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Con Scene Report by Devestator/The Beat

To my knowledge, the only-one-of-its-kind Con-scene report by Devestator and The Beat is now online [outline] [full report]. I believe this is the second year of the report, and this seems to have a greater participation than in the first year, though the sample size is still small.

It’s weird to write about this, mostly because TCAF is lauded in it and so linking it seems a bit like tooting my own horn, but there’s something important here.

If you remember my post on changing convention culture from late last year, I came to a few light conclusions, but I think one of those is now highlighted and underlined thanks to this report: non-comics exhibitors do better, on average, than comics exhibitors at comics shows. Even if the numbers are off, the trending isn’t, and this is an economic reality that comics makers at shows are constantly facing. I would think, or hope, that as someone who LIKES comics and wants to see successful and well-compensated creators of comics, that this would concern you reading. It certainly concerns those comic makers.

But most importantly, I’d hope that the convention organizers reading this survey realize that extra care and attention has to be given to comics at comics shows, just to bring things back up to an equal footing. Not an advantage, but equal.

Comics and their creators are the root of a lot of that merch and material that’s fighting for dollars at these shows, and treating them with a greater degree of attention, respect, and especially booth position and promotion, is integral to the overall health of the creators, and therefore, the comics industry.

Anyway, my two cents on a Monday afternoon.

– Chris

TCAF Photos used in this post by Joanna Wong, http://www.joannawong.ca/

5 Books from Top Shelf Publishing That I Like That Weren’t Mentioned In The Press Release Today

29716-v1-197xThe big news in the comics industry today is that IDW Publishing, known for its diverse lineup of periodicals and reprint projects, has acquired ‘indy’ publisher Top Shelf Productions. it’s an interesting fit, and after thinking about it all morning I think it’ll be a good one for both companies long-term, and I wish all involved well. I also want to send a special shout-out to my friend Brett Warnock, ex of Top Shelf, who announced his retirement from comics today. Best of luck, Brett.

Reading the press release, I could tell it was very, very well-crafted. This is a move that had seemingly been in the offing for a good long while, and from the extensive FAQ to the prepared quotes to seemingly covering every single base except one (Alan Moore-related), that this was a public-facing statement that all involved had given a good deal of thought to. In particular, I thought the listing of successful books from Top Shelf–March, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, Blankets, Swallow Me Whole, and Essex County, was probably a smart move too. The books have all made a great sales impression in the marketplace, and all of the names and titles bandied about are likely to be familiar and have positive associations for booksellers (particularly the Direct Market)… but to me anyway, Top Shelf has always been a really diverse publisher, with some great books off the beaten path. I thought it might be nice to showcase a few picks from their catalogue by creators not featured in today’s press release, and tell you a little bit about why I think they’re worth your time. All of these books are still in print, and available from finer retailers and comic book shops.

blue_cover_lg

Blue, by Pat Grant. $14.95.

It’s rare that a comic is genuinely and consistently unsettling, but Pat Grant’s Blue manages to accomplish just that in spades. While it can be easily reduced to a parable about race and assimilation–it reminded me a lot of the film District 9, which was released in close proximity to it–the narrative is very pointed, the characters embarassingly human. There’s some really brilliant cartooning in there as well, and the 2-colour presentation is the icing on the cake.

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Chester 5000, by Jess Fink. $14.95.

I really love Chester 5000! This sensual and sexy wordless story about men and ladies and robot men in various romantic and sexual entanglements is a heck of a lot of fun, a bit of classy smut for your coffee table or bookshelf (depending on how ‘out’ you are about your classy smut). I particularly like how inventive it is–it feels unrestrained, like Fink is constantly upping the ante for her characters, her audience, and herself. The story has continued online past this first volume, so I hope a second volume is on the way soon!

FoxBunnyFunnyCoverToFilm

Fox Bunny Funny, by Andy Hartzell. $10.

