Norris, among others — commanding multi-hour wait times just so fans could pay for the privilege of a scribble and a handshake.
That guest list, it should be noted, was probably the strongest it has ever been. Even with the disappointment of some late cancellations — Lea Thompson joined Michael J. Fox as a late scratch, significantly hampering he much-hyped Back to the Future anniversary panel that was suddenly whittled down to just Biff and Doc — the late addition of Ben Affleck to the affair alleviated a number of these concerns, as he teamed up with Jason Momoa to represent a significant chunk of the current Justice League right here in Dallas. (Still, far as we are aware, no one asked him about his back tattoo, which seems like a big miss.)
Rare appearances by Jeff Goldblum, Morena Baccarin (formerly of Firefly, currently of Gotham and Deadpool) and three of the kids from Stranger Things commanded significant wait times for photo ops. And Star Wars heavyweights Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Joonas Suotamo (the “new” Chewbacca for these sequel movies, who was an absolute delight in person) rounded out the guest list of this must-attend event. The fans reveled in these appearances, too, doing their best to get creative with their few moments alongside these celebrities, some even going so far as to get new outgoing phone messages recorded by their chosen stars.
Though far removed from its earlier days when it was known as “Dallas Comic Con,” one of the most important parts of the convention is still meeting the comic artist and writers who similarly join in on the action. One thing is clear: The difference between superstar comic artists and superstar actors and personalities is accessibility. Our Saturday was filled by going table-by-table, scoring signatures on old back issues and getting to thank an incredible list of creators for their stellar work. Headlining the event was Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, DC Comic’s current go-to team (previously of Batman, most currently of the surprisingly great Metal event). Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld also made a rare Dallas appearance, as did previous Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada. Those four names alone would be enough to get any comic fan excited, but there were so many other legends (including New Mutants creator Bob McLeod) and current big names (Andy Kubert, David Finch, North Texas’ own Donny Cates) on hand that it was hard for fans to choose which issues to lug around all day.
But while this year’s offering was indeed much improved — to the point where we can confidently call the 2018 Dallas Fan Expo the best go of this event yet — it’s still not without flaws. Namely, it remains incredibly disheartening to see so many terrible vendors involved in the proceedings. Booths that used to be filled solely with aspiring artists, expansive comic longboxes and hard-to-find toys and treasures are now mostly overrun with corporations slinging straight-up garbage. It took some definite searching to find our favorite booths (read: the comic sellers who love to haggle over the price of a slightly damaged Batman key issue) as every turn seemed to bring us face-to-face with one of four lackluster options:
- Photoshopped Laserjet Print-Outs: For every talented, tired artist who is a guest at the convention, there seem to be five booths stacked bottom-to-top of “art” that’s better described as flimsy Kinko-printed 11-by-17s filled with Google-able images and Photoshop filters. Please do some research before you buy (do these artists have multiple styles showcased in their display and does the image in question look a little too familiar?) and support the real (oftentimes local) artists who are passionate about their work, not just ripping off someone from DeviantArt.
- Corporations: Let me tell you right now, no one is going to buy insurance while at a comic con. Still, tell that to State Farm, who set up a sizable booth this year. Dick’s Last Resort, Medieval Times were odd fits as well, and their presence no doubt took up the spot of local comic labels and great collectible finds. No, Sleep Number, we are not here trying to buy a mattress. We are trying to buy a hardcover Star Wars roleplaying game book from the ’90s. So, unless you have any of those…
- Funko POPs, Just Funko POPs: It is easy to hate on these black-eyed bobble heads, and this is not the place to write that thinkpiece. But cheap nostalgia play sentiments notwithstanding, it’s just the worst seeing booths filled with only boxed Funko POPs. We get it: You went to a nearby Target before show hours and bought out the stock. Cool.
- Mystery Box Peddlers: With multiple booths spread throughout the convention, this is now the biggest offender of them all. Why spend $20 on one collectible that you know you’re going to like when you can spend $30 on five to seven random branded pieces of crap that someone is trying to get rid of? Sadly, it seems like that second option was wildly popular this weekend, with many fans clutching their Loot Crate knock-offs as they walked out, praying for something rare and resellable. (Spoiler: They all left disappointed.)
Sure, Dallas Fan Expo definitely still has too much uninspired Deadpool cosplay, but it’s also clearly getting bigger and better year in and year out.
In the end, this year’s deal was a very successful con that brought a lot of variety for North Texas fans of all nerd niches.
Here’s hoping that Dallas’ biggest geek gathering of the year continues to grow in years to come. We already can’t wait to see who they convince to come out to next year’s offering.
(Please say it’s Gal Gadot).
To read more of Jason and Brandon’s thoughts on all things geeky in Dallas, keep an eye on their Super Kaiju site.