How comic conventions came to have so little room for comics



This is the mildly irritating itch I feel every time I see a Hollywood star NOT in a comic based movie do a panel at comic-con, the “WTF are they even doing there?” as I scan headlines. Even my not so comic geek wife asked me what was with everyone going to comic-cons.
I am a philistine though in that I actually like to see what another mind sees when they conjure live action comic books into film.

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An easy solve, don’t patronize the non-comic booths.

I’m not sure how that’s a solution if a) most people aren’t even there for that anymore, and b) the comic booths, especially the indie comic booths, are already gone.

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The issue is with the organizers, but they don’t deserve the blame. You can cast a wide net, or you can use a single hook. I’m not really a big comics fan, but I’ve run events large and small (the psychic faire I started has grown to one of New England’s largest in barely 3 years), so I know a little bit about putting together this type of thing.

If you want to run a comic convention for comics fans, you’re going to have a very small group of people to pull from. That’s not a bad thing, because any small demographic is likely to be extremely loyal. You will bring in like minded people, they will have a good time, and the vendors will do well enough that they want to come back- BUT you’re not going to make money. If you know what you’re doing, you’ll turn a profit, but it will be pocket money profit, not quit your day job profit.

At this point, you have a choice- You can widen your net, bring in more people, and make more money; or you can stick to your loyal audience and stay the size which that audience alone will support. Boiled down like that, it’s a pretty simple choice.

The big problem comes when you grow at the wrong speed. You run the risk of ending up in a situation where you have more people than your event can handle, but not enough to support a larger venue. Then you either widen that net or find a way to squeeze more money out of your base- and that can be a delicate balancing act.

At the end of the day, the people who ran these conventions decided to keep growing, even if it meant moving away from their base. They’ve now grown to the point where they are built on a different, larger base- And those original comics fans and artists need to decide whether they want to carve out a space in that new dynamic, or whether they want to get back to basics.

Way I see it, it’s time to pull out entirely and start some new comic cons run by fans for fans. Eventually, those organizers will end up having to make the same choices and we’ll go through this all over again.


This is a concrete example of the strange state of geek culture. Geek-like stuff has become incredibly popular, but not because the actual medium is popular, but rather the topics of geekdom have exited the imaginary, and are now quite undeniably real and easily accessed. To be “into technology” now is readily applied to people buying the latest ipad. To taste of the themes of comic books, high fantasy and science fiction now takes little effort on the part of the enjoyer. You have to still be pretty invested, and give of yourself heartily to invest emotionally in a comic book, or a pencil and paper role playing game. it’s not going to meet you even half way. You still have to be the kind of person who has something on the order 75% of your brain residing in a fantasy world of your own making. And though that way of being has expanded and gained acceptance somewhat, it’s still a smaller subset of the populace than the larger buzz around geekdom would suggest. Overall, I think these are positive moves, but the difference seems worth noting and discussing.


The smaller conventions are certainly more dedicated to the books. You can always go to the smaller conventions.

For myself, even the smaller conventions are nearly completely given over to superheroes: The Genre That Hijacked a Medium. Not enough classic duck-based material for my taste. I live in fear that Carl Barks and Don Rosa will go the way of E.C. Segar and Al Capp.


This is why I always tell my non-nerdy “nerd” friends to go to Gencon instead… That is truly where you get your nerd street cred, not Comicon.

I don’t want to sound disparaging by using the “nerd poseur” label. I’d rather label them as “pop culture obsessed” over a traditional nerd. There is a large contingent of my non-nerdy friends who claim that label now… As a person who had a rather hostile childhood because of this, I find this confusing. Though it makes me happy that literate, comic book reading, RPG obsessed youths of today might have a better time of things. Though it also means that all of us former nerds are now basically hipsters, since we liked it before it was cool.


I thought when I read the headline, it meant by ‘conventions’; traditional comic tropes and idioms, those employed in storytelling and narrative style within the comics medium, and that they have been overrun by TV and cinema tropes and idioms. But it turns out what was meant by ‘conventions’ was something else entirely. However, oddly, the statement still holds up.


I was having an awfully nice day off until you made me realize my hipsterism.

And furthermore, you do yourself shame in even considering the title “Former nerd”. Perhaps you meant “folks who were definitely nerds even as children?”.

But yeah, “Comicon” really needs to change its name…

If there’s a convention for people who enjoy complaining about the mission drift of comic-cons away from comics, even though the complainers don’t care much about comics anymore, I would LOVE to go to that convention. Dressed as a sexy dalek.

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There should be… And it should be named ConComicCon.

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Too bad the attendees don’t attend Science Fiction conventions. I’ve been told by a lot of attendees at various comic events that they’re glad that they aren’t into SF.

I would read that article too. Now we just need someone to write it.

We were uncool before it was cool…

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Mark Evanier’s usual response to the argument that there aren’t enough comics at Comic Con is that he goes (to the San Diego con) every year and manages to fill every day with nothing but comics.

Me, I can’t speak to the big cons, but I’ve been to Phoenix Comicon twice and it’s very much about comics – sure, it’s got guests from other media, but comics take up the bulk of the floor and the convention schedule.

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I’m a comic book collector but there’s little incentive for me to go to a convention in this digital age.

Besides meeting artists, the draw for me would be to buy comics, right? But I’d never go because the $60 entrance fee is that many comics or autographs I can’t buy. And there’s very little I can’t buy online anymore - so I skip the cons and order the things I want.

I can see the convention setup being much more attractive though in the 70s-90s when there were few LCSs and no internet. Then I can see them being like a traveling treasure trove.

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I think it depends a lot on the convention. Baltimore Comic-Con is 99% completely about comics and I love it for that.

The same thing happened in the Linux world. The main convention went corporate so then people started new, hobbyist ones to scratch the itch.

Fortunately there’s alternatives to these mega comic conventions where it’s filled with Hollywood money. For example, Austin, TX have a yearly expo called Staple! and the cost, the size, and the purpose of this expo has been the same all these years, to promote the small comic artists to everyone who’s interested in it.

Then there’s also Zine Fest around the nation. This is another event for indie comic artists, writers, etc. to get together and promote their work of art. I recently volunteered at the Zine Fest Houston and the attendance is getting bigger and bigger by the year.

I seriously thought about it since you wrote that. Already I am tracing movie tropes influencing comics back to at least the 1970’s. It’s actually a subject that to me would be amazing to discuss on BB. There’s an article by the film writer Veronica Jones The Filmographer that discusses the relationship between comics and film back in the days of Runyon and Chester Gould which is in that ball park, and in fact reverses the paradigm - The True Spirit of Comic Noir.