This one bypasses ‘unsettling’ and heads right into ‘disturbing’ territory, and makes the story all the better for it. This wordless parable about identity (sexuality? gender? class? race? all of that and more?) is made all the more visceral thanks to the anthropomorphics involved–you’re either a fox, or a bunny. Bunnies are society’s prey, and a good fox hunts and devours them. But when a young fox wants to BE one of the bunnies, it brings his whole world crash down. I’m still not entirely sure what to think of this one, but I think about it a lot.

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jack1Jack’s Luck Runs Out, by Jason Little. $3.50.

Wow, it may have actually been 8 or 9 years since I read Jack’s Luck Runs Out, but a quick refresher on Jason Little’s website beecomix.com I remember this story of a small-time screw-up pretty well. But what has stayed with me, and why I recommend it, is the absolutely incredible presentation of this comic, in bold primary colours and using the style and iconography of playing cards. It’s a perfect match to its Vegas setting, and now I wanna go read the whole thing again.  Fun-fact: This project was the first full-colour project to be awarded a Xeric Grant.

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Moving Pictures, by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen. $14.95.

This book has the honour of being one that, after I finished it, I started right back at the beginning and read it through again. With two timelines that converge on one another, very deft and clever dialogue, and so much of the story conveyed through the imagery, this is a book worth paying very close attention to. Twice. It’s ‘about’ hiding priceless works of art from the Nazi’s in occupied Paris, but there’s so much else going on too. A real gem.

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superf-ckers_lgBonus: Superfuckers #1-7, by James Kochalka. $7.

This shit is awesome. James Kochalka comes up with a teen superhero team that actually look and sound like teens. They are appropriately reprehensible. It was recently animated into a Youtube series, but the comics are fucking hilarous.  This was my favourite comic book series when it was coming out, I hope Kochalka goes back to it at some point.

mirrorlove_lgBonus #2: Mirror of Love, by Alan Moore and Jose Villarrubia. $19.95

This is not really a comic, and doesn’t count for my list since Alan Moore’s name is all over today’s press release, but I did want to mention this excellent ‘picture book for grownups’. The Mirror of Love matches Alan Moore’s epic poem about the history of homosexual attraction with the frankly beautiful photography of my friend Jose Villarrubia and creates a stunning package. A strange project for Top Shelf, and subsequently I don’t think it gets the attention it deserves, but excellent nonetheless.

– Christopher

I’ll be in Japan for Christmas

Hey there. I’ll be in Japan from November 18 through December 29. Andrew will be there with me for the latter half of that. We’re both very excited.

I’m very fortunate to have worked this out with my employer at The Beguiling at the beginning of this year, and while the timing is awful, it’s never not going to be awful and so I’m pressing on.

I know it seems overly audacious to assume anyone gives a whirl about my travel plans, but since I know a bunch of people almost entirely online, and since this is unprecedented, I thought I’d make a brief note. I’m hoping to get a chance to write some more, and to relax, and maybe improve my terrible Japanese language ability a little. I’ll still be answering e-mails, but I probably won’t make it to your Christmas party.

Don’t worry, I’ll take pictures.

Thanks for your understanding and for not hating me,

– Christopher

Call for Proposals: Queers & Comics – LGBTQ Cartoonists and Comics Conference

Hey everyone! There’s a great-looking, first year academic event coming up next year. Unfortunately it’s the same weekend as TCAF so I won’t be able to participate, but if you’re an academic or writer on comics, they’re looking for proposals for paper presentations and more. The deadline is today, but I have a feeling that if you got it in by the end of the week, you’d be fine. – Christopher

Call for Proposals – Due Nov. 3, 2014
Queers & Comics –  LGBTQ Cartoonists and Comics Conference
www.clags.org/queers-comicsPresented by CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies
The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Ave, NYC
Date: May 7-8, 2015
Keynote Speakers: Howard Cruse and Alison Bechdel

Queers & Comics brings American & international LGBTQ cartoonists, comics writers, and artists together with scholars and fans in order to discuss their craft and to document the history and significance of queer comics. The conference will offer two days of panels, workshops, portfolio reviews, slideshow presentations, roundtable discussions, and an exhibition of queer cartoon art.

