It’s a sad day indeed when you discover that Mile High Comics – yes THAT Mile High Comics, has come to the point where it will no longer attend the San Diego Comic Con.  In his latest newsletter to fans, President of Mile High Comics, Chuck Rozanski, explains how the publisher are driving him away.

Howdy!

I am turning 60 years old next March. I mention that major turning point in my life only because the last time that I did not attend a San Diego Comic-Con, I was 17 years old, and still in high school. Since I graduated, for all 42 years of my adult life, I have committed the heart of each of my summers to my personal obsession with experiencing the joys of the San Diego Comic-Con. I even passed this personal passion on my part on to my four daughters, all of whom spent their entire childhoods delightedly roaming the halls of the various incarnations of this great comics convention.

Sadly, that entire blessed reality may need to end after this year’s show closes tomorrow evening. I have not yet found the courage to reach my final decision, but my best estimate is that, at our current rate of sales, we will suffer a loss of $10,000 at this year’s show. As much as I like being a part of this wonderful gathering, I simply do not have the money to be able to pay $10,000 out of my own pocket for the privilege of providing the fans here with comic books. After 42 consecutive years in a row, it may finally (at long last…) be time for me to bid San Diego good-bye, forever.

Before I go further, I would encourage those of you who have not yet read my newsletter from yesterday to first read my analysis of some of the seismic changes that have contributed to our loss. The one factor that I would ask that you especially note when you read my first essay is the fact that our entire 7-booth display that we are operating at this year’s San Diego convention was first premiered six weeks ago, at the Denver Comic-Con. Despite our having about 20,000 fewer comics available in Denver, and that convention being only three days long (with half the number of attendees as San Diego…), our sales per hour in Denver were double (!) what they are here. That made all the difference, as we turned a reasonable profit in Denver, as opposed to a massive loss in San Diego.

So how could an extremely successful back issue comics booth in Denver become so stunningly unsuccessful in San Diego? Because in Denver we were not being utterly crushed by the very publishers who’s goods we sell on a daily basis. In a nutshell, the comics publishers with booths at the San Diego convention have so cleverly exploited the greed and avarice of comics fans through limited edition publications that are only available through their own booths, that there is no longer enough disposable income left in the room to sustain us. A sad state of affairs, but also completely true.

To illustrate my point, I had the leader of one of the major comics publishing houses stop by our booth on the way out the door last evening. This man has been our friend and ally for decades. He was absolutely ebullient yesterday evening in describing the amazing success that they were experiencing in their booth as a result of selling vast quantities of exclusive variants. I felt more than a little embarrassment and shame when I had to rain on his parade, by pointing out to him that the collective effect of his actions (combined with the other publishers and manufacturers at the show…) was devastating our sales. My response was not at all what he expected to hear. But as the validity of what I was expressing became clear, I could see awareness dawning in his eyes.

All of the above having been said, my publisher friend is an extremely astute man, so he quickly understood the unintended consequences of his actions. Given that he was only seeking to cover his own costs of exhibiting in this dreadfully expensive venue, however, he could muster no material reply to my pain. In many regards, that was the most depressing aspect of this entire fiasco. Being obviated by lifelong friends is particularly galling, especially when we it is clear that we are nothing more than collateral damage, in a battle being waged by giants.

So where does this leave us? As much as I hate to admit this, it now seems obvious to me now that we finally have to end a lifetime of exhibiting at San Diego, and instead seek out relatively popular comics conventions in other cities. Especially conventions where our publisher friends choose to not exhibit. Doesn’t that thought just drip with irony? Comics publishers have evolved to become toxic to their own retailers. Who would ever have thought that would happen? Even with all my many years of experience, I simply cannot believe that our world has now been so perverted by the mania for exclusive variants, that comics retailers can now only survive in the absence of the very publishers we support. No matter how you look at it, this is a profoundly sad day.

Chuck Rozanski,
President-Mile High Comics, Inc.

