Posted on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 by Germain Lussier
There are many things wrong with mega-conventions, and the team behind MondoCon is going to try and fix them. At many conventions the food sucks, it’s too crowded, and the lines are too long. These are problems Mondo knows about, and seeks to improve upon for the company’s first con. The stuff they won’t be able to fix — in fact, what Mondo might make worse — are the many geek Sophie’s Choices fans constantly have to make.
MondoCon, the first Mondo-centric pop culture convention, takes place September 20-21 in Austin, Texas. (That’s during the opening weekend of Fantastic Fest.) Tickets go on sale Wednesday June 4. An initial press release giving some general idea about the convention came online Monday but it raised many more questions than it answered. I got on the phone with Mondo’s Creative Director Justin Ishmael to get more answers. We talked about questions such as, how Mondo will handle the lines, what kind of events will be at the con, which artists are attending, and exactly how big the event will be.
Ishmael was able to answer some of those questions, as well as others. The prevailing feeling I got speaking to him is that, much like Comic-Con, MondoCon is going to have so much excellent stuff happening simultaneously that fans will have to make some really tough decisions on what they want to do over the course of the two days. Read more about MondoCon below.
Make no mistake about it. MondoCon is a convention run by Mondo, the company whose bread and butter is limited edition posters. So there are going to be lots and lots of exclusive limited-edition posters at the event, in edition sizes large and small. Usually, that would mean fans would have to wait in line to get in, just to wait in line inside, just to buy a poster. To Ishmael, that’s not what MondoCon is all about.
“We don’t want MondoCon to be ‘I spent $30 to wait all day to buy a poster,'” he said. One of the many ways they’ll combat that is have so many excellent alternate options, fans will have to spread out based on their individual interests. There will be several dozen booths manned by artists and companies who have similar interests to Mondo. Each of these booths will be independently run and operated. So if a popular artist decides he or she wants to release a limited edition print in a run of 50, that will be happening. If they decide to release originals or take commissions, they’ll be encouraged to do so. At the same time, Mondo might be releasing a print of their own. Or there could be a panel about the behind the scenes making some movie and, guess what? Maybe they’ll reveal and release a poster for that movie at the end. For the panels, “we’re trying to do more than just a panel,” Ishmael said, hinting at various kinds of surprises. And the fans will have to choose what they go to, even if it means they’re missing out on something else.
Posters and artists
Much of the specific schedule and releases aren’t ready yet, but will be made public before the convention. For example, the names of attendees revealed in the initial press release are just handful of names – both familiar and unfamiliar – who’ll be at the convention. Ishmael confirmed at least some, if not all, of the major Mondo artists – names like Tyler Stout, Olly Moss and Aaron Horkey – would either be at the convention in person or be represented with some new work. He wouldn’t say which specifically or in what capacity but he did say the idea for MondoCon was “Let’s have as many people we work with come as possible. We’re definitely going to ask everyone, now it’s just a matter of who can come.” As of right now, between 40 and 50 people/companies/booths are confirmed with more still on the way.
While the majority of retailers at the The Marchesa Hall & Theater will be on a large convention floor, Mondo itself will have a massive booth in a separate outdoor space. There, a veritable army of volunteers will make sure the lines to buy Mondo posters (and other exclusives that aren’t posters) moves as quickly as possible. Also, by keeping Mondo outside, it’ll keep their long lines away from the rest of the convention floor…and their long lines. Plus, this is Mondo’s event so they make the rules. They might walk up and down the line selling posters to expedite the process. The procedures could change on the fly depending on crowds or general mood. And while most of the time only one or two people are able to check out customers, that number will be much larger at MondoCon, hopefully making things move smoother.
Ishmael didn’t say how many posters they’d be releasing at the event, but confirmed they would try and be as open an upfront about revealing what they are, and when they go on sale, as possible. They haven’t yet ruled out online pre-orders either, though it didn’t seem likely. There’s also a chance of some new announcements/new products/licenses at the event. All things are in play, but lots of it is going to come down to timing between MondoCon and Comic-Con. Yes, Mondo will also once again have a booth at Comic-Con where they’ll reveal some new products. He also teased that because the ability to surprise with new properties is so hard now, Mondo was turning to a lot of new movies, some anniversary stuff and even some new anime properties.
Size and Scope
Another big plus for MondoCon the conventional hall simply isn’t that big. When tickets go on sale Wednesday June 4, only about 2,000 will be available. Later, once the con gets closer, they might sell more at the door, but they’ll play that by ear depending on attendance. Not to mention, everyone who is working the convention will hopefully be able to answer any of your questions. “One of the things I really want to happen is a detailed briefing with everyone involved,” Ishmael said. “Customer service is a big part of what we’re trying to do, too.”
On the show floor, artists and companies are encouraged to do whatever they want, but Mondo is advising where they can. They’re letting people know to bring merchandise, exclusives, and maybe even offer up opportunities for original sketches, paintings and more. It’s all up to the individual. “We don’t want a million booths with Dr. Who toys over and over and over again,” Ishmael said. “The difference between us and other conventions is we are trying to work with the people in some capacity. People are coming to MondoCon with a set of expectations that there will be stuff to buy. You can just show up and be like ‘Hey I’m here.’ You have to have something to work with.'” And all of that kind of stuff we be updated on the @MondoConAustin Twitter and Facebook.
Other things to do
There will be outdoors games, some specifically tied to Mondo merchandise, and surprises everywhere there can be. Ishmael described possibly doing a panel where fans would get to watch the creation of a poster or vinyl, and then offer input on which final design would be printed. Another broad example was having filmmakers who tried to get a film made, but couldn’t, bring concept art and story boards to take people through their film. And, if there’s a limited edition poster or something to go along with that, then that would happen. “We’re trying to have stuff that keeps you more involved because hopefully you’ll end up spending two days there,” he said. “Instead of waiting on line and leaving.”
Each night there will be movies screened and, yes, there will likely be posters for all of them. These movies, however, will be a separate admission from your regular wristband, and the theater only seats 300 people. Those wristbands, though, can be picked up either at the Marchesa or Drafthouse South Lamar where Fantastic Fest will be happening simultaneously. The hope is that will alleviate some of the waiting in line to get your ticket which happens at so many conventions.
But still, fans are going to have to choose how they want to spend their time and the schedule is still a work in progress. When asked how they’d balance the waiting-in-line culture limited edition collectibles starts with the community and discovery of a convention, Ishmael stuck in the middle. “We want it to be both,” he said. “Some panels, some waiting in line, then at the end of the day you and your friends can be like ‘What did you get?’ ‘I got this.’ ‘Oh, I got THIS!’ ‘Where did you see that?'”
In the coming months leading up to the event, there will lots more specifics and Ishmael assures fans MondoCon will be as transparent as possible without being completely spoiled ahead of time. A full schedule, guest list and even many of the releases will be revealed closer to the convention. But not just yet. That would ruin half the fun.
“I want the announcements to be something people are waiting for,” Ishmael said. “Knowing there are more coming and also being surprised. I really want people to be like, ‘Oh yes!’ holding out hope that their guy is coming and then being surprised. I want to give enough information but also hold some stuff back. I hope there’s some trust that’s been built up over the years where we’re doing this stuff and we can not tell you everything but you trust us.”
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