Call For Proposals
Proposal Submission Deadline: November 3, 2014 – Notifications by December 15
Submit proposals via email to: queers.comics@gmail.com

MORE INFO:  www.clags.org/queers-comics
Follow @QueersComics on Twitter and Queers & Comics on Facebook

Jennifer Camper
Queers & Comics Organizing Committee

Al Jazeera releases free online graphic novella by Michael Keller and Josh Neufeld (Apparently)

terms_of_service

Al Jazeera America, the U.S. arm of the international newsgathering and reporting agency, today released its first graphic novella, about ‘Big Data’ and our interaction with companies . It’s called Terms of Service, it’s by Michael Keller and Josh Neufeld, and it’s free to read online at http://projects.aljazeera.com/2014/terms-of-service/index.html.

I’ve read the first few chapters and it’s neat stuff, definitely worth your time. I’m kind of surprised because I got a PR about this at noon today, and I can’t find any record of this announcement at the major comic sites. So, uh, I guess I will break this news…? Enjoy.

Edit: Full Press Release under the cut below.

– Chris @ The Beguiling

Continue reading Al Jazeera releases free online graphic novella by Michael Keller and Josh Neufeld (Apparently)

A few changes…

Although most people seem to have missed it, I mentioned here on the blog about three years ago that I had come on board as the Marketing Director of Canadian Publisher UDON Entertainment. For the past three years I’ve been happy to work with a Publisher like UDON, doing great work, producing comics, manga, and anime and video game artbooks, both original and licensed from Japan. I’ve worked with some very dedicated folks, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from being on the “other side” of the industry for a few years.

However, as of September 30th, 2014, I’ve unfortunately had to step down from that position. I’ve continued to work with The Beguiling and TCAF–The Toronto Comic Arts Festival–during my time with UDON, and recently those organizations have started to demand more of my time and attention. TCAF in particular has some big stuff on the horizon, and ultimately, something had to give (before I did!). I’m proud that UDON’s output increased significantly, to more than 30 books a year during the past few years, and I was happy to be there for some of the company’s greatest publishing successes. I’ll still be working with UDON a little at some of their convention appearances, particularly the two PAX shows, and helping to organize their presence at San Diego Comic-Con. I’m even maybe editing a special project for late next year…? But the day to day is pretty much done.  🙂

I’d like to thank my friend and UDON Chief Erik Ko for the tremendous opportunity to step in to support the company in this way. I’d also like to thank all of my co-workers for providing new learning opportunities, and for busting their buts to put out great work, and to all of the great members of the press I’ve gotten to work with too. Finally, to UDON’s fantastically passionate fans, thanks for all of your support.

UDON has a tremendous 2015 in store, with Street Fighter, Manga Classics, Kill la Kill, Osamu Tezuka, Robotech, Professor Layton, and so much more on the horizon. I’m leaving UDON with quite possibly the strongest line-up of books in the history of the company ahead of them, and so much more that hasn’t been announced. 😉

As for me, I’m looking forward to reinvesting my energies back into The Beguiling and into The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and all the great stuff ahead.

Thanks for reading,

– Christopher Butcher
P.S.: If you’re looking to contact UDON about their projects, the best way to do so is via fans@udonentertainment.com. Someone will get back to you tout de suite!

Header image from my favourite UDON book published during my time at the company, the beautiful Midori Foo’s Book of Pictures.  Available wherever great books are sold!

 

MidoriFoo_Cover

Report: The Lakes International Comic Art Fest 2013

In October of 2013, I headed out on my first trip to The United Kingdom as a guest of inaugural Lakes International Comic Arts Festival – http://www.comicartfestival.com/. Held in the village of Kendal, the gateway to the Lake District (and about 2 hours North of Manchester), I was glad to be on hand to witness the birth of a new comics event and especially one of such great ambition and vision. The festival took place October 18th through 20th, and I was on hand from the 17th to the 21st to observe the goings on.

