It’s a time of consolidation and retrenching, and some don’t make the journey to the next phase. One such entity is the Detroit Fanfare convention, as announced on this Facebook post. A planned February is being cancelled, a Kickstarter cancelled (and pledges not charged) and the event is not going to be held again.
Detroit Fanfare was a rootsy show—we were honored to be guests in 2013 and wrote quite a bit about the show. It was run by retailer Dennis Barger, and creators Tony Miello and Gary Reed. The 2013 show was a bit odd as it was held at a hotel called the Adoba that had once been a top of the line Hyatt, but had been purchased by a new entity. Added to the overall financial woes of the Detroit area, it was perhaps not the most optimal place for a con—there was a definite “Let’s put on a show amid the ruins!” vibe, and many missing amenities that were remarked on throughout the weekend—but people seemed to have a good time. However, the Adoba went into foreclosure, and the quest for a new venue forced the show to be moved from its Halloween date to a February timeframe—and that show has now been called off.
Reed writes a lengthy obit, and mentioned many reasons the show did in—among them the amount of work needed by Barger and Miello. It’s also stated several times that the show could not compete with the “Cosplay/celebs/comics” media shows that seem to be the boilerplate now. I’m not sure this is entirely accurate—the first FB post quoted above has plenty of heartbroken former attendees sounding off—but, hey I don’t run the show. Here’s some of Reed’s statement:
But fans, for as much bitching as they do about the lack of comic shows, still flock to the multi-media shows at 4-5 times the cost. We all realized that Detroit Fanfare would never be a massively large show unless we followed that formula but that’s not why Fanfare was started and changing into that kind of show was not something any of us wanted to do. I think the last year or so, Fanfare was defining itself on what kind of show it would be and that was one centered on comics and artists.
So, why is it ending? Well, it started off as something that might be able to continue even with lowered expectations but frankly, it just became too much work. Like myself, Dennis and Tony also have their careers outside of the convention. To all three of us, it was a side job, not a full time one. Anything dealing with the convention was time away from our primary careers. I teach college full time plus spend a great deal of time with the publishing and my writing, so, I was always a part time contributor. Tony’s art career has been growing, at first steadily, and then blossoming, that it became increasingly difficult to find enough time to spend with Fanfare. Dennis, being an owner of a comic shop, also has one of the largest comic mail order houses in the country.
That means to work on Fanfare, they had to forego opportunities that would earn them money. In fact, Dennis usually paid for his store employees to staff Fanfare and closed his store during the convention weekend. Also, Dennis is a single parent of two kids and Tony has his family commitments. Fanfare took a lot of time away from family and revenue generating work.
You also have to realize that when you’re dealing with a couple of hundred creators, staff members, guests, etc., that is a lot of unique personalities you have to contend with. Everyone has their situation yet as an organizer, you have hundreds of them. The convention also faced a number of problems dealing with the hosting sites. The Hyatt transferring to the Adoba caused all kinds of problems as well as the move to Detroit at Cobo Hall. And while Detroit is overcoming its bad reputation and graft, based on our experiences there, it’s easy to see why they developed such a bad reputation. Then the Adoba went into foreclosure—but we had decided to move from there because we knew something was coming.
Is the demise of Detroit Fanfare the beginning of a culling of comics shows? I’m not sure that was entirely accurate. DF was a pretty unqiue show, and I suspect the reasons it didn’t work are similarly unique. That leaves the increasingly celeb driven Motor City Comic Con as the main show for Detroit. But don’t forget Kids Read Comics, a much liked show focusing on the children’s library market held in Ann Arbor.
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.