Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another Con Job

Yep, it happened again. I went to the Boston Comic Con(vention), and had a terrible time.

I wrote all  about this last year, so I won't repeat myself (much), but what the heck has happened to comic cons?! Back in the day (we're talkin' the Seventies) comic cons were great! It was a weekend-long nerdapalooza of all things geeky! Anything a nerd would love: Comics, Animated Cartoons, Obscure Movies, Comic Strips and more were there on display for all to enjoy. The attendees were different too. Back then, comics weren't "mainstream". Comic fans were an isolated bunch, who were sure that our interests weren't shared by the population at large. Seeing so many like-minded geeks at a con reassured us that we were "not alone". Also, all forms of cartoon-type entertainment were represented. You could find funny animal comics, Star Trek stuff,  underground comics, Anime (called "Japanese stuff", back then) and more! Today, it's superheroes, or nuthin'.

The convention I attended last weekend was a different story. Sure, there were the vendors, but that was about it. Thanks to the success of mainstream superhero movies and the like, the con experience has become all about selling crap to the masses. The con  had an impressive lineup of guests, but they were all hawking their latest  projects and selling their autographs and drawings. Back in the day, the pros would do quickie sketches gratis, and sign autographs till their hands wore out. I understand why pros are hesitant to do free sketches nowadays, what with all the EBay slime balls out there, but charging for an autograph? Come on!

There was also no entertainment at the con I attended. No movies, nothing. Sure, they had a few panels where clueless nitwits interviewed some of the pros in attendance, but the one we sampled was awful: An interview with a comic book legend, hosted by a guy who seemed to know nothing about his work. The only highlight was when a big fat guy in a Batman outfit walked in during the middle of the  presentation and sat down. No one reacted, like Batman  showing up was no big deal.

All in all, the experience was a bust. Maybe though, the people behind the Boston Comic  Con will contact me, and I can advise them on how to improve next years con. If they don't, I won't be back.

One highlight: I reconnected with my old teacher, comic book legend Joe Kubert (Pictured above. BTW, that isn't Photo shop  magic, that is how big my forehead is!). Joe was a guest at the con. He was very important to my development as a cartoonist, and it was nice to tell him how much he meant to me. He pretended to remember me, which I appreciated. Come to think of it, he should remember me! After all, I once playfully pinched his cheek, and lived to tell the tale.

I just remembered, another pathetic aspect of the con: All the ham n' eggers trying to sell their self-published books. It was really sad to see. It convinced me to publish my Kaptain Keen book through some legitimate channel.

So, to sum up: No more Comic Cons for me. I'm moving on to something more legitimate.

Like  a Star Trek convention.

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Blogger David said...

How sad! I thought about going, but after the disappointment that was last year, I couldn't bring myself to do it. Glad I didn't miss anything though.

May 4, 2011 at 7:24 AM  
Blogger SNeelyArt said...

I've felt this way for a while though the last show I did was about 2 years ago at the Baltimore Comic Con, which is sited as being a true comic show (like Heroes Con) which focused on comics and the art with no real sense of Hollywood mixed in. My problem were the amount of people showing up and wanting free stuff. If you have to pay a table fee, if you do say a Wizard show, you have to make that $300 back and giving away sketches doesn't help. Some shows like Baltimore I can get a table spot for free, but the money you make back is so low that I'd rather just sit home.

The problem is that now more people come around with little sketch cards and ask for a simple sketch. You do one and then they tend to hand you another! What the hell?! I just did one for free and now you want the whole Justice League??? I did sketches for free for kids but then you get like 10 kids showing up and just want sketches, you don't make money.

I think a lot of people are coming from that San Diego Comic Con idea that they walk around and score free movie posters, free cards, free buttons, free shirts, etc. and then go to artist alley and have to actually buy something. Once they pay to get in, the parking, the gas to get there, they are BROKE.

The San Diego comic con changed for me when I was walking in and saw that huge Lord of the Rings display and how artist alley kept getting pushed back further and further to the back of the convention hall. Hell, it might as well just move them to the actual alley! Hollywood has come into play and these shows are catering to it to get people to come, otherwise no one but a small crowd would show up who actually read the books done today. This is why Wizard Philly was so big last year, you had more people coming in to see Adam West but didn't read or care about the Batman comics. They are not comic conventions, they are really just Pop Culture Extravaganzas, which is what Wizard shows called themselves a few years ago!

Most of the shows now are giveaways and I usually drop some money there and get stuff for 40-80% off the cover so why go to a comic store at all (which hurts them)? I know guys who come to the Wizard Philly every year with $3,000 in their pocket and just get everything for the year in one shot at half the cost. I'm not saying they spend all that on comics but they bring it if they need it.

