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Comics - tide turned?
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Tim Tylor
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Location: Cornwall, Great Britain

PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2006 7:35 pm    Post subject: Comics - tide turned? Reply with quote

Reading about Speakeasy Comics' downfall, I was brought up sharp by some of Steven Grant's comments at Comic Book Resources:

Quote:
Ironically, popular interest in comics may be at its highest since World War II. Last weekend's New York Convention was so great a success it bordered on a disaster, with so many people showing up that police were forced to close the doors and turn back anyone trying to buy admission on the spur of the moment. ... Most comics fans, hermetically sealed, still insist the general public hold comics in disdain and thinks they're for kids, but it's no longer true, and I suspect the reason many maintain the fable is that it allows them to continue to want, read and even create comics mired at their personal comfort level, usually set when they got interested enough in comics to become fans. But it's obvious there are huge opportunities out there right now.


I've no first-hand knowledge of the subject, but I'd picked up the received wisdom that comics are at low water in the West, or at least in the USA. So, is Steven right and the received wrong? At any rate, the abovementioned Convention certainly had problems of success.
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Rip Tanion
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 2:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've read a lot about the success of the NY Comic-Con; that success has been attributed to the long lines, and the fact the the state police were forced to close the expo hall for a while because it had gotten so crowded. I must admit that there was a much bigger crowd than I expected, but part of it also had to do with the fact that the Comic-Con did not take advantage of the huge space provided by the Javits Center, as well as the dense population of the NY metro area, and the fact that the mass transit system (subways, buses and commuter railroads) makes it easy for anyone living in the outer boroughs or the vast suburbs to get to the west side of midtown Manhattan, where the convention was held. Add to that people who came in out of town just for the convention, and you've got a whole lot of people. In addition to the "comics book nerds" everybody expected, there were loads of parents there who brought their kids (especially on Saturday), as well as press people, art students, and a lot of people you just don't normally expect to see at a comic book convention.

First of all, let me talk about space usage at the convention. The Javits Center is a very large venue, but the expo/dealers hall was shoe-horned into a relatively small space, making it very crowded. While waiting online to get into expo hall on Saturday, I commented to a few people that we were standing in this large, and empty space, which wasn't being used. Above us, the area at street level is even larger, yet was also empty. I've been to a few car shows at the Javits Center that took much better advantage of this space, spreading itself around the convention center. Add to this the fact that the Javits was also hosting a travel show the same weekend, and things just got hairy.

The other problem with the Javits Center is that, unlike convention centers in other cities (or the smaller convention venues in Manhattan), which are in the heart of town, the Javits is on 11th Ave., the last avenue before you hit the West Side Highway on the the edge of the Hudson river (see map). There's nothing in the immediate neighborhood except some warehouses, and car dealerships. If you want to grab a bite to eat, or hit a cash machine, there are no restaurants or banks close by. Unless you know to walk a couple of long blocks east (like I did), you wind up staying in convention center, waiting on a long line at ATM (which has a jacked-up surcharge), and hanging out in the food court, paying ridiculous prices for inedible crap I wouldn't feed to my enemy's dog.

That all said, I still think the NY Comic-Con was a success, though perhaps not as great as some are claiming. Yet, I'm sure they got much bigger crowds than they had expected, else they would have rented out more space in convention center to begin with. Maybe next year they will have learned from these mistakes, and spread things out a bit more.

As for my experience, here it is. (I know your just dying to hear all about it.)
I bought a weekend pass online a couple of weeks before. I was e-mailed a bar code to print out. This bar code would be scanned at the convention center, and a badge, good for the whole weekend, would be printed out for me. This turned out to be a great idea, considering the crowds.

Friday afternoon I got there about a quarter to four. I waited on the "express" registration line about 20 minutes to get my weekend pass badge. Once I got my badge, I got into the expo/dealer hall immediatly. I walked around for about two and half hours, and then cut out. I figured I'd be going all three days, so I might as well pace myself.

