Bud Plant will no longer exhibit at San Diego Comic-Con

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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.

~Bud

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.

Photo credit: Bud Plant

 

12 COMMENTS

  1. I do wonder why someone does not set up an “Art Basel” during CCI in one of the nearby hotels.
    Reserve a hallway of meeting rooms in the Hyatt, and exhibit like a SF con.
    Open to the public, so you don’t need to deal with Comic-Con badges.

  2. SDCC is not worth the hassle. I haven’t gone in 10 years, and I don’t miss it. I miss the SDCC of 2004, though.

  3. I try to go to comic conventions to sell books, but to be honest, they’re kind of a drag. The table fee costs can be up to $300. The transportation and parking can be expensive. I would lose a weekend where I could be at work and making some cash. It’s hard to support a dream when everything is not in the exhibitor’s favor.

    Overall, comic conventions just are becoming less and less about comics. I work at a high school and it is not a good sign when every student has seen the avengers yet still have not had the urge to buy comics. This is scary to me because I love the comics medium so much.

  4. that’s a bummer…always been a highlight for me and great way to escape the madness by browsing at Bud Plant.

  5. “I do wonder why someone does not set up an “Art Basel” during CCI in one of the nearby hotels.
    Reserve a hallway of meeting rooms in the Hyatt, and exhibit like a SF con.”

    Two thoughts in response to this:

    1) Are meeting rooms sufficiently available in nearby hotel rooms? If those nearby hotels are part of the official Comic-Con block, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many of those spaces are booked by convention attendees as their own meeting rooms, or for various convention operations needs. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there’s an arrangement (formal or informal) between to convention and the hotels that would preclude the hotels from booking seemingly competitive events at the same time.

    2) But opting for a different place to set up is kinda beside the point. If what Plant is saying is true–the kinds of attendees coming to San Diego nowadays are not the kinds of people that are interested in the wares he has to sell–that’s not really a problem that’s automatically solved by setting up in a different location during the convention. Obviously there’s a cost/benefit optimization exercise here (Is it better to spend $X to set up on the show floor where I can sell to a potential market of Y, or to spend less-than-$X to set up elsewhere where I can sell to a potential market of this-percentage-of-Y) but if the challenge is about whether attendees are interested in buying what an exhibitor is selling, choosing somewhere else to set up isn’t necessarily the full solution.

  6. I keep hearing creators and retailers alike talking about large conventions in general for becoming massive money losers. ECC was the new one. All of these things become a victim of their own success for an industry that survives on razor thin margins.

  7. I’ve missed Bud at ECCC for the past few years. His booth was always wonderful to visit and he’s so great to talk to. I hope he enjoys going to SDCC as a “civilian!”

  8. Thanks so much for the understanding and kind words. On the other hand, i really love doing the tiny (400 people) OAF comics show in OK, and come home loaded with cool new stuff for my collection.

    And I spend quality time with old friends like Roger Hill, Bruce Hershenson, Robert Brown, Bart Bush, Eric Groves, Paul McSpadden, Buddy Saunders, Larry Bigman, Michelle Nolan…people i really care about who I have known, most of them, since the late sixties or early seventies.

    There is some of that at SD, but less each year. And limited time to visit with friends when manning multiple booths.

  9. San Diego comicon stopped catering to comics dealers more than a decade ago. They forgot who brought em to the party. My last time set up there was 2011. I had sold comics there every year from #1 in 1970 for 42 years in a row. My stopping then was more wrapped up in concentrating on saving oldest daughter Katy’s life thru 5 skull opening brain moving surgeries but by then it was also arrogant ego which had kept me going those last few set ups.

    By 2010 Bud had already begun imploding his display space.
    By 2011 there were only 4 of us left who had set up every SDCC.

    With Bud bowing out that leaves just Steve bro of William Schanes if indeed Steve is still setting up there as well any more.

  10. I sell comics at San Diego , and I do better each and every year. Granted I know what to bring to sell at this show. I pretty much bring DC from the New 52 era thru the Rebirth era , Marvel from the last 5 years. Scattered key DC and Marvel titles post-2000 thru 2011. A smattering of Key 80s/90s material from DC/Marvel. Topping everything off with some key non-Big 2 comics from 1980 to current. The market has changed , you need to either adapt or bow out.

  11. “Adam Action” left a nice comment tinged with more than a pinch of arrogance. “You need to either adapt or bow out.” Or maybe the Con can be a little more accommodating to its veteran vendors. The Con was never meant to be ONLY about the latest exclusives or the latest biannual event reboot of a publisher’s entire line. That twisting mile-long line for Hall H is a joke, too. I remember the Con before it turned into a glorified press junket. It was about fandom. It was about creators. Now it’s about eBay flippers and autograph chasers. Before you know it, Artist Alley will be a nook in a corner by a pretzel booth. Small Press territory will yield to guys with pallet loads of Funko Pop figures. Nobody wants that. LOL!

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