Between Mike Baehr's excellent tweeting all weekend, and Mike and Jason Miles' most excellent collection of photos from the weekend (which I'm sure you'll be seeing as the week unfolds), I don't feel compelled to write a proper con "report" but I do have a few observations. Although we had a good show and I personally had a pretty good time, this was the first year I felt the weight of Hollywood's cult of celebrity encroaching not only on the exhibit hall but also the sales of at least the independent publisher area we inhabited. The pre-show hype of advance ticket sellouts and hotel unavailability seems to have scared off a lot of the more casual comic book fans, many of whom I believe are the type who support publishers like Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Drawn & Quarterly, Buenaventura, Sparkplug, Last Gasp, etc. Instead, you have more advance four-day passes being sold, leaving fewer available tickets for people who work Thursday and Friday and simply want to come down Saturday to do some shopping. Twilight and Avatar fans are a more rabid fan base, willing to tolerate massive lines that que up many hours in advance with no promise of even getting into events. Saturday's Hollywood programming clearly affected the exhibit hall floor, making for the slowest day of all for us on what is traditionally by far the busiest day of sales. I don't see this trend abating any time soon, and the result may well be a scaled-down presence for us next year. I like San Diego, and have thought prior to this year that all the myriad types of fans and exhibitors could coexist peacefully, but the only real way I can see for smaller press publishers to remain a viable presence in future years if these trends continue is to have the show move to somewhere that can accommodate more people, like Los Angeles, where sales of four-day passes wouldn't encroach on those who simply want to come down for a day or two and do some shopping. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all doom and gloom by any means; we did well despite the oddly slow Saturday, thanks in part to a surprisingly robust Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. But amongst virtually all of the retail and publishing exhibitors I talked to, there were some remarkably consistent and potentially alarming trends that could carry over to future years. There were noticeably fewer back issues dealers this year, and many reduced presences from traditional con stalwarts like Bud Plant. Personally, this disappoints me and doesn't bode well for the comics at Comicon. Many alternative cartoonists are passing over the show and focusing on events like MoCCA, SPX and APE, and it's not hard to understand why; you have to get your ducks in a row so far in advance to even attend Comicon that it's simply easier to focus on those other, smaller, more arts-friendly shows. They're also considerably less expensive to attend.
That said, it was simply awesome to see the wonderful response to a few of our new books, especially Prison Pit by Johnny Ryan and the second volume of Love & Rockets New Stories, our two bestsellers on the floor, as well as things like Prince Valiant, Humbug, You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation, The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit, and The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book by Joe Daly. And to see folks like Jeff Smith, Matt Groening, Ray Bradbury, Joe Hill, James Urbaniak, Craig McCracken, and many others come over and wax enthusiastically about your books.
My camera died on Friday, before I even got started with pics, and I forgot my charger, so here's a very brief photo essay of Thursday and Friday:
Zuniga and Ajax run security at the Fanta booth. Fuck Lou Ferrigno, these are the guys you don't want to see angry.
'Beto and Naty Hernandez sign at the booth. A new comic every year by Naty has become one of the highlights of Comicon for me.
Ray Bradbury poses for a pic with our own Gary Groth and Monte Schulz. Mr. Bradbury stopped by to pick up copies of Schulz's new novel, This Side of Jordan, as well as the new Prince Valiant Vol. 1 by Hal Foster. Very cool.
Speaking of Monte, here he is, seeing his finished book for the first time. A happy camper.
Paul Hornschemeier carries the weight of Comicon on his shoulders.
Johnny Ryan is tired after signing many, many copies of Prison Pit.
Jordan Crane, Steven Weissman, and Esther Pearl Watson are always a welcome and calming presence at Comicon.