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September 23, 2014

Go, Read: Denise Dorman Piece On Conventions, Cosplayers

imageThe site Bleeding Cool ran an article here that garnered a bit of traction on social media with at least a few dozen comics professionals: an essay by Denise Dorman on the risks of exhibiting at current comics shows and one perceived culprit, namely conventions becoming hubs for cosplay as opposed to maintaining their longtime status as an aggressive marketplace aimed at hardcore fans. It's kind of a fun article in that there seem to be two different arguments being constructed, and their connection is assumed more than proven. Still, I think Bleeding Cool is right to present these issues as things being talked about by certain elements of comics culture. I know I've been a witness to conversations mirroring both halves of this essay several times this year. There are real worries out there about how to keep going to conventions and utilizing them in a way that's profitable or at least doesn't represent a huge loss. There is also resentment aimed at the cosplaying community for "using" shows rather than really participating in them -- that's not just as customers, but as con-goers more generally. The argument as I've heard people make it is that they're really exhibitors in terms of orientation -- there to be seen rather than see -- but they don't have to invest in a space the way other exhibitors have to.

I don't believe the theory, but I know that several people do.

imageConventions not only encompass a lot of different fan experiences, they vary widely show to show in terms of approach and emphasis. It's very difficult to make a sweeping statement about how people are doing, let alone nailing down any firm reasons for why this is so. For everyone that sells a few books or one painting, there are other people pulling in $5000 doing sketches at a HeroesCon or cracking $1000 for the first time selling mini-comics and books at an SPX. There are shows that are doing phenomenally well catering in part to cosplayers and shows doing just as well on the terms they've set for themselves without a person in costume in sight. Nothing is guaranteed right now, and seeing profits from a traditional source (an older artist selling books and art, say, or a giant retailer with an elaborate booth) would seem to be even more at-risk. The only thing certain is the uncertainty of the situation, and anyone that counts on shows, festivals and cons bringing in a certain amount of money is bound at some point over a several-year period to be disappointed. It's such a shifting landscape. All I can suggest is that we all take into account the risks involved, and have some sympathy for those with tough decisions to make. The fact that I no longer buy new books or old comics at comics shows isn't a lamentable fact, it's just a fact; I haven't worn a costume anywhere since 1998. Things are different now. They'll be different again three years down the line. It will always be tough for someone.

Jim Zub is one of many creators with thoughts; his are collected here.
posted 12:25 am PST | Permalink

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