When you talk about big, prestigous conventions around the United States, you simply cannot have that conversation without mentioning HeroesCon. All the way back in 1982, Shelton Drum, owner of Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find (better known locally as ‘Heroes Comics’) launched the very first HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina. More than three decades later, Nerd Nation Magazine was in attendance for their 2016 offering.
HeroesCon 2016 kicked off exactly as it does every single year; a June weekend at the very large, and very luxurious Charlotte Convention Center in downtown Charlotte., with a virtual who’s who among comic book professionals. All the big comic book companies were represented, more big name comic book guests than I will even begin to try and list (seriously, just go their website and see for yourself), nearly every major comic book store in the southeast and beyond, all the regional fan groups, big name cosplayers, and of course any and every regional media outlet from television to radio to web. Everyone was in the house for this one.
But is sheer size and a big, stacked guest list ALL it takes to make a great convention? Read on to find out (and be warned, dear readers, absolutely ZERO punches are pulled in this one!)
As the old saying goes, “nothing draws a crowd like a crowd,” and quite frankly, this is absolutely the case for HeroesCon. And make no mistake, it is crowded! As huge as the Charlotte Convention Center is, HeroesCon absolutely packs it wall to wall. There were times when I found myself unable to move more than a few steps at a time and more than a little claustrophobic from the thousands upon thousands… upon even more thousands in attendance. Simply trying to take an arial photo of the convention floor from a window upstairs didn’t really do it justice, as I just couldn’t manage to capture it all in one shot. If you’ve ever been, you know exactly what I mean, and if you haven’t, it’s worth going just to see… you know, if crowds are your thing. The convention center floor is a seemingly endless sea of commerce, made up almost entirely of vendor/artist tables, and well, not much else.
And THAT is the problem here. There is basically nothing to actually DO here beyond shop!
If you’re a loyalist, right about now I’m sure you’re seething that I’d dare cross the line and say what I just did, and you’re of course welcome to cyber-bash me to oblivion if it makes you feel better, but you have to know I’m right… right? Sure, they’ve got a small stage erected in the very back of place for the costume contest, and one small area set aside for a few Q&As and workshops, but that’s it. One two-hour walk through the crowded vendor floor, a glance over at the costume contest, and I was done. I chatted with all of my friends and associates that I ran into, and the entire time I just couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly why I just wasn’t enjoying this one… until it finally hit me what I – and everyone else there – was actually doing.
We were literally paying money JUST to stand in lines and pay more money! That’s it!!
There are hardly any panels, and the few I heard about didn’t sound worth going to. There were no films screening, no serious gaming going on, no entertainment whatsoever, and no nightlife of any kind. I get that it’s a “pure comic convention” and all, but surely a multi-million-dollar business such as this can provide something more than a giant vendor room. I understand that it is all about making money in business, I totally do, but I just can’t shake the ripped-off feeling that surely more people than just myself (and the 20 or so friends that agreed with me) must have also felt. And just in case you’re one of the angry ones reading this, yes, I always support the vendors at any con I attend. I’m just saying that any good con needs to have much more than shopping for it to be worth the price of admission, and HeroesCon just doesn’t.
When I spoke with several people attending the con about this, almost all of them agreed with my complaints, yet nearly all of them also mentioned that they only really go because all of their friends do, and they get to see a lot of people there every year. While I totally understand the concept, to me it just seems a bit ridiculous, and reeks of the same sentiments of an abusive relationship… you know, the whole “he can change” excuse-making, and all that. Or, if you prefer that I rephrase this (and I know I probably should), it’s a lot like people who keep watching a television show after they stop enjoying it because “they’ve been watching it this long, may as well stick with it.” Maybe I’m just getting jaded, or maybe I’m just spoiled on so many good, enjoyable conventions that I attend every year, but I digress.
Truth be told, HeroesCon isn’t so much an actual “convention” as it is a giant “expo” or “trade show” – if you want a real, actual convention in Charlotte, I’d suggest sticking with ConCarolinas or Mad Monster Party.
But that’s not my ONLY problem with HeroesCon! I actually have one other BIG one!
THEY DON’T SUPPORT THE LOCAL NERD COMMUNITY AT ALL!
Yes, I said it. Because someone needed to. The nerd community, and by proxy the convention community comes together and supports one another. All area conventions work together, cross-promote, help one another, share their contacts, you name it, EXCEPT HeroesCon. The simple fact is, this isn’t a part of the fandom community, it’s just another big box corporate business that’s only out for themselves, snub anyone they deem “competition,” and basically act as the 1%ers of area fandom. In this regard, they’re no different than Wizard World or any of the other “chain” cons out there. They don’t have a community, they have customers. That’s their perogotive, of course, but it’s just not something I like to see, especially when all other conventions in the Carolinas (almost all of which I work with every year as a guest) ARE working together and supporting one another. But again, maybe it’s just me… and of course all of this is ONLY MY OPINION.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, HeroesCon 2016 was fantastic for what it was. Unfortunately, it was little more than a giant vendor room where again, attendees are paying money to pay more money, with nothing else to actually do. If great shopping and meeting comic book professionals is what you’re after, HeroesCon is about as good as it gets anywhere. But if you’re like me and you want more fun stuff to do, quality entertainment, and a far less Walmart-esque atmosphere, I’d recommend staying away from this one. There are plenty of other, far superior cons in the Charlotte area, and while HeroesCon is absolutely the biggest, it’s most definitely not the best, if you ask me. Again, just my opinion here, but until I see some changes to make this one a bit more worthwhile, I will most likely not be back.
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine
Note: the views and opinions expressed by Mr. Harlequin are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Nerd Nation Entertainment, Nerd Nation Magazine, our sponsors, or anyone else for that matter. This is an opinion piece and is meant for entertainment purposes only. So please, don’t be a d-bag and try to sue anyone over the stuff he writes. Don’t like it? Feel free to sound off in the comments section, or better yet, just go read something else… preferably right here at Nerd Nation!