I’ve been meaning to write a little report on the Festival for, oh, about a year now, but I wasn’t writing very much and things just sort of came up in the general. However, I’m set to be headed back to the second iteration of the event which is taking place THIS WEEKEND, from October 16th through the 20th, and hopefully you are too. Again, more details at http://www.comicartfestival.com/.

I’ve basically taken a whole year to write this and I’m literally on my way out the door…Apologies for spelling, grammar, forgotten names, and for taking so long!

Now, on with the show:

Kendal

First things first: Kendal, and so far as I can tell, The Lake District, is gorgeous. However when I was down in Manchester for the few days before the event, when people could immediately tell I was from out of town (and I immediately had to say “I’m from Canada” to get those frowns to turn upside down), people would be like “Oh you’re going up to the Lake District? Oh it’s lovely up there…” like a mantra. You get the sense that it’s ‘cottage country’, that nothing’s thought to be going on… and that was an idea that the organizers of this festival were desperately fighting back against.

The Box

The festival takes place in the old buildings scattered around town, in the city hall clocktower, in the mall, and in the art school with its beautiful modern buildings. The town was energetic, decorated, and full of unique buildings and spaces. As I was saying, they really are trying for a very ambitious program.

Luke Pearson

Speaking of, I was happy to host this drawing demonstration with Luke Pearson, creator of the Hilda series of books. Luke was sweet and charming and drew like magic, for an hour, for the standing-room-only crowd. It’s only just filling up in this photo…

Luke Pearson

Afterwards, Luke stayed and signed and sketched for fans for another hour as well, what a gentleman! His presentation, as most, took place in one of the large classroom buildings and the signing in an anterior building. Despite the drizzle, people had no problem showing up adequately attired, and spirits were very high.

Fest Merch

Book Sales

I think things like decorating and branding the spaces with pennants, posters, and merchandise, make a huge difference for these sorts of events. What might be a somewhat boring classroom becomes a “Festival Space”, and it’s one of the things that I thought LICAF did very well indeed.

Seen above is some of the custom merchandise, and a few of the wonderful volunteers who helped for the weekend.

Comics Clock Tower

One of the two main spaces was “The Comics Clocktower”, or city hall, and you can see the decoration continued throughout the whole town and into all spaces. Banners and signage, both hung and freestanding, dotted all of the festival spaces and the spaces in between, and it really did lift the atmosphere wonderfully. Of course, when you have as naturally photogenic a town as this, that doesn’t hurt either.

The Map

The comics clock tower featured multiple floors of exhibitors, including a special room for an on-site show store and sponsor. The space reminded me very-much of TCAF 2007, which was held in Victoria College, with exhibitors lining the walls of smaller rooms and customers invited to explore both the lovely old building and all of the wonderful art on display.

Exhibition Area

Of course I may be biased, but my favourite space was the large, high-ceilinged main room, held for town meetings, plays, and presentations, and repurposed to hold a number of wonderful artists and their creations.

Adam Cadwell

There’s my friend Adam Cadwell, chatting up a potentional customer.

NoBrow

The fine folks of Nobrow, including Luke Pearson on the left, Sam in the middle, and you’ll have to pardon me as I forgotten then chap on the right’s name.

Comics

Of course it isn’t a comic show without back issue bins… I guess? I found it hilarious to come across this on the first floor, but a few quid for an old issue of Sandman is hard to argue with at a comics festival.

Mantle!

Also, that fireplace is something else? That’s the best part of repurposing existing buildings.

Canadians

Look! Another Canadian! It’s Anthony Del Col of Kill Shakespeare.

Exhibitor

Kristina Baczynski selling some amazingly lovely comics and art…!

Exhibitors

Stephen Robson

Fanfare/Ponent Mon Books

Here’s Stephen Robson from Fanfare UK, and a wonderful selection of his new projects (well, new a year ago, heh). He’s also started distributing some other wonderful works, very exciting!