Saturday, I got there a little before 11am, and attended a couple of conferences, each an hour long. When I was done I saw a line forming to get into the hall, but I decided to leave for a while, and took a walk to 9th Ave. to grab a couple slices of pizza (they served something call "pizza" at the Javits food court, but to a life-long New Yorker like myself, it didn't resemble pizza at all—and it smelled foul), and hit a bank machine. When I got back to the Javits, a little before 2:00, I was amazed what I saw. An insanely long line of people who had already purchased on-line waiting to pickup "Saturday only" badges. I didn't see the line for people buying walk-up badges, but it must have been even worse. Already having my badge, I figured I could just stroll into the hall. Boy, was I wrong. I saw another insanely long line, and had to wait almost an hour before I got in. The hall was a lot busier and crowded than it had been the previous evening.

Sunday, I attended some more conferences early in the day. However, I was so exhausted (and hung over from toasting the memory the dear departed Don Knotts the night before) that I had no patience to wait on another line, so I didn't even bother trying to get into the hall, and just called it a weekend, and went home.

Still, I must say that I had a good time, got some decent deals on a few silver age Marvel issues, and I'm glad I went.
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 2:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rip Tanion wrote:
...attended a couple of conferences, each an hour long. .... Sunday, I attended some more conferences early in the day.

At the conventions I've attended, these panels have always been the true measure of how good a con is. What kinds of things did you attend? Were there plenty of options of interest, making it a difficult choice to attend one over another or did there seem to be obscure topics of little interest to you?
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Rip Tanion
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 3:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There were a bunch of different events, and conferences to choose from, arousing different interests. My interests were basically learning a thing or two that I didn't already know about the comics biz, and hearing some of the Silver Age greats talk about their experiences. There were only maybe one or two conflicts, that is two conferences that I wanted to attend at the same time, on my wish list schedule.

Here's a list what I attended. Sadly, my brain was in a fog on Sunday, so I can't give you much details on what I heard. I was just trying to keep from nodding off. This had nothing to do with boredom, but too many pints of Bass I had in Don Knotts' honor and not enough sleep from the night before. (I just can't drink the way I did in my younger days. You hear that, kids? Be warned!)

Saturday:
Comics Writers on Comics Writing
Artists 101: Comic Artists on Comics (No way I was missing Romita Sr. He told some funny stories.)

Sunday:
Steranko on Steranko (another one of my heroes, but boy what an ego—and a moussed up pompadour that could poke yer eye out)
The Future of Comics: What Works, What Doesn't, and Where It's Going...Online (I wish I could I have paid more attention to this one, but alas my condition…still pretty interesting)
Masters of Comics Storytelling
How to Self-Publish on a Shoe-String Budget and Actually Make Money (I realy wish I took notes for this one. Sadly, by this time all I was thinking about was getting home to my bed.)

There were a few others I wanted to get to, like the Joe Simon conference (at 92 years old, who knows if I'll get another chance), but like I said, the Javits Center is a big place, and it entailed some running around to get to each event on time.

Of course, if your had other interests, there were plenty of other things going on, especially for all you Manga-heads out there (and you know who you are).

Hopefully, the more educational topics I wasn't able to pay enough attention to will be back next year. This time I won't be calling my drunken friends to hang out the night before. I'll behave myself.
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TheDeeMan
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's been suggested that Speakeasy tried to do too much too soon and a carpet bomb fashion that over extended themselves financially and that's why they failed. Who knows. I just hope my friend Barb Lien Cooper finds a new ome for her book. Speakeasy was supposed to publish it before the fall.

Sadly whatever the state of comics they did it too themselves really back in the "greed is good" days. They lost the people outside of the comic circle who are back to thinking of comics as "kids stuff". People are much more likely to see a movie based on a comic then they are ever likely to buy one. And that's no likely to change for a good LONG time.

Dee
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