Tuesday, July 19, 2011


It's that time of year again. The time of year where, for one week, comics rule the roost. That's right fanboys and geek girls, it's San Diego Comic Con time.

San Diego Comic Con, or Comic Con International, or "The Biggest Frakkin' Nerdcentric Multimedia Event On the Planet" was this past weekend. Originally regarded as the premier comic convention in the country, over the years SDCC has mutated more than Warren Worthington, III, becoming a roiling melting pot of all things nerd. A four day event, SDCC boasts a seemingly neverending stream of things to do. There's the panels, the signings, the portfolio reviews and the lines and lines of folks waiting for sketches, just like you'd see at any convention. But SDCC doesn't stop there. It's a four day cavalcade of celebrities pretending to have spent their whole life reading comics before being cast as a beloved panelized icon, movie studios evangelizing their newest nerd-friendly offerings to the masses and cosplayers as far as the eye can see. Given all of this, it would seem like SDCC would be a mecca for comic creators of all stripes, but that doesn't always seem to be the case. In fact, some creators downright dread this major event.

In an attempt to get between the lines and find out what creators from across the spectrum of comics publishing really think about Comic Con, I did the easiest thing I could think; I asked my friends. What follows are quotes from various creators and journalists about their own personal experiences and opinions of CCI. Enjoy!

If I could manage to avoid ever having to go there again I would be extremely happy. It's a very high-pressure week (five days of con plus travel), it blows a hole in my work schedule I spent weeks recovering from, ninety percent of what it celebrates is stuff I couldn't care less about, it can be ruinously expensive to attend and I feel like a limp dishrag at the end of it. I've been trying to avoid it in recent years but it's a bit like the Mafia, you can never quite leave it behind - someone always drags you back in. I do like seeing friends in the industry, but if I could just meet up with the friends and ditch the rest of it that would suit me just fine.

--Roger Langridge (Snarked, The Muppet Show)

Roger went on to make it clear that he doesn't dislike all conventions as a rule, just that San Diego burns him out. For a slightly more positive vantage point, we turn to Jeff Parker.

I think it's fun for a lot of people, but it makes me exhausted and chews up all my work time, which is why I'm not going. But I won't begrudge others a good time.

--Jeff Parker (Hulk, Thunderbolts, Bucko)

One of the things I noticed among people I asked is the time San Diego steals away. Many of the complaints I've heard over the years echo Parker's sentiment that, while it can be fun, San Diego just disrupts the normal work schedule too much for many people to justify a visit. I think that many fans are so disconnected from the actual process by which their favorite comics are created that they don't always realize how much effort and time goes into their creation. The world of social networking has opened many fans' eyes to the rigors or comics creation, but for those fans who aren't also creators, knowing the true toll a convention can take is difficult.

While I'm a creator of comics in the loosest terms (still seeking that first publication), even I can attest to the impact a convention can have on you physically and mentally. For instance, this year I appeared on a panel at Chicago's C2E2. It was my first panel and I was stressed as hell about it. Stress, as you well know, exhausts you. Couple that with the fact that my "real world" job only allowed me the time to go up for the day of the panel and essentially turn around and come right back and you had a recipe for serious stress and exhaustion, both mental and physical. And that was just one panel. Compare that now to the time a major creator has to spend at SDCC going from signings to panels to parties to awards ceremonies and you can start to see how many of them could come to dread the event.

Given what established creators go through at SDCC, what must independent creators be thinking when they step into that vaunted hall? I am lucky enough to have two friends who are both talented pencillers and successful indie creators, so I asked them to chime in on their own experiences at San Diego.

I love San Diego, but it is certainly the most daunting of all shows. The gigantic increase in crowds and the addition of all the other non-comics properties and personalities vying for both space and attention adds another dimension of apprehension and absurdity that you're unlikely to find at any other show. And the drinking. My god, the drinking.

--Chris Haley (Let's Be Friends Again)

In the 5 years as a creator i've only applied once for an artist alley table. When I applied I was taking a real financial risk but it seemed worth it to me. Its certainly a convention geared more towards the pop culture elite rather than the rising creators who could benefit from a show as expansive as Comic Con International.

--Daniel Bradford (Robot 13, KING!, Disappointing Monsters)

Some (creators) get treated like rockstars and get loads of attention and money. Some fight to be noticed.

(For most indie creators) it's a job interview/sales seminar/popularity contest/garage sale all in one week with a lot of money up front. Very stressful.

--Andy Khouri (Editor for Comics Alliance and former contributor to Comic Book Resources)

It would seem that when it comes to San Diego, many creators view it more as a necessary evil than an out and out party. Of course this is a very small sample size. I'm sure if you were to interview five more creators you could very well find a different opinion altogether. The fact remains though, that at the end of the year, it seems that most creators prefer the slow pace and increased face time of cons like ECCC, Heroes and Baltimore to the sensory overload of conventions like SDCC and C2E2. Still, so long as Hollywood is using comics as a breeding ground, comics will be big business worldwide. That means that while we as creators may prefer the conventions built more with us in mind, the big guns like SDCC are a necessary part of evangelizing the word to the masses.

Thanks for reading and we'll see you all in Baltimore in a few weeks!

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