While the chance for SPX exhibitors to pitch cartoon ideas to Nickelodeon as announced yesterday sounds like a good opportunity, there was quite a bit of controversy about it on social, as seen in these tweets. Click on the Gillman and Gran links to go to much longer discussions, but the basic objection is that SPX is a small press show that celebrates the joy of small press comics, and formalizing the participation of a major cartoon network/corporate brand at the show goes against that philosophy.
nickelodeon taking pitches at SPX feels like a real miscalculation. has there ever been anything like that at the show? I dunno man
— Meredith Gran (@granulac) August 5, 2015
Hey, cartoonists who just got that email about the SPX/Nickelodeon thing, be aware of this clause in the release: pic.twitter.com/GSyZn2aXjz
— Melanie Gillman (@melgillman) August 5, 2015
i say this as a dude who is working w/ comics related to nickelodeon, nick being at spx officially feels weirdy. bye
— kc grəən (@kcgreenn) August 5, 2015
Dang…Hope Nickelodeon donated a dump truck full of money to the CBLDF for access to all this SPX talent.
— Colleen Frakes (@ColleenFrakes) August 5, 2015
However some folks were more pragmatic:
nickelodeon taking pitches at SPX is going to not match up with some folks' perception of the show; but the same can be said of the prom
— Tom Spurgeon (@comicsreporter) August 5, 2015
Spurgeon had more to say here and pointed out that career development has always been a part of SPX, although most folks now going weren’t even born** when a Diamond rep would show up on Sunday to rap with creators. He also mentions as he has in the past, that this kind of career focus will very much be part of the upcoming CXC show in Columbus.
I'm not surprised Nickelodeon's going fishing at SPX. Cartoon Network's been slyly scouting for talent there for years now.
— Christian Sager (@christiansager) August 5, 2015
i think it's cool that SPX and Nickelodeon are working together- I mean Kevin Lee has been attending SPX since before this even happened
— CHRISTMASDELEINE (@heymadeleine) August 6, 2015
If you click on the longer conversations, you’ll see generally accepting yet ambivalent reactions from folks like TCAF showrunner Chris Butcher and George Rohac. It isn’t so much tangible fears as just a sigh over the evolution of SPX into something with a more, well, showbiz element. Even though animation reps have been scouting the show for, oh forever, it still seems like a step towards something that is not in keeping with the indie centric spirit of the event as it has evolved.
I’ll admit that the doubts over what seems like a good opportunity may have induced eye rolling in some quarters. Aren’t we always complaining about cartooning not being a vocation you can make a living from? Animation work has been supporting many people who make some of the best comics and that’s either sad or pragmatic depending on how you see it.
I definitely see both sides of it. SPX is Camp Comics, one of the few shows where comics are front and center with very little distraction, and that’s one of the greatest things about it. An invasion of people who want to get their cartoons on the air would not be in the spirit of independence at all. That said, we live in a multi media world. Most of the successful comics-focused creators I see developing major careers don’t stick with one thing, but go with the ebbs and flows of many platforms and opportunities. That’s the modern method.
The CN and Nickelodeon folks who have been going to SPX right along has been non disruptive up until now, and I suspect they will stay that way. SPX has a strong culture, but it’s evolved in many ways since the show starts 20 years ago. We’ll continue to see tweeks to a successful formula.
** Slight exaggeration for comedic effect
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.