Darryl Cunningham

And of course TCAF exhibitor Darryl Cunningham!

Exhibitors

Exhibitors

Exhibitors

Paul Gravett

Friend of TCAF Paul Gravett, showing of his newest survey of the medium, Comics Art.

Comics Clock Tower

Comics Clock Tower

Really, the town is quite lovely, and even with a bit of rain it was marvelous to walk through the spaces, from venue to venue, and see all of the great sites along the way.

Brewery Arts Centre

Brewery Arts Centre

Speaking of, the other major venue is the Brewery Arts Centre, a massive arts complex converted from a brewery! Featuring several restaurants, theatre screens/auditorium, and a gorgeous outdoor space, BAC is where many of the large-scale and keynote events were held, and the town and the Festival are certainly lucky to have such a large and gorgeous space to use. You could pop by any time of the weekend (or to the bar round the corner) to meet many of the participating cartoonists as they grabbed a beer or a bite, and that greatly contributed to the warm and positive feeling of the event.

Brewery Arts Centre

And we’ve reached the end, more or less.

I’ve probably got another few thousand words in me about the first Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, but I’m actually now just about to head to the airport in time to attend the second. I will say that the show was very well organized and really took advantage of its locale in the way that very few shows do. I think it’s a sterling and necessary addition to a comics scene that already includes wonderful events like Thoughtbubble, and I hope to see it continue a long and healthy life.

If you’re within a few hours of Kendal (2 or 3 hours from either Manchester or Glasgow, 4 hours from London), I’d strongly recommend attending. Comics events are so far apart and expensive to get to in the U.S. and Canada… for us 3 or 4 hours away IS considered a local show.

Congrats to the organizers and volunteers on an excellent event, and I look forward to the next one with great anticipation… in about 48 hours.

– Christopher

 

 

Convention Culture and the Modern Artist

So, I’d been meaning to write something about this since things erupted last month on Denise Dorman’s blog [link]. But the topic is a very, very big one, and I couldn’t wrap my head around the entirety of it, and still can’t, and so I’d resisted anything other than a few tweets on the subject. I do think, though, that there are a couple of very basic truths on the subject that I can get out here, so let’s dive in and see where this takes us:

1. The make-up of the attendees of comic book conventions is changing.

I’d say this is a no-brainer, but for those in the cheap seats: There are more fans of nerd-culture things, like superhero comics and science-fiction, than there have been in a very, very long time. The success of DC and Marvel’s movies, the easy availability of sci-fi and fantasy on specialty cable networks, the goddamned Big Bang Theory, all of it has contributed to ‘geek’ culture being embraced by the widest swath of people in history–with the possible exception of Star Wars and Star Trek on the big screen from 77-85.  Despite the fact that I have been going to comic-cons since 1994, and despite the fact that I have been going to Comic-Con since 1999, my mom finally figured out what Comic-Con was last year and that’s basically the only dividing line that anyone needs.

Because of this, the interest in comic-cons is increasing, attendance is up at most shows, and the audience is significantly different from the ‘initiated’ or ‘hardcore’ fans that made up the bulk of attendees as little as five years ago now.

2. The make-up of comic convention organizers is changing, too.

Here’s the one that’s not getting as much play. Comic-cons have always been half way between a labour of love and something resembling a scheme, but their incredible success has attracted a lot of people and organizations in recent years that had previously stayed away due to the specialized nature of the events. Because the sorts of material covered by comic-cons is now material that’s largely in the mainstream, it has gotten much, much easier for those sorts of organizers only tangentially in the know to put together a show that will draw a crowd. The ‘gentleman’ who’s running the Salt Lake Show trying to challenge San Diego’s TM on Comic-Con, or the large-scale trade show organization that has been buying up medium-sized and large-sized shows, like the one in Toronto a few years ago… Comics conventioneering has a long and great history of events being run by passionate businesspeople, passionate groups of fans getting together to organize events, and other only-vaguely capitalist types.  It has a history of hucksterism and scam artists too, but it’s getting a heckuva lot tougher to tell the well-funded and well-run show from the guy who’s trying overselling admissions to cram as many people through that door and who doesn’t give a damn about the exhibitors, attendees, or the fire code for that matter…

