Is It Time For Comic Creators To Get Out Of The Comic Con?

A Hall View Of Baltimore Comic Con (Courtesy Comic-Con)For years the Comic Convention has been the mainstay of the Comic Book Creators, be they the Large Publishers or that very small Indie Guy sitting behind that table in that odd place called Artist Alley. This has been the status quo, you go to the comic book convention to well… talk comics and hang out with your peers.

Evolution, Yo!

The last few years these conventions have gone through a staggering growth period, as the popularity of the comic book staple – the superhero, increases with each and every superhero movie that is released, what was once the mocked purview, is now mainstream and cool. With this popularity the audiences in these shows grew and changed, pulled in by the glitz and glamour of the movies. In short it is cool to like Superheroes now (duh!).

We are seeing an evolution take place in the comic book convention, they have moved from events attended by readers of comic books, to events attended by mostly by fans of comic book characters – as seen in movies and television shows. While this isn’t a bad thing, as any growth is good, it means the Creators selling their comic of a character that this new audience has never heard of, will have an ever more difficult time of selling that book. A traditional avenue for new/indie Creators is slowly being lost and buried… Is this a good thing for the industry?

Are You Complaining?

It is hard to write this type of Op-Ed and not sound like you are complaining, this isn’t a whaa whaa piece, but an attempt to look at and start a discussion about what these shows mean to us as Creators.

As many of you know I attend conventions in the Artist Alley area and have seen a sea-change over the last few years as I attempt to bring my Teddy Bear Tale/Alt World Studios work to new audience, however, a recent event is making me rethink economics of this.

This will be the first year I wont be attending Awesome Con, I didn’t have the money to book an Artist Alley Table, and when I did I missed the last of the spaces. I was there at the very beginning, and I am sad I wont be there this year, but business is business, and we move on.

Awesome Con itself is moving away from its Comic Book Convention roots and is more like a Media Guest Show much like Wizard World and its ilk – great place to get that celebrity autograph and they do have an amazing line up this year. I understand the economics of this and I wish them well for the future.

It was missing out on the Artist Alley Table this year that made me stop and think, and I looked at my expenses for this show last year, and had to sit down with cup of tea to mull over the shock.

Economics, Yo!

It comes down to Return On Investment (ROI) as a very, very small press most of my publication budget comes out of my pocket, and as I am a family man whose budget is virtually non-existent. Conventions are both a revenue and promotion stream, hence why I started the Teddy Bear Superhero mash-up cards – selling those powered my books. And while I enjoy the art challenge, this journey started for me to sell my stories.

Here is a break down on an average two – three-day show.

  • Table $350
  • Stock $200
  • Transportation $100
  • Food $100
  • Other expenses $50
  • Lodging $200

Tough ROI to break even on eh? Almost as tough as Warner Brothers attempting to break even on the DCEU.

Is It Time For The Creator To Get Out Of The Comic Book Convention?

With the audience change in conventions, what can a small indie guy do? Well, I could invest in one of those dizzying vertical Photoshop filter print farms, after all the fans are more likely to pick up something they will recognize, over taking a chance on something that don’t. I have the skill set to take a picture off the internet, run it through a couple of Photoshop filters and claim to sell it as an original piece, but that isn’t why I got into comic books for, I got into this to tell my stories.

While my sketch card prints of Teddy Bear/Superhero mash-ups are a nod in that direction. I started them as an attempt to survive in this environment, and I do enjoy the challenge of taking a Teddy Bear, or a Powerpuff Girl or My Little Pony and squashing it up with a Superhero, it is about far as I am willing to go down the print route. I also recognize that the lifespan of the print business model is only one Disney DCMA from being shut down (and believe me it is coming, all they need to do is delivery it to the show promoter and 90% of Artist Alley is screwed).

Do, we the Comic Book Creator have to recognize that the big comic book shows, aren’t about the comics any more and get out? This is a tough decision to make, this is a traditional ground for us, this is where our folk are at and nothing, I repeat nothing bits the thrill of introducing your work to someone new.

However the answer maybe staring us in the face… Maybe we just have to leave the big shows? Get out into the wider world, look at new markets, like book festivals – where folk are more willing to take a chance on new work. Or look at smaller venues and events that are comic book friendly, where you can have a more intimate one on one.

But It Is All About Promotion

Yes, Creators go to conventions to promote our work, but if it just about promotion that $350 for a space at a convention can buy you an awful lot of eyes on Facebook or through Google Adwords.

Here is an Ad/Sponsored content example ; for only $10 on Facebook I can introduce my web comic: Awakenings to over 3000 people who are interested in web comics for a whole week ($1.42 a day). That is a pretty effective ROI and I am putting my work directly in front of the eyes of a target audience interested in web comics.

In terms of promotion and brand building it is an ROI that is hard to argue against.

No Easy Answer

This is just a Op-Ed, a collection of my thoughts about the changing market place, that we Indie Comic Creators find ourselves in. An insight Steve Conley gave about this subject might be the only solution we have: ‘I think the answer is we need to be much more selective of the cons we attend and – for sure – if old avenues are drying up, find or create new ones.’

Let me know your thoughts below… And as ever be nice 🙂

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About Nick

Just an Englishman lost in the USA who happens to write now and again… Anyone got a cup of tea?

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