More and more and more comic cons are on their way

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the con floor More and more and more comic cons are on their way
Photo: Tucson Comic-Con by Henry Barajas

Are con wars just heating up? Calvin Reid and I surveyed the showrunners after this weekend’s three con pile-up and it sounds like things are just getting started.

In particular, it turns out Special Edition: NYC was just a warm-up for what could be smaller comics shows everywhere.

He also acknowledged that Special Edition is an experimental concept and the show is likely to be used as a template for organizing comics shows in “underserved” markets around the county. Armstrong said feedback from fans, publishers and artists has been “overwhelmingly positive.” Armstrong said, “fans want access to creators in a more intimate environment,” he said, and creators have expressed “satisfaction in being able to have meaningful and less hurried interactions with their current fans and new readers.”

Armstrong acknowledged that the show as scheduled competes with the two other local comics shows over the same weekend—EternalCon in Garden City, NY and the New York Comic Fest in White Plains. But he also emphasized that no decision has been made on where or when the next Special Edition will be held, or even if it will be in New York.


Ya hear that? Special Edition is coming!

NYCF’s Crucial Entertainment announced that the Asbury Park Comic Con will be replaced by the East Coast Comicon, to be held April 11-12, 2015. “We outgrew Asbury Park,” he continued, “and while we love the town, it’s difficult putting on a con in a hotel or an old convention hall. We haven’t given up on Asbury Park, we like to think that like Frosty the Snowman it’ll ‘be back again one day.'”

EternalCon was the only show that gave numbers — more than 3000 fans each day. And yes it will be back next year.

According to reports, Wizard is poised to expand into even more territories next year, including just about any city big enough to have a stop-light or dedicated froyo outlet. If ReedPop is lining up its own brand of smaller, comics-focused shows, we could be looking at a very crowded schedule indeed.

Comments

  1. First of all this “satisfaction in being able to have meaningful and less hurried interactions with their current fans and new readers.” is PR blather….I doubt very much that Ethan Van Scriver really wants to have a twenty minute conversation with a fan…

    Second of all, the implosion is coming…there are simply not enough creators who matter for this to work…we had a con in Canada a couple weeks ago that had the stormtrooper who says “these aren’t the droids we’re looking for” as a guest…and somehow this is all supposed to work?

    Unless there is a huge celeb influx of people willing to do cons or something along those lines, there just isn’t any way that creators are going to want to make cons/hotels their entire lives…

  2. Rutland, Vermont, con organizers. Home of the original DC/Marvel crossover.

    Just sayin’.

  3. i tried getting VIP tickets this morning for the NYCC show. i was at the site at 12 noon sharp, i clicked for tickets , was put in a waiting area , and exactly three minutes later was informed that the tickets had SOLD OUT. in three frickin’ minutes? since when is trying to score tickets to a comic con like trying to score tickets to a springsteen or stones concert? so now comes the news that there will be more smaller cons in the tri-state (quad-state , if you count places like philly or even baltimore) areas. count me in. as long as they keep the guest list chock full of comic creators old and new , corporate and indy, hot and not so hot, there should be no problem attracting folks to come to these shows. ethan van scriver might put up with a twenty minute conversation with fan , if that fan is dropping some scratch for an on the spot sketch or commission (not to mention paying less for a table at a these smaller cons). that’s the point , the more venues that hold these type of cons gives the creators more opportunities to make more bread. can all of this lead to con burnout with fans and creators alike ? sure, but i for one will enjoy the ride while it lasts. a vendor that i know that attended the comic fest in westchester as a vendor on saturday tells me that he spoke to the folks running the comic fest, they informed him that they will be back next year with a two day show at that venue. now i know that nothing’s wriiten in stone on these matters , but if it happens, i’m already there.

  4. This is so true. Amanda and I get a request every two days to do shows, and they are competing ones and brand new ones. As well, we now are now charging a minimal fee to make an appearance , as we are losing money doing these shows. People forget that we have two built in travel days to each show on each end and some shows we lose a working week of salary. Sure Amanda sells prints, but with so many shows people are spending money less on the prints and more getting into the door. I am also seeing artists alleys getting bigger, which is awesome, but the shows are now charging these guys to get in and for table space, which cuts into them making a single dime . I don’t know where it is going, but I have taken steps to make available some of the things we sell on Paperfilms.com to balance out things for those that cannot make it to conventions or don’t have enough money to buy things at the time. This and the fact that some cons are asking the talent they invited to ” donate” art to help pay for their show…I feel if you have to do that, you shouldnt be having a convention. Its amazing the difference in treatment between ” star” guests and comic guests. Charity, yes. Paying for your expenses of running a show: no.