The person in charge of an event matters, a lot. Most fans don’t really do the research or even care who’s running the show, as long as they get the access that they crave (access to guests, access to goods, access to other fans). I’d even wager to say most attendees don’t really know the actual name of the show they’re at. Speaking from personal experience we still get fans, exhibitors, and artists that can’t tell the difference between TCAF (indy show, May every year since 2009, set in a library since 2009) and Fan Expo (fan show, August every year for a decade, at the convention centre). That sort of… undiscernment… is to everyone’s own detriment, but you can’t force people to be good consumers, and that lack of discretion always has collateral damage, as badly run shows negatively impact impression of all shows.

3. Professional Fans & ‘Personalities’, which is to say Youtubers, Professional Cosplayers, etc.

I think Denise Dorman’s railing against the ‘instagram’ generation is hilarious but actually has a point–she’s just not using the best terminology to describe what is an actual phenomenon–before 5 years ago, no one (in their right mind) would go to a show thinking that they were an ‘attraction’ without buying themselves an exhibition space, a booth, an artist alley table, something. However, in the last few years the number of people who think that a badge (whether paid for or comped) entitles them to an audience within a convention space is on the rise dramatically. It’s been pegged as cosplayers, and honestly there are more cosplayers at shows than ever, and more professional cosplayers who are going to shows to make money and build an audience. Cosplayers attending shows as businesspeople, who aren’t contributing to the economy of the show.

But professional cosplayers (and I think there’s an important distinction there between people who cosplay and people who earn money cosplaying) are literally nothing compared to the other social media personalities who have begun to call comic-conventions theirs. Where previously you had nerdlebrities like Wil Wheaton building a social media empire out of their cred, today’s social media personalities have amassed huge followings through their postings, videos, and photos on YouTube (largely) and other video and media services. They are the product, they have 100,000, 200,000, 300,000 subscribers on social media, and they announce that they’re going to COMIC-CON X and all of their fans should meet them there. It’s easy to see how that’s a boon for a convention looking to sell tickets… they get a crazy-popular ‘guest’ and they don’t have to do any of the work of actually bringing this personality as a guest. The dude with the media badge AS the thing being covered. But tell me that a fan motivated to go to a comic show to see a dude who talks about shit on Youtube is gonna buy the same way, at the same level, as the fan motivated to go to a comic show because she likes comics.

(This also includes the type of Pro-Fan who has a thriving eBay store, an Amazon store, who is a toy-hunter or exclusive-hunter, basically any sort of fan actively deriving income from attending a convention)

Which brings us to point four.

4. Comic Conventions Are Filling Up And Selling Out, Earlier and Earlier

So all of the above, all of it, almost-completely doesn’t matter at a comic convention with infinite size and infinite space. In that situation, then, yes, it DOES come down to how good of a salesperson Denise Dorman’s husband is, because (in theory) every potential customer will walk by his booth and make a decision about purchasing his wares.

But comic conventions are not infinite. San Diego sells out the year before. New York sells out months out. Emerald City sells out eight months out. I could name a dozen more shows that sell all of their tickets well before the doors open. What that means is that demand is higher for tickets than there were tickets available. So when that happens, you’ve got to ask yourself, what ‘type’ of fan got the tickets before they sold out? Probably the most-dedicated fans. The fans most-in-the-know about how shows are run these days. And, probably, The Professional Fans, who while not exhibiting nonetheless derive income from being at that show.  And when your casual buyer who just wants to go to a show and maybe drop some money on comics can’t make it, because she didn’t want it bad enough, well sir I think it’s safe to say that it’s going to be a different kind of sales show for exhibitors, that’s for sure.

