The comics e-CON-omy is growing by leaps and bounds, but splitting off into many factions and circuits. While pop culture has always been a big part of comic cons, the cross-over with autograph shows is creating hybrids whose success varies from market to market, Last weekend’s Wizard World Chicago (and the Fan Expo in Toronto which is on as you read this) are among the largest, and the former, in particular, was definitely like the blind men and the elephant — everyone had a different perception depending on where they were standing. I spoke with several comics guests who had a blast and did fine; other people were uncomfortable with not only the growing emphasis on nerdlebrities but increasing appearance of consumer-oriented companies that want a marketing presense at these shows. WWC is especially contentious because it was once one of the biggest pure comics show on the circuit (albeit a long time ago.) Some people thought C2E2 was better; some people thought WWC was better. In short, if ever there was no consensus this is it. Here are some views.
Marrielle Shaw at Chicagoist had had fun, but noted the high prices and crowds:
From there, we finally felt ready to hit the floor. There were multiple halls full of vendors with plenty to offer, from Star Trek crew uniforms to authentic lightsabers and Harry Potter’s wand. If you’re a fan of any show with a cult-following, you’d certainly find yourself tempted to empty your wallets.
The problem with this con, however, was that by the time you set eyes on these temptations, you may have found yourself already tapped financially. Wizard World was pricey. Most of the “big name” guests that drew us to the con were only accessible in paid autograph sessions after a long wait, or in paid events either outside or inside the convention center. Paid events are not foreign to cons big or small, but in this instance, each event ran around $30 at the low end, and due to demand, the seats that were available after the initial rush skyrocketed to the $60-70 range.
Zechs from the OUthouse has a comprehensive old-school breakfast-to-bed con report with many observations:
The first thing I noticed that was brought to our attention was the fact that the con was split into TWO areas: one with vendors, artist alley, and gaming, then the other had more vendors and the Star Studded Guests with registration right in the middle between both. Due to this, moving around the space was pretty good. Perhaps too good, because it was then said friends and I began to notice the fact that the convention wasn’t packed. I mean yeah it was Thursday, but Friday it was like this as well for most of the day until the last three hours.
In any case, I spent most of Thursday scoping the con floor out and paying for four blank cover sketches (Jeffery Moy did Agent Abigail Brand, Laura Guzzo drew and colored Shriek, Phillip Moy drew/colored Death of the Endless, RC Young with Age of Apocalypse Blink, and colorist Jeff Balke ended the great white whale from C2E2: getting his paws on coloring a blank cover sketch Mark Bagley did of Scarlet Spider he saw, but couldn’t finish due to his workload at the time. Plus he colored Brand, which again the man just knows how to color so darn quickly and well.
ICv2’s Milton Griepp has the measured view of an industry veteran and noticed the marketing:
The show we found on this year’s annual day trip to Chicago suburb Rosemont for Wizard World Chicago Comic Con (nee Chicago Comicon) was bigger once again, with the exhibit floor some 40% larger than it was in 2013, according to convention organizers. A lot of that additional space was taken up by booths directed at the general public that seems to be an increasing part of the audience at some comic conventions. Apparel and jewelry were two of the biggest categories, but everything from a barber shop to a smoke shop were set up on the floor this year, demonstrating the belief, at least among some exhibitors, that you didn’t really need to be selling products or services that had anything to do with comics to make money at a comic show. All that variety was arranged for discovery, with no real clustering of particular types of booths in a single area. For example, comic dealers were spread out, and none of them were where they had been the previous years.
Sean Kleefeld had a more mixed time:
One gent I talked to, who had set up booths at Wizard World shows in the past but choose not to this year, noted that the show felt very much like a flea market. That the old guys selling books from long boxes and the folks with their crafts weren’t really the point of the show, and were merely part of a large “holding pen” where people were kept occupied while they were waiting between autograph lines for the B-list celebrities. Without the large publishers and upscale retailers, it looked like a tent city on the outskirts of Mos Eisley.
Then you look at Artists Alley, with their more craft-focused/less indie comic creator approach. It’s been noted by myself and others that the Wizard World shows, in general, don’t draw on a large comic fan base so much as a pop culture fan base. There’s overlap, sure, but there’s more interest in single image Doctor Who/Star Wars mashups done as prints than fully-fledged comic stories. And with Wizard World expanding so much in recent years — with a U.S. show somewhere almost every other weekend — they have to do more to draw in tablers. Hence, giving a free table to someone who’s tabled in the past. They’re not worth it for an indie comics creator to pay money to table, but it might be viable if you didn’t have to travel and/or pay tabling fees. Just a weekend’s worth of time and effort, you could sell enough to maybe make it worth your while. Wizard World gets to keep some comics credibility, and fills out their holding pens, so they look less like holding pens.
Then there this fellow who had many specific complaints about the layout of the floor and ends with a classic proclamation:
Lots of people dealing in comics, either as creators or sellers, felt that the layout of the halls was intentional on Wizard’s part. A lot of comic shows have pretty much given up on comics, focusing on the spin-off media that brings in general fans and more money. Comics are an afterthought (I’m looking at you, SDCC). This comes from people who go to a lot of different shows, so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Bottom line: a LOT of people are saying they are not coming to Wizard World next year.
Here I must add, I have been hearing people say that for over a decade and yet the show doesn’t shrink. It just evolves.
Finally, I found a reference on ICv2 to a product that shows how far nerd marketing is going with special underwear themed for Aunt Flo, Harebrained’s Period Panties.
I purchased a pair of the Shark Week panties, and found them remarkably soft and flexible. (That’s probably due to the 5% combed cotton and 5% Elastine blend.) They felt a bit thicker than usual underwear as well, which is valuable when you’re bleeding. Also ingenious is a black panel along the front of the underwear, so if there’s leakage, you’ll never notice. In fact, the colorful pattern can also be seen as camouflage, ready to hide any unpleasantness.
Most importantly, the cut is both comfortable and flattering. The company considers all women, with panties available in sizes Extra Small through 3 Extra Large. This means all women can feel pretty when hit by the curse.
Form and function indeed.
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.