    In the end, as most of you know, I sit at my table with a couple of books and talk to each and every person that stops by. I sign all their books and do the panels and really enjoy the interaction between us. I love the fans and this is where they go, so its worth every second to see them, but this con a week thing is going to turn into a real business, and for me, when it is a business we are talking about, then I have to start treating it like a business and charge. It’s never my choice, but it shouldnt cost me money as well to help a con get people in the door. I already know a lot of people do not agree with me on this, but its the reality of it for someone like me. I really feel for the guys and gals just trying to break into the business having to fork out money to be seen. I wonder in something should be done on a smaller scale in comic shops, like a once a month ” indy blast” on the same day each month in every comic store in the country. I would love and support that idea.

  5. And yes, I love talking to the fans . I always ask the promoters to put chairs in Front of the booth so we can sit and chat. At Dallas con last year, it was awesome.

  6. There are pro’s & con’s (pun intended) that we as fans need to weigh when it comes to conventions. With being able to purchase passes for the (so-called) “Major” shows becoming more expensive & akin to hitting a lottery jackpot, there are countless comics fans who are being squeezed out of being able to attend a convention.
    One could argue that the main reason for this is because Major shows like San Diego, New York, Chicago & WonderCon Anaheim have gone corporate & Hollywood by allowing major entertainment entities to pour cash into those shows, thus allowing them to dictate non-genre programming content and parade a cavalcade of celebrities. As a matter of fact, even the so-called “Mid-market” shows like Phoenix & Emerald City have slowly begun to turn in that direction as well.
    However, there’s a HUGE question that we need to ask ourselves: Which is more important, having the opportunity to meet-n-greet our favorite [current] comics creators or having them miss deadlines because they’re too busy attending cons – therefore have our favorite comics either be late or cancelled? As fans, we’d like to have accessibility to our favorite comics creators. But, at what cost?
    At the same time, as someone had posted earlier, there’s going to be a saturation point, a “terminal velocity” if you will, that’s going to occur sooner than later.
    I agree that there are many great places that could host an enjoyable convention. But, practically speaking, how many out-of-town comics creators & media guests would be willing to travel to someplace that’s not known for tourism? [I’m trying to avoid using city names, so to not offend those who live in those cities]
    Back during the 1990’s, there were a plethora of baseball/sports cards shows. It seemed like anywhere there was a room that could (safely & legally) contain more than 100 people was hosting a card show. The only reason those shows existed was because there were a group of people who were preying upon the “feeding frenzy” that [desperate] crazed fans provided.
    Today, those shows have practically evaporated. I believe that all of these so-called “comic cons” will eventually share that same fate, sooner than later.
    When the dust settles, all of those “small-time, mom-n-pop” conventions will fade away & only the Majors will remain.

  7. Yeah it’s getting very ridiculous, we’ve been doing more cons this year than ever before as Creature Entertainment, and besides the promotional factor we have to make ends meet on these cons, at least to get to the next one, and this watering down of the con cycle may not help too much. People ar ejsut not as excited, and many times the con promoters are the only ones making money.
    We’re combating this by doing a type of drink and Draw in Miami, where we have a pop up show at various locations. One place, CineBistro in Dolphin Mall, is restaurant/movie theater. They love having us as guest and we set up outside with our table like a mini artist alley with one vendor in tow. Everyone comes and we make a buck and the theater has a nice event.

    Another Place is a beer garden down south, and there we set up tables to pretty much hang out and draw comics and talk shop. It’s really an art party.

    These sort of thing don’t take much money ( if any) and is free, it’s just about finding the venue.

    I still love cons, and its still the most effective for us to get our books out, but right now it’s not a golden age of cons but a gluttony age. Some still do it right, but overall there are a lot of bottom feeders still going at it out there, so beware!

  8. As one of the “Mom and Pop” organizers I’ll say that sadly, a comics only show, doesn’t bring in the fans to make big shows worth while. This is why most cons go towards the media guests.

