In about 2 hours 13 minutes and 14 seconds, any mention of last weekend’s New York Comic-Con will be thoroughly passé, as Free Comic Book Day, Iron Man and Stumptown fill the news bins, but in that tiny window I had to get this out of the way, esp. after Kiel Phegley got on my jock about my late con reports. We’ll try to tell this story via areas of the con, using field evidence, i.e. quotes from other blogs.
BIG BOX, BIG PICTURE
BTW, the weather in NYC Thursday through Sunday was absolutely heart-piercingly beautiful. That spring smell on the breeze, daffodils blooming, cherry blossoms in drifts on the wind! The weather magic’ed up everything this trip– it made everything seem fresh and clean, and the people all eager and bubbly. Even a stinky old con hall crammed full of “classic collectors.”
Next year, the New York Comic Con will revert back to its February slot – and the first weekend in February at that. This simply sucks: walking towards the Hudson River to get to the Javis Center in winter weather is like dancing in the road show of Doctor Zhivago. Not that there’s a lot of choice: The Javits Center is what it is, and the NYCC deserves better. So does New York, a town that loves to think of itself as the greatest city in the world. If they actually mean it, they should build themselves a world-class convention center that could compete with the likes of Las Vegas and McCormick Place.
The big talk of the convention on Sunday, though, was the schedule for next year. Someone checked the calendar and realized that it’s on the Super Bowl weekend. If the Giants make a repeat bid for a Super Bowl trophy, the con is going to take a big hit. If the Jets make it to the Super Bowl — wait, no, never mind. That’s not going to happen. What crappy timing for a convention. I guess that’s why they could get the convention center to themselves for the weekend.
So yeah, this year, despite competition from Passover, the timing couldn’t have been better. The first warm weekend of the year sent everyone’s endorphin level soaring, and it was hard to get worked up about anything. Life was good.
Next year? The show takes place not only in winter…but in the DEAD of winter.
It’s a time slot that eventually claimed Fred Greenberg’s old Great Eastern conventions. If they stick with it, eventually, there will be blizzard. I think at this point the show is enough of a name brand to survive some inclement weather — Toy Fair does it regularly,although it has a 100+ year reach advantage — but next year’s show will probably be all about bundling up and traversing the arctic tundras of the West side, and fighting through ice to get to the Irish Rogue before claiming a hot cup of grog and telling tales of the mighty ice-kraken as puddles of slush turn into steam beneath our booted feet. Adventure, lad, adventure!
While you could argue that this or that part of the comics world was not properly represented at the show, this was really the kind of mighty confluence of streams and tribes that only a big city could provide. I hope I will provide no offense to my movie studio pals by saying that the lessened presence of Hollywood types was a refreshing change that allowed source material to shine. There was at least one movie studio press party (for THE SPIRIT) but hardly anyone outside the junket crowd knew—or cared. There may have been others, for all I know, but they were distant rumors, not the stars of the show.
Thus, it was nice to be at a big comic book convention where seeing movie stars was not the main occupation. This show was about comics and cartoonists, and even some curmudgeons noticed. The timing was needle sharp: following Friday’s NY Times story, and a hundred like it in smaller rags, the idea that comics and cartoonists are purveyors of cutting edge culture is a given; it’s a new paradigm that the new less self-esteem challenged generations of cartoonists are taking as their birthright. Which isn’t to say that most cutting edge cartooners aren’t still struggling in La Boheme-like financial situations. But there’s a gold ring for just about everyone dangling out there somewhere.
Comparisons with San Diego are odious though inevitable, but I think moving forward NYCC will stick with a more bookish component, reflecting the New York publishers’ interest in graphic novels. As this little tidbit from Premiere reveals, the studios aren’t quite ready to dive into the deep end of the pool;
A few weeks ago, Fox publicists placed select calls to journalists, polling them to find out whether they thought it was worth David Duchovny’s time to fly to New York for the X-Files presentation at the Con. After all, it’s not San Diego. The final answer must have been no, since neither Duchovny nor his redheaded partner were anywhere in sight during Friday night’s panel. The only ones who did manage to make it were Chris Carter, series creator and the film’s director, and Frank Spotnitz, writer and producer.
The big problem with the show, for all the endorphin-fueled joy, is that it is very very very expensive to exhibit at. A table in Artist’s Alley, many folks told us, is as expensive as a small press booth in San Diego. While fans were surprisingly eager to open their wallets for just about all the exhbitors and small pressers, profits that would have been fab at a smaller show were barely break even at NYCC.
GET ALONG HOME, INDIE, INDIE
Yesterday’s comments from Josh Neufeld brought up the biggest controversy of the show: was it indie friendly or not? Certainly there were a lot of indie comics to be found. Wizard’s Indie Jones found a lot of goodies. Jillian Steinhauer at The Daily Cross Hatch had another view:
Once safely inside, after someone in a giant Uglydoll suit (accidentally) touched my ass, I made my way over to the Small Press and Artist’s Alley areas. Taken aback by all of the energy, noise, commercialism, and excitement of the place, I figured those smaller sections off in the back right corner of the center were where I belonged. As it turns out, the back right corner was something of a microcosm of the larger Con. The people ranged from famous to unknown, and the work from superheroes to inanimate objects come to life, artsy to completely commercial, and hard to resist buying to ‘I think I can safely leave that for someone else to purchase.’ Though I was slightly taken aback by the number of drawings or comics of female superheroes busting out of skimpy outfits, I found solace in a number of genuinely interesting artist or small press tables with exciting work on display.
