The Big Squeeze

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Posted by Evie

Mile High Comics’ Chuck Rozanski appears to be the first out of the gate with the annual “where are the comics at Comic Con?” lament, and Val D’Orazio has a further discussion. My personal flash-assessment, having not been there this year but having gone in the past and following the news from the perspective of journalists, publishers and creators, is that the shape of this problem depends a lot on where your stake is. For smaller retailers who are losing money, it is perhaps epic. For others who are making the books, the convention is still very much about the comics. The idea that the TV/movie/video game/toy/big money contingent is taking over is, well, that discussion is very much in progress, as we know. One thing is for sure: Chuck Rozanski is not so fussed on Twitter.

It’s also interesting when reading a few of Wired’s Geek Dad’s “Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Sorry to be Missing Comic Con”*:

8. Why should I pay to fly across the country to see people like Bruce Campbell, Nathan Fillion, Neil Patrick Harris, and Eliza Dushku, when I can see them on TV and DVD for free?

7. I haven’t been into comic books since high school, and that’s all the convention’s really about, right? I mean, why else would they call it “Comic-Con?”

Now, I’m going to give Geek Dad Matt Blum credit for intending this subtle paradox, but let’s pretend for a second that he didn’t (and maybe he didn’t). Would it be so terrible if the two biggest reasons to go to Comic Con were that you a) loved comics AND b) wanted to get your picture taken with Nathan Fillion? The argument against the corporate media takeover of comic con always seems to imply that too many of the people who fill up the convention hall are there for the glitter and not for the paper. But almost everyone I personally know in the comics community get equally weak-kneed over both Asterios Polyp and Josh Holloway (or ok Megan Fox), and I would wager it’s these things together, rather than one or the other, that make your average attendee pony up.
*Thanks to Torsten for the link.

Comments

  1. Robsalk says:

    Is it just my imagination, or has Rozanski been making this same complaint for at least the past 10 years? I had a great time at Comic-Con but came home with hundreds of dollars unspent in the dealer’s room because the prices they were asking for old paper were just not in line with my personal conception of what the items are worth. Dealers in particular seem to be having a hard time coming to grips with the wider availability of reprints, the aging of the core customer base of nostalgic Silver Age collectors, and the fact that most people willing to pay $300 for a beat-up copy of Detective Comics #76 probably already have one. Plus, with eBay, those in the market for back issues don’t have to come to a convention to get them.
    I didn’t come to Comic Con broke, but I spent most of my dollars directly with artists and publishers, and spent most of my time in panels and events that offered something unique and interesting. I’d hate to see the comics dealers priced out of floorspace at Comic-Con (and maybe there’s a way to deal with that in the table pricing), but it’s not 1985 or 1995 anymore.

  2. My only disillusion was the Frebergs charging for autographs and MIA guests who don’t have signings. Granted they have spolights but one can’t get to them all.

    Otherwise I’ve come to lean to live with our Con neighbors who are bullish, loud and obnoxious. Wish they’d move and we can have the Comic Con back, but I’ll accept that that’s not gonna happen anytime soon.

  3. Mark, I’m sorry I missed you. I kept an eye out for you. I think I had one of the best cons I’ve had in a while. I have to admit though, that having the magazine gave me a purpose while there, which made the trip much more enjoyable than just wondering around the floor could be, for me. I’ll have photos and my report up on MAM’s blog sometime this week. I’m still trying to recover from the drive home, for now.

  4. mark coale says:

    One of bigger complaints is that the two ‘comics sections’ of the con were at opposite ends of the show.

    At 12:30, I was at one end and needed to get to someone’s table in artist’s alley by 1 and didn’t make it there.

    Couldn’t they put the comics parts together and leave all the media stuff together, so people there for each can avoid the other easily?

  5. Tom Spurgeon says:

    For what it’s worth, everyone I know in the comics community loves comics and hardly gives a stone shit about Megan Fox or Josh Holloway. Half of them probably don’t know who they are. That doesn’t make them better people, but that makes them different, and they do exist, and I wanted it out there for discussion’s sake.

