There goes the neighborhood. Book seller and direct market founding father Bud Plant has announced that he will no longer exhibit at San Diego Comic-Con.
Plant had a large aisle of booths that for years sold a variety of rare and unusual art books and collected editions from around the world. In the early years of the con it was a mecca for collectors, but in recent years it’s shrunk to a few booths and become the anchor of a loosely defined “Old Town” where exhibitors who started in the shows distant past still congregate in Hall B.
On FB, Plant wrote:
San Diego Comic-Con – No More
After 48 consecutive years of exhibiting at Comic-Con, I am not going to set up this year. I’ll be there walking the floor, looking for new sketchbooks and other products, catching up with publishers, seeing friends, and, well, scouting for Golden Age comics as I always find time to do. But after long and hard debate, we here (LaDonna, Anne and our usual assistants) decided we had enough of the complicated and labor-intensive logistics of setting up there.
I’m proud that we had as many as eleven booths up until 2008, ten of new products and one with out of print material. But since that disastrous year, when sales dropped by 40%, we’ve been downsizing in an effort to still make it work. But we kept seeing diminishing rewards, not a loss per se, but really very little in the end, after the enormous expenses involved, to compensate for the time and energy it takes to do the show. Seven full days on the road, 13-hour days at the show, plus all it entails getting material and ourselves prepared and down there.
As you may know, I’m not the only one who’s bowed out of the show, as big and special as it is. The folks in charge there have always treated me very well, aside from occasional mishaps–it’s nothing against the show itself. The attendees these days are, in general, not our customers or they are not looking for books. Many former customers can’t get tickets or have chosen to stop coming. I enjoy far more the smaller comic book and rare book shows and will continue to do those. I have an Inkpot Award from Comic-Con, which gives me a free lifetime ticket. I’ll just be walking around enjoying myself for the first time ever, with no booth to look after.
Plant follows Mile High’s Chuck Rozanski who made a slighty more salty exit from exhibiting just last year.
It is unquestionably the end of an era. As mentioned, Plant is an original exhibitor and one of the foundational members of the Californian comics fandom that gave rise to Comic-Con and many other perennial aspects of that culture.
But the world has changed, and the con has changed. I don’t fault Plant for pulling out, but what might be saddest about his departure is the part about his customers not being able to get in any more. It takes so much luck and determination to get a badge for the con these days, and it seems fewer and fewer casual collectors can deal with the hassle.
But make no mistake – the con will quickly find takers for the space vacated. The waiting list for booths is more than a year. But it’s likely they’ll be selling variants and exclusives and tchotkes, not rare editions of Bernie Wrightson art.
And the event remains an extraordinary one, as Plant himself knows. After 48 years, he’s earned the right to just walk around and visit with friends. We’ll all be there soon enough.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.