Now until this point, all of this has been more or less neutral, as far as I’m concerned. Like I said, I believe that these are truths about the business–the way things are. I don’t particularly think these new fan economies within shows are good or bad, because there’s clearly a give and a take between all involved. Capitalism, you know? It’s where advice like the somewhat facile “Adapt or Die” comes into play… If the economy of shows is changing, adapt to it and make your money. Sure, why not.

However, I actually do have opinions about this stuff, beyond the statement of simple truths. Here goes.

The changing convention landscape is inherently shitty for people who make comic books. Art comix, indy comics, mainstream comics, whatever comics, the changing makeup of conventions is hostile to people who want to make and sell comics at comic conventions. And let me be clear, this is comic books and graphic novels, as opposed to ‘prints’ or crafts or whatever manner of tchotchkes makeup most exhibitor tables these days. Basically, comic book conventions are aggressively attracting an audience who don’t necessarily value books, or comic books.

This is sure to be controversial, so before you scroll down to leave an angry comment, please hear me out.

Let’s go back to points 1 to 4 a bit, and talk about those points okay?

1. I think it is a very safe assumption that people who come to comic books, sci-fi, or fantasy through adaptations in other media like television, film, video games, don’t necessarily place the same value on the medium as the message. Sure, some of them become converts–it’s hard not to! Comics are great. Novels are great. But I’d say a large percentage don’t really care about the original media, they’re just interested in the story (or if I’m being less generous, the ‘property’). This is bourne out by my experience as a comic retailer and convention exhibitor for the past 20 years or so.

2. The changing make-up of convention runners means that more and more people are entering the field who could give two-shits about anything other than paid admissions and filling the con floor with whomever has the money to pay. There are still lots of great shows, lots of great con-runners, but their are very few shows at all with an ideology, particularly one that values comics. This has a pronounced effect.

3. I don’t mean to beat this particular horse any further, but let me just say there are no vloggers or YouTube personalities with 300k followers regularly talking about comics, to my knowledge.  Games, current events, their own lives, but if there’s some sort of comics vlogger out there that’s defining a generation of criticism and winning new fans, please let me know! I’d love to subscribe. Professional fans, again, are there for their own reasons.

4. I’d say hardcore comics fans are just as likely to be extremely motivated to jump through the necessary hoops as Pro-fans, as personalities, as people heading to shows like they’re a “Nerd-Happening”, to attend sold-out shows. But that does leave the casual attendee or comics fan out in the cold, and being able to convert those casual attendees is what the prior economy of shows is built on.

All of this adds up to fewer folks that actually care about getting comics at a comic con. Again, I want to stress: I have 20 years of exhibiting at shows, including Comic-Con, backing this up.

When you have people who are attending and otherwise interacting with comic conventions who aren’t coming at them from the direction of comic books (whether physical or digital, I should clarify), then the folks who aren’t selling books are at a tremendous advantage in battling for the dollars to be earned from an attendee’s wallet. There is a very different perception in value of a book or a comic book, or a print/craft/tchtchoke. At a show like this, if you’ve got a $20 Punisher comic on a table, a $20 Punisher action figure, and a $20 11×17 colour photocopy depicting The Punisher next to each other on a table, you are going to sell that 11×17 Punisher colour photocopy 7 times out of 10, the toy twice, and the comic book once. And it doesn’t matter if the comic is full price at $20, half price at $20, or if the artist himself is there and selling the Punisher comic with an autograph. The print, almost always the print.

Example: I have exhibited at shows for UDON, and had a $40 (really nice lithograph) Street Fighter print on the table, and a 200 page Street Fighter book which contained the image on the print and 190 other images, also for $40, and the print always sold first. When I asked the customer why they didn’t go for the book with the image they loved (reproduced at a nice size, I should add) instead of the single image, the answer always came down to the print feeling like an object with higher perceived value.

