Comicpalooza, Houston’s premiere comic convention took place this year from May 25th to May 27th. Many artists, celebrities, groups, organizations, and people showing off their crafts of different trades were there for a weekend of pop culture awesomeness. It is an event where one could go to do many things like buy art, meet celebrities, check out new people on the rise in pop culture, and enjoy nostalgia. It is also an event where an artist could show off their work to the masses with aspirations of being successful. No matter where you are as an artist, creator, writer, or any craft one does, this event like other conventions is where one would think some level of respect would be present. After this weekend I found that to not be the case.
In what I thought was going to be a good weekend turned out to be something where I was disrespected by management, harassed by security over my diabetic supplies, and what could be considered physically assaulted by members of Comicpalooza management. During and not long after the convention ended I found out I was not the only one who endured such issues. Before I continue I do want to point out that my experiences did happen on Saturday and Sunday morning. I also want to mention that the experience that happened to another exhibitor was something which almost put that exhibitor in a dangerous situation and was easily preventable. As I explain their experience you will easily read that the actions of the security personnel were ignorant, inconsiderate, and can be considered discriminatory.
Loading in was easy and I was somewhat impressed by the front of the convention placement we had. Yet with this placement I noticed I was placed at the border of the artist alley mixed in with numerous booths showcasing crafts. The other aisles in artist alley where prominent with artists showing their work. I am still weighing in on if this helped or hurt us in regards to exposure to the patrons. What also did not help was the T-Mobile van placed in a large spot three booths away blaring music to the point of making speaking to people difficult. Then there were the associates working the T-Mobile van, they felt it was okay to walk to booths including mine and drag patrons away. On the good side I managed to get an awesome mug from the vendor Pecos Petes, and they had numerous spots around the convention with diabetic friendly drinks.
This is where everything went to crap. I arrived to the convention and entered through the loading doors. We were met with security and a bag check. Upon checking my bag and noticing my insulin pen needles I was told I could not bring those in. I informed the security that I was diabetic and showed my medical bracelet. The guard continued to say I could not bring my needles in. after an exchange of words I was told I could bring in two needles. My diabetes is diagnosed as brittle type 1. This means my diabetes is harder to control and I have a bag with my supplies ready to go. As the exchange continued I then asked them if they want to be responsible if I end up passed out because I do not have enough needles to take my insulin. Then I had to add, “What if I end up in the hospital or die because I can’t take my insulin?” They backed off but said that the other guards will not let me keep my bag.
I immediately went to the information booth and spoke to someone about what happened. Unfortunately I do not remember the lady’s name who assisted me, but she apologized for what happened and walked back inside the venue with me. I want to note that the lady who assisted me was very helpful and did all she could that day. I’m sorry I cannot remember her name. If this was any indication, I should have took it as a warning of how the day was going to go.
I was not the only diabetic who experienced problems with the security at Comicpalooza. Another exhibitor who is also a type 1 diabetic sent me an account of their experience.
On Saturday, I could feel my blood sugar slowly starting to drop. Unfortunately, the lines for inside the convention center food were massively long. The wait was about an hour and in some, more. My friend suggested to me to get a food truck meal outside, as those lines were shorter. The food trucks were parked right in front of the convention center, and in front of the bag check line. One could easily assume they were ok'd by the convention as con food. So I got a carb-full meal and went in the Hall B entrance bag check security line. I was unaware that I could enter through E and go through their much more considerate security (when I told them I was a vender with my badge, they kept telling me to go to Hall B security).
When it was my turn to be the checked, I showed a woman in a blue uniform my insulin, diabetic supplies, and medical wrist band. I informed her that I was a Type 1 Diabetic and need to return to my booth. She looked confused and was about to page another security officer to help me, when a security woman in a white uniform interrupted us and started yelling "no food!" I started to explain to her what I told the blue uniform security. The woman in white would not listen. I started to panic and said I really needed to go back to my booth and my blood sugar is dropping. She responded "it's your fault you left your booth for food!" I then tried to explain to her how long the lines inside were, and that I could not wait that long for food (otherwise I would go into a diabetic shock), but she continued to cut off my explanation, and continued to say it was my fault I left it. My anxiety peaked and I started having a panic attack, in fear of not being able to get back to my booth as my blood sugar was dropping.
The security woman in white noticed my panic attack and said "you are being over dramatic! You could have finished your food instead of argue with me!" Another security woman next to her, agreed and said the same thing. They would not let me through the line. They then pulled me aside to a table and made me eat my food there. I tried to eat it as fast as I could, but eating rice while having a panic attack is kind of hard. Another security woman in blue, came over to me and tried to comfort me by saying I don't have to eat so fast. I explained to her what happened, and she seemed shocked and was very sorry. Soon after, a security man in blue came over to me and said he can escort me inside, with my food. He was very kind, and I hugged him and thanked him for helping me. I wanted to show him the people who were rude to me, but the women in white that were yelling at me earlier, were no longer there. He escorted me all the way to my booth to make sure I was ok (I can't thank him enough). It took me a good hour to calm down from my panic attack and to get my blood sugar back up to a stable level.
