Comics conventions continue to grow in their influence on the industry. There’s money to be made there, as pros, exhibitors and other creators seek to earn enough dollars to allow them to continue to make their wares available to fans in the various locations.
This past weekend, I attended Wizard World Chicago, and it was the usually good con from that organization.
More than ever, I noticed there’s a battle taking place between artists and comics creators, especially when it comes to Artist Alley, where many of these people have booths for fans to visit. Granted, some creators show their stuff as exhibitors, which is more expensive, but many are in this space apparently set up specifically for them.
WHAT ABOUT THE CONVENTION?
My friend Richard Rivera and I have been attending many of the Wizard World cons lately, and a lot of that has to do with the financially successful time we had in Philadelphia. After that, we went to Columbus, which wasn’t nearly as strong, but was still a great time, so we were hoping Chicago would be at least as good as Phillie. However, it fell between the two cities – better than Columbus, but not as great as Philadelphia. It was still an excellent convention, and as of right now, we’re planning to return next year.
As far as size goes, Chicago seemed just as big or even slightly bigger than Philadelphia. Artist Alley was truly much bigger than Columbus, but that makes sense since the city it was located in has a bigger population. Everything was well organized, with most of the exhibitors in numbered rows and Artist Alley identified by letters. The number of things going on took several large halls to contain, including gaming upstairs and many exhibitors in the same hall as Artist Alley, but another hall across the lobby to contain the media guests and other good folks selling lots of good things. I never made it to the other locations, just the main one, sadly.
Speaking of stars, the guests from the realms of TV and movies included Carrie Fisher, Norman Reedus, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Charlie Cox, Rosario Dawson, Elden Henson, Elodie Yung, Rose McIver, Christian Kane, Ralph Macchio, Jason Mewes, Mitch Pileggi, Milo Ventimiglia, Ray Santiago, Colin Donnell, Ryan Lambert, William Sadler, Ben Edlund, Sean Patrick Flanery and many others.
On the comics side of things, those guests included Humberto Ramos, Greg Weisman, Gene Ha, Michael Golden, Jorge Molina, Tim Seeley, Barry Kitson, Greg Horn, Danny Fingeroth, Dean Haspiel, Adam Bray, Jai Nitz and many others. Again, I felt I made some great contacts, and I hope to be interviewing several of the people above soon for posting in my Wayne’s Comics Podcast.
Overall, I thought the convention went well, and those of us at the Stabbity Bunny booth feel we have a lot of new fans for the books Richard makes. There were a lot of interesting panels, but I had to depend on what others said about them, and they seemed to go well.
One thing I heard a lot of fussing about was that sometimes the autograph times got moved without notice, including Mr. Lloyd’s. When the announcement was made overhead that his autograph line was forming at that moment, several had to drop what they were doing in order to get their paid-for signature. It would be better not to spring that on people so unexpectedly next time, if possible.
IT IS CALLED ARTIST ALLEY, AFTER ALL
One thing that’s become apparent to those of us selling comics, especially in that last several months, is that fans who go to Artist Alley often are really only after prints and other pieces of art by the artists. I mean, I get that – I mean, it is called Artist Alley, after all.
However, there were many creators there who sold comics as well as art, so the line is sometimes blurry. I’ve seen one convention refer to it as Creators Alley, and I think that would be more appropriate.
IT IS CALLED A COMIC CON, AFTER ALL
Still, it’s discouraging when you really hope people coming to a “Comic Con” might actually buy at least SOME comic books. This past weekend, we watched people stop at the artists around us to look over their various posters, then see that we sold mostly comics, causing them to quickly pass us by. I had one friend, completely frustrated by all this (at a different convention), yell out a profanity laden, “You come to a f****** comic convention and you don’t want to buy a single f****** comic book?” Nobody paid attention, and it didn’t cause anyone to buy a single comic, anyway!
I always fume when I hear that usually two-thirds of paying fans attending a convention like this do NOT go there for the comics. Instead, they want to get the autographs of their favorite stars. I understand that Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead charged $120 per signature. That hardly leaves any money for comics with many of the people there! I don’t begrudge Mr. Reedus cashing in while the iron is still hot, but really!
Again, if you aren’t about comics, then change the name! Many have already done that, like Florida Supercon and Wondercon, so there is a precedent here. I understand that San Diego Comic Con has developed a “brand,” and fans expect conventions to be like that. I just think it’s more honest to take the focus off comics if that’s what you don’t put your main focus on.
FIGHTING ART WITH ART
What further muddies the field here is that many comics creators have decided to try and grab a share of the art dollars by making their own related merchandise. There are Stabbity Bunny t-shirts, stickers, posters and mini-posters, for instance. Sometimes they sell better than the comics!
Then, too, artists will have comics with blank variant covers that they have drawn their art onto. I often hear fans asking if that’s their own comic. Artists aren’t always honest about that, frankly. It’s enough to make fans not know what’s what!
So, what’s to be done about this? I would again recommend calling them Creators Alley, which makes the range there broad enough to include writers, artists and everyone else who works in the industry. Also, tell people what you have and haven’t made truthfully, which will end a lot of fan confusion!
To find out more about Wizard World conventions, you can go to their website at this link! They run several cons each year, and the next one may be in your area, so check them out!