SDCC’13: What’s Going on Down Artist’s Alley?

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By Carolina Cooney

Off to an early start Thursday morning, the first “official” day of Comic-Con, I headed over to the Illustrators area in Hall G, well away from where I exhibit with my husband Dan Cooney directly inside the Hall B2/C doors. Quite proud of myself for making it over before the crowds gathered, I was soon disappointed by the veritable ghost town I encountered. Artists. Lest I remember they are always on their own schedule, and just because the hall is open for business does not mean they will be there.

Artist’s Alley, shifted from previous years and possibly downsized, is apparently now sponsored by deviantART. The effect seems positive. It’s a nicer display somehow, and the artists seem more integrated with the rest of the con, instead of the “shoved in a corner” feeling it has had in the past. Rumor has it Artist’s Alley is a bit of a thorn in Comic-Con’s side. The tables — free to qualifying artists — take up valuable space, but it is precisely these free tables that allow Comic-Con to keep their non-profit status. I’m curious how the artists exhibiting felt about the changes, and whether it had a positive impact on their sales.

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One of my highlights in the Illustrators area was a stop at the Madefire booth. Touted as a revolutionary “motion books” app, I was impressed by the presentation and pleased to hear that they have just partnered with IDW, Top Cow, Boom! Studios and iTV to bring more books to their platform. I was especially taken with a motion book by UK artist Des Taylor, The Trouble with Katie Rogers. Taylor created the book especially for the Madefire app, and it is a very pleasing experience, with a sophisticated European feel.

I spoke with Dan Brereton at length about his wonderful wife, Chartruz, and his recent work on the Mars Attack sketch cards. Apparently there is still a market for sketch cards, but as an artist, cards are a tough commitment — lots of work for little upfront money. The aftermarket can be profitable, but that means even more work on the artist’s part doing promotion. Like numerous other artists I spoke with, Dan groaned that this will likely be the last Comic-Con he does (a common threat at shows), but hopefully that won’t be the case.

I was disappointed to find Geof Darrow away from his table, off shopping at Dark Horse with his daughter, according to his booth-mate Mike Mignola. Darrow had an impressive portfolio of originals and a new sketchbook available. Just down the row, pin-up artist Olivia was also out of her booth, as was erotic artist Armando Huerta, who instead had buxom beauties clad in latex chatting up potential customers.

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The classiest booth of the con award goes without question to illustrator Gris Grimly. Draped in velvet, with rich wood displays and a green backdrop, Gris’s booth complemented his work perfectly. He even had a classic record player playing LPs out of his own collection, but alas they were drowned out by the bombastic, never-ending pop hits spewing from the Hollywood movie displays nearby. A longtime exhibitor at Comic-Con, this was Gris’s first year in this particular location, and he was obviously annoyed.

Noise was my biggest complaint as well in the Illustrators area. I could hardly hear many of the artists I tried to speak with, and the constant bombardment of sound made my browsing experience rather unpleasant. And thus the battle of artists versus Hollywood at the con continues.

 

Carolina Cooney is a comics creator who’ll be at booth 5530 this weekend at SDCC. You can also find her on twitter!

Comments

  1. Electric Strider says:

    What a shame. I used to attend the SDCC in the 80’s when you could still drive up and walk right in. The artists deserve better but movies are now the priority. Additionally, the old guard artists are simply not recognized by the younger generation; younger “enthusiasts” couldn’t care less who is drawing the comic, if they’re readings comics at all.

  2. @ Electric Strider:

    This is pretty much how I felt about conventions. People are only really there for movies, video games and panels.

    The way I see it is that actually comic book movies are cool and everything else surrounding comics are cool, but frankly comics are still not cool.

  3. I love San Diego Comic-Con and have been attending for well over a decade and seen it change into a maunstream venue for movies and television promotion and taking away from the original spirit of the show comics. There’s definitely a lull when popular panels are holding a session in small press where my husband and I table.

    My husband did a front page business centerpiece on exactly what small press (as well as artists alley) deal with in San Diego. It’s gotten a lot of response with people wanting to stop by to talk about the struggles to compete but I have to wonder if the readers are actually taking it to heart.

    Interactive piece here: http://www.utsandiego.com/interactives/comic-con-cool-jerk/

  4. @ Nico:
    Agreed. Movies and video games a logical extension of the comic book medium. The Batman and Captain Marvel serials of the 40’s are evidence of the that, and who does not want be their favorite superhero in a video game?
    You make a very poignant observation that comics are no longer as cool as they once were. I’ll take it to another level: reading is not cool with many. As such, comics lose the media war.

  5. shame how , year after year, one keeps hearing about the slow downward spiral of comics and comic artist at the san diego “comic con”. maybe this show should change their name to “pop culture con” to reflect what goes on at this show, but could this be an opportunity for some promoters to organize smaller shows at smaller venues (easier to fill the place up) jam-packed with comic book vendors and comic artist? the fans are out there, if you organize it , they will come. one show that’s all about the comics is the baltimore con, if ya ever get the chance to attend , i highly recommend it.

  6. If you want to actually talk to creators, and appreciate comics for what they are SDCC is not the place. Heroes Con(barring the likelihood that the DUB show is next door(headache/rage inducing bass thumps)) and Baltimore Con are great choices. Colleen Doran has been posting on her Facebook about the realities of SDCC, and it is quite shocking.

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