Spring Comic-cons and the comic book industry coming up short

Let’s take a look at this thing from a distance…

We can know that comic related content is king of the pop culture right now, and has been for nearly a decade.  And I’d like to point something out here.  I’m going to use an absurd example to make a point, but do your best to envision it.

IF for the past oh…five years, there had been three or four movies about fly fishing that grossed hundreds of millions of dollars each, every year, and there where more and more such movies being made each grossing more money than the next…do you think you’d see a few more fishing supply stores in your town than previously?  Do you think in every pop culture reference, half the click bait news stories, half the youtube channels, and all anyone seemed to be talking about was fly fishing, for over five years…could you fathom having trouble finding a store to buy a fishing rod?

It is mystifying to me that amongst this giant wave of comic book pop culture, that comic book STORES have been the entities to capitalize the least. Some are, but many are not…and the fact that there isn’t some giant boom of new stores is something the ENTIRE industry should be trying to figure out a remedy to.  I have SOME answers, but not a lot, and the answers I have may be flawed. That’s for another blog.

What has seemingly picked up the slack of taking in the MILLIONS and MILLIONS of dollars people are looking to SPEND on COMICS and comic related merch, is the Comic Book Convention.  There are lessons there for any comic book store looking to increase it’s intake.  First being that the Con is an event, a gathering. In an increasingly shrinking and changing world it makes sense that internet friends would gather in person at events like a comic-con.  It’s the subject of interest they likely formed or started their online friendship around. A comic-con is full of strange new merch, and strange new books, and pros to meet.  I’d say it would behoove any store in the sound of my voice to take notice.  A monthly or quarterly event of some type is an obvious in route, as well as taking a percentage of your spending war chest to a con and buying weird new things in bulk, or even blue chip things in bulk, and autographed things in bulk.  Sure, you can’t get Rick from TWD to give you a deal, but you can get some writer or illustrator to so.

If you think I’m being self serving in these suggestions, you are right, but in a larger scale than you think. A rising tide lift all boats. And in my humble opinion anyone working in the comic book industry should want to see comic book stores learn and grow and get as big a piece of the pie as possible.  Does it help me if some store buys a big stack of books from me at a con? Sure, but it helps me far more if they ALL grow their business by whomevers wares helps them to do so.  I don’t THINK, and I could be very wrong, that any long term thinking involves assuming comic-cons will be the force that they are for many more years. I could be wrong, I’m only 70/30 on that belief.

I’ll be doing ONE comic-con this spring.   I didn’t book any, and often what seems like procrastination turns out to be my subconscious being smarter than my conscious mind and steering me away from a sh*tstorm.  So, as spring closed in I thought to myself…I’m going to go with my sub conscious on this one.  I’m looking at the terrain here…I defiantly need a break from these things for a bunch of reasons.  First being that the traveling is a drag. The reason I bowed out of stand up comedy was because the thought of being in a different city every weekend in some hotel didn’t appeal to me, and it still doesn’t.

Then you have what I am trying to accomplish.  I’m building a brand, that ‘s different than the goal of most comic book pros. They can bring a portfolio and box of books to sign, a box of prints, one of those 6 ft collapsible banners and they are good to go.  That’s good for someone working for larger companies but it’s not the right tools for substantial growth.  If I sell some original art for 600.00 that’s great, but it’s a short term accomplishment. As opposed to selling 120 five dollar comic books. That’s 120 new fans (well…maybe 100, at least 20 are going to read the copy of Arsenic Lullaby they got and realize it’s a bit darker than they thought).  So for a show to be productive from my viewpoint I’m somehow getting 200-300 pounds of stuff there, and talking to people non-stop (as there is no discernible demographic for someone with a screwed up sense of humor).

It’s not a waste of time, but it’s talking time away from more…efficient methods.  Can doing cons help me accomplish what I’m actually trying to accomplish? A little. Can I accomplish it without them? yes. Can I accomplish it only doing cons? f*ck no.

And then you have the landscape of what the comic-cons are and may become.  I dunno…I’m the type of person who likes to look ahead and not be figuring out where the life boats are after the ship is half way submerged. Once infinity war hits theaters…that may well be the high point for all of this…”this” being comic books as the driving force in the culture, leaving only one direction to go.   There were comic-cons before the rise of the comic book movie, and there will be after it’s out of vogue but that extra glut of attendees the movies brought in may find other things to do.  Or they may not, these could continue to do well or even grow. They may just cement themselves into the culture same as going to a baseball game or seeing a movie. I don’t know, but taking a season off to observe the battle from the top of a hill somewhere should help be get my arms around it.

Just this past weekend I counted 3 different conventions going on, and at no point while seeing pics and updates online of people at the show did I think “golley gee I sure which I was there.”  I pictured sitting on an airplane packed like sardines, dragging boxes of merch around a convention hall,  and sleeping on a hotel bed that hundreds of strangers have slept on (let’s just stick with the thought of them “sleeping” on it, m’kay).  We can all agree that’s not a great attitude to go to a con with, so the time away is at least good for that reason.

OR…maybe this, along with being on social media less and less is just me entering some weird recluse phase of my life where I only communicate to the outside world through mass emails and am eventually found dead in my apartment, face down on my desk, surrounded by tiny pages inked on post it notes…so small that the human eye cannot read them, and when they are blown up, someone figures out that the word balloons are arranged  to map out shapes found on the psychological ink blot test.

…meh, I’ll take what comes.

This spring I will be at MSP Spring con in St. Paul MN.  THAT is your one and only chance to see me for the next several months. More info on what I’ll have with me for you, soon. I’ll be having a discussion panel…I don’t know what it will be yet.  I’ve done “how to” panels at this show a couple of times, could be time for something different…I THINK I might have an idea…it involves booze and audience participation.

…lemme work this out, see who else I can talk into it and get back to you.

OH, I should amend that “your one and only chance to see me for the next several months” as Free Comic Book Day is right around the corner.  IF…some fine, forward thinking store would like me to show up for their event. Feel free to contact me, I’ll bring the usual stuff ( books, original art to show off, paper to sketch on) and I can give a little how-to on how a comic book page is laid out to best tell a story.  People seem to be interested in that stuff.

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