SDCC '08 - The Q: Comics at Comic-Con?

David Glanzer on the San Diego Sellout

As the comic book community recovers from convention overload after this past weekend's San Diego Comic-Con, we take the opportunity to ask a few industry professionals about the event.

The fact that comics are somewhat overshadowed at the convention by other media almost became a running joke during this year's event. "It's so weird that we're at Comic-Con, and I was just at the Scream Awards panel, and that was in [the huge] Ballroom 20, and this is a comic book panel, and we're squeezed in here," Kevin Smith joked during the DC Nation panel where his Batman series was announced.

With props, promos and demos of TV shows, movies and video games dominating most of the convention floor in San Diego, and getting the biggest crowds in their panels, Newsarama decided to ask a handful of people from the comic book industry what they think of it all.

In this month's The Q, where we ask one question of several comics professionals, we talked to more than just creators to get a wider industry perspective on this question:

- What do you think of the growth of San Diego Comic-Con and the participation of other media in the event?

Peter David (X-Factor, She-Hulk, Dark Angel, Sir Apropos of Nothing): As with all things, it's a double-edged sword. The sense of friendly intimacy, of people gathering to celebrate comic books, has not only been lost, it's been trampled. Instead it's become the ABA of the comic book industry. On the other hand, there are still plenty of smaller cons out there to serve that need. Meanwhile there are all sorts of business opportunities available for pros that you can only find at San Diego, and it gives the fans access to all sorts of celebrities that they could never hope to meet otherwise.

Jim Valentino (Publisher, Shadowline Comics): I think it's good for the convention, but it hasn't turned out to be good for comics or good for the comics industry.

The attendees are barely aware of the existence of comics and show even less interest in the source material for the blockbuster movies they flock to (let alone anything more esoteric).

Expenses (hotels, etc.) have skyrocketed to "Hollywood rates" which further squeezes out the small publisher and comics professional. Media (newspapers, magazines, TV) have only covered movies, genre TV shows and stars of same.

None of this is the fault of the convention committee, of course, but it's a direct result of the influx of non-comics media.

Comics have become marginalized at this show to the point of non-existence and I can forsee a time when they will be pushed out of the show due to a combination of expense and attendee disinterest...that is, until such time as movies and TV shows based on comics are no longer profitable. At that point, the SDCC will wonder where all of their loyal supporters in the comics field went.

Brian Reed (Secret Invasion: Front Line, Secret Invasion: Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Red Sonja): I hear a lot of people complain about the non-comic stuff at the show, but I think it's great fun. I enjoy strolling through the toy company booths, and seeing whatever craziness the Movie Of The Year is trying to do at the show. Besides, the comics are still at the core. Change the name to San Diego Pop Culture Convention, send the comics guys home, and you won't have any trouble at all finding a seat at your favorite restaurant next con season.

Chip Mosher (Marketing & Sales Director of Boom! Studios): We won! Look, I've missed five Comic-Cons in the last 20 years, so I have seen the show move from the Civic Center to the Convention Center and then completely bust at the seams the last several years. The great debate in comics during the '80s and '90s was that comics - our medium - just doesn't get any respect. That debate is over. We won. The comics medium has taken over the culture from being the basis for some of the biggest grossing films ever like The Dark Knight and the hottest TV shows around like Heroes. The depth and breadth of the medium is also represented in the success of films based on graphic novels like Persepolis. The big battle we are fighting now is a marketing battle - now that our medium has been completely and utterly accepted in the mainstream of culture, how do we get more comics into the hands of more people? San Diego Comic-Con is our spearhead in that battle... and that's a great thing!

B. Clay Moore (Casey Blue: Beyond Tomorrow, Hawaiian Dick, '76): I think it's fantastic. There are comic book conventions of every conceivable size throughout the year, so if San Diego is too big for you, find another one to attend.

For years people have complained about the focus of the con shifting away from comics toward Hollywood and other media, but you'll notice that 2008 has been the year where comic books truly became the focus of Hollywood. And as popular media becomes smarter and more varied, there seems to be more of a crossover in interests between television, movies and comics. And maybe it's forcing comic companies to be a little more savvy about how they use Comic-Con to promote and announce things.

Finally, from a personal standpoint, as a creator who relies on Hollywood to help allow me the opportunity to create comics the way I want to create them, Comic-Con is the best place for me to communicate with producers, agents and media reps without being in Los Angeles.

Joe Keatinge (PR & Marketing Coordinator for Image Comics): As long as it's properly maintained, I think the growth of the event means nothing but good things for comics. This past SDCC was one of Image's best yet and it certainly had more movie, television, video game, etc. presence than ever. In fact, I think the right combination of these other media with comics is good for everybody. Firebreather and The Mice Templar being announced on Cartoon Network brings more attention to the comics. Fans of the Sarah Silverman Show finding Rob Schrab there discovered Scud the Disposable Assassin. Tori Amos fans rabid for Comic Book Tattoo found it at the Image booth and I do believe they discovered a lot more for themselves. News sources such as CNN covered what Image had to offer and I don't believe that's ever happened before.

All this said, if the focus is entirely taken away from comics with films, video games and television taking center stage then we'll have a problem. For now, it appears the con and comics as a whole are becoming more and more part of mainstream pop culture. I can't say I see much wrong with that.

Jeff Parker (Agents of Atlas, X-Men First Class, Guy Ritchie's Gamekeeper): I think comics and the other media can co-exist, but they don't need to be mixed all in together. The invasive lights and sounds of all the multimedia booths is violently at odds with reading and appreciating art. And it results in masses coming through expecting the comics people to hand out free swag like the million dollar companies do. I think the room would work way better if Artist Alley and the comics exhibitors were put on one side with the booksellers and art dealers, and the movie and gaming were put on the other, with DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, Top Cow and all in the middle as a natural transition. It's not going to affect the high-paying clients' traffic at all, and it will create a better experience for comics readers and creators. And I think the comics industry deserves that, they're the heart of the show.

But definitely do not stick us up in the Sails!

Filip Sablik (Publisher, Top Cow): We are actually pretty ecstatic. Comic-Con continues to grow both in the size but also the awareness from the general public and we welcome it. Part of Top Cow's business model has always been to expand into other forms of media and our announcements surrounding the Witchblade and The Magdalena films at Comic-Con reflect our success in that arena. Years ago, I'm not sure we would have imagined developing projects with stars like Seth Green and Milo Ventimiglia, but the growth of comics into other media has made that possible. I'd go so far as to say that what we see at Comic-Con is a reflection of what is happening in the comic industry overall.

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