    Recently my show had managed to get a TON of amazing creators to attend. Perez, Jimenez, Nicieza, Lobdell, Rocafort just to name a few. Our guest list was slammin. We don’t do media guests…just comic creators.

    Six months earlier Wizards came to town…their comic guest list…kinda pathetic. That’s not a knock against the talents of the creators attending they were some very talented people. But there was half as many as my show and only two of the names on heir list had myself or others I talked to even heard of before.

    But Wizards had Hollywood…we didn’t. Wizard’s pulled in over 40,000 people…we pulled in just under 3,000. They spent only 5 months advertising the show…we spent 12. People paid $60 a day to go to Wizards, I heard complaints that 20 bucks for the whole weekend was too much money. People eagerly pay $20 to get a Walking Dead cast member to sign something and we have trouble selling $10 exclusive prints to fans.

    I love that we are a comics only convention…I really do. But when I see the numbers, the attention, and the excitement that these Hollywood-infused conventions are earning, even when fan backlash calls them “inferior fake comic shows”, it becomes harder and harder to stick to our guns and not go for the quick payoff.

  9. I do love the comics-only conventions (just went to NY Comic Fest this past weekend), but I do have to say, selling prints never really made much sense to me. Like, what do people do with them? Maybe you can frame and display a couple of them in your home, but beyond that? I have a sketchbook and I much prefer to pay an artist 20 bucks or whatever for an original sketch rather than buy a print for 10 that will just sit on a table in my house until I decide to recycle it.

  10. ZACH, an average artist can only do about 6-10 pieces a day tops at a con…full sketches. Having prints gets a signed exclusive piece of work to a ton of people that couldn’t …wait in line for a sketch, get on the list, be there early enough to do this and so on. Because you dont collect prints, you have to understand that most artists charge a lot for sketches…and this way, with prints, someone can take home a personalized print, spend time talking to the artist and support them. Its really a basic thing. Its better to make 400 fans happy than make 20.

  11. Nelson says:

    Jeff, you’re assuming that the marketing machine behind Wizard isn’t part of the reason they got 40,000 geusts and you got less than 10% of that. NYCC just had a show that was mostly comics, and it seemed to do pretty well.

  12. I’d like to comment on the following excerpt from Jeff’s post:

    “I love that we are a comics only convention…I really do. But when I see the numbers, the attention, and the excitement that these Hollywood-infused conventions are earning, even when fan backlash calls them “inferior fake comic shows”, it becomes harder and harder to stick to our guns and not go for the quick payoff.”

    First, I’d like to APPLAUD you, Jeff, for hosting a TRUE COMIC BOOK CONVENTION! It sounds like you had a real All-Star line of comics talent!

    Having said that, I’d just like to encourage to stick to your guns! Don’t give up! Hold your ground. Don’t cave in.

    I know that it would be so much easier to make money by becoming a “WizardWorld” clone. If that’s what you want to become, then by all means go for it. If you’re doing this to make money, then you need to go that route.

    I’m very fortunate to have been acquainted with the late Shel Dorf, the man who created & operated the ORIGINAL San Diego Comic-Con. He did so for almost 2 decades.
    One of the things that had troubled him was that SDCC had gone away from being about comics & genre programming [sci-fi, horror, fantasy, gaming & anime] and became too Hollywood.
    Shel once made a comparison between SDCC & Las Vegas. I’m paraphrasing, but he once said that, as Las Vegas was once small town where people would go to gamble, see a (Sinatra or Wayne Newton) show or get married, Vegas is a now major tourist destination with plush resorts, spas, amusement parks & monster casinos.
    SDCC had gone from an event where fans could gather to geek out. Now, it’s all about star-gazing – trying to meet celebrities & have selfies taken with them.

    Jeff, your show is an oasis amidst all of the craziness. So, try to stay strong!

    If you’d like, I have some ideas & suggestions that might prove helpful to you, should you decide to host another show. Some ideas you might have implemented, some you might no have.

  13. @ Jimmy – That assumes you’re going after full sketches. I much prefer a quick, spur of the moment sketch from an artist. Never quite understood why people go for the insanely expensive finished art that guys like Cho and Coipel do at cons. While they look amazing, wouldn’t it make more sense to just commission it privately, rather than spend all your time and all the artist’s time on it?

  14. Jimmy, what I don’t understand is if the convention is using your name to bring people in, in the special guests section, why the heck are you paying anything :). Makes no sense.

