Despite having a population boom within the past few years, the city of Boise is still considered by some to be one of Idaho’s best-kept secrets. So, to some in the local nerd community, it was a bit of a surprise to have Boise host an event of the scale like the traveling Wizard World Comic Con.
For those not in the know, Wizard World is a corporate-owned comic convention that tours the United States. This year, Boise was one of 17 host cities and of the smallest by population. It was also Boise’s first time hosting the show.
Boise has also been described by a lot of locals as “a city that still has a small town feel.” On many weekends wandering downtown, one is more than likely to bump into several people they know. There has been a joke among some that “while there are six degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon, there’s probably just one in Idaho.”
Yet, as stated before, the Boise metropolitan area is currently one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and thus growth is one of the most controversial topics in the area. Naturally, the Boise nerd community has seen a lot of growth these past few years. Multiple local conventions run out of pocket, have brought the nerd community together. There has also been a rise of nerd-themed stores, renaissance fairs and cosplay performance groups in the area.
Wizard World told SCIFI.radio that “we knew that were many successful smaller shows here, so we were excited to put all of those elements together…we felt from having visited on numerous occasions that this area was ready for our kind of comic con, and the fans in Boise proved us right!”
Toshia Harke was one such attendee at Wizard World Boise, who was “personally thrilled” about the event. “I want this size [of] con for Boise,” said Harke, “I want several big sized cons for Boise.” She also stated that she’d “like to see more events, but I also understand that’s how cons get super disorganized.”
“There was plenty to do and see,” comments attendee Christina Townes, who has worked on staff for several local-run conventions, “what stood out was that stage when you first walk in, that was neat…I like [Wizard World] because it gives a different spin to the local con scene. Variety is the spice of life.”
Elizabeth Findley, is a Boise filmmaker and this was her first ever comic convention experience. “I was excited by all the workshops and talks about film and media,” she said, “…I was overall impressed by all the things happening.”
There were still multiple events spread across the con that appealed to fans of all ages and backgrounds and focused on local content creators as well as nationally known celebrities, such as Star Trek: The Next Generation stars Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, John de Lancie and Denise Crosby. There was also Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Jason David Frank (Power Rangers) and some anime voice actors.
The most famous celebrity there no doubt was William Shatner. “[He] shared amusing stories about his experiences being introduced to kayaking in Idaho,” explained Pamela Kleibrink Thompson, a Wizard World panelist, and Boise-based career coach, writer, recruiter, and actor.
Her presentation focused on “forging creativity with time management secrets.” She felt that the convention was “fun and high energy with opportunities to learn and network.” She also brought up the economic and cultural impact of Wizard World on the city of Boise, stating that “having a comic convention of this scale coming to Boise has to boost some revenues for hotels, restaurants, etc and introduces the city to numerous people who’d never been here before.”
Some other locally focused panels were on the also growing Boise filmmaking scene. First-time attendee Findley commented on this by saying, “I think they should bring back the talks about filming in Boise and Idaho in particular and make that a regular thing at something like this.”
Across the show floor were multiple exhibitors based in the Boise area, such as comic book artists and publishers like the Idaho Comics Group, superhero cosplay performance troupes like the Treasure Valley Avengers and a female-focused fandom group called the Fangirls Guild.
Merri Halma was an exhibitor at the show. She is the owner of Dreaming Lizard, which is her business and imprint name. Not only has she self-published her fantasy novels through the imprint, she was able to sell them during Wizard World. “We sold more books at this event than ever,” stated Halma.
“I like the idea of a comic convention of this scale coming to Boise,” Halma told SCIFI.radio, “but I would like to see it be a more of a local convention that assists all of us local artists, writers, and actors getting our own name out there.”
Generally, her Wizard World experience was “good.” But, she said that “she was bothered that they didn’t give all the artists and name tags…we had to order them…I also think all the vendors and artists need to be in the same room. Or the vendors in one room and the artists in another, and not divided.”
When it comes to room for improvement, Halma stated that it would be “making sure enough traffic came through so all vendors can get the same traffic. Most of us broke even or less. I talked to artists who were angry and wanted their money back. Not sure the Wizard World organizers were aware of this.”
Chelsea Hutter, another exhibitor, said her experience was “not very good.” According to her, “they placed some of us artists in a room very far away from the flow of traffic…most of my friends who stopped to see me said they had a very hard time finding our section.” In her own personal opinion, “I don’t feel like Boise can support a big con like this.”
Attendee Townes also noticed some areas at Wizard World that she felt needs to be addressed. Some of these were difficulty finding registration because of “vague directions…and the signage being in a spot not very visible.” At registration itself, Townes felt that “there was [a] lack of signage for prices.” She also stated that she wants to see “more inflatables outside of the con.”
“We’ll look at all the aspects of the show, and welcome feedback from fans as to what we can do better,” stated Wizard World to SCIFI.radio’s inquiries about what could be improved for next year. They added, “it’s always better to determine those after having seen the event in action in a new venue.”
Speaking of the venue, Wizard World praised the staff by saying that they “were probably the best we’ve encountered all year.” Thompson, the previously mentioned panelist, also said that “visitors kept saying how friendly they found everyone.”
Wizard World thinks that the Boise show “was a great first effort. The best part is how the city and [the] surrounding area really welcomed us with open arms…[we] can’t say enough about the people of Boise and Idaho…to the local exhibitors and artists, to the attendees of course.”
Wizard World also states that “thousands” attended the Boise show, but could not report on specific numbers.
Time will tell how well a big event like Wizard World will continue to fare in a small, but growing city like Boise.
Wizard World has confirmed that they are planning on coming back to Boise in July 2019.