A teachable moment for the Comic-Con Industry

I was on the interwebs this weekend trying to figure out the name of a stand-up comedy showcase type show that was on in the 90’s.  I used to watch it as a young buck and was trying to think of the name of it when talking to my friend Mike about his upcoming appearance on a similar show.

If you’re gen X or older you’ll know that a simple search for –stand-up comedy show 90’s- isn’t going to help, because you’ll remember that in the early 90’s stand up comedy was king.  It was KING of the entertainment industry.  The best TV shows and movies and Cable specials all had culled their talent from the Stand-up Comedy world, and every burg in the U.S. either had a (or many) stand up comedy club (clubs) or at the very least had several bars that had a stand up comedy night.  In a short window of time stand-up had gone from a fringe form of entertainment to THE form of entertainment.  Then, as a website listing shows explained “the bubble burst”.  Stand-up comedy dropped back into the fringes almost overnight, and has only recently clawed it’s way back.

Here’s the thing about “bubbles bursting”.  they don’t just “Burst” as though some arbitrary force comes along and lays waste.  What happened to Stand -up Comedy in the mid 90’s is what happens in the stock market,  the housing market or anything else.  It grew because it was really good. In the late 80’s early 90’s stand up comedy was so flush with talent that nothing could stop it from growing. It is the era that Richard Lewis, Sam Kinison, Gilbert Godfrey, Steven Wright, Jerry Seinfeld,  Emo Phillips and scores of other brilliant innovators had taken up the cause.  When people see someone else having success, they want to give it a try, eventually the people coming in to give it a try have no business whatsoever doing so.  And that “good” turns into awful…and everyone gets out.

What are we looking at right now? The top movies and films are comic book movies and every burg in the U.S. has a Comic-Con.  The level of Talent in this industry is actually still pretty flush, because it is an industry that takes some effort to get involved in.  Attempting Stand up comedy only requires the will to stand up in front of a microphone, and someone willing to let you. Attempting making money in the financial markets only require you to have money to invest and a place to invest it.  Easier for people to be attracted to things they have no business getting involved in, if it’s easy to get involved in them.  Attempting making comic books takes a huge amount of time/effort, so it has a barrier against bubbles/bursting a bit more than others (a bit), so it is still pretty damn solid right now on the talent end. 

Those comic-cons though…

Putting together a good comic book convention is hard work.  It takes money, knowledge, connections, and a lot of due diligence.  Putting a “good” convention together takes that…putting a bad convention together only takes money and a FB page. 

Over the last two years I have witnessed and heard tell of more Conventions being a flat out a waste of time…more so than I have seen or heard of in previous years ( important I add that last  part because vendors, con operators, and pros ALWAYS complain they didn’t make enough money and the crowd could have been bigger).  The reason is the reason it always is when things start to go bad…too many people involved that don’t know what they are doing.

I was the guest of a show last fall that was the WORST show I have attended in over 10 years.  WORSE than a show in Kansas city many years ago where the only person who came to my table was a has been wrestler who wouldn’t leave and was dead set on telling me every single story he had at the ready for the fans who never showed up.

I’m not go to name this show I attended in the fall, because doing so serves no purpose.  I have no spite…I could tell there was a problem and foolishly went anyway, so that’s on me. There is no warning to give because I doubt it will be around again.  Which is, on one hand a shame because the operator seemed like a good guy, but on the other hand it’s good because the quicker people who shouldn’t be involved in the industry fail, the less of a negative effect they can  have on the industry.

Let me break down what was done wrong here though, as a teachable moment for all other comic-con operators. PAY ATTENTION…LEST YOUR COMIC-CON, despite having big name comic book pros and stars from very popular t.v. shows, LOOK LIKE  THIS, ON A SATURDAY.


Does that send chills down your spine? It should. that was as crowded as that show got of the two full days, and it never got that crowded again. That was the most traffic at once for two… entire… days.

“What went wrong? How can I avoid this?!”  You may ask.

Well…it wasn’t the line up. As I said, they had some big name Comic book Pros.  They had some washed up tv stars and the car from Dukes of Hazard and all that but they also had a few of the kids from Stranger Things.  You’ve heard of that show to no end if you know anyone under the age of 40.  Having someone from THAT show at your con should draw attendees like cockroaches to a peanut  butter and jelly sandwich.   That is…if anyone knows they are going to be there…

You think maybe this post would have been better served by mentioning the kids form Stranger Things…than Parker Stevenson?  I barely know who the f*ck he is and I’m old.

