While comics sales may be soft these days, one aspect of the comics lifestyle is still booming: the ever humble comic-con has gone from an affair centered on a few bearded guys in T-shirts sitting behind some yellowing longboxes to what is the modern equivalent of the county fair: a chance to dress up, take pictures, meet nerd people and buy nerd shit. Comic-cons around the country are booming, with sell-outs, constant media coverage and enthusiastic reports from people of every gender and age.
Despite this upswing, there is some grumbling among the original comics folks about how movies and TV stars are taking over the comic-cons — and not just at San Diego where the Hollywood hype machine throws an annual three-ring circus/orgy of promotion. Reed Pop’s shows — NYCC and C2E2 — have been traditionally lighter on movie panels and nerdlebrities signing autographs, but even the announcement of a few guys from Ghost Hunters threw up alarm bells. Plus, even at real comic-cons the major media coverage always centers on costumes and nerdlebrities — and that’s annoying.
Of course, then there’s the Wizard brand of shows, which emit a low-level dribble of nerdlebrity news on a regular basis. A few sample headlines from recent emails:
• Tom Felton, Morena Baccarin, Kristanna Loken Among Headliners At Wizard World Big Apple Comic Con ‘Spring Edition,’ May 21-22 At Manhattan’s Penn Plaza Pavilion
•’Buffyfest,’ ‘Star Wars,’ ‘BSG,’ Julie Benz, Billy Dee Williams, Scott Thompson Panels Plus Fan Groups Parade Highlight Wizard World Toronto Comic Con Programming
• Michael McMillian, John Schneider, Adam West, Burt Ward, Chase Masterson Among Headliners At Wizard World Anaheim Comic Con, April 29-30-May 1 At Anaheim Convention Center
• Lt. Tamara Johansen from “SGU Stargate Universe” & Black Canary from “Smallville” set to appear @ Anaheim, Philadelphia & Chicago Comic Cons!
You get the idea.
While we would never belittle anyone’s resentment at playing second fiddle to “Boomer”, a guy who hasn’t worked regularly in his chosen profession since 1999, we feel strongly that this resentment may be misplaced. Rather than “Comic” being the lacuna of the “Comic-con” formula, it is in fact the code word for the fun. And we submit as evidence a horrific event held last weekend that was explicitly modeled on San Diego Comic-Con — minus the comics.
We speak of the Reality Rocks Expo, held at the LA Convention Center. A frothy, yeasty mix of the edgiest, — those violet haired people from Amazing Race — most broken down — Eric Roberts from Celebrity Rehab– most infamous — Omorosa! — of reality stars, for some reason no one wanted to meet these people.
Now even allowing for the LA Convention Center being a somewhat problematic setting for a public show, as the debate over moving CCI there showed — the Reality Rocks Expo was an embarrassing failure. Promoters expected 15,000 people to show up for this thing. But:
Though our friend Andy Dehnart at Reality Blurred reports that the staff projected an audience of 15,000 attendees, come convention weekend, nobody actually showed up. Seriously — check out these photos of the event from B-Side blog, featuring crowds as large as 12 amassing to watch former ‘Idol’ finalist Andrew Garcia, empty autograph lines for ‘Paranormal Files’ hosts, and a ‘Big Brother’ panel with the same amount of panelists as audience members.
The pictures are indeed devastating.
Call in Zak Bagans! This place is haunted! MANY more in the first link.
The reports from the sponsoring LA Times is equally frank and dreadful:
The producers of the inaugural Reality Rocks Expo may aspire for the event to eventually become the Comic-Con of the reality TV world. But they may already need a new script. Lacking premiere attractions or A-list reality stars, the first day of the two-day expo, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets, drew only sparse crowds to the Los Angeles Convention Center. Sessions featuring stars and personalities from “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “Shark Tank” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” were far from full. Other panels in cavernous meeting rooms featuring lower-ranked contestants from past seasons of “American Idol” drew embarrassingly small audiences.
And then…Sunday! The slow day!!
The inaugural Reality Rocks Expo hardly found its groove the second day. The crowd was fairly anemic Sunday in the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center. The biggest line of the day wasn’t for meet-and-greets with the likes of Ray J (“For the Love of Ray J”) or Omarosa (“The Apprentice,” “The Surreal Life”), rather it was for a casting call for The Hub’s new music competition series “Majors and Minors.” And panels still drew sparse crowds — only they appeared larger because rows were roped off in the bigger rooms.
Now we’ve been at some crappy, lonely comic-cons in our times — one in New Orleans back in the 90s and one promoted by legendary R—O—Y come to mind — and there is nothing sadder than being at a sparsely attended show at the LA Convention Center — soul crushing is hardly adequate. But this, this gathering of people whose only claim to fame is being a normal person who made a fool of themselves being themselves…that must have taken out the souls of those there and pounded them beneath the grinding wheels of Isengard before sending them to the icy plains of Niflheim and then casting them into the dark, remote void of nothingness.
Say what you will about Wizard World. Although they offer a Reality Stars Pavilion:
WIZARD WORLD COMIC CON TOUR LAUNCHES REALITY STARS PAVILION WITH REAL-LIFE HEROES & VILLIANS A Reality Stars pavilion presented by ISawYouOnTV.com will bring fans following the Wizard World Comic Con tour a chance to meet the reality celebrities they love – and the stars they love to hate. The Reality Stars pavilion will premiere at Toronto Comic Con.
–they know better than to make it the whole show. Meeting a great personality like Adam West or William Shatner or Erin Gray is one thing — making a battalion of botoxed, silliconed and veneered never-weres the main attraction will never do. Cartoonists and their bright pictures and trading cards are life, light and love compared to this.
So fret not. We’re still part of the show. Maybe it’s time to admit that making a warm, comfortable place where Virgil can spend his remaining days with some level of dignity and companionship is a fine, humane goal after all.
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.