The Lexington Comic & Toy Convention is in its second year of existence and is going even harder for round two. The con drew over 4,000 fans last year and expects for more than 6,000 individuals to grace its floors this upcoming weekend (March 16 & 17th) at the downtown Lexington Convention Center in Lexington, Ky. With guests ranging from Billy Dee Williams ("Lando Calrissian" in "Stars Wars Episode V & Episode VI) to Jason David Frank ("Tommy" in the long-running "Power Rangers" series) to esteemed comic book writer Mike Grell (Longbow Hunters, Batman), LexCon has devoted itself to creating an awesome atmosphere that's inviting to fans of all different types of media. I was able to speak with Jarrod Greer - the main man behind LCTC operations - and get some insight into how LexCon came to exist and the expectations he has for this year's convention and beyond. Please enjoy!
How long was last year’s event in the planning before it was for sure going to happen? Is it something that had been in the works for a few years, or did it just start as an idea and gain enough momentum to rise in a year’s time?
Last year’s con went from concept to reality in 7 months, which was not enough time. We rushed it a bit and it showed if you knew where to look. In all honesty, it ended up much bigger than we ever intended last year and we were not really prepared. Momentum was definitely in our favor last year (still is).
What difficulties did you face in getting the convention off the ground? How did you sell a comic convention working in Lexington to the higher-ups? What makes Lexington an attractive location for a comic convention?
I had trouble getting anyone to take me seriously in the beginning. I am not from Lexington and had never immersed myself in the comic community in Lexington. It took a while to get folks to know that I was committed to making this work. That same thing became a blessing later because once you finally earn the respect of the comic community in Lexington they will back you 1000%. Lexington was so attractive as a location because it is such a large metro area with a huge comic community that had no con to call their own.
When considering getting guests, spreading the word, renting vendor space, etc., what was the most difficult aspect of last year’s convention?
The hardest part was simply getting to know people. I had to start from ground zero. Hello, my name is Jarrod and I want to start a comic convention…it’s ridiculous to think that anyone came.
A replica Delorean (made famous thanks to the Back to the Future trilogy) made an appearance at last year's con.
What did you learn in the first year that has made the second year of the convention easier to handle?
I learned that I need good shoes this year…lol . No seriously, I learned that Lexington has an amazing network of geekdom that can help with nearly anything once you learn who to ask. The people on the ground in Lexington have proven invaluable this year.
Was The Lexington Center always the desired choice for location, or were other sites considered? What ultimately made TLC the best place for the con in your eyes?
TLC is, in my opinion, the ONLY choice in Lexington for an event like this. It is the heart of the city. Nothing else compares. The only reason you plan an event in anything other than the best place in town is if you are trying to cut costs. You only cut costs when you don’t believe in your event.
In this article from the Lexington Herald-Leader last year, you said that last year’s convention drew a larger crowd than you anticipated. Why do you think the convention performed so well?
I owe my success last year to my 7 year old. He is obviously the brains in my family. It was on his demand that we had the Power Ranger Zeo reunion and I really feel like that gained the attention of a lot of people. Sure we had lots of other cool stuff, but no one got really excited until we picked up Jason David Frank.
The same article speculates that the former "Power Rangers" actors were a big draw. This year’s lineup has more than doubled the amount of actors who have appeared on the show, and about 1/3 of the overall guests have been on Power Rangers (This upcoming LexCon has been referred to by fans of the series as “Power Morphicon East” for this reason). In the first year, did you anticipate the interest in the shows’ stars to be as high as it was, and why do you think these actors are such a big draw?
Honestly, I did not. As I said above, I did that to be a good dad. My son loves MMPR and we knew that a certain amount of other folks did as well, but I really didn’t expect what we got. A lot of other promoters thought I was crazy for booking 5 rangers. Since then, lots of them have taken the idea and ran. After immersing myself in the fandom a bit this year I now realize that, short of traveling to L.A. for Power Morphicon, Ranger fans have no place to call home. We intend to give them a home here in Kentucky.
Incidentally, I hate the “PMC East” label. It short changes us both. PMC has a TON more Rangers than we do simply due to their proximity to L.A. and access to cast members without associated travel costs. They also have the full support of Saban. As far as a “Ranger Con” we do not really compare to them. On the flip side, we do a TON of things they don’t. We try to make the best possible con for everyone. If you don’t like Power Rangers, we will have plenty of other things to do!