  ***Pro-tip if you’re trying to attract millennials, nothing that happened before 1985 matters.***

You think anyone who isn’t on social security cares who Parker Stevenson is?  Parker Stevenson is the name that helps you win a trivia contest, not a name that gets people to come to you comic-con.  …With all due respect to Parker Stevenson, I’m sure -The Hardy boys- was fine show…but I’ve never seen it because there wasn’t a t.v. set inside my dad’s balls, which is what would have had to be the case as I was  SPERM when this guy was last famous.

I’m making a point here, I’m not ragging on Stevenson.  I’m sure if there was a t.v. set in my dad’s balls I would have been entertained by this show…and went to a sperm comic-con and looked for his autograph.  But there wasn’t so I don’t know who he is, and more importantly neither does 50% of the population and 60% of the population that does know is in a nursing home and their grand kids ain’t going to take them to your show, because their grand kids don’t G.A.F. about Parker Stevenson.

SO…you think maybe this post would have been more effective if they mentioned the starts for the TOP RATED NETFLIX SHOW was going to be there? Hmm?

But more so than this being a waste of a post, the bigger problem…is the lack of posting.  It don’t matter if you have the POPE at your con IF YOU DON’T F*CKING TELL ANYONE ABOUT IT.

Here’s the madness to it all.  These stars that come to conventions…they cost money.  You think the guy from The walking dead shows up just on the hopes that enough people come and pay for his autograph? No, he gets an appearance fee. Those fees range up to 20,000.00 or more.  That washed up wrestler I told you about…he made 600.00 a day to appear and that was ten years ago.  Those Stranger Things kids and the rest cost real money.  Maybe…have one less and use that cash to ADVERTISE.  YOU HAVE TO TELL PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR SHOW….NON…STOP.  You should be spending as much or MORE time , money, and effort telling people about the guests you will have, as you do getting the guests. OTHERWISE THERE IS NO POINT IN GETTING THE GUESTS

I think I’m going to repeat that…in bold.

You should be spending as much or MORE time , money, and effort telling people about the guests you will have, as you do getting the guests. OTHERWISE THERE IS NO POINT IN GETTING THE GUESTS


It’s real simple math. The more people know about your show and why they should go, the more people will show up.  There is NO excuse for a show with the kids from Stranger Things at it to have such a pathetic attendance. NONE.

Forget the absurd amount of money that was spent to have Parker Stevenson show up, that SHOULD have been spent on advertising the F*CKING SHOW.  There is this thing called “the internet” and on this “internet” there are these things called “social media sites”.  Look these up all you convention operators, google them…you know what “google” is right?





and while you’re at it look up -hashtag-.  HASHTAGS …YOU NUMBSKULLS.  Or better yet, just grab three of your volunteers who are under 25 and say this-

“okay, YOU get facebook, YOU get twitter, You get instagram. When people come in we’re going to ask them how they heard about the show and which ever of you got the most people to come…gets a 200.00 bonus. THAT in and of itself will get you far more attendees than some B actor who cost you several thousand dollars. 

You have someone YOUNG do this because THEY understand how it works. They were born in the internet, raised by it, molded by it…to paraphrase Baine.

Promoting yourself on the internet is tricky. Some days are better than others, some times of day are better than others, some methods are better than others at certain days and times.  Now…you can be an evil genius and research how all the alogrythms work (like me) or you can just find someone young who knows how it works because it’s all directed at his/her demographic anyway.  GET …HELP.

Because if you try to do it yourself…you could very likely end up with this…this was their final post before the show started (note the number of likes)

Five…five likes…. FIVE F*CKING LIKES ON THE LAST POST BEFORE THE CONVENTION OPENS….you might as well not even open the doors.

Here’ was my final post before leaving for this show.

My post about losing a bowl of cereal got 12 times more exposure than the F*CKING COMIC-CON THAT WAS GOING TO HAVE THE KIDS FROM STRANGER THINGS AT IT.  ….THAT IS A PROBLEM.  If me lamenting my oncoming senility gets 12 times the exposure that your legitimate attempts at promotion than you had best get yourself some F*CKING HELP FROM SOMEONE YOUNG.

