So, here’s Wizardworld Chicago The Chicago Comic-Con’s promotion for this year’s show, taking the top spot every day this week in comics/nerdculture news-site ICv2′s daily newsletter:
CHICAGO COMIC-CON 2009!
600+ Guests including Twilight Saga Actors, former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei “THE PITBULL” Arlovski, scores of Star Wars guests, wrestling legends and some of the HOTTEST actresses including Michelle Rodriguez, Emma Caulfield, Orli Shoshan and Rhona Mitra. Get a premier weekend pass or VIP Package and get into the show 1 hour early each day. Advance tickets start at $25, more at the door. Get your tickets now at [redacted].
A Paid Advertisement from Wizard Entertainment
Did… did you notice the lack of comics? At the Comic-Con? I mean it’s Wizard, I think enough has been said about Wizard’s relationship to comics to put them into the ground by now (and yet…), but still. They went through all that trouble to rename the convention and everything add “Comic-Con” back in, and their promotion seems to be downplaying, or ignoring completely, comic books. In favour of “hottest”ness. It’s a little strange?
Or maybe not, if you look at San Diego.
One of my biggest criticisms of The New York Comic-Con is that, in its early years, it showed enormous potential to be the sort of comics & publishing-oriented show that this industry needs and deserves. It’s not like it hasn’t been more-or-less sold out every year, particularly the early years that were all about New York Publishing (including and especially comics!). Yet every year the show becomes more and more about movies, toys, and tie-ins. They’re pushing the show closer and closer to the San Diego model and it makes for a weaker show each year. What is the San Diego model btw? Simple: A gateway to nerds. Comic Con International: San Diego is selling floor-space (and advertising space and mind-space) sure, but what they’re really selling is access to mouthy nerds with blogs, tastemakers, half-comprised of the people that make up their audiences and the people that will incite the rest of the country to be their audiences. Comic-Con is all about access, and who’s willing to pay the most for it.
Let’s get this out of the way: I love comics. I think comics are awesome. And I think comics as an industry and a medium needs big events like NYCC and SDCC and hundreds of other regional comics shows: they act as ambassadors for the medium. And so the question for the organizers of these events should be “does any of what we’re doing serve comics as a medium? or an industry? or is it just about the value of the access to mouthy nerds with blogs?”
Now I’m not an idiot, I know the preceeding sentence is naive as fuck. Seriously, Microsoft shows up with a suitcase of cash and they should ask them “but how does what you’re doing serve comics?” Of course not. But there’s that idealism of mine: why not? Something like SDCC but just for the entertainment industry? It doesn’t exist. The movie studios, the video game producers, the TV Shows and toys and Bud Bundy and all that, they’re coming to the comic book show. SDCC has got all the power, because nothing else like that event exists anywhere (Gareb Shamus tried and clearly failed; Reed is travelling the same road Shamus took). Imagine if SDCC really did take the ideological position of “how does what you do help comics?” with their exhibitors, and charged them accordingly? What if they used ideology as the wedge to expand the show into the parks, into the stadium, into the giant parking lot that’s as big as half the convention centre? Here I Drew A Map. Imagine the best possible things happened! Wouldn’t that be great? Why not work towards the best?
Pipe dream, sure. But I like having comics at a comic-con, and if it’s a zero-sum game with attendence: 150,000 people each year, and more and more of the people attending have little-to-no interest in anything other than their specific blinkered fandom (which tends to exclude comics), that means less money for the folks doing and selling and bringing comics to the show. Which tends to mean less comics at the show.
As an aside, the 10,000 TWILIGHT fans at the con really were a problem for the show, but a lot of the reasons that got floated came from a sexist, xenophobic, bullshit fanboy place. I actually feel bad even writing this, but truly, legitimately, 6,000 people at the show JUST for Twilight means 6,000 people that weren’t spending money at the show means 6,000 people that might’ve wanted to go that had an interest in dropping a few bucks at the various vendors? Shut out. Twilight is just the biggest, most concentrated fandom in years–maybe ever, so it puts the problem of Hollywood “stuff” into the clearest relief against the traditional convention crowd. I don’t begrudge anyone taking a road-trip and having a great time for the weekend; I hope the fans had fun. But with a very tight, closed economy at the show (due to space limitations) and little-to-no crossover with the rest of the event, what did having those fans and that event bring to the show? To comics? Why was Comic-Con the best place for that event to happen? And if it wasn’t the best place, and space is at a premium at Comic-Con, then why was it held there?
Two last things:
1. Anime Cons. The big buzz in anime conventions right now is that prices have gone up, and the recessionary economy means that attendees have less pocket-money. Anime Expo, typically one of biggest shows of the year, was reportedly a very poor sales show for most-if-not-all exhibitors. No one had any money. They did have costumes, they did come to hang out with their friends, and they did spend a not-inconsiderable ammount of money on a 3-day pass. They just didn’t have any left-over, afterwards. This wasn’t isolated either, not trying to pick an AX, this is the buzz from most anime shows I’ve been hearing. When a show becomes primarily a place to participate in fandom, a closed circuit, it tends to decline… rapidly. Sci-Fi cons are the biggest examples of this. If your convention is a place to break-out your Klingon costume, hang out in a hotel for three days and go to room-parties, then your convention is not long for this world. Or rather, it’ll be around forever, it’ll just shrink and be sad. No one wants that. Imagine 20 years from now, 40 year old dudes breaking out their Naruto costumes and drinking schnapps out of a bottle in their Holiday Inn 2 dbl bds room with 10 other similarly dressed people. That’s the difference between a vibrant, thriving medium, industry, and fandom, and one that has started to eat itself.
2. PAX: The Penny-Arcade Expo. From nothing to the second-biggest nerd-culture convention (for the public) in just under 5 years. Anyone who follows convention planning/news/whatever is in awe of what they’ve accomplished, and they’ve done it in a smart, controlled way–with an iron fist. First rule of exhibting at PAX? PAX IS A VIDEOGAME SHOW. If what you “do” isn’t directly about video games? You can’t exhibit. Period. 5 years, second-biggest nerd-culture event in North America, accomplished by sticking to their guns. Cooooooool.
Alright. That’s 1200 words of nonsense. Time to go.