Tell me a little bit about how Billy Dee Williams was invited. He’s arguably the most high-profile guest among the attendees and many fans are excited for his appearance. Was it an easy sell or not so much (or did he reach out to you)?
Billy Dee was fairly easy to secure. He has an agent that actively works to find cons for him so I knew who to call to make it happen. I wanted to drop a high profile Star Wars guest early and he was the natural choice for us.
What inspired the decision to invite wrestling greats like “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake to the convention? I know Kentucky has a fairly rich history in the sport, but it seems like a rather unique offering that adds another fun wrinkle to the overall convention.
Diversity! Five years ago a friend and I discussed what we called “AwesomeCon” which, in our mind was “all things awesome”. This may be a baby step toward that… I don’t want to get stuck in a rut of being a “comic convention” or a “Power Ranger Convention” or an “insert genre here convention”. I just want to have fun and want everyone else to as well. I am game to nearly anything and the wrestlers just seemed like a good pick up.
I posed with Jason David Frank, a.k.a. "Tommy Oliver" from Power Rangers, and a stunt man at last year's con.
What would a comic convention be without the comics? This year’s guest list is ripe with people who have worked as writers/artists for the “Big Boys” (DC, Marvel, etc.) as well as relative newcomers. Do you think the spectrum of comic book guests who will be at Lexington Comic Con is representative of what’s out there for people?
I am thrilled with the overall mix of comic creators, writers, and artists this year. I managed to pull in a few legends and a few of the “next big things”. That said the comic aspect will be further expanded next year as we are going to really get a bit more serious about drawing some of comics biggest names in. I have my sights on a few for 2014 that should really put us on the map.
Are there already plans for a third year of the convention, or is it contingent on this year’s turnout?
2014 is already booked. It is March 15-16th 2014 and will hopefully utilize the full facility of Heritage Hall and the Lexington Center along with some space at the Hyatt. All I can say is, You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!
This year’s convention occurs during the final weekend of the SEC basketball tournament. How do you think a possible Kentucky basketball game might affect the turnout on Saturday and Sunday?
What better place to catch the game than the screens around Rupp Arena…lol - Honestly I don’t believe it will impact us much.
Who are some guests to whom you reached out but either declined your invitation or were unable to attend this year?
We lost several comic guests to MegaCon this year. Unfortunately our dates seem to overlap and lots of industry folks are used to heading to Florida for the weekend in March. We lost Marina Sirtis to them as well. We had several deals going that, for one reason or another did not work out but some are still working for 2014 so I don’t want to make any declarations just yet..lol
If you could select one guest in the entire world to attend the con – and they had to do so – who would that guest be (and have you reached out to them)?
At this point, that would be Robert Kirkman (the creator of The Walking Dead). My wife is a major TWD fan and I would like to put that together for her…He is a Kentucky native and yes we have reached out through various channels but to no avail. I have spoken with him via email several times now. He likely thinks I am a creeper at this point and may never come now..lol Past that I want to see a lot of folks… I would like to see Ashley Judd there one day. I am big on the “Kentucky Pride” thing. I feel like one day LCTC should give Kentucky’s celebs a reason to come home. I feel like if she can come home to watch the cats play, she can surely pop in LCTC and meet her hometown fans.
Going forward, what are three things you would like for Lexington Comic Con to achieve (in terms of growth, guests, opportunities, etc.)?
1) Fill out the space at the Lexington Center by 2015
2) Fill out a “round the clock” schedule of events over the next couple years.
3) I want to not have to worry about what other cons are the same weekend..lol
How do you feel about the short-hand “LexCon” (it seems to be the go-to phrase for people who discuss the convention)?
I am OK with LexCon, I hate Lexicon, I like LCTC. I can live with anything people call us as long as they come…lol.
Jason Narvy, a.k.a Eugene "Skull" Skullovitch from Power Rangers, gets wacky with a fan at last year's con.
Anything you want to say to the people reading this interview who might be on the fence about attending the convention?
The only thing I would say is that I hope everyone gives us a chance at least once. We are so diverse that nearly anyone can find something to do there that they will enjoy. My dad even had fun last year and he hadn’t smiled since 1973 before that…lol
For more ticketing and other information about Lexington Comic & Toy Convention, visit its website. You can also like the con's page on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.