In another review Jeremy is catching up on, he traveled to Ventura for the growing Central Coast Comic Con. What did he experience at this regional convention? Does it deserve more press and credit? Did he enjoy the sea air? Travel back in time with him to August of 2015 to see what he tought...
Unfortunately, there is no hotel or shuttle to review. Central Coast Comic Con is not one of the bigger events. You might be thinking, “I have a lot of hotel reward points taken care of. I can get a place next year.” Unless you have a lot of points in the Holiday Inn rewards network (that’s IHG, for those that want to know), you’re out of luck. There is a Crown Plaza Hotel that is about a half-mile walk. After that, you get further way, and the only places left are independent inns.
I felt like this kind of held back this event. There is a lot of potential, but without a designated place to stay and for fans to recharge or network, there is little incentive for people to stick around for more than a few hours.
It’s not big, but it definitely works.
Registration opened very promptly at 10:00 a.m. and consisted of little more than 3 people at one of the Ventura Fairgrounds built-in ticket booths, but they managed to keep the wait time down to about 20 minutes. Central Coast Comic-Con did a good job of not over-planning registration. Could it have been quicker, I’m going to say yes, but the wait time was far from unbearable, and they didn’t commit too much personnel to something that went quickly to begin with.
I’m going to call this a plus.
This was a difficult one for me.
The convention took place at the Ventura Fairgrounds. That implies a lot of buildings and space, but, to me, at least, the space was fine, but the buildings felt odd.
The main of the convention took place in two buildings that looked like airplane hangars, and a few adjacent buildings reminiscent of my days in middle school. Everything was fine in the early part of the day, but as people filed in through the morning, I noticed the buildings were getting more uncomfortable. I looked around to be sure, but it dawned on me that there is no air conditioning anywhere. Not on the main buildings or the side buildings. You might think that wouldn’t be a big deal on the coast, but it was still above 80 degrees, and then you have ambient humidity of being seaside. Add into that the peculiar body odors nerds tend to gather, and you have a rough situation.
There was another problem I had. There is almost no sun coverage outside of the buildings. There is an area to sit an eat that had some bench/table combinations and a carnival-style food counter that served some actually affordable options, but that was it. There are limited awnings at some of the entrances and no large tents for people to get air under. Your choices are to be stifled inside or, do what I did, and practice your sunburn outside.
This is another item that made it hard to find excuses to spend long amounts of time here.
(Fun fact: I talked to some of the locals, and the Ventura Fairgrounds, indeed USED TO BE A SMALL AIRPORT. If I knew that going in, I could have been better prepared. The more you know…)
The layout of this hall isn’t complicated. It has a few larger booths up front and more normal sized booths in the rest of the hall. You have sellers that have a few different wares to show off for you. I saw comic books, statues, cosplay photos being sold by cosplayers, anime goods, sports team hats, foam carving supplies, leather, and various odds and ends. This was all in the first building.
The second hangar building had a few more vendors, but it was mostly the convention guests and autograph area. In here were the marquee guests and genre stars. I was blown away that a small convention could get Richard Hatch (from the original Battlestar Galactica) and motion-capture virtuoso Doug Jones. Those are two people who are usually found in and around San Diego Comic-Con, so you know Central Coast Comic-Con is doing something right.
In the end, I made a couple of purchases and found a couple of vendors I wanted to talk to later and get information from. It’s not exactly a place where you will fill out your collection, but this is a good place to take a friend who is interested in comics and get them moving on the hobby.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t attend any panels.
I wanted to observe a couple, but the humidity and lack of climate control was getting to me, as well as the sunburn I was building, so I did my best to observe cosplay from under a small awning and keep hydrated.
I really wish there was more cosplay.
I ran into some really good young cosplayers, but cosplay here seemed to be few and far between. Likely due to the conditions mentioned above (limited sun coverage, no hotel), people weren’t staying around too long. I tended to see the same cosplayers over and over because some tried to stay the day for a costume competition, but most were visible for a few hours, then left.
That’s a shame. With the beach nearby, I was hoping for some really good sunset photos. Then again, I couldn’t last until sundown, either with my head turning an interesting shade of pink.
I didn’t have a lot of interaction with the staff, but what I did have was actually pretty good.
Most of the staffers came off as other fans. They were really warm in trying to answer concerns and were pretty chatty when they weren’t trying to run things. They also communicated well and worked hard to keep things rolling while not being an overbearing presence on the convention.
All in all, they are a very good crew.
I wish the area felt more welcoming.
It’s not that Ventura is inherently dangerous, disgusting, or tingles the spider-sense or anything. There’s just a few things about the area that make it a rough place for a comic book convention.
First, unless you have a car, you have to eat on site. There’s a couple of restaurants that are a bit of a walk, but none of them are open for breakfast, and a few are the kind of places that expect you to pay a premium for the ocean view. This can severely limit your options when you arrive early, like I tend to do.
Also, the humidity, as I went through above, made it feel kind of oppressive through the day. This is also a very busy spot for the locals who love to surf, so cars are a bit of a constant, as well as people who tended to stare as I sat at the beach to relax a bit and let time pass. Maybe blue jeans at the beach is just that odd, but I didn’t have a lot of places to be.
I also didn’t see any clubs or places to hang out during my drives through to the convention or to get lunch, so I just didn’t feel like I had a lot of options in the city and I didn’t see a reason to stay when I felt like leaving.
This convention doesn’t run late or hold any parties. And, without any late night spots in town, your options are to listen to the live bands the convention had in the afternoon and evening, or go somewhere else for after-con entertainment.
I know a lot of the above sounds negative about the convention, but I really didn’t have an issue with the organization. The location left a lot to be desired and the lack of a hotel hurt, but the convention itself provides a lot despite being a small show. They are one or two items away from being a pretty memorable weekend.
Don’t overlook your regional conventions. They may not have the must-see vibe of San Diego Comic-Con or New York Comic-Con, but you can build a couple of friendships that last a long time with other local fans, and you also have the chance to grow your fandom with a convention like Central Coast Comic-Con as it raises its profile.
Besides, you never know who will have a gem of a collectible at a reasonable price.