TYF Goes to the 2015 Rhode Island Comic Con

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Rhode Island Comic Con is a relatively new event, having only been established in 2012 and providing a convention for the often ignored Providence area and providing Ocean State pop culture fanatics a chance to see their favorite celebrities without driving to PAX East or ConnectiCon. However, it has had a share of significant growing pains, most notably at last year’s convention.

The 2014 edition was plagued by overcrowding that overwhelmed the Rhode Island Convention Center; At one point that weekend, the fire marshall disallowed anyone else from entering the building. Fans complained that the event was significantly oversold and that the organizers did not anticipate the demand for the show. Providence Journal managing editor Alan Rosenberg, who attended the show, wrote a scathing editorial about the 2014 edition that summed up many fans’ feelings about the event.

For 2015, the organizers promised a better experience and expanded the show to encompass both the Convention Center and the adjacent Dunkin’ Donuts Center arena.

My experience with the show this year got off on the wrong foot right away. The wording of the press pass application – which included an agreement that press not make “insulting or disrespectful comments” or give “a bad image of the show.” – angered the Rhode Island Press Association. The Con was quick to revise that wording, but it piqued my interest in the event. I wanted to see for myself how the show was run this year compared to last year, and if it was run as promised, I thought it would be a neat event to cover.

I was joined this year at the Rhode Island Comic Con by my photographer and friend Megan Phelps, and she took incredible photos of Saturday’s show which I’ve included below as we go (I went alone on Sunday).

I. Logistics

Photo Credit, both above photos: Megan Phelps

I’ll get this out of the way first: Despite a handful of hiccups, I was genuinely impressed by this year’s show. I did not attend last year’s show, but I had heard from friends and acquaintances that had attended both that this year was a significant improvement, and credit should absolutely go to organizers Altered Reality in that regard.


There was definitely a massive crowd on Saturday; After all, the show sold out. Meg and I took separate busses up, but we both saw a line that stretched from the Convention Center entrance through West Exchange Street to Dean Street. If you don’t know Providence well, let me just tell you that’s an impressively long line. Subsequently, I heard on Facebook that some of those who had purchased tickets that entailed them use of the VIP Entrance had issues with their priority entrance to the event. As for us, we were told that our press door would be marked. It was not.  However, that was the only bad tick in the box for our personal experience. On the whole, we were personally treated well by security and staff.

There was a lot of people here, make no mistake. There were throngs of people but it wasn’t impossible to get around, and being spread into two buildings significantly helped navigation. However, the photo above illustrates the one weak point that Megan and I noticed: All the foot traffic between the Dunk and the Convention Center was through a single walkway. This would be fine for a smaller event or concert, but here it caused significant backup in both directions and made it difficult to get back and forth between the buildings. I’m not sure if this can be helped because of the building design – and thus beyond the Con’s control – but there should be a second passage between the two, particularly if Rhode Island Comic Con continues to be such a flagship event for the buildings.

If this year is any indicator, I think RICC has learned from last year’s mistakes. Despite the weak point of the connection between the two, having the two large buildings worked very well for this year. Crowding was to be expected – it is a show with nice things in a state that doesn’t normally get shows with nice things. Many of the children who attended seemed to be thrilled and not overwhelmed by the throng of people. Despite the mass of humanity, it never seemed suffocating.

On the next page, check out our thoughts on the celebrities and the merchandise tables!


II. Celebrities and Panels!

Cast members of The CW’s Supernatural participate in a panel (L to R): Travis Wester, A.J. Buckley, Ty Olssen, Curtis Armstrong, Alona Tal, Samantha Ferris, Mitch Pileggi and Jim Beaver.
Photo Credit: Megan Phelps

Alright, enough about me winging on about crowd management, you wanna know who was there, don’t you? They had a pretty good selection of guests this year, even with the cancellation of headliner Carrie Fisher and the Doctor Who panel losing Arthur Darvill. The panels included actors from shows such as The Walking DeadSailor Moon, Supernatural and Sons of Anarchy.

I was very impressed by the breadth of fandoms covered by the guests in both panels and in the booths downstairs. Unless you were a die-hard of something obscure like Moonbase 3 (or me, who came out empty handed with Pushing Daisies merch), there was something or someone at the con to cover your fandom or personal interest.

