July 20, 2014
Wyndham West Hotel
Over 12,000 square ft
Admission $5 / 12 & under free
Review by: Josh Gillam
The day started with a long line of anxious collectors, cosplayers, geeks, and kids who were patiently waiting for the hour to strike 9 so that the 2nd Indiana Toy and Comic Expo would officially begin. These fans were brought there with the promise of a show that would be family friendly and would bridge the gap between collector and kid, providing something for everyone. That’s a promise that ITCE made good on, and worked hard to do so. I spoke with a lot of the fans at the show, as well as some of the vendors, to get a good idea of what everyone’s thoughts about the event were. I’m going to share what they had to say, along with my own observations, about this comic expo that may be on the smaller side, but it has a lot of heart.
The most frequent comment I heard from fans was how family friendly ITCE was. ITCE took steps to ensure that children would have a fun filled day. It all starts at the door, where admission for kids 12 years and under is free. Just past the door there were free bracelets, rings, and comics for kids. So every kid had the chance to leave with something, which is an idea that parents were really happy about. “We were just coming to look around, but at least now my boys get to go home with something,” said one parent.
One of the greatest examples of the family friendly environment was the family and kids coloring/break area. They had tables set up in the back of a room with crayons and large coloring sheets to provide an area for parents to sit and take a break while being able to keep their children occupied at the same time. “We emphasized it was going to be family friendly, and we built in some activities specifically for that,” said Mike Trent, the media director for ITCE. Some of the other activities included a face painter, a photo booth with props, and a cosplay contest just for the kids.
As with any good convention or expo, ITCE had numerous cosplayers throughout the venue. I wanted to find out how welcoming and positive the environment of this expo was for cosplayers, so I gathered as much feedback as I could from different cosplayers at the show. One thing I discovered that I didn’t expect was that there were a lot of first time cosplayers there. Most of them felt that ITCE was a good place to start because of how warm and welcoming everyone was to the cosplayers. “Everyone has been really courteous when asking to take pictures; I don’t feel like I’m being yanked in different directions as much as I usually do,” said one cosplayer.
Knowing that harassment is a serious issue within the cosplay community, I inquired about what steps ITCE might have taken to curb this issue at their expo. “We don’t tolerate any harassing or abusive behavior,” said Mike Trent. Mike also mentioned that they tried to have staff members easily accessible throughout the venue so that instances of harassment or abuse could be reported and dealt with immediately. Cosplayer harassment is an issue that they did not take lightly, and their stance on that was just one of the ways that they helped to create a positive environment for all cosplayers.
The relationship between the vendors and the con/expo staff is an important one. The biggest complaint I usually hear from vendors after a show is the lack of communication on the part of the con/expo staff, but this was definitely not an issue at this show. On the subject of vendor communication, Mike Trent said, “Hopefully we were over communicative to the point of being almost annoying.” Jokes aside, the vendors I spoke with were all very pleased with the level of communication from the event staff. The staff also helped vendor carry boxes into the venue and helped them to get set up. It sounded like they went above and beyond to ensure that the vendors had a successful show. That’s a level of commitment and pride from a staff that you don’t see often enough.
Indiana Toy and Comic Expo is a smaller show than some of the big names out there, but for a lot of the people attending, the smaller show is what appealed to them. There’s not a panel of big name celebrities at the event, but they do have what’s important, and that’s comics and toys. You get a chance to get into a show for a lot less than it would cost to go to a larger con and you’ll find many of the same vendors. You’ll also find that at a smaller show, people tend to open up and talk more. Most of the people I talked to agreed that at a smaller show like ITCE, you have a lot of fun just engaging in conversation with fellow fans. “I really have more fun at the smaller, more intimate shows like this,” said one vendor. “You get to interact with people on a more personal basis. People are more willing to stop and talk.”
Some of the cosplayers commented on the benefits of the smaller con/expo. “Since it’s a little smaller you get a chance to see everyone in costume,” remarked one cosplayer. For some people that are new to the con/expo scene, a smaller show is a way to test the waters and see how they might like it. So, don’t dismiss a show just because it’s smaller. In cases like ITCE, these small shows have a lot more to offer than you may think.
Talking with the staff of Indiana Toy and Comic Expo, you can tell that putting that show on is a labor of love for them. They’re always looking for how they can better themselves and what can be improved on. Not because they’re looking for ways to make more money, but because they just really want to put on a good show. That’s what ITCE is, it’s a show made for fans, by fans.
During my interview with Mike Trent, I asked him if he felt satisfied with the improvements they made from last year and he replied, “I don’t think we’re ever going to be satisfied… I hope we’re never going to be satisfied. I think there’s always something we can improve or do better.” The ITCE staff take pride in their show, and they work diligently to give people the kind of con/expo experience that they would want to have. It was a real treat to talk with all of the members of the staff met, and a pleasure to attend such a well put together expo.
This is an expo that I would recommend to any comic book fan, and especially to any toy collector out there. It’s also a perfect event for a family outing, and inexpensive too. If you’re a first timer that’s new to comic conventions and expos, then ITCE would be a good place to start. If you’re a cosplayer, then you can rest assured that ITCE strives to provide a safe and positive environment for all those who like to dress up. Vendors will be pleased to know that they won’t be left to fend for themselves once they arrive, and the staff will be there to assist them every step of the way. Indiana Toy and Comic Expo is a great show that anyone can enjoy, whether you’re a collector or just a kid who likes toys.
Josh is a contributing writer for Drunk On Comics. You can follow him on Twitter at @CynicalStew.