Monday, August 08, 2005

Quick Comic Convention Comments

Compared to previous years, Chicago felt unimpressive this year. There just didn't seem to be any real energy or excitement (though more about that below) among the hardcore fans or the people working the show. I thought maybe I was just seeing my current mood reflected, post-graduation unemployment kind of dampens enthusiasm. However, something I didn't appreciate until I read The Beat this weekend is that Chicago came only three weeks after San Diego. I think that that may have played a part in the overall lack of [i]real[/i] comic or comic-related news this past weekend.

(I guess, for some, Jeph Loeb going exclusive with Marvel is "news," but I am of the generation of comic book readers who put the characters ahead of creators. Not that I wouldn't give a mainstream comic a try because Alan Moore or Robert Kirkman is writing it, but I think for the mainstream comics that feature iconic characters, the character should never be doing service for the creator. In other words, I want to read "Spider-Man by Irving Forbush" rather than "Irving Forbush's Spider-Man." A subtle difference but an important one, I think. Anyway, to quote Peter David, "But I digress . . . .")

To better illustrate the lack of enthusiasm I was talking about, the Wizard didn't post a list of panels until Tuesday, I believe, though I didn't see it for myself. When I looked at the program on Thursday, though, there were lots of blocks labeled "to be determined." It was as if no one had any energy to even put together panels.

I volunteered this year to work the convention (unemployed graduate and all), so I didn't get a chance to go to any panels as it is, using my free time to walk around and shop. I hit the preview night and Friday; Friday felt really empty. I don't know how conventions others go to are organized, but at Chicago, the pre-order ticket window is broken into two parts, the short line to the windows and the longer "corral" where people stand until the next group is allowed over to the short line. I've seen the corral area filled past noon; this last Friday it was cleared by 11:30 A.M.

The floor itself felt less crowded, too. Of course, that may be because the convention center prohibted people from using those wheeled suitcases that people pull and those dolly things the hardcare uses to drag around a short box or two. It is amazing how much more room there is when those things aren't in the way. Again, I digress.

I heard a couple of dealers complaining about the lack of sales, but to me, those fell into one particular group of dealers: Old-school. The dealers who had traffic were those who had their comics pre-priced and had signs declaring their comics were some percentage off (anywhere from thirty to fifty percent). People don't, at least I don't, want to stand around while a dealer removes the comic from the bag, examines it, looks in Overstreet, examines it some more, and then pronounces from the heavens, "Eighty dollars." Who wants to go through that, especially at a large convention while every minute that guy is measuring the degree of whiteness of a page, I'm losing walking around time.

As an aside, the best thing I saw were the little kids wearing things like full Captain America and Wolverine costumes or the little boy wearing the top from his Batman pajamas (complete with the cape), who was all excited coming down the escalator. (Well, actually, the best thing I saw regarding people who were in costume was the woman dressed like Red Sonja who actually had the body for a chainmail bikini, but I'm going in another direction here.) There was one little girl, maybe four, wearing a pink Supergirl "S" shirt with her father at around 10; at the end of the day while I was waiting for my wife to come get me, I saw her with her father looking and she looked a lot less tired than I felt.

Of course, and this is my opinion (I am sure there will be hardcare s who will feel the convention meets their needs and thats all that matters), for all the excitement those kids had for being at a comic convention, it is a damned shamed there really wasn't anything for them to see or do. Sure, there was the kind of flabby woman dressed like Emma Frost; or the guy with a beard and Darth Maul face paint; or the fat TIE-Fighter pilot, i.e. Porkins evil twin (though in fairness, the rest of the Star Wars costumes looked, including the old guy with beard dressed as Obi-Wan, but by the time the kids see four girls who are dressed either like school girls from some manga (or they hit a local Hot Topic just before arriving), they have to be thinking, "Where's Batman?"

God knows, people in the industry play lip service to getting kids into comic books again, but would it hurt someone to have something that would really excite a kid? Maybe an official Spider-Man at the Marvel booth or Batman at the DC booth. The people at the DCD display used to pass out a Pocket Hero to just little kids; I've seen adults turned down when they asked for one and there were no kids in tow; though I didn't see any evidence of the freebie this year. With what it costs to put together and maintain a booth, would it kill the Big 2, at least, to give the kids a little of what they expect to see? Of course kids are more interested in video games these days; if kids were allowed onto the floor at E3, for instance, they'd be bombarded with constant visual and audio stimulation that would just make the event feel exciting even if nothing on the floor was meant for them. I don't expect comic book companies to put together audiovisual displays, that isn't their business, but I think it a kid could shake the "real" Batman's, Superman's, or Captain America's hand, that would be a memory that would stay forever.but where's the things that would make a kid feel the day was exciting at a comic convention (San Diego excluded since movies and video games so dominate that convention).