You need to be promoting  early, often , non stop, and you’d better make your posts interesting to the type of person who might go to a comic-book convention. And you had best not stop there. Do you have a mass email list? You better, because these social media sites rise and fall like everything else, and if you are old enough to be running a comic con, you are probably at the age where you will be the last one to know which ones are falling . AND If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times…go to the the local colleges and put up some signs, hand out some fliers, or have someone else do it.  Radio ads are cheap, especially in the middle of the night (WHEN YOUNG PEOPLE ARE UP) and they are even cheaper on college radio.  Every single comic book store in driving distance should get bribed with free tickets and merch to put flyers for your show in everyones bags.

This is simple stuff.  You are running a comic book convention…in your area are comic book stores…where people who like comic books go…if you don’t have every one of those stores helping promote you then you are doing it wrong.

If you do not have a TEAM of people dedicated to getting the word out than you are surrendering yourself to THIS being YOUR comic-con’s attendance on a SATURDAY AFTERNOON.

I saved that pic for last because that is the row of celebrities…among them are the STARS OF STRANGER THINGS. what do we got there?  Ten people? Less?  ON A SATURDAY AFTERNOON. How much do you think that show brought in, cash wise?  Probably not enough to cover the cost of Parker Stevenson.

Write these points down….

1-LOCATION can people get to it easily? Do they know where it is as soon as you say the name of the venue?

2-ADVERTISE- I’ve covered this enough?  No? NEVER STOP ADVERTISING

3-GUESTS- do you have guests that are worth going to see? Think long and hard about that “worth”, and view it as thought you were deciding whether to spend your precious money on a comic-con

There are comic cons out there who don’t ever have one single t.v. or movie “star” that still get thousands of attendees.  Because…the word is out. It is 2017. People have come to realize that, except in the most special of cases, meeting these people and paying huge amounts of money for a signature…just aint worth it.  They are actors and actresses, they often don’t have much insight, and they don’t have a lot of time to talk to you if they did. Some of them are very interesting, but some of them have nothing to say if there aren’t lines pre written for them.  It’s a crap shoot. As opposed to meeting an actual comic book pro, who will have been deeply involved in the creative process that produced the stories people love and perhaps grew up with, and if they are an illustrator, they  can even be made to draw an actual picture…in most cases for less than the cost of an autograph from a celebrity. 

Again, this is 2017…this ain’t new anymore.  Do you think people would rather spend 100.00 for an autograph from someone who was in Captain America or spend 100.00 for a drawing of Captain America from the guy who draws the Captain America comic book?  People are looking at the value they get for their money.  PARKER STEVENSON AIN’T GOING TO GET BODIES THROUGH THE DOOR TO COME AND SEE HIM…and neither are most of the stars, with all due respect…they have a skill and care about their craft and help create some really great things and have spent just as many years of toil and struggle to get where they are as the guy who draw Captain America, but when people look to open their wallets…they want VALUE.  It is simply a matter of the wrong sport for the wrong type of player.  What looks cooler framed on your wall? A signed 8×10 of an actor or a fully colored illustration of Captain America?  What’s going to keep it’s monetary value longer?  I bet an autograph from Parker Stevenson was worth big money several decades ago.  What do you think you could get for it on ebay now?  Now take an illustration of Captain America by John Buscema from several decades ago…think that’s worth a few more dollars?  What is more fun to see, someone sign their name, or someone draw Captain America?  Maybe you never thought of it that way….but the people who spend money to go to comic-cons have.

And what about you’re value, as a convention operator?  The guy who was in a Captain America movie…how much time is he going to spend promoting his appearance at your show?  Go look at his twitter feed…has he EVER mentioned a show he was going to be at? Now look at the guy who draws captain America…he likely mentions every show he’s going to be at several times on social media outlets that he is active on and people come to regularly to see him post progress of what he’s working on.  Have you noticed how much more exposure a drawing gets than a photograph of a celebrity?



You, right now could be planning your convention…and there is some 18 year old volunteer that you are about to give a free t-shirt to so that he/she handles the grab bag prizes….when in truth he/she could be ensuring the whole internet world knows about your show.

But hey, what do I know, I’ve only been doing this for like 15 years.  You can listen to Sam Kinison tell you how to set up a successful Comedy Club, or you can ignore him and watch 7 waitresses stand around with no one to serve drinks to while he preforms stand up to three drunks who come in every night anyway.

As for me…I’ll be posting my appearance schedule soon, and as always you can bet every show I attend this year, will be a show that I know is top notch. And If I haven’t been to it before and don’t know what to expect, I tell you that ahead of time.   A lot can be said about me…but I always call them like I see them.


When Douglas is not complaining he and his work can be found at www.arseniclullaby.com

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