  15. Torsten Adair says:

    Any city which can host a boat-and-auto show can host a pop-con.

    Come on! What claim did Charlotte or San Diego have to comics when they started their shows?

    Middle America is STARVING for celebrities, for taking part in all the cool stuff they see in media.

    Wizard is firmly in the “auto show” business model: bring in some celebrities for autographing, have them stay to buy stuff from retailers.

    Myself, I attend shows for the bizarre bazaar (Harlan Ellison wrote for Crazy Magazine?!) and to chat with the people in Artists Alley (and occasionally participate in synchronicity, as happened when Chris Claremont stopped by Peter David’s table last Sunday, and told of his experience as a member of Congress).

    Furthermore, there are untapped locales for comics shows… libraries (Ann Arbor), Rotary/VFW halls (Clallam Bay), arts festivals, high schools (Ramapo), fellowship halls (Big Apple) …

    Heck! Follow the SF model! San Diego and Dragon*Con started as SF shows… “Big Tent” shows…offer a variety of programming to a variety of geekdoms to maximize attendance. If a city can support a SF con, it can support a pop-con! (And, yes, Omacon in the 80s… we flew in a few guests from the coasts, but many were regional professionals. Church basement to hotel convention center.)

  16. Tampa’s comi-con blew up last year. FOREVER I was saying wouldn’t it be cool if it was at our great convention center rather than in these small hotel like the Radison and last year it was and had lines around the block trying to get in. Comics as a pop cultural phenomenon have never been hotter.

  17. Lenny says:

    hey Jeff, what is the name of your comics only con and where is it?

  18. Lenny says:

    DTO said “I have some ideas & suggestions that might prove helpful to you, should you decide to host another show. Some ideas you might have implemented, some you might no have.”

    i’d REALLY be interested in possible insights or suggestions: lennyhipp@gmail.com

    it is GREATLY appreciated!
    thanks!

  19. I have to agree with Jeff…as a fellow comic book showrunner/promoter, we just could not compete with WW or NYCC, and more shows will just make it worse for those of us who are in “mid-sized” attendance range. I cannot begin to express frustrating it is when you are bringing dedicated COMICS fans to a venue, and get 0 support from the major publishers and even some artists ignore you.

    I’ll give an example:
    A few years back we planned a multi-day event to honor one of the greatest and most influential artists who has ever graced this industry…and as part of that we contacted DC to inquire about reprinting the original appearance of the character he was most known for. We also had him begin work on a new cover, as he had not created the original cover art, but did most if not all of the subsequent issues.

    Our agreement with DC included that all costs were to be covered by our show, and in addition, we could not sell the copies, they were to be free giveaways. We agreed, wholeheartedly, after all this was a celebration show, and besides, I frankly assumed that the costs would more than make up for the undoubted media exposure for such a move.

    Then….1.5 months prior to our show, DC backed out. Their rep stated “an Executive at DC has decided we will not be doing this for a ‘small’ convention such as yours”. Mind you we were pulling in 3,000-4,000 people on average at this point, which while not huge isn’t exactly small either.

    Now to my point, when I pressed this person as to what constituted a “small” convention the response I received was “…Anything less than 50,000 in attendance.” Now I want you to think about that number for a minute, and realize that at the time the average monthly sales were about 18,000 copies per issues (or for a more recent look, last month was only 16,913). Those are national numbers mind you, which means that the vast majority of people at most conventions are not reading comic books.
    It was after this that I started adding more celebrity guests, more anime, more cosplay…part of me hated to do it, I had wanted a “pure” Comic Book show, but it was clear that the only way to get exposure (media could really care less if there are no actors or “famous” people there) and grow…and dare I say make money, was to become a more diverse show.

    I would say the hardest thing for any showrunner/promoter is finding the right balance, and serving what you hope will be a success, not only for yourself, but also for the dealers, actors, artists, and of course attendees. Competition may unfortunately force us all to start adding things that we had not originally intended to do.

  20. Glenn Simpson says:

    I would think the best balance would be not to let things get more than one degree of separation from comics. So having Dean Cain at your event is fine, but Kevin Sorbo, not so much. The difference is pretty vague, but you can clearly point at Cain’s connection to comics, whereas Sorbo is just associated with genre in general. Walking Dead actors – yes. Professional wrestlers, no. You could even keep the order of things in mind – Serenity did get done as a comic, but it didn’t start out that way. Just throwing that out there – I actually enjoy the celebrities quite a bit.

