I’ve attended more than my fair share of events and conventions. I’ve been to horror conventions, fan expos, gaming cons, and thanks to my mother-in-law I’ve even been to a coin collecting convention. Last, but certainly not least, I’ve been to a lot of comic cons.
Walking into a comic book convention is like stepping out of reality and stepping into a place between the TV channels, where the characters both real and cartoon alike all hang out with each other. At any given comic con, it’s not uncommon to see Pikachu, Darth Vader, and Hellboy all in line waiting to meet Ash from Army of Darkness. There is absolutely no replacement for the way people feel when they’re in an atmosphere like this. But how do these gatherings of nerd herds come to be? Who would actually say, “Hey guys, let’s get, The Incredible Hulk, Jerry the King Lawler, Stan Lee, and Steve Buscemi in the same place and see who shows up?” ReedPOP; that’s who. Anyone who’s ever been to a ReedPOP event like the NEW YORK COMIC CON, C2E2 or Pax East, knows why they do it; because it’s mind blowing.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with ReedPOP goddess, (she actually said she’s called the Lead Content and Talent Manager, but I knew what she meant,) Kim Mueller, to discuss more about what goes in to the process of creating an annual geek Mecca.
TJ: Can you describe what the company ReedPOP is?
Kim: We are owned by a company called Reed Exhibitions, which is the largest tradeshow company in the world, with between 400 – 700 events worldwide. It’s insane how large this company is. ReedPOP is the consumer arm of the business. It’s meant for fans. It’s not just business to business. It all started with NEW YORK COMIC CON, and now we have six to eight shows and we’re growing every year. It’s actually a very small group of us that put on these insanely large events. They’re all for passionate fans, but from several different walks of life. We just launched a Fantasy Football Festival that will be later this year. We work with LucasFilm to do the Official Star Wars Celebration event. We also run the PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) events. There are two of those each year and we now also have PAX Dev, which is mostly going toward developers. Then we have C2E2, which is Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, which is NEW YORK COMIC CON’s little sister show in the Midwest. It [C2E2] has already grown massively in three years, and this year we just had 41,000 fans at the show, so it’s kind of a whirlwind. ReedPOP is only actually about 20 people that run all of these different shows.
TJ: I can’t even imagine what your daily agenda must be.
Kim: Yeah, it’s crazy, but we have a lot of help, and we work with a lot of partners. NEW YORK COMIC CON for example. We couldn’t do what we do without people like Marvel, DC and Top Cow. All of these people they’re such a big part of it, and we need their support to be a good show.
TJ: On your resume, how would you list your job and what it is that you do?
Kim: That is tough; I do so many different things. My technical title is Lead Content and Talent Manager. We used to be called the Programing Department, but then people thought that we worked with computers, and I know nothing about computers. So, we changed it to focus on two different parts of our job, one being guests. We have guest outreach where we have to decide who we want to invite to the show. Then we have to find ways to get to them, and reach out t and invite them to the show. We have to coordinate all of their travel and make sure they know where they are going, that they have schedules. NEW YORK COMIC CON has over 350 panels, screenings, and special events throughout the four days, so we have to decide what we want to do with all of those events. We take in all of the requests, and then schedule everything and coordinate all of those times and rooms and all of that information. We put together a program guide that expresses all of that, and it has to go on the website. So there is a long list of things that we have to do. One of the things I specifically focus on more is studio relationships, and trying to make sure that as many TV and movie studios come to the show as possible, because that’s a big part of why a lot of the fans come. Building relationships and making new connections and partnerships is a huge part of what we do.
TJ: You do a fantastic job. Your events are epic.
Kim: Thank you! Thank You! We try. We try really hard.
TJ: If you were going to explain to a fan what it is that you do, how would you put that into fanboy/fangirl terms?
Kim: Basically, I would say, “What is the coolest stuff that is out there right now, this moment?” I try to bring it to the show. We’re always looking at what the coolest thing is, whether it’s the newest video game coming out, or how we could get the Avengers to the show.
TJ: Now that we know what it is that you do, what would an event be like if there was no Kim Mueller; if there was no Content and Talent Manager?
