Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dispelling a few Myths about Comic-Con International

I've not attended San Diego Comic-Con every year, but I have seen it when it was approximately one-fourth its current size and focused mainly on comic books--you know, those things that they keep making zillion dollar movies out of? Over the last twenty five years, I've watched Comic-Con morph into something that has completely and totally outgrown itself to the point that it no longer really is the thing it purports to be. I may follow that cryptic utterance up later, but for now, I just wanted to tip over a few sacred cows for those of you who still have any allusions about what this annual show is or the function it serves.


"Going to Comic-Con is going to be my big break!"

Maybe twenty five or thirty years ago, but not now. Oh, there's some portfolio review that takes place, sure, and if you're REALLY, REALLY GOOD, and you are not from this country so you don't have a real sense of what everyone else makes, you might just get hired. Maybe. If you're lucky.

But meeting an editor? Forget it. Schmooze a publisher? You wish. It doesn't happen. Not on the fan level, not anymore. The show is too big, and everyone is too busy just dealing with the people, the booth, the presentation, etc. It's a real chore. If you can get into one of the after hours parties, people don't want to talk business. They want a break from it. So, good luck with that pitch you were planning on delivering. It's social suicide.

What you CAN do is make a contact. Exchange business cards. But you'll have to massage that contact after the show, over time, at smaller venues. No one gets hired on the Comic-Con floor. Uneless, you know, they suddenly do.

"Dude, let's film a documentary of Comic-Con and put it on YouTube! We'll be Internet Famous!"

Yeah, you and literally every sixth person at the show. There's more news media here, covering the convention in minute detail, than normally shows up for a Branch Davidian Massacre. Coverage? This isn't the Skull and Bones Initiation Ceremony, here. It's one giant press release after another. It's transparent, it's so covered. All you're going to do with your very impressive camera rig is cause massive log jams in the walkways wherever you go, and wear your shoulder out in the process. Leave the documentary to real filmmakers.


"This is my chance to talk to (Fill in the blank celebrity who means so much to me)!"

If you like comic book creators, then yes. If you want to spend thirty bucks on a color photo of Erin Gray for her to sign for you, then yes. But that's about the limit of your interaction. The comic and book people at the show are grateful for their audience showing up and talking to them. It's needed and necessary. But understand this: you will not get to go to dinner with Felicia Day. You won't "bump into" Nathan Fillian and become besties. You MAY see comedians and other somewhat famous celebrities in the crowd, but they will be shopping, and they will actively act like they don't see you, so that they can buy the new Sideshow Toys action figure or Darwin Cooke Parker graphic novel like a regular geek. It's what it is.

And it's not just the celebrities, either. All of the big movie companies are here, promoting their films. All of the big video game studios are here, too, doing the same thing. But here's the deal: the people at the booth are hired marketing people. They aren't connected with the studio in any way. You won't get to meet Sly Stallone, even though he's got a vested interest in you seeing The Expendables II. Likewise, you won't meet any developers for Activision, or Ubisoft. Just the people giving out free swag. And speaking of free swag:

"Look at all of the Cool Loot you can score at Comic-Con!"

Ah, yes, the loot. It falls into two categories: Convention exclusives that cost two-to-three times what normal toys, comics, and posters would normally cost.  This is usually advertised in advance, and you can sometimes pre-order it and pick it up at the show. Mostly, though, you'll be in a lottery drawing for what time you can come back and shop--and you just hope they don't run out.

The other category of loot is the cheap, plastic disposable crap that has a movie logo imprinted on it, or a show's tag line. Today I saw a line stretched across two aisles and around four more--all to pick up a tote bag and a sharpie. That's right. A tote bag. And a sharpie marker. Granted, the sharpie marker had a logo imprinted on the side, but we're not talking about the crown jewels, here. If you DO find some unique item--a blow up sword, a punch out hat, or something else of that nature, you won't be the only one with it. They made 50,000 of them. And the people brandishing them successfully spend about an hour in line to obtain them.

These are common pitfalls to avoid. I mean, if you really LIKE something that they are giving away for free, by all means, get in line. Or spend that money. The Mattel Avengers Helicarrier that will display all of your Marvel Universe figures will set you back $140 bucks. It's over four feet long, and the box is enormous. Good luck getting it on the plane. But that's part of what makes Comic-Con so unique, is that you can in fact score the right thing at the right time.

But you can't do everything. And dispel all of those illusions. It's a giant, enormous ad. And if you come here, you're a willing participant. You have been warned. 


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