  6. Alan Coil says:

    Christopher Moonlight said:

    “…more enjoyable than just wondering around the floor could be…”

    Obviously, it should be wandering, but somehow wondering is so much more poetic.

    Mark Bourne — Some celebrities charge for autographs because so many people get an autograph, then put it on eBay. The celebrities are just trying to get a piece of the action.

  7. For the sake of clarity I should state that I follow me some Josh Holloway, couldn’t give an eyelash about Megan Fox, and it’s not primarily because of my gender/sexual orientation but the limited range of my comic-tangential media interests. I guess I was mainly saying that I know lots of people who are deep in the actual book world of comic books who are also into some area of the other stuff.

  8. Tom Spurgeon says:

    That being said, Chuck Rozanski is basically just repeating last year’s “Nobody is giving Neal Adams the love” lament, but the shape of the economy and the fact that the comics industry has developed in ways that reduce the importance of regular comics spending at cons gives him a different way to go about it.

  9. I’m curious if it would be feasible to extend SDCC by a day or two, and have specific comic book programming on Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, movies on Friday, television on Saturday and a mish-mash on Sunday.

    Likewise, offer booth space for comic book related dealers from Tuesday-Thursday and have a switchover of space Thursday night to media related booths. Logistically, would something like that work?

    Or bring in a huge cruiseship for space, one with movie theaters and the like.

  10. mark coale says:

    I don’t mind the media stuff being there. I mean, if there were not 20,000 people trying to cram into Hall H or Room 20, I’d go. In the past, I’ve gone to the Futurama panel and the voice over panel and the like. Heck, I write the LOST column for this site. I would have gone to that if it was not such a Herculean effort to do so.

    And with limited time this year, I just wanted to do comics-related stuff.

  11. I don’t know about other self-publishers, but we (Batton Lash and I) at Exhibit A Press had our best year ever. And we had no item that was over $20. Some of the other creators we spoke to said they did well with their books and but not with original art. So I suspect attendees were wanting to spread their money around as much as possible and try a lot of different things.

    Personally, I spent most of my money at Bud Plant’s booth (Had to get the Norm Saunders book!) and indie publisher booths; the only program I made a point of going to besides the Comic-Con history ones was the last program of the show: the Buffy Sing-along (“Once More With Feeling”),

  12. Its a big world and the growth of Comic Con into something other than “the gathering of the tribes” doesn’t mean there aren’t other conventions where comics still rule the roost. I was there for two days this year and managed to avoid lines for movie stars and see plenty of fine comics.

    But I’ve gone off and on since 1974, and living with nostalgia for what used to be is simply part of life. Enjoy the future, it will be different, but its where you’ll be living.

  13. Yes Alan. Much more poetic, and in my case, dyslexic. There are some things spell check can’t save me from, but it all works out for the best in the end. Tom, I am one of those people who don’t give a stone or a squishy one. :) I got to enjoy conversations with Dave Gibbons and John Higgins, among so many other great creators. I learned so much from all of them. How could that get any better?

  14. michael says:

    Wired’s Geek Dad and those posters are some surly people. Seriously. I mean if all you’re gonna do is complain about something you don’t even care about, then why start the damn article in the first place?

    BOOO on all them. And that one poster seems to be hitting every SDCC article with the comment about how great DragonCon is. Seriously, it’s getting tedious & lame.

  15. Chris Says: I’m curious if it would be feasible to extend SDCC by a day or two, and have specific comic book programming on Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, movies on Friday, television on Saturday and a mish-mash on Sunday.

    I’ve heard through previous discussions about expanding SDCC that the convention center needs a certain number of days between events to clear out one and get ready for the next, such that Wednesday night to Sunday is about all they can squeeze in.

