Comic Con Antwerp
What: pop-culture convention
Where: Waagnatie, Antwerp, Belgium
When: September 23 – 24
Comic Con Antwerp was probably the convention in Belgium that had the biggest shoes to fill. It’s not by the same team that used to organise the much missed Antwerp Convention, but it’s a good thing that there was a veteran organisation behind it, because people were looking at it as THE con to replace that other, much beloved convention.
So stick with us to find out whether or not this was Antwerp Convention 2.0 or not.
The answer is: yes and no.
Because there are some, frankly unavoidable similarities because it is a convention held in Antwerp.
Yes, this is a pop culture convention, and the organisation has much of the same attitute: setting up an event welcoming to all fandoms, not just the super popular thing of the moment. In an enveronment where visitors can feel safe and not be harassed by “professional photographers” (most convention goers know that particular type of creep). So yes, in that regard, it was the same. And that’s a GOOD thing.
But for the rest, Comic Con Antwerp is very much it’s own event. You can see clear similarities with their Comic Con Gent (I haven’t been to the Brussels edition yet so I can’t compare), but again, it isn’t a carbon copy clone.
The choice to move it to Waagnatie and keep it out of Antwerp Expo is understandable. Not bringing it to the home of Antwerp Convention is understandable, but I’m not sure it was the right choice. Whereas Antwerp Expo is a very nice venue, with plenty of room and light. Waagnatie is a dark shipping storage unit. A giant one, but a dark dive nonetheless. Luckily the weather was on the organisation’s side, because that gave cosplayers and fashionistas the opportunity to get good shots outside. And the waterfront is a really good location to shoot pictures at, let’s be honest.
A word of warning to people that have never been to Waagnatie: parking space is limited, so you better either walk (if you’re not opposed to lenghty walks) or take the bus.
Frankly, I’m just going to come out and say it, I feel the organisation would do better to move the convention to Antwerp Expo next year. People will thank them for it. (I LOVED the convention itself, but I really disliked the venue).
But as mentioned, aside the choice of venue, this was an A+ con.
The set-up was really well done, making it easy to navigate and easy to find shops, fandom stands, set up a spot to meet up with your friends, etc.
A shout-out to their Q&A interviewer is in order, I feel. All too often a Q&A is a rather dull affair (here in Belgium at least) where people are just sitting around yawning, waiting for the next event to start. But this guy made it so funny and interesting that you could literally stop and watch an entire Q&A even if it was with an actor you have no affinity with and still find it brilliant. Well done sir, well done.
Their cosplay competition/catwalk was the most fun I have ever witnessed out of all similar events I’ve seen in the past. It was great to see how welcoming they were to literally every skill level, from utter beginner with a costume of doubtful quality to someone of professional level. From interpretations to perfect replicas. Everyone was welcome to participate, and that’s something we need to see more at conventions.
Also: if you see the 11th Doctor wandering by, bantering with a Dalek. Stop by and talk to them. It is probably the best representation of 11 you will ever encounter and these guys (yes, there is a guy inside the Dalek!) are hilarious!
The Belgian Whovians U.N.I.T.E.D should bring them to every single event.
They do their best to put interactive things on the program, such as retro gaming and a virtual reality try-out, which is always a bonus for people that are into that sort of thing. It’s always great when a convention is about more than just shopping.
Speaking of which though, of course there were a lot of shops but unlike cons not organised by this team, they weren’t focussed on the latest craze. Instead, you had a fair chance of finding rarer things and even do a good deal on vinyl or vintage toys and collectibles.
The drinks were rather on the pricy side, and dangerously nearing FACTS territory (which is not a good thing). If you hadn’t brought your own drinks, you were stuck paying €3 for water or a soft drink. I felt that food choices were more limited this time, because the convention lacked the proximity of supermarkets and other food alternatives off venue (or maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know the area of town that well). BUT they did have a vegan food truck, which I think is a great thing. Aside from that it was the usual offering of junk food, mostly.
My one real issue with this convention is that there was just not enough seating space. Having to sit outside to eat in the wind, on the ground or one of the brick wall like set-ups was just no fun at all. Inside there was also not a lot of available seating, which can be a real issue for people with health issues. I feel like this was an issue with the venue’s available space rather than the organisation though, so I hope it’s something that can be solved.
Basically, if they move to a better venue, iron out some glitches, smack some workshops and more interactive things on the program, this’ll be the best convention Belgium has to offer in no time.
In any case, this has really made me super excited for not only the next edition of Comic Con Antwerp, but also for that of Comic Con Brussels in February!
For more photos, click here.