Rosenberg mentioned in his editorial last year that Q&As and talks ended early. The two that we went to – Supernatural and Doctor Who – took up their entire allotted time and plenty of fans were able to ask their favorite actors a gamut of behind-the-scenes questions. I was particularly impressed by Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Clare Kramer, who moderated most of the weekend’s panels and was excellent when it came to fan interaction and hearing the questions of the fans who couldn’t quite project.


There were also several less formal panels, featuring Homestuck cosplayers and the creators of CinemaSins. Of course, it was the ones with the big names that had the best attendance, with the Doctor Who panel bringing the ballroom to max capacity.

We didn’t spend too long in the part of the Convention Center where the celebs were, but it seemed like fans were able to get their photo ops and stuff signed in an orderly manner. The lines for Ron Perlman and Selma Blair in particular were pretty crazy, and I did hear complaints here and there about line management for Will Friedle, Jason Momoa and Karen Gillan. All around there were considerable queues at the booths, as you might expect from a convention at a medium sized venue in a tiny state.

Meg and I spent a good part of Saturday looking for replicas of the Chevy Impala from Supernatural and the TARDIS from Doctor Who. We never found them; Of course they were in the one place we didn’t look!

Before the con, I interviewed voice actors Peter Cullen and Frank Welker, who also participated in a panel about Transformers – only natural for a convention held across the street from Hasbro’s world headquarters.

III. Stuff

Photo Credit: Megan Phelps

If you followed our adventures on Instagram, you’ll know that I kept my eye out for unusual or quirky items for sale at the con’s many vendors. Of note, we found these soaps that were shaped like d20s. I don’t know how these could logistically be used in any washing capacity (all those edges!), but they seemed like they were very high quality at least.

Wanna wash your body with an awkward icosahedronal chunk of soap? Here’s your chance!
Photo Credit: Ryan Gibbs

There was quite a mix of merchandise this year and it was interesting to see what franchises were the most popular. There seemed to be a waning interest in FireflyMy Little Pony, Dungeons & Dragons and Disney merch, while Rick & Morty, WWE and Attack on Titan were the franchise that I was most surprised to see a large of amount merchandise for. Naturally, the big franchises – Star TrekStar WarsDoctor Who, Marvel, DC and Game of Thrones – were all over the place as they are in any year. Because of the lead-up to The Force Awakens, there was a ton of Star Wars ephemera, but surprisingly little actual merchandise for the new film; Plenty of action figures though, including this box under a table containing Phantom Menace figures complete in box with those silly soundchip things. Whatever they were selling these guys for, it was too much.

Don’t you wanna bring home a Ric Olie figure? No? How about Gasgano?  Aside from Ob-Wan, do you remember any of these characters at all?
Photo Credit: Ryan Gibbs

There was also quite a bit of knock-off and unofficial merch, especially obviously counterfeit DVDs and plushies, Loads of unofficial minifigures too; I suppose LEGO is missing a ton of sales by not expanding out towards Walking Dead and other less kid-friendly franchises.  Meanwhile, pewter figures – which I remember from my youth as being big hits in fandom magazines – were largely absent. For a matter of fact, I saw little to nothing that involved any sort of sit-down game, even Cards Against Humanity.

Oh yeah, for a convention that literally had “comic” in its name, there was actually ton of space devoted to the actual selling of comics. Weird, huh? I wish I knew more about comic books to know what to buy or what I’d personally like, but there were a lot of trade paperbacks and what seemed to be collections of webcomics. The moment we got into the building, we were approached by this dude who was aggressively pitching his book of “monster haiku.” I don’t know why he came on so strong to two folks wearing press badges, but if he wanted a mention in our coverage, I guess I he succeeded.

Check out the next page to see our photo gallery of the cosplay that caught our eye.

III. Cosplay!

Left to right: Monica Knieser, Jake Knieser and Destinee Davis
Photo Credit: Megan Phelps

Perhaps owing to the upcoming release of Suicide Squad, RICC was awash in Harley Quinns – both the classic animated series costume and Margot Robbie’s getup from the film.

Cosplayer Matt Choquette poses for a photo
Photo Credit: Megan Phelps

You know what as also popular? These Deadmau5 heads. Neither of us could figure out why. We asked this guy if this was in reference to anything to particular with the EDM star, and he told us he was surprised as we were, and assumed he’d be the only one wearing the mau5 head. His was the most unique and elaborate though. Heath Ledger Joker has become such a popular costume that it’s always interesting when someone has a unique approach to it.