Kim: Yeah, basically what you would have is the show floor. So you would have all of the booths and vendors that are selling cool things like T-shirts and plush toys and all of that kind of stuff. All of that would still exist. I don’t touch any of that. So If I wasn’t there, that’s what we would have. That would be it, the show floor. All of the stages, all of the panels, all of the screenings, all of the autographing, all of the guests that are there, and also Artist Alley for sure, like at NEW YORK COMIC CON and C2E2, I do a lot of that as well. Basically it would be a show floor with people selling merchandise.
TJ: So, no Bruce Campbell?
TJ: No Seth Green?
Kim: Nope, he wouldn’t be there either.
TJ: Wow, that’s quite a difference between NEW YORK COMIC CON with Kim and NEW YORK COMIC CON without Kim.
Kim: (Haha) Definitely. The nice thing, though, is that we do have exhibitors that work closely with us to bring in guests. Someone like Dark Horse for example, will have a project that they’re working on, so they would try to bring creators that are working on that project. So, to some extent there would be some guests there but the majority of the guests and all of the content and panels technically would not exist if there was no content and talent team.
TJ: Having said all of that, and having described the caliber of people that you strive to bring in, who have you worked around that you’ve had a hard time keeping your cool with? Have you ever been star-struck?
Kim: Umm…this will sort of answer the question. I think one person I had a hard time figuring out what to do with was in 2009 or 2010. I went in the green room to get Seth Green for his Robot Chicken panel and MacCaulay Culkin was in the room. I was just like, “Hi…ummm…” I definitely had a moment of, “Wait. What’s going on here?” I was very confused. I guess they’re close friends, so he must have come to the show with him. I generally know who is going to be there, so I don’t get to star-struck because I can kind of prepare myself. When I knew Mark Ruffalo was coming to NEW YORK COMIC CON [last year] I was really excited, but I knew he was coming so I was able to tell myself, “When you meet him, act cool. It’s okay.” But with someone like [MacCaulay], and you don’t expect it, and you just kind of run into someone, you’re like, “Oh…hi…uh…what do I do?”
TJ: That’s funny, I actually got to sit in on that panel.
Kim: Oh, really?
TJ: Yeah, I was pretty surprised to see MacCaulay there too!
Kim: You know, I just always associate MacCaulay Culkin with Home Alone, and I watch that movie every Thanksgiving to kick off my holiday season. I was star-struck, but I think it was because I wasn’t expecting to see him. Normally, I’m pretty good at keeping my cool and being normal around people like that.
TJ: What a fun story!
Kim: Yeah, I think so.
TJ: Have you ever had a guest that you knew you just HAD to get for a show but had a really hard time getting to them?
Kim: Yeah, that pretty much happens every show. There are a few people that we want every year, or we go back and forth with, and it’s either that we can’t make it work with timing or scheduling. So it’s probably several people each show that that happens with.
TJ: Has there ever been anyone that you have invited to the show, and thought, “If I had that to do over, I don’t think that person would be getting the invite?”
Kim: Yeah, there is usually one at every show that I feel that way about. We’ve definitely had people who are supposed to be there for the fans and they’re grumpy, or they just sit there on their cell phones, and they don’t want to interact. That’s what always makes me regret reaching out to someone and inviting them to the show. The last thing you want is for people to be standing in line and waiting to meet someone, and they’re disappointed when they meet them. That breaks my heart. Usually there’s one or two that. I feel like I regret it in the sense that I’m not happy with how they treat the fans and I’m not happy how the handle themselves in front of people.
TJ: That’s a pretty noble complaint. So it’s not so much a personal issue, but you don’t like how they’re treating your fans.
Kim: Yeah, exactly. Obviously some people don’t know how to treat us, in the sense that they don’t really understand what our job is, or what our role is, and who we are. Honestly, I don’t care how they treat me. I just care how they treat the fans. I don’t care that behind the scenes they may yell at me, as long as they’re nice to people who they’re signing autographs for, or who are asking them questions in a panel. Then I don’t care. You can yell at me until the cows come home.
TJ: Soooo, I can quote you and say that Kim Mueller doesn’t mind being yelled at?