July 26, 2014

Is Chuck right? Are other comic vendors going to stop attending the show? In a recent Finally Friday episode I talked about a video created by Tested.com where they were excited to be at Preview Night at the convention, but then made a sad attempt at humor by shrugging their shoulders at the comic book section of the show floor.

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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4 Comments

  1. Paul
    July 27, 2014 at 11:32 am — Reply

    That all makes perfect sense- so many fans at conventions are driven by the need for the exclusives that are pumped out by Marvel, DC, Hasbro, Mattel et al. They’re at the Con and they want the things that prove they were there rather than the 6 issues of The Flash that they’ve been looking for.

    The manufacturers also are clearly aware that this is the best way to recoup a fairly large chunk of the booth costs; those action figure sets that are so devastatingly expensive (to fans and other retailers alike) still cost the same to make as the regular stuff (which is already a massive profit margin at retail) so why not milk the con attendees for all they can?

    “Wait.. you’re telling me that us selling our LE Han and Greedo Black series 2 pack for $40* means you’re unable to sell that batch of $10 figures you bought from us that would cover your booth costs? Aw. Shame. Wanna buy a Con Exclusive figure? Only $40.”

    It’s a sad state of affairs, it really is.

    *- I have no idea what it costs

  2. July 27, 2014 at 11:38 am — Reply

    I think its been quite apparent that San Diego Comic Con has not been about comics in several years. Its turned into a massive Hollywood media event with movie stars and studio executives telling each other how amazing they are. But in the long run I think its gonna bite them in the ass, since they are alienating their core audience with lots of disposable income, the nerdy guys in their 30’s and 40’s who still care about comic books.
    As soon as couple of big blockbuster superhero movies tank in box office, Hollywood studios are out of comic con. I dont want to belittle anyone, but in that point if they dont have their core audience on board anymore, cosplayers and Twilight fans are not going to carry their massive show. Its a thing they either realize in time (really doubt it) or will learn in very hard way in the future.

  3. Oldcomicfan
    July 28, 2014 at 8:28 am — Reply

    A similar thing once happened with local model railroad shows and conventions. There was a friendly, family owned hobby distributor who supplied goods to a majority of the local hobby shops in our area. For nearly ten years, they appeared at every model railroad show and convention, selling their goods at lower prices than their clients, the hobby shops, could offer and finally, they were made to realize that they were hurting their clients as well as their own business by selling directly to the public at shows. They meekly withdrew from the shows and conventions. In a way, this was bad for the local model railroaders because they had to pay higher prices for the same items, and also the distributors had offered goods that the hobby shops weren’t interested in carrying because they weren’t high-volume items.

    It was sad so see these friendly people withdraw, just as it will be sad to see Mile High withdraw from SDCC – but really, SDCC hasn’t been about comic books for the last ten years, or more, but has been nothing more than a multi-media extravaganza devoted to the self-agrandizement of Hollywood, with comic books pretty much shoved off into a corner of the back room.

    Regarding the publisher’s behavior at SDCC, this sort of blind devotion to the bottom dollar shouldn’t surprise anybody. Really, the comic book industry pretty much shot itself in the foot in the late 70s and has continued to do so ever since. That’s when the industry stopped selling comics through grocery stores, drug stores, news stands, etc. and went “exclusively” to comic book stores and subscription services because some bean-counters convinced their boards of director that they could make more money by doing so. The end result was that the price of comic books have risen from 75¢ to nearly four or five dollars per issue, and the extreme drop in the number of comics sold. At one time, Marvel and DC routinely sold hundreds of thousands of issues a month, now they boast if they sell a pathetic ten or twenty thousand issues of a comic a month. At yet they still can’t seem to understand that if they want to increase their readership, or gather unto themselves new readers in large amounts, they need to put their books out in the public where they can easily be found and purchased. Say, like selling comics in grocery stores, book stores, drug stores, etc. What a novel idea (snort)! So why would their shortsighted behavior at SDCC come as a surprise?

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