The same goes for other merch. There’s a thriving world of grey-market collectibles based on other peoples’ intellectual property out there, and honestly as long as the creators (if not the IP holders…) are fine with it I don’t really care. But being an exhibitor, or being in artist alley, and having a book versus having a piece of merchandise is not a level playing field, it just isn’t. Which, again, is not to say that the unleveled field cannot be overcome. In a vacuum, again, that’s fine, that’s capitalism, but:

  1. It’s not a vacuum, because of points 1, 2, 3, and 4, and
  2. Comic-cons have traditionally (and until very recently) been places that have been immersed in book-culture, have been pro-book, and whose attendees value the medium.

Saying “Adapt or Die” to someone who has been placed at a severe economic disadvantage by forces entirely beyond their control in the space of 2 or 3 years is, at best, terribly unsympathetic. And I don’t mean to pick on the writer of that piece specifically, but that response is emblematic of the responses I’ve seen to Denise Dorman’s pieces, that (without knowing anything about her or her husband’s con setup) they just weren’t trying hard enough, ‘and have you considered making eye contact with people and not hating cosplayers.’ I mean… ugh. That poor woman. Anyway.

So, in short: The makeup of contemporary comic conventions has changed dramatically, and is changing, at every single level. The deck has become stacked against people selling book product (and particularly original book product versus licensed or tie-in material, in my opinion). I think every creator out there should think long and hard about the shows they do, how much money is being charged of attendees, who their fellow exhibitors and guests are and what that says about what sort of show they’re likely to have. Moreover, it would be nice if more comic book conventions made a concerted effort to privilege comic books (and novels) in the make-up of their shows at all levels, to at least attempt to level that playing field a little. Creating an environment where comics, and their creators, are celebrated is positive in a great number of ways, not the least of which because those television shows, films, and video games are going to have to come from somewhere, and it would be nice if comics creators could at least break-even at a show where they’re trying to promote their work, and the medium.

So those are my thoughts–a few things that I don’t think are being talked about, and some conclusions I’ve drawn from them. I’ve enjoyed reading other folks’ responses to this issue, and if you’re reading this 2500 words later I appreciate you taking the time to read mine.

Thanks,

– Christopher

P.S. and Full Disclosure: For those of you new to my writings, hi! I Manage a shop called The Beguiling in Toronto. I co-founded and am Festival Director of The Toronto Comic Arts Festival. I’ve also been involved in the running of comics conventions, and have been making and promoting comics for quite a while now. 

My great big attention-whoring, histrionic-filled blog post about ello, and you won’t believe what happens next

THIS BETA PIECE OF SOFTWARE DOES NOT LIVE UP TO MY BASELESS EXPECTATIONS.

AT SOME POINT IN THE FUTURE, I BELIEVE IT IS LIKELY THAT THIS SOFTWARE WILL DISAPPOINT ME, AND SO I AM LEAVING IT NOW.

THE FUNDING MECHANISM OF THIS BETA PIECE OF SOFTWARE IS NON-EXISTENT! BY WHICH I MEAN IT HAS NOT YET BEEN IMPLEMENTED OR TESTED. THEREFORE, IT WILL FAIL AND I AM LEAVING IT.

OH, AND IT’S UGLY, TOO.

ello.com/comics212

 

An interview with my friend Jocelyne Allen

My friend Jocelyne Allen is a translator and interpreter, and I’m fortunate enough to work with her a bunch on TCAF. One of her favourite things to say about her job is that “Translation should be invisible, the translator should be invisible,” meaning that the job of the translator is to bring the strongest version of the original author’s words and intent to the focus in this secondary language, and the translator should use the lightest touch possible… which is why I chuckled to myself when I saw that she consented to be the subject of a (very) long interview over at Tofugu. There’s even a lovely illustrated portrait!

I thought Allen-san offered some nice insight into her profession, though having spent many long conversations over a pint with her I know that this interview just scratches the surface of the intricacies of translation and her own thoughts on the art of it. I’d like to interview her myself one day, I think… For now though, go check it out! 🙂

– Chris

Illustration by ??? I couldn’t find any credit at the Tofugu site…!