  21. I will say this, as much as having celebrity guest come in maybe a distraction, I have a made a lot of new fans because of it. I have gone to pure comic shows, like Baltimore and Heroescon, and yes, we do well, but not like NYCC, C2E2, Supercon, or Tampa Bay. A lot of times, I don’t blame the con, it’s really the fact that many comic fans come in with their mind settled. Other times, there is a certain flavor to the show, like Heroescon is, from what i have seen, a very Artist driven. If you have good work, take commissions and have sketchbook you’ll go far, I push many of our artist to set up there. While shows like C2E2 you’ll a lot of readers, people who are hungry for new thing.

    It’s funny but Special Edition NYC I saw the typical outlook of attendees: the vendors thought everyone was spending their money in Artist Alley and everyone in Artist Alley was pisse dbecause so many people were broke by the time they got to them.

    SDCC is a fiasco now. I mean I dug it, but being behind a booth the whole time there, you’re not going to do MUCH. I mean if you’re selling DC/Marvel prints, you’ll do amazing but for indies, it’s very hard. I try to sell a shirt for 20 bucks, and there is HBO handing out shirts for FREE right in front of me. Opening the door people run past you looking for exclusives and the next big thing, or are stuck in line for a panel for hours on end. Again, made my money met some awesome fans, but would never do that show again unless I was pushing something.

    Other cons have just gone through the roof with pricing like Orlando Megacon, which is looking less and less like a con to do, because everything has been Absorbently expensive with them. When you look at those prices and look at a similarly priced con like NYCC which gives and helps promote your work for the cons and has a huge rabid attendance, for the SAME PRICE, and while at Megacon this last year they seemed annoyed that you show up.

    OMG this is releasing some emotions this article., oY

  22. As an up and coming independent creator the budget is tight and time it tighter, between creating and working full time at a day job. Only this year, after magically qualifying for a Pro pass, was I able to do C2E2, and all I did was walk about, get critiques, and network. Which was AWESOME thanks to guys like Jimmy Palmiotti, Mark Brooks, Lee Weeks, Phil Hester, Christopher Jones, Patrick Gleason, Peter Tomasi, and a few others who offered feed back and encouragement to grow as a creator. Business wise it was over all a six or seven hundred dollar investment into my career. I made zero money. I’d like to do artist alley at C2E2, or Heroes, or ECCC someday, but its a big push financially. More than that I have no interest in doing Hollywood shows like wizard and others.

    Any promoters who do comic book focused shows, please look me up, forward me your information or link to Anthony@anacomics.com because myself and many other indy creators would love to team with you to both build your show and our business, while providing a great experience for fans!

    I look forward to the future of comic books as an industry, both the publishing and convention side of things.

    Jimmy’s suggestion of smaller, retailer events is a GREAT idea. I participate in those already and it really is fun and good for everyone involved.

  23. Johnny Memeonic says:

    As one of the “Mom and Pop” organizers I’ll say that sadly, a comics only show, doesn’t bring in the fans to make big shows worth while. This is why most cons go towards the media guests.

    This is not surprising because there actually aren’t that many regular comic buyers and readers out there compared to pop culture mediums at large. Even the highest selling title every month barely breaks 100k. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the millions that watch Walking Dead or Game of Thrones regularly.

    I also agree with the sentiment that most con door prices are too high, particularly when you consider Jimmy Palmiotti’s posts about how these cons aren’t paying creators like him an appearance fee or giving him some per diem for travel expenses.

  24. Someone up above remembers Rutland Vermont and Tom Fagin.

    “Night of the Reaper.” I was there and I’d go again.

    Jes’ sayin’.

  25. Pete Kilmer says:

    Being a part of “middle America” it’s crazy for Indianapolis…we had Indiana Comic Con for the first time this year back in the spring by the guys who do Tampa and Nashville Comic Con. Then we had for the first time this year Indiana Pop Con (created by a local group), we’ve got the massive gaming convention Gencon coming in a few weeks and just announced last week is an Awesome Con for this coming Oct. If the rumored Wizard World Indy in Feb happens that means 5 major genre conventions for Indianapolis.And that doesn’t include the local show that happens 4 times a year. There’s not enough money in Central Indiana to support all 5 shows.

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