The Old Dog – Conventions

the old dog
They finally found a way to make money off comic book conventions. Take out the comic books.

I know, a cheap shot, but not really far from the truth. This column was originally started not long after Wizard World New Orleans, which was way too long ago to just be getting around to writing it now. So I have to apologize for the delay in this column. When I started I was hoping at the very least I’d get one column out a month. My ideal situation would be one a week, but I pretty much knew that wasn’t going to happen. So let’s see if I can at least get to one a month.

The idea behind this column came to me after having a table at the most recent Wizard World in New Orleans. And then a month later I set up at a convention in Memphis. It was a lot smaller con than the one in New Orleans. The Memphis one was the first year for that con. But both cons had one thing in common. An artist alley that lacked comic book creators.

Before we go too far I want to say I have nothing against Wizard World. It’s not a comic book convention. It’s a Media convention. People aren’t going to necessarily see comic book creators. They’re going to see Chris Evans. Or Matt Smith. Or a dozen other movie or tv actors. That’s the draw of these cons. When they opened the door on the first day of the con it was kind of funny. I was set up on the side of a main aisle. The conventions goers rushed into the convention center and right up the aisle, past the dealers, past those of us set up in Artist Alley and headed straight to the back of the center where all the Media guests were set up. Eventually things calmed down and people were walking around the entire hall checking out the scene. But the majority still had their name badges that showed who they were coming to see and get autographs for. They were killing time until then.

But if you go to Wizard World you have to know what it is in advance, they’ve been around long enough and if you look at any of their websites they tell you what’s going on at their conventions. I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be a big money making con for me. Before you set up at a con you need to know what to expect, in as much as you can.

Wizard World is what it is, and there’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of people enjoy it and want to spend a lot of money there. It’s managed to put a con in New Orleans on a regular basis and that was something no one else has been able to do until now.

And for all the harping about not having comic book guests, Wizard World actually has more comic books creators than a lot of other shows that advertise themselves as comic book conventions. They had a lot more comic book creators than the one I went to in Memphis. Granted the Memphis con was new and a lot smaller, but I could probably count on one hand and only have to use a couple fingers from my second hand on how many actual comic book creators was there.

When I first started going to conventions lo those many years ago if you walked Artist Alley pretty much every table was manned by a comic book creator, be it an artist, a writer, maybe an editor or publisher of a small indy company; but all connected to the creation of comic books. I can remember walking the aisles and talking to Dave Sim, Mike Grell, Joe Monks, Mike Zeck, the list goes on and on. All you saw was people that were in the business of creating comic books. They weren’t all big names, there were a lot of small indy people like myself, trying to make a name for themselves and attract some fans to their creations.

Today you walk what they call Artist Alley and you will rarely see someone that creates comic books. You’ll see someone selling jewelry. You’ll see someone selling masks. You’ll see someone selling videos. You’ll see someone, actually a lot of someones, selling prints. Oh yea, there are a lot of artists that sell prints that have absolutely nothing to do with comic books. The closest they’ve come to a comic book is drawing the character and then selling it as a print. Walls of prints. (I’m not going to get too much into this at the moment, I think that’s for another column and a lot more words.) What I’m trying to say is that you don’t see very many people that are making comic books.

Most conventions have morphed Artist Alley into the retail section of the cons. It used to be you had an area that was for the shop owners and other retail people to set up. So you could walk that area looking for something to buy. And then set off somewhere to the side or the back was Artist Alley. This was where you strolled looking at all the people that created comic books. You could buy things here, but it was their comic books or original art or a quick sketch (Another thing the wall of prints have helped do away with, artists doing sketches, some do it but not it was…ok, I said this was for a future column and it will be). But you knew when you walked Artist Alley that was what you were going to see. Creators that created comic books.

Wizard World actually does a lot better job of creating an Artist Alley than many cons. The con I was at in Memphis I don’t think there was a comic book creator even close to me. Lots of table for other things, but none for creating comic books. Wizard World has an Artist Alley and a lot of creators in it, but they still mix in other things, they just have more comic book creators so you can actually walk an entire aisle and see almost nothing but comic book creators behind the tables. Until you come across a wall of prints. (Ooops, sorry, another column.)

I’m not blaming any of the conventions for this. It’s what people are looking for. When they go to a convention nowadays they want to see the Media guest. They want to get the autograph from the tv star. It’s what draw the people in now days.

I’d just like to see more comic book creators at some of these shows. Or at least have the conventions do a better job of having an Artist Alley and not just plop the creators down in the middle of a million other retail vendors to get lost in the shuffle.

I know the money isn’t there for just a comic book convention that caters to just comic book creators and their fans, not for a big show that wants to be like a Wizard World or the other big ones, but I’d love to see some of the smaller ones try for more of a comic book show without all the extras and see how it does.

Regardless of what they do I’ll still be attending conventions and enjoying them. I usually have a good time whether I’m stuck between someone selling prints and someone selling bracelets, but it would be nice to have people that wrote or drew comics next to me. (That’s another column I think about what I get out of a con and what I expect.) I enjoyed Wizard World and talked to a lot of people. I enjoyed the Memphis con even though it was a lot smaller and not as busy.

Before I end this column I do have a question. I knew the Funko character toys were popular, but I never knew how popular. When did they become such a big collectors’ market? At Wizard World they must have had at least half a dozen different vendors selling nothing but these toys. They seemed to be everywhere.

Ok, that wraps up this one. Hopefully I’ll be back a lot sooner with another one. I threw out a few more ideas in this column that I want to follow up about conventions so this may just be part one of a multi part column.

Support Independent Creators.

John Holland will be at Big Easy Comics on Wednesday, July 20th signing his new comic, Ayla Speaker for the Dead.