  16. So… there’s complaints about SDCC ’09 coming from people who DIDN’T go??

    I’m shocked. And stunned. And as ever, I consider the source of the criticisms, and classify them as the nerdaratti equivalent of all those mainstream media cliche bleatings about the Con as full of geeks/who don’t bathe/dressed up as SW characters, and used to be just about Comics/then Hollywood took over/but could be fun for “regular people” to attend. Nothing like a set of simple assumptions from afar than some observations gathered by actually attending!

    As for me, I had fun: sat in the Evanier Golden/Silver Age and Kirby panels, attended the SDCC El Cortez Years one [ah: Comic-Con is an
    Elephant!]… and a couple of Hall H ones. Got my COMIC-CON 40 YEARS
    book signed by a bunch of the old-schoolers and 4/5s of “Seduction of the Innocent” … and my freebie Tribble by David Gerrold. Played in FLYNN’S ARCADE, rode the Trolley, and made a circuit of the ENTIRE Exhibition Floor at least 3x. Avoided the overpriced Con pizza and soft pretzles, though fell for that $2 bottle of ice water while standing under the Saint-Phalle ‘face’ for Hall H. Took pix of Leonard Nimoy, Adam West, Gene Colan, Russ Heath, the Iron Men armor, Bumblebee, Pikachu… and shots of the Floor from the 200’s to the 5200’s. All in all, a pretty good sampling of the range of experiences SDCC has to offer.

    Couldn’t wait to go/glad it’s over now/can’t wait for next year!

  17. The Beat says:

    Ed, I think you had the BEST con of all.

    Evie thanks for starting this stimulating discussion.

  18. Thanks, Heidi!

    I think it would’ve been a better Con for me had I been able to go to that group signing with Alan Dean Foster (his only listed appearance; didn’t see him listed with Del Rey), … I guess those ADF books of mine will remain unsigned, for now. And if I’d also managed to squeeze in that rare, twice-in-a-decade Warren Ellis signing at Marvel’s.

    One day I’ll manage the ‘full Elephant’ experience of SDCC— but I’m satisfied in getting at least the ‘trunk’, ‘ears’ and ‘tail’ ones at least! ;)

  19. Alan Coil – Understood and that’s fine for those “Under the Sails” but when you are a con guest appearing on the con’s “dime” I would think otherwise. I understand having books/ cds/ etc for sale and I’m ok with that but going up to have your convention book signed and faced with $20 – that’s another story. And to no disrespect to the amazing, godlike Freberg who I admire so, so much.

  20. Torsten Adair says:

    Growing up in Omaha, the local SF convention had to program for every facet we could to draw a crowd… gaming, comics, artists, SF, media, space exploration, costuming.

    I love comics. Have for over 25 years. Everything in the medium: strips, superheroes, editorial cartoons, hybrids, non-fiction, expiremental… But there are many other tribes I belong to… space exploration, animation, old school video games, SF, erotica, popular science… and a show like CCI:SD offers a big bang for the buck. I know what to expect and plan accordingly.

    As for con retailers, I’m looking for the unusual, the bazaar [sic] . Old trades and hardcovers for less than $100. Weird single issues like Spire Comics or Treasure Chest or the Spider-Man Planned Parenthood comic. (And why buy a statue there when you have to deal with shipping it back home?

    Artists, writers, creators: I seek self-portraits of artists, interesting books, and some interesting conversation. I seek SPX and MoCCA in every Artists’ Alley. Bring your NBA-game to your table, and I’ll probably buy something.

    I’m looking for the unusual, the interesting, the unique, the cool, as I’m sure most attendees are. San Diego offers that, and if tribes intermingle, even better, because comics needs new blood to counter creative inbreeding.

    Should the Halls be divided by category? Yes and No. You want all the movie booths in one Hell [sic]? Although… if each Hall was enclosed, the fire marshall could control the number of people inside. But then you risk repeating the crowd control situation of Hall H. (The Eighth Circle of Hall?)

    I’ll wait for the annual official reply from the Con before making suggestions. However, no one died or got publicly arrested, and people had fun.