Kim: (Haha.) Uh oh, I don’t know about that.
TJ: What would you consider your greatest achievement at ReedPOP?
Kim: It’s been about four and a half years now that I’ve been on the team. I don’t know if there is a specific moment that I feel like is my greatest achievement. I feel like every time I go to one of our shows, and I see people who are so excited to see some one that they’re crying, or they’re just having the best time and they’re really enjoying themselves, and they’re in a panel, and they’re applauding, and they’re cheering. That’s when I feel like I’ve really accomplished something and I feel super successful. It happens so much during our events, I can’t think of specific moments. It actually happens quite frequently, and that’s the reason that I like my job so much.
TJ: When people log on to twitter and go to @NYCCKim and look at your profile picture, who will they see you standing there by?
Kim: Chris Hemsworth.
TJ: Oh, yeah?
Kim: Yeah, right now my profile picture on twitter is of me and Chris Hemsworth, who was the nicest guy in the world, that I instantly fell in love with him the second that I met him. I was so upset the he was married and, you know, he was a faithful nice guy who didn’t do anything bad and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I love you.”
TJ: So it was pretty exciting to meet Thor?
Kim: Oh, yes.
TJ: This year NEW YORK COMIC CON is going to be October 11th through the 14th.
Kim: Yes, it’s the same weekend. It’s always the weekend after Columbus Day.
TJ: You already have some pretty amazing guests lined up. You’ve got the chief Creative Officer of DC, Geoff Johns
Co-Publisher of DC Entertainment, Jim Lee, Creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola, and I saw that Josh Gates of Destination Truth has been added to the websites list of guests…
Kim: Yes, Josh Gates has been announced and we have also announced that three day tickets are now on sale.
TJ: What kinds of tickets can you buy to attend NEW YORK COMIC CON?
Kim: Four day tickets which have been available now for about a month, now we have three day tickets available, and later in the summer we’ll put single day tickets on sale as well.
TJ: Great. I know that you already have a lot of great guests lined up that you haven’t announced yet, but I can only imagine that you have an amazing list tucked away somewhere. Who else can we look for this year?
Kim: I can’t say anything yet, but one thing I can say is, in the next couple of weeks we will be announcing some Marvel [Publishing] names. Right now, we have only announced a couple of DC guys, and Mike Mignola who is Dark Horse, so we’ll have some Marvel people coming very shortly that will be announced. And we definitely have some really cool TV stuff that’s already official and lined up, so it’s just a matter of time before we can announce it. I can guarantee that people will be very happy with it.
TJ: I’m really excited to see the rest of the lineup this year! I check the site one or two times a day!
Kim: Yeah, that’s the place to go if you want to stay up to date and get the latest news.
TJ: Now, for a non-convention question. What do you think about cats?
Kim: (Haha.) What do I think about cats? (Haha.)
TJ: Yeah, everything that I’ve researched and have seen online always has Kim Mueller and cats in the same sentence.
Kim: (Haha) yeah, I love cats. I have a cat who is the cutest wildest little creature ever. I love cats but I feel like the people who I work with have actually made me seem like I’m a much crazier cat lady that I actually am. I have one cat and I love him, but beyond that, people always buy me cat books and they put up cat things in my cube at work. I have all kinds of cat stuff all around me, but I swear none of it is stuff that I bought myself. I mean, I am obsessed with cats, but not the way people think I am.
TJ: Okay. I’ll believe you.
Kim: Well, maybe I am, a little bit.
TJ: Is there anything else you would like to say about NEW YORK COMIC CON and ReedPOP?
Kim: I would say that if anyone is checking out this interview, and they have ideas for guests or what they would like to see, whether it’s something traditional or if it’s something that’s completely out there, we’re always looking for suggestions. We always want to hear from the fans, and how things went for them in previous years, and what they want to see this year, so I would just say that all of our contact information is on our website, and also on the ReedPOP website, so anytime anyone has any feedback or questions, or concerns or suggestions, we’re here and we love talking to people, and hearing what matters to them.
TJ: Thank you so much Kim, it’s been great talking to you.
Kim: No problem.