Once I regained composure, I found a police officer and explained to him what happened with security. He even told me that the security in white uniforms have been giving them problems! He apologized that I had to experience that, and contacted head of security for me. About 30min later, head of security came to my booth to talk to me about what happened. He strongly apologized for the fiasco, and told me I could personally ask for his name if I ever had anymore issues. He told me as well, that the security in white were giving his team and attendees a lot of problems, and that they were not listening to instructions: Food was allowed in, they were just not to let 20 bags of chips in and things like that. I'm not sure why, but people working at the Hall B entrance did not get that memo. I did not have this same run-in on Sunday, as we entered in through the back of the GRB and they were much more understanding.
This should have not happened to this exhibitor. What security did is ignorant, disgraceful, and completely unacceptable. I have emailed Comicpalooza staff inquiring on what company supplied the security. As expected the email has not been replied to. I also had problems with my sugar levels dropping. I was fortunate enough to have someone assist me in these situations, but the lines for any food options inside the convention center were too long. This left the options of the food trucks or having something on hand to help bring the sugar level back up. The problem with having it on hand was security not allowing food in. one key thing a doctor will tell a type 1 diabetic is to always have with you something that has a significant sugar along with your insulin supplies. These things could be orange juice, candy, sugar tablets, or any source of sugar. If security was not allowing any of that in then how is one supposed to keep their levels normal in emergencies?
As the day ended for the convention at 7pm I was already feeling worn down from the constant sugar drops. Even though I felt worn down I wanted to stay for the charity art auction and live draw. Ever since my first Comicpalooza I made it a priority to contribute to the auction with at least two pieces. I sat in the back and proceeded to draw my three pieces I wanted to submit. Unknown to me there was a wedding proposal about to happen and numerous individuals to my left were standing for a group photo. One of these individuals was a Comicpalooza executive Mark Schmidt. I remember his first name from when I spoke to him at Comicpalooza 2016. As I’m drawing I feel a step on my foot, and a few pushes on my left side. Right after the step I then feel someone standing completely on my foot. I look over and Mark is up against me along with the two people on either side of him. So here I am with him on my foot while all three are pushing backward to the point of nearly knocking me out of my chair. Three times I tried to get their attention to what they were doing, but it apparently fell on deaf ears or did not care.
After that I looked over to another artist and told her if this asshole does not get off my foot I am going to throw them through the window. Finally from what I can count as almost a minute they finally move away and him off my foot. I should add that I was wearing flip flops so he was on my bare foot. Sitting in some pain I heard something from someone, but I waved whoever it was away because I was rightfully pissed off. There was a thread on Facebook on Monday where Mark respond to a comment I left claiming he apologized to me that night. Personally, whether or not he apologized the fact was they chose to push around someone instead of simply asking me to move for a minute. I am a very accommodating guy. If they asked if I could move for the photo I would gladly do it. They just did not care I was sitting there drawing for the charity and pushed me around like some insignificant trash. I already had a questionable impression of Mark from when I dealt with him in 2016, but this confirmed that this guy truly does not care who he “steps on” let alone give respect enough to ask a question. Those two people on his sides are grossly ignorant too. I ended up leaving after I finished drawing to put my foot on ice.
I found a parking garage a block away with only $10 parking. This was $2 less than the exhibitor parking and in a garage. Upon arriving at the convention center I ran into the same kind of resistance about my insulin. I was questioned about my insulin and needles again in the front bag check. After another exchange with one security I was approached by another guard who said exhibitors go through door E. The two security then had a conversation about my insulin to which I walked away and went to door E. Amazingly I was able to get to my booth with no bag check, strip search, or cavity check! The rest of the day went smoothly and finished Comicpalooza with no further incidents.
After reading this some people might think I am overreacting, whining, or possibly blowing things out of proportion. Type 1 diabetes is like walking a tightrope making sure your sugar level is in normal range. If it goes up or down we experience complications that are left uncheck can kill us. Keeping it in check is something we do 24/7 and with mine specifically can spike or drop even with the strict regimen I have. This is what the other exhibitor and I must endure every day. I can only speak on what I endure myself, but I can tell you because of my condition a lot is taken out of me doing conventions. This is why I can only do 2 to 3 a year. Comicpalooza was an event I loved to do because it takes place where I live and I have lots of fans in Houston. It is unfortunate that since 2016 I have seen staff not care about the treatment of some exhibitors. I was on the fence about being an exhibitor in 2019, but the appalling treatment of the other exhibitor and myself by security, the disrespectful actions of Mark Schmidt and the two others towards me, and past issues have shown they do not care what they do to some people.
On the bright side Comicpalooza soon will not be the only comic convention in Houston. Fandemic Tour is coming and I have a table there. You think with another convention coming Comicpalooza wouldn’t alienate exhibitors, but what is their loss is Fandemic Tour’s gain. So my fans in Houston I hope to see you there.