As one of GRCT’s two Canadians — and between Leshia and myself, we cover two out of three coasts — I consider it my patriotic duty to bring a little international flavour to the site. This weekend is Montreal Comiccon, an annual small-to-medium sized convention held at the Palais des congrès in beautiful downtown Montreal, Quebec. With a focus on comics, gaming, anime, horror, and genre television, Montreal Comiccon is a somewhat more intimate affair than Toronto’s Fan Expo Canada or the fast-growing Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo; it’s also newer and therefore still experiencing some growing pains. This was my second time attending the convention, and while there were definitely improvements from when I went two years ago in 2012, there remain some weak spots.
The Vendors. When I go to cons, I am typically shopping for one thing: comics, and trades in particular. Montreal has always delivered on this front, with multiple exhibitors offering unbelievable 40-50% discounts off the US cover price on trades new and old. Many sellers were also equipped to handle debit and credit cards, meaning you weren’t beholden to the cash in your wallet. (That said, there were enough ATMs scattered about that I never needed to wait in a line–a rarity at any convention.)
- The Guests. Among the usual stable of Power Rangers, Battlestar Galactica alum, Lord of the Rings actors, and crew members of the USS Enterprise, the con managed to snag quite a few current stars, such as Sir Patrick Stewart, Karl Urban, Stephen Amell, Matt Smith and others. There was also a delightful variety of independent comic creators, as well as the odd representative from the Big Two.
- The Venue. Palais des congrès is big. Even accounting for hugely elaborate costumes, of which there were a few, congestion on the con floor never got too bad, at least on a Friday. There was a good flow of traffic and generally enough room to browse comfortably. Moreover, when I needed to sit down, I was never in search of a chair. There were plenty of spaces available to just chill out for a few minutes, and as an introvert running on four hours sleep and carrying a good 30 lb. of stuff around, there were moments when I needed a chair, stat.
- The Volunteers. Everyone I encountered was very helpful and clearly delineated by their bright yellow Minion shirt. The con has a Code of Conduct and Harassment policy, and while I cannot speak to the efficacy of the system, having thankfully not needed it in my Off-Brand Gwen Stacy getup, I can attest that the volunteers seemed very alert and attentive to the needs of the attendees from a general standpoint.
Nowhere in the program was it listed when or where the panels were. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I had data on my phone, but as I was without Internet, I decided against seeing any panelists. While I suspect that my program was missing an insert of some sort, I didn’t care enough to ask around, knowing I had a limited amount of time to walk the floor anyhow.
- The food. Other than one very clever, if somewhat unfriendly, comic vendor who was selling beverages out of a commercial grade fridge right at his booth, the food available on the convention floor proper was limited to one extremely fancy kiosk. I paid nearly $12 for a sandwich and a drink, which is comparable to other conventions, but the extravagance of the food seemed a little out of place for the nature of the event. My ham and cheese sandwich was on artisanal bread with a cheese of such quality I didn’t even recognize what kind it was. (It was also so strong I ended up taking most of it off.) I can’t imagine a kid would’ve been too happy with that sandwich, though I’ll admit it kept me full the rest of the day.
- Poor use of the venue. As mentioned, Palais des congrès is big. There was a lot of dead space on the con floor that could’ve been put to better use, either by spreading out booths a little more or adding additional food kiosks.
- The main draws were ticketed separately. Want to see practically the whole cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation all at once? No problem, you just have to buy another ticket, as it’s not included in your admission. I’m not a fan of that system at all.
Overall, it’s a fun little con. In order to make a full weekend out of it, you’d definitely need to go to some of the panels and workshops, but for a single-day admission, it’s great. You can walk the whole floor in a couple of hours, the tickets are reasonably priced, and it’s in a super convenient location, being right off the metro. I look forward to attending again in the future and am eager to see how this convention continues to expand.