Ian Onstott, 6, checks out his Spider-Man face paint with his mother Jenn, second from right, and his aunt Sarah Onstott, middle, after having it painted by face painter Abbie Lawrence, left, at the Convention Center during the 6th annual Denver Comic Con 2017 on July 2, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. Jenn is dressed up as Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and her sister-in-law is dressed up as Saria. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)
With three days of fandom, workshops, celebrity panels and cosplay, Denver Comic Con brought an estimated $10 million economic boon to the city and 115,000 mostly satisfied attendees.
The sixth annual convention, which took over much of the Colorado Convention Center from Friday morning through Sunday night, matched last year’s record-setting attendance, making Denver’s Comic Con the third largest in the country.
But the high attendance also led to long waits to enter, particularly on Saturday. A newly implemented bag-check policy slowed entrance queues, requiring some attendees to wait more than an hour to enter. A last-minute ban on all props resembling guns — announced on Comic Con’s Facebook page a few minutes before 9 a.m. on Saturday — further slowed entry and drew rebuke from cosplayers.
The blanket gun ban expanded on an earlier prohibition on “realistic-looking guns” announced in the fall.
But consistency seemed to be an issue. “My son was sent back because he had a bright orange Star Lord Nerf gun that didn’t look realistic at all,” Lorelei Bowman of Lakewood said, “while other seriously realistic looking guns slipped in.” Bowman also blasted the long wait to enter the convention hall.
Many attendees took to social media to voice their frustrations over long entrance times and inconsistent bag checks.
“This decision probably should have been made before the con even started,” Chad Eshelman wrote on Facebook in response to the prop gun ban. “You will most likely face a backlash from those people that were cleared yesterday and now have to face a change. A lot of the cosplay folks went out of their way to make sure they were following the rules and then those rules are changed on the morning of the second day.”
The official account from organizers, who responded directly to all frustrated patrons on the Comic Con Facebook page, was that they realized “that many people will be upset. But safety is a top priority for us, and after hearing from many attendees about the inconsistency around prop check, we felt the need to make this change.”
Other attendees criticized the changed entrance locations, which forced many — including those with disabilities — to walk around to the side doors of the convention center.
Sam Fuqua, executive director of Pop Culture Classroom — the community nonprofit that organizes Comic Con — said that due to third-party event bookings, Comic Con did not have access to much of the convention center, including the front lobby entrances, which forced patrons to use side doors to enter. Fuqua said organizers have pre-booked the front lobby for Comic Con in June 2018 to avoid the problem.
While there may have been issues outside the Convention Center, once inside, many patrons and businesses praised the professionalism of the 700 volunteers.
“Once we got in the door, the crowd seemed pretty reasonable,” Bowman said. “I could tell the volunteers were trying their best to keep everything organized.”
Matt Greer of The Wizard’s Chest in the Baker neighborhood said that his costume shop appreciated the revised floor plan. “Our situation was better this year because we weren’t split up as we usually are,” he said. “Overall it was a little more organized, a little more professional, and a little bigger than before.”
Organizers will begin soliciting feedback online from this year’s convention this week, Fuqua said. An evaluation form will be emailed to attendees and posted to Denver Comic Con’s Facebook page in the coming days.
Proceeds from Comic Con support Pop Culture Classroom’s education initiatives, which include literary programs and education initiatives that teach school-aged children about diverse figures from local and national history. Organizers estimated that the 2017 convention brought in roughly $4 million in revenue.
“That’s what makes us different than other comic cons,” said Fuqua. “We have educational components. We’re not just a commercial venture.”
He added that security missteps will be addressed and reviewed for Denver Comic Con 2018, scheduled for June 15-17. “We felt good about our security plan this year, but we re-evaluate it every year. We’ll re-evaluate the security plan again next year to make sure it works for everyone.”