Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

July 29, 2009

Comic-Con 2009 Notes Wind-Down

* Brian Heater has a fine report up here, doubly so considering he was there in primary fashion for his day job at PC Magazine. He has plenty of terrific photos, including a great one of the Lewis Trondheim burned Marvin sketch page.

* by the way, I'm told that Trondheim has done the burned sketch thing before, and in fact have seen photo evidence. He only does it once a show for obvious reasons -- he has to be asked for a Marvin, and you just don't set things on fire in a crowded place in blithe fashion. Man, what a great gimmick.

image* Eric Reynolds of Fantagraphics has notes up which are interesting in and of themselves and a huge red flag for the future of comics at the convention in that he openly floats the idea that the alt-comics mainstay may reduce their floor presence in future years. Eric sees the down Saturday as a big sign that the sell-out status of the show directly cuts into the kind of comics fan that publishers like Fantagraphics have traditionally served by coming to San Diego: adults that are oriented towards life and job in a way that doesn't make it easy to plan months in advance for an extended pop culture wallow, the kind that think, "it'd be cool to go look at some comics and maybe buy some Dan Clowes art" the Tuesday before the show. The reason why this could be extra-worrisome is that Fantagraphics is something of an anchor presence for about 10-15 other booths. On the other hand, it should also be noted they made a major shift a few years back from having an entire island with a walk-in dirty comics bazaar to their current set-up without any end-of-comics-at-con talk.

* one solution from where I sit is that alt-comics would soon have a presence off the floor, say at a hotel in a slamdance's-relationship-to-sundance type festival fashion that allowed people free and easy access to a number of comics and cartoonists in a more casual setting, but I suspect there's not enough money in comics for anyone to see this kind of thing through.

* by the way, here are my general and extremely selfish suggestions for the show: 1) no one enters any panel after the halfway point, period, except press. The last 20 minutes of the Richard Thompson panel was ruined for a lot of people by people walking in late to listen to how to pitch Hollywood, and I can't think of a single reason why letting people in so late is a good idea. The exception is the press, who can conceivably actually benefit by seeing as many pieces of as many panels as possible. 2) Somehow restore the lost continent of ArtistAlley to the rest of the comics part of the show. I couldn't in good faith suggest people even visit the many awesome cartoonists over there because it's so far away and so hard to get there. I realize that many people may think there are benefits to having this stuff where it is. 3) Encourage even more aggressive, sophisticated programming, particularly the how-tos, building on a strength of this year. For example, the CBLDF Masters track or something exactly like it should be locked in as a part of every Comic-Con to come. 4) Consider limited-access memberships (floor-only), adjustable memberships (moving from four-day to one- or two-day once programming tracks are announced, perhaps by allowing people to sublet memberships through a dedicated, mini, CCI Stubhub) and a massive culling of the professional and press ranks. 5) Make a con priority of freezing the decline of comics retailer presence at its current level and developing an informal festival track spotlighting no-expenditure con enjoyment. I know that's moving in two different directions. 6) Make a clear declaration of support for any ostensible off-site programming sponsors and consider a "Comic-Con Citywide" initiative with aggressive off-site and free-to-attend events. 7) Consider a deposit system with Travel Planners to reduce the worst excesses of room hoarding and reservation dumping. There were clearly enough rooms available April-on that this should not have been a source of stress for anyone. 8) tape everything in the three big halls and make them available to anyone that registers through information on their badge/con membership. Don't worry about this leaking, leaking is good. But if I were blocked from seeing everything but the last 15 minutes of, I don't know, Joss Whedon, I would want to see the rest of it in something made just for me. 9) Develop a more sophisticated comics press track so that I get more press releases and updates from Archaia and Top Shelf and fewer from the producers of an Adrienne Barbeau movie.

* most of those are probably ridiculous, and not only just because the con is super-successful already. I'm just thinking out loud. I could use fewer Ted Raimi-oriented press releases, though.

* it's also a fact that a great deal of benefit can simply come by covering the show in rigorous fashion and emphasizing the items of importance -- there's no reason CR shouldn't have had a daily book spotlight, for example, and god only knows why I didn't think of this before the show. It's an uphill battle even in the best of times with all cylinders firing. The reason why even the comics press is more likely to talk about some idiotic and I suspect largely imaginary fan culture battle or the series of costumes a television personality wears over something like Johnny Ryan's sell-out debut of his awesome Prison Pit is because that's obviously the way the press and our culture is oriented to a very significant degree now and the numbers bear that out. By all the measures that matter to most people, CCI was not just a success but an almost unassailable one. I thought there might be a larger feedback from pissed-off line-waiters, but it looks like the overwhelmingly positive public conception of that element of the show will continue at least one more year.

* finally, I'm going to try and walk through my own con notes and tighten them up a bit for final publication, and if I do so I'll announce it in random comics round-up tomorrow. I will also launch a Collective Memory by tomorrow AM, I promise.
posted 8:00 am PST | Permalink

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