Mostly though I just don't go because I have a hard time giving a shit about the industry anymore as they keep making books that I really don't have a vibe for, plus they have cut the rates on what you can make as an artist. DC cut mine back last September. They've already pushed kids out of it, and when they lose the older fan who would rather sit at home and reads Marvel Essentials, I think they're in major trouble.

Marvel and DC are just licensing houses now. They make all their money on the characters they own. The comics are mostly 3rd rail it seems since movies and video games and toys eclipse the money they make on publishing.

May 4, 2011 at 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe you're not going to the right cons.


May 7, 2011 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger Bill White said...


You have written the blog post I wanted to write. You captured the state of affairs perfectly. You also have touched on a subject that I have meant to post about, and will shortly. Please stay tuned.

eeTeed- I refer you to Scott's comment.

May 8, 2011 at 12:04 AM  
Blogger SNeelyArt said...

Good to see I inspired you, Bill. Or depressed you... haha.

On the thing you wrote about ham & eggers trying to sell their own books, it can be quite depressing to see and these guys go from show to show trying to make their money back. One guy at Wizard Philly had held up cardboard signs saying "Please Buy My Book!" It was like that Bob Dylan music video where he has all the signs. This guy would keep changing the signs if you stopped to read the first one. Pretty creepy and it got the other pros around him pissed. This stuff is a hard sell anymore and the only saving grace I have is drawing stuff that everyone at least knows. If I drew Firestorm for DC they'd pass me by too since no one cares. What does seem to move are the guys who do real kiddie/cute versions of superheroes. Kind of like Tiny Titans but in different styles. That stuff seemed to has increased over the last 3 years at shows and caters to moms and daughters as well as young boys who are just discovering superheroes.

These shows are all superhero material anymore. Outside stuff, if you're not a name, is a real hard sell. I had stopped bringing original art and just brought a portfolio of smaller predone sketches to sell which made it easier to watch and not worry about it being stolen.

I used to make great money in the early days of Wizard Philly and then around 3 years ago it died money-wise. Every year since it's first year I made less and less, till around three years ago I stopped doing it all together and just walked the convention in one day and left. When you just break even for the weekend or barely make your table fee back, it's not worth it. It may be that the city had a fatigue with the show and San Diego will have it too where it becomes the same-old, same-old. Last year they had a great turnout of people who showed up but once they bought autographs from some old actor they were too broke for anything else. The money didn't trickle over to artist alley much unless you had something unique or as I mentioned the kiddie version of stuff.

The problem is too many people want to write and draw comics and not enough want to read them, and for most parents the price point is just to high, which you would think at a show they would buy a lot since they sells at such a discount.

May 8, 2011 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger Bill White said...


You last paragraph sums the whole situation out perfectly. I also think that with current technology (internet, POD, etc.) it's too easy to get published, and people that are not ready at a professional level, but think they are, start pumping crap out. The result is, there is no way for the consumer to separate the wheat from the chaff, so they either buy nothing, or stick to the crap they know.

The above was written by a guy about to self-publish his own crap, so take it with a grain o' salt.

May 8, 2011 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger SNeelyArt said...

No, I think there is some good stuff out there that people do self-publish but they are having a tough time getting their work into the public eye. It's not all bad, though there is some real crap out there. I've seen some guys spend a lot of money printing books up and getting completely pissed off at a show since nothing is selling (and it is crap they did) and getting frustrated and leave the books there and storm out and you never see them again. That happened the second Wizard Philly show. No major sales in 3 hours so they gave up! Hah! I have Baltimore stories too of this stuff going on.

I simply think you have to do something that will cater to a demographic that you know you can sell to, and one definitely outside the comic con crowd. If I was going to do a book it would have a cute feel to it to appeal to females as well as boys. I try not to block any potential market.

There are many self-publishing avenues and even print on demand places now to do decent books. It's the selling of them that's hard. Honestly if I just did comic shows, I'd make more money catering to the babymen and draw naked Daphne and Velma or Batgirl or something. Portfolio books of sexy women seem to move well at the superhero cons since they are cheap and the amount of guys who buy sketches or original pages is fleeting right now. Money is limited and cash is king for those who have it. Attention spans are even smaller as there is soooo much to see.

The only downside I see to your book is that it's humor and those crash and burn in today's market of gritty and realistic Marvel crapola. Anything kid friendly or humor-based is an impossible sell since a LOT of comic stores don't sell kids books. Not even Archies.

I actually do better at library and school appearances of late.

May 8, 2011 at 11:48 PM  

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