  21. The only other “big” convention I go to is the Toronto Fan Expo. I’ve been going there from 2002 to 2007 (skipped last year) and I can’t help but compare. Their Comics section has radically shrunk from roughly 50% to 20% of the con IMO.

    In short, maybe comic-con does have reduced comic book presence (or at least Gold/Silver back issue dealers) than in previous years, but in terms of over all comic book content, there’s nothing to complain about. There are still plenty of publishers/creators there selling comics along with dealers.

    And I do think people are more price sensitive. Especially when they pay to go to the con and get in. Mile High doesn’t offer that much of a discount and if Chuck is expecting people to go to his booth and pay the same amount for the same books they can get at their LCS, then yeah, he’s out of luck. One of the reasons people pay to get into the comic con is for the discounts offered inside. The most I paid was 20% off a recent Captain America TPB. The vast majority of what I bought was either 50% off or a flat $5 per trade, with the exception of a few back issues that were all under $15.

    One thing I do love about Comic-con (and I’ve only gone twice) is you can wander the other sections (fantasy books, toys, etc..) and still find booths selling comics, and often it’s the obscure stuff you might be looking for at a decent price.

  22. I agree with Jackie (and was occupying the booth next to them!) It was a great show, businesswise. Wednesday was a shock and a surprise – lots of sales. The rest of the days ebbed and flowed – and then Sunday was awesome.

    I went to two panels: the Archie panel (which my daughter wanted to see) and mine (which my publicist wanted me on). But I got to see and chat with a lot of the folks I love to meet up with at Comicon – in particular Uncle Ray (Bradbury). Got to talk to Heidi, and Jamie Colville (missed Tom), and Terry Brooks and Gary Gianni, and Len Wein, and walked Maggie Thompson back to her hotel Sunday night. I got to catch up with Jeff Smith, and Whilce Portacio, and I took some books around to my friends’ kids (Katie Mignola).

    I would have loved to have had more time to SEE programming, but the main thrust of the show for me isn’t that anymore.

    I echoed what others have said: the two parts of the show I love are seperated by megabooths – but that’s fine by me. More walking. But I know where to go. The comics crowd is still the comics crowd – and things like the Dead Dog Party aren’t much different except that I was more tired, and Denis Kitchen’s kids are a lot taller.

  23. Jesse Post says:

    I think GeekDad’s comments are being misinterpreted. He implied (and stated) throughout the piece that he really wanted to go to Comic Con but couldn’t so he had to make up “sour grapes” reasons for not wanting to go. So all his reasons should be read as something he doesn’t believe (it’s Opposite Day at Wired!).

    Also, I mentioned this on Heidi’s first post on the subject last week, but I still don’t see why Comic Con has to be primarily (or even remotely) about comics, aside from how ridiculous the name sounds the less important comics becomes. The show has evolved to be a consumer show for a few different media and a few different fan-driven genre cultures, and comics are a slice of that.

    To my knowledge, general film and TV industry fans don’t have a consumer show to call their own, which somewhat explains why Comic Con has evolved to fill that need. Fans of comics in general and superheroes specifically have several other options for consumer shows, all year and all over the country. Of course, whether or not the “New Comic Con” is your cup of tea as an exhibitor or guest is a personal choice, but I don’t think we’re right to say that the new direction is wrong.

    As for me, I much preferred my weekend of brunches and margaritas and sunny afternoons in the park so I guess I’ve done grown out of San Diego. Whither youth?!

  24. Blackeye says:

    I want to know if there is any kind of criteria for being allowed to exhibit at the convention. I’m guessing that this is so much about the money, that it doesn’t really matter what you are selling, as long as you can pay for booth space. What is with all the semi clothed women handing out promo stuff and hanging at booths as eye candy? I think there are changes that need to be made to this convention before it collapses in under it’s own monstrous weight.

    This, I think, will be my last show. I no longer have any patience for this mardi gras/carnival, this is not the future of the comic book industry. This feels like something Stan Lee as a carnival barker and flim flam man would totally endorse, but it’s not for me.

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