Photo Credit: Megan Phelps

This guy told us that it took months to put together his elaborate, detailed Iron Man costume. I can’t imagine how hot it is in there.


Photo Credit: Megan Phelps

One moment I was talking to Megan only to find out that she was nowhere near me. I turned around and she was already in the middle of taking photos of this guy, who was putting together his elaborate costume right on the floor . It was so elaborate, that the dude is wearing stilts and cannot move from this spot with the whole get-up on. This was one of the con’s best costumes and a great committal to the craft.

On our next page, check out our final thoughts on 2015 RICC

IV. But what did the fans think of the show?

After the show, I got a hold of my friend, Weird Twitter B-lister Ant DiPalma, who attended both this year’s and last year’s shows about how he thought the show was run this year and what he thought of the show in general.

TYF: First off, did you go to the con last year, when it was a huge disaster?

DiPalma: I did go last year, but I went on Sunday. It wasn’t crazy then, and this year it was even easier getting in and out. I only go on Sundays because I always hear horror stories about Friday/Saturday entry.

TYF: And how was this Sunday for you? Especially in terms of navigation?

DiPalma: It was great. A little less crowded than last year but the lines moved pretty quickly. Only had a few hiccups when my friends and I were making our rounds.

TYF: I saw that you bought some art from the con. What were you looking for and what did you ultimately get?

DiPalma: Well every year I try to look for something a little different. A good amount of artists, understandably, sell superhero drawings and stuff that is centered around different fandoms. As cool as it is, I love seeing their original art. To me it’s about finding new artists, too. Last year I discovered Sara Richard, who is an amazing artist and I really love her work. She has a cool series of modern-day oiran drawings and I was hoping to complete the set. Sadly she sold out of most of the oiran stuff, but I was lucky enough to get one piece that I didn’t already have.

TYF: Yeah, i saw her booth as I was leaving and it looked like she did good buisness. What was the most interesting thing that you saw at the con?

DiPalma: Well there was the Iron Throne. Anyone who knows me will say that I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan and it was cool to be able to touch THE Iron Throne. Wasn’t as sharp as I thought it’d be.

TYF: Did you try to meet any celebrities, or would just not match that time you met 5 time WCW Champion Booker T?

DiPalma: 5-time WCW Heavyweight Champion, Booker T is a scholar and a gentleman.

TYF: [laughs] yes, you’ve told me.

DiPalma: That said, we really didn’t try to go after too many people. There were plenty I’d have liked to see, but there wasn’t enough time to really wait for them.

TYF: Do you think that they did a good job getting a good mix of celebs this year? I mean Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston must have been a big get.

DiPalma: I think so, yeah. I like how they try to satisfy most of the major fandoms. I know a couple of friends who have never cracked open a comic in their life but they went just to meet the crew from Sons of Anarchy.

TYF: Was there a bit of merchandise that you thought was particularly weird? Like, other than the whole aisle of those Funko Pop super deformed things?

DiPalma: Weirdest thing was probably the Star Wars novelty neckties. There were two of them, so naturally I caved in and bought both of them because I couldn’t decide which one to get.

TYF: What were those specifically?

DiPalma: They were just regular neckties with the cast of Episode 7 drawn on them. I’m going to wear one to work tomorrow.

TYF: Anything else you’d like to mention?

DiPalma: I’d like to give a shout out to the man dressed as a Spartan from Halo who kept doing pelvic thrusts on the show floor. He was the real winner of this convention.

IV. Final Thoughts

Photo Credit: Megan Phelps

This year’s Rhode Island Comic Con was overall a much improved show, in that it wasn’t a meme-spawning disaster. The $40 parking wasn’t a good look, but it seemed like they had a better handle on the crowd inside and out, and not once did the fire marshall shut down the show. As I said a few pages ago, the could definitely be some more mobility between the two buildings and physical maps could have been more prevalent than the app that they asked people to download.

Carrie Fisher’s cancellation, due to an illness, was a disappointment to some. The Con promised that she’ll be there next year, and I’m certain that she’d be more willing to answer fans’ many, many Force Awakens questions that she probably couldn’t this time around.

In general this was a good show, and both Meg and I are interested to see what they do and who they get for next year.

Did you attend the Rhode Island Comic Con this year? Let us know your thoughts on the show in the comments.


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