Thursday, July 28, 2011

San Diego Comic-Con 2011

The better a creator does at a convention;
the worse you are doing in the outside world.

That was just a random thought I blurted out at a Dead-Dog Party some time in the late '80s during my Nexus Of All Comic Book Reality days. I think it was Denis Kitchen that started calling it Marder's Axiom. Those of us that came up as part of the Indie/Alt Surge of the time made a lot of money selling our books at the big cons. We'd have fans come up to us and ask us what we'd published in the last year and they'd scoop it all up. A standard comment was "I love your stuff but my local comic shop doesn't carry it." That led to my observation that a wildly successful convention appearance means we are not doing so well the rest of the year in Direct Sales.

On more than a few occasions, a creator who had gone from self-publishing to being picked-up by a publisher with good marketing and distribution found him/herself not selling many books at a convention. There is a moment of freak-out that something is wrong with his/her career. (It still happens--I ran into one at this show) Nothing is wrong with the career. Far, far from it. Fans don't have to buy their books from you anymore. They can get them from their local comic shop or online. It's a great thing when that happens. It's just weird until you get used to it.

For me, that's the beauty of my relationship with Dark Horse. My books are out there!

Nothing pleases me more than signing a Beanworld hardcover that a fan bought from someone other than me.

When I do sell a book off of my table it tends to be a Book One--someone who has heard of Beanworld and wants to give it a shot. Or a Book Three. Someone who read Beanworld years ago, has all the old comics, and wants to start up again with the new stuff. Show-in-and-show-out the book I sell the least of is Book Two. And that makes perfect sense to me.

So was Comic-Con 2011 the wildest, craziest, most frantic for Beanworld Comic-Con in all my years of tabling since 1985?
No. There are some really frantic years in stiff competition for that. Still, it was a great convention for me, just the same.

In all my years of con attendance, I saw the least of the floor. If a display wasn't directly in the path between DD-17 in Artist's Alley and Dark Horse or CBLDF--I didn't even get a glimpse of it. So all my first-person observations were limited. But I sure heard an awful lot from all sorts of fans, creators, and publishers.

All the italic comments below are my own and from Twitter.

The surreal photo above was swiped from Kathy Li's Flick'r Photostream.
Do yourself an enormous favor and check out the full scope of her work. amazing

MY 2011 COMIC-CON REPORT: Nervous whistling past the graveyard but with a thumbs-hooked-in-your-belt swagger

I have no special insight into the present State of the Industry. Everyone who knows me recognizes when it comes to the Business of the Artform of Comic Books--I'm an optimistic realist. I genuinely believe that right now is the real Golden Age of comic books. There are more folks doing amazing work in a wider array of genres, styles, and formats then ever before. Creatively the sky is still the limit. But realistically, the 2011 consumer has fewer dollars to spare for the work we do. Assuming the fans still have jobs (and clearly many didn't or were under-employed) they have to pay more for food and gasoline and rent/mortgage, etc etc. A few publishers are riding a wave of extreme optimism and they deserve to. Their recent track records are stellar as far as finding talent and promoting interesting titles--both creator owned and licensed.

But general sales overall continue to be trending downwards (with a boomlet here and there) and the retail base continues to have aches and pains (and sometimes gaping wounds). All of the front-of-the-catalog publishers believe they have the right combination of product, sales, and marketing ideas that will turn things around. I hope they do. My main impression is that everyone thinks that the industry will improve soon has to. In public there is swaggering optimism.

In private? Not so much. In private many people talk about positioning for a game, or a toy, or a movie, or a TV show deal. And they hope for the best in the comic marketplace. Not all these games, toys, movies, and TV shows will actually get made. Some will. And those are the grand success stories that major media focusses on.

For better or for worse, I'm actually rather proud to report that the situation for Beanworld is the same as in 1985. Everyone thinks it could be something in some other platform but no one still seems to be clever enough to figure out what that can be. It's too damn hard a pitch. (It's easier to read than it is to explain) Still being ahead of my time 25+ years later is rather cool.

TWITTER: I really liked having iPad & be able to show off all the color pages of Beanworld 3.5 to inquisitive members of the Leguminati.

The above is page 21 from the all color 64 page hardcover book, Beanworld 3.5
Its been is turned into Dark Horse and is waiting its turn to get in cue in editorial and production. As soon as it has a projected ship-date, you will be the first to know.

It looks great on the iPad and so it is only a matter of time until Beanworld will be available digitally. But, still not yet. Not quite. No hurry.

TWITTER: Reading Twitter feed I realize how many people I hoped to talk to I never even got a glimpse of. But hey that's Comic-Con.

It's the first time ever that I didn't talk to (or even see) Fae Desmond, David Glanzer, or Maggie Thompson--folks who I have always had at least one decent chat with every year. The only former Image Comics colleague I saw was Rob Liefeld--and that was only for a few moments. Once again, if it weren't for the Dead Dog Party--I wouldn't have had a chance to talk to Denis Kitchen, Jimmy Palmiotti, Chip Mosher, Shannon Wheeler, Diana Schutz, Batton Lash, and many more.

I didn't even get to dine at Filippi's Pizza Grotto--not even once--that's never happened before--some years I ate there almost every night.

TWITTER: Deviant Art sponsorship of SDCC Artist Alley incredible gesture & under-reported. Those of us in AA for decades know how appreciated it was

The good folks at sponsored Artist's Alley. For the very first time we had cushy chairs and carpeting. They put up giant TV screens broadcasting our work continuously for the entire run of the show. You can see my contributions here. Their heroic efforts on behalf of the sometimes forgotten little guys in Artist's Alley was under-reported in the comic book press and blogs but deserves real kudos for their sponsorship of the art community.

TWITTER: Good, bad, or indifferent: there is NOTHING quite like San Diego Comic-Con

That about sums it all up for me!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, if I'd been at con this year, I would have bought Beanworld Vol. 2 because for some reason Andy doesn't have that one.
Nice post. Looking forward to 3.5.