Wednesday, July 17, 2013

San Diego ComicCon, and Why I'm Not There

My first ComicCon was coincidentally the same year that ComicCon began to change. It was 1994, and that was also the year that Jack Kirby died. Make of that what you will.

Prior to 1994, let me tell you what San Diego ComicCon used to be. It was the Mecca for comic book fans from all over the country. If you were serious about collecting Golden Age comics, or buying that hard-to-find issue to complete your collection, or if you were trying to expand your audience for your small press book, or maybe even get a job with one of the big companies, San Diego was your destination spot. It was the place you simply HAD to go to.

And it was big--sure, the biggest comic convention in the country. But understand, it was almost all comics. Of course, whenever there was the rare movie or TV tie-in, you could find those people at ComicCon. Mostly. I mean, sort of. You know, Lou Ferrigno, he was always there, and so were a number of ex-TV and movie super heroes. Just not, you know, the BIG stars, because, well, it's a room full of comic book fans. Who would want to hang out with us?

Oh, the times, how they have changed.

From Last Year, at the Ape Entertainment Booth. This was
a Light Traffic Day.

That year, 1994, was the first year people noticed guys in suits walking around with briefcases. Full of money, or contract, it really didn't matter. Hollywood was sniffing around, looking for stuff to turn into movies. It's true. 1994 was the year they killed Superman, and it made national news. Comics were very high profile, but it was in that "here's something you don't see every day" sort of condescending tone that newscasters use whenever they have to report a story that doesn't have a body count or speak directly to scaring the public into watching their program.

I've been a handful of times since then. The most recent was last year. I do not recognize San Diego ComicCon anymore. What it has become is not the place to network, to build a business relationship, to be a comic collector and wallow in back issues. San Diego has become the reward. The place you go once you've made it. If you're debuting a hot new book, or if you are the next Marvel super hero, or if you are Chris Hardwicke, or Felicia Day, or any of the other Celebrigeeks, then San Diego ComicCon opens up to you like a flower towards the sun.

Behind the Fake Ginger there. See it? That's a Tuscan Raider
moving single file to hide his number.
If you are a cosplayer, or if you are taking pictures of cosplayers, the only other place that affords you such an opportunity is maybe DragonCon. SDCC is the place to strut your stuff, and believe me, there will be enough guys desperate to take your picture to make it worth your while to attend.

If you've been with the convention since the early days, and already have your booth space claimed, then San Diego is a great, profitable show, one that you can rely on to help you engage with your fans, and sell art, or comics, or whatever it is you are doing as a creative person.

If you're an UberFan, and you like to be the person in your peer group that tweets pictures of Nathan Fillian from seventy yards out, and break news that's flying onto the Internet thirty seven seconds before the rest of the English speaking world gets it, and you don't mind spending literally eight to twelve hours standing in line for that privilege, then San Diego ComicCon is your convention of choice.

This was a line for a panel. And not the Tru-Blood panel.
If you wanted to go to that panel, you had to line up the
NIGHT BEFORE and CAMP OUT. I am not kidding.
If you are a dealer, and you have a budget of a grand or more to spend on exclusive toy releases, game releases, and comic releases, that you will dutifully truck back to your store and double the price on, then ComicCon was made for you.

If you want to be in the same airspace with G4, Entertainment Weekly, and all of the other Faux-Hip magazines, TV shows, Internet channels, and webisodes, you will find no better starfuckers than the people running San Diego ComicCon.  That's assuming you can get in. Or get a hotel room. There's now a lottery in place for the latter, and a Byzantine registration system for professionals. Not to mention the fans who just want to buy tickets. There's so many people that want to go, that not everyone can.

I've talked to a number of people, pros and fans, and folks who work in the industry, and whether they are going or not, they have all said the same thing: "it's gotten too big."

A Hobbit's Eye view of the trolls from the Weta Workshop
Booth. They weren't selling anything. They were just,
you know, there, because, well, it's cool, and stuff.
Me, personally, I don't fit into any of the above criteria right now. That's not to say that I won't, down the road, sometime, but to be very clear on this: unless you're in, you can't get in. I'm not in. Not yet. So I'm going to take the wads of money I would have spent going to SDCC and coming home with nothing to show for it, and instead, I'm going to hit up three or four shows that still focus on comics, with engaged fans, and people who are eager to talk to up and coming professionals. I want a chance to sell myself to folks who don't know who I am.

I'll get to do that at other shows. And I'll get all of the "hot, breaking news" from SDCC via facebook and twitter, along with the rest of the world. They'll even have the trailers and film clips up on YouTube shortly after each panel. So, aside from hanging out with my friends, I'm not missing anything. Well, I never got to meet Jack Kirby. I'll always be sad about that.


Tom Doolan said...

My first SDCC was 1996, and I went dutifully until my final one in 2006. In the course of those 11 Cons, I saw the shift in stark relief. Looking abck, the last few felt like a chore, almost. An obligation as a geek who lived in San Diego (with no need for the hotel). Once I moved to Wisconsin in 2007, I realized I didn't need it. Didn't even miss it all that much. I went to Wizard World Chicago last year, and while it wasn't quite as big, it was still more of the same. I won't make it this year, but that's ok. I'm more looking forward to Gamehole Con, a new RPG Convention right here in Madison, WI.

Adventuresfantastic said...

I've never been to SDCC. From what I hear about it, it's not my kind of scene. Too big and too many people. I don't care for crowds, and if I have to stand in line for everything (or almost everything), then I usually do something else instead.

Mark Finn said...

Tom, I think the secret lies in going to those smaller, regional shows. You get way more exposure that way, and end up connecting with more people, more substantially. I'm looking forward to hitting some of the "smaller" shows next year.

Scott Cupp said...

I had fun at my one SDCC (last year) because I got to see folks like you, Bob Wayne, Mark Schultz and the like. It was way too crowded for my 60+ year old body and I was on a budget so I bought little (but did get some good bargains), I'm sure I would go again if I could be closer, have someone else pay for the trip and not worry about cash. Until that happens ArmadilloCon and WorldCon for me. See you soon, bud.