That’s kind of the big picture. Indie comics and cartoonists of all kinds were on hand; First Second’s Gina Gagliano‘s trips back to the office to get more books to sell became the stuff of legend. Admittedly, I didn’t have the most balanced view of the show; I never got to most of the small press or artist’s alley booths. Walking around the part of the show I saw the most of, there seemed to be a lot of those “mid-level” small press genre-oriented comics with CGI’d covers that I find sort of…unenthralling.
If convention organizers didn’t overly promote comics lit types on the guest list, there were none the less a ton of panels spotlighting indie creators and issues. Several people mentioned the small presences for Fantagraphics and Top Shelf, but those companies didn’t really go all-out with their promos for the show either. Yet with 64,000 people at the show compared to MoCCA’s several thousand, I think it’s safe to say that at least 50% of the people who go to MoCCA were at New York Comic-Con, and were wiling to shop. While I find the indie-bashing in the previous comment thread as moronic as Tom does, it’s not true that Star Wars and Final Crisis inevitably drive away indie fans. Quite a few of them seemed to find stuff they liked just fine.
But the reality is that shows like MoCCA, APE, SPX and this weekend’s eagerly awaited Stumptown are a separate economy. For small companies with limited budgets, the guaranteed fiscal impact of a small press show is always going to be more attractive than at an expensive show like NYCC. Overall, I think that all levels of the business were represented at the show, but the emphasis on big ticket spenders like Marvel. DC and video games is here to stay.
Conversely, while manga companies didn’t have a huge, huge presence at the show — many are saving their shekels for Anime Expo and September’s New York Anime Festival — it was, as previously noted, hard to miss the huge manga/anime influence on convention goers. Those hats with ears were everywhere, and while anime battles didn’t out duel the Jedi battles in the hall ways, it seemed to be a very common sight. We have met The New Mainstream, and it is from Japan.
WHAT IS A HEADLINE, ANYWAY?
[Photo by Tony Mark]
My panel on online news, with the top guys at CBR, Newsarama
, IGN’s comics site, Daily Cross Hatch and ComicMix and myself, went well, I thought, although many the surface was barely scratched on many topics . Rick Marshall concurred:
The big-site/small-site dynamic formed the basis for much of our “Choosing the News: The Changing Face of Online Journalism” conversation, as the unique opportunities and obstacles inherent to each environment played big roles in determining each panelist’s take on the issues. The specific topics, however, covered a wide variety of interesting subject matter, including viral marketing, contributor compensation and how to develop and differentiate your site’s identity. Our conversation could have gone on another two hours and I would not have minded it a bit. I’ve posted some images from the panel at the end of this article.
I was particularly happy just to get that mix of panelists in a room. As we all said, the news business has changed incredibly in five years — or even three. Coming out of the show, I was struck by just how hard it is to cover comics news any more. Some big stories — say, Grant Morrison doing three new books for Vertigo — are relegated to a line in a panel report, and finding out what the actual announcements are at a show now requires either a) sitting in panel after panel or b) reading endless reports on panels. As I think I said in some previous comments, the headlines on all the mini sites were all “The Dark Horse Panel” and not “Dark Horse to collect MySpace Comics.” And I’m not sure that’s all that effective for PR.
I don’t know whether this is really just my own problem as a blogger, or a larger problem, but given the micro-management by the PR departments at most comics companies these days, it’s surprising that they don’t steer the headlines more. This could be due to the micro-size of these departments given the macro demands on them, but in order for comics news to compete with posters of Angelina Jolie — admittedly a difficult task — I’d hope to see what the actual stories are made clearer in the future. But like I said, maybe that’s just my own hang-up.
And yes, it is absolutely impossible to cover a show single-handed any more. A team of less than 10 is just inadequate.
SUNNY DAY, SWEEPIN’ THE CLOUDS AWAY
I expect that the feel good energy from this con will continue to spill out for the next few days, but I’ll try to weave my future observations into the evolving narrative of How Comics Took Over The World. This was, above all, one of the most fun cons I’ve been to in a long long time. Part of it was the great weather and the excitement of having a home town show. But it was just a lot of fun overall. I didn’t get to see half the people I should have, but I did a few good deeds that made me feel I was pulling my weight, like helping one company PR person with a last minute computer disaster, steering people to the right panels, making introductions, and so on. I was happy to have substantial conversations and not just convention drive-bys with Craig Yoe, Whitney Matheson, Jim Valentino, Ross Richie and Paul Levitz, and any time you get to do that, it’s good. I was happy to have drive-bys with a lot of other people, and got to say hello most of the time without feeling hopelessly stressed.
And, in the classic sense, it was a place to see old friends. It was great to see my homegirl Zena again. The hang outs at the various bars around the con were great, especially with the influx of foriegn pals like Esad Ribic, David Lloyd, Jamie McKelvie, Matteo Casali, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and many more. I finally got to hang out with Tony Lee, and find out what a swell gent he is. And so on.
I know there are a lot of people I should thank, but you know who you are, and I really want to thank EVERYONE. I love this crazy business, and the last weekend was a big reminder why. That’s the biggest story of all.