The Man Behind ComiCONN "A Show for the Fans by the Fans!"
Joseph Bruen: Erik thanks for taking the time today. Tell us how you first got involved in the whole comic con scene.
Erik Yacko: The entire comic con scene pretty much went hand and hand with collecting comic books over time. From a young child to adult, I attended various shows in size and scale. The convention scene got bigger in my life, as it did in the hobby, after opening my 1ststore in 1996. Over time it just grew, from being a fan, to an exhibitor, to running & promoting shows today.
Joseph Bruen: Were you a fan of comics growing up as a kid? Walk us through your childhood and your hobbies as a kid.
Erik Yacko: My comic book days started at the young age of 5 thanks to my dad. From here my love of the hobby grew. From science fiction to fantasy and beyond, I have always been linked to all the genres connected with comic books, TV, and movies. At heart, I am a huge fanboy & nerd.
Joseph Bruen: What are some of your favorite parts of a comic con in general?
Erik Yacko:Meeting creators, guests, and TV & movie stars. Seeing fellow collectors, hanging out with friends, finding cool things to buy, meeting new people, and watching fans of all ages having a good time. The entire atmosphere of a convention is intoxicating. I love it.
Joseph Bruen: Who are some of the celebrities that have been a pleasure to work with or meet over the years that really stand out?
Erik Yacko:I have honestly never had an unpleasant moment with any creator or guest I have worked with, hung out with, or met, so they have all been a pleasure to work with. I have had dinner, drinks, conversations, lunch, breakfast, signings, and more with a lot of people. Let's just say if I had to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat!
Joseph Bruen: What is your involvement with the Hartford Comic Con in Connecticut? You are the creator of COMICONN, elaborate how it all started.
Erik Yacko: The concept, name, show, and slogan for ComiCONN were all created by me in 2009. Jay Claus and I laid the foundation with the first show in 2010 when I went to the Holiday Inn in North Haven Connecticut and signed our very first ComiCONN contract. With a small handful of friends, loving family members, supportive exhibitors & guests, and great fans, “A Show for the Fans by the Fans!” grew over the years. ComiCONN was renamed to Connecticut ComiCONN a few years later and then due to a legal dispute, a restructuring of the operation took place in 2015. In 2016 Connecticut ComiCONN joined forces with Altered Reality Entertainment & Hartford Comic Con to form the new Hartford ComiCONN "A Show for the Fans by the Fans!". On September 24th and 25th at the XL Center in Hartford Connecticut, ComiCONN returns for it’s 7th show. My position with Hartford ComiCONN is co-founder & promoter.
Joseph Bruen: Tell us about Alternate Universe which you are co owner of.
Erik Yacko:I co-own Alternate Universe (comic books & collectibles) with my business partner Joseph Stinson. Alternate Universe has two locations is New Haven & Milford Connecticut. Our New Haven store is 20 years old and our Milford store is 11 years old. We carry new & old comic books, collectibles, statues, cards, and more. www.facebook.com/alternateuniverse
Joseph Bruen: Do different Comic Cons tend to work together or is there more of a cut throat every Con for themselves feel?
Erik Yacko: Some shows do support, work with, and sponsor other shows and some do not. The convention community connects everyone together that is associated with the convention scene in some shape, way, or form. Even though it is a very competitive market, we are all trying to please the fans, because without them, there would be no shows at all.
Joseph Bruen: Do you have any good behind the scenes stories from all your years of Involvement?
Erik Yacko:I have a few, but for now, it’s best I keep them to myself (smiling).
Joseph Bruen: Walk us through the planning process of a con from the talent ideas to the logistics of it all. How do you go about choosing your guests?
Erik Yacko:Planning a convention does not come easy and I can honestly say it goes hand and hand with blood, sweat, and tears. It’s a process. You spend your time making sure all the I’s are dotted and all the T’s are crossed before the event begins, while its running, and when its over. Marketing, teamwork, and an A thru Z plan are all pieces of the puzzle that move the wheel along. Guest choices are based on fan response, costs, surrounding show's, themes, and what is hot in the marketplace. Promoters have an endless option to choose from thanks to all the genres out there connected to the hobby.
Joseph Bruen: In detail, walk us through a Comic Con weekend from the time you wake up to the moment you pack up for the weekend. How does the day of a Con promoter go exactly?
Erik Yacko:I barely sleep the night before a show. As a promoter your day starts with a plan, a focus, and raw determination. You are driven to right the wrongs, do your best, and control the ship as it sails through the day, but you spend the day running around like a chicken with your head cut off. The day is a blur. You barely eat, your feet ache, and your brain becomes a bowl of oatmeal. You are fueled by the smiles of the fans, the warmth of friendly hugs, and the power of multiple handshakes. In the end, when it is all over, the feeling of accomplishment is priceless. Respect means more to me then anything.
Joseph Bruen: Who would you love to book for a Con that you have never worked with?
Erik Yacko:Honestly, this list is a mile long. There are so many comic book creators, TV & movie stars, artists & writers, cosplayers, etc. out there. Who ever comes my way I am happy to work with.
Joseph Bruen: Have you had any bad Comic Con experiences that you will never forget?
Erik Yacko: ComiCONN 2011 took place on the same day as Hurricane Irene made its landfall in Connecticut. The show ended a few hours early but everyone that made it to the venue had a blast. I technically wouldn’t really call this a bad comic con experience, but it was one hell of a stressful ride. Thanks to family, friends, exhibitors, guests, and fans, we made the best of it. Truly a show not to be forgotten.
Joseph Bruen: Where can fans find your Con on the web including social media?
Joseph Bruen: Any new ideas coming up for any future Cons that maybe haven’t been explored just yet?
Erik Yacko:I have a few other ventures I am working on but can’t discuss at this time. My eggs are in many baskets. I am a bridge builder not a burner.
Joseph Bruen: Any big hints you can give us for your upcoming COMICONN event?
Erik Yacko:All I can say is the guest list is still growing and a lot of hard work is going into making this a fun event. Spread the word about Hartford ComiCONN. Bring the family, come have some fun, and dress up…WE ENCOURAGE IT! I thank everyone for the support over the years. Much love and respect to you all.
Joseph Bruen: What is your involvement with Rhode Island Comic Con and please shed some light on that event. What are your thoughts on the growth of that con in recent years?
Erik Yacko:Steve Perry is the president of Altered Reality Entertainment and the owner of Rhode Island Comic Con. I work with his team to help promote Rhode Island Comic Con & events. Alternate Universe is a sponsor for that show. Hands down Rhode Island Comic Con is the BIGGEST show in the smallest state and is truly becoming a juggernaut in the New England area. The show each year is growing in size & improving, and trust me, this years guests list, which is still growing, is filled to the brim with the WOW factor! Fans, all I can say is, DON’T MISS OUT! www.ricomiccon.com
Erik P. Yacko (203) 843-8821 Co-owner of:
Alternate Universe LLC in New Haven & Milford Connecticut.