The Los Angeles Times says that quite a few specialty sellers aren’t attending the year’s comicon in San Diego:
But last year, after Newbold had already acquired valuable inventory to sell at the convention, rising COVID-19 cases forced the cancellation of Comic-Con’s in-person gathering for 2020. His biggest sales week of the year was gone. “It was a kick in the teeth.”
Virtual events hosted by Comic-Con weren’t the same for Newbold. And when this summer’s in-person convention was also canceled, he thought 2021 would be another lost year. But this weekend, a smaller, three-day in-person event titled Comic-Con Special Edition is returning to the San Diego Convention Center. Even though the gathering will happen on a holiday weekend without the usual crush of summer crowds — attendance has been estimated to reach 167,000 in past years — comic store owners like Newbold are looking forward to the return of an IRL show. Even if many of them won’t be attending.
“The con, I need it,” Newbold says. “Most of us back-issue dealers need that show because it’s a real money maker. Comic-Con is a big part of my business.”
Yet Newbold says that he and most of the back issue dealers he knows across the country won’t be attending this time around.
“It’s not convenient,” he says. “It’s terribly expensive when you go for a week, but it’s practical because it takes a week to make the kind of money doing what we do in that show. There’s no way to justify dragging the material, say from New York, for a two-and-a-half-day convention where they charge so much for a booth.”
Even moving inventory just a few miles, Newbold says, is a logistical hassle for a scaled-down convention where the turnout is unknown.
The Corona crisis clearly did have an unfortunate impact on finances for specialty sellers, and this certainly confirms what the situation is like now. It suggests things have become so bad, some retailers are understandably discouraged from further attendance. But does SDCC really make money for them, when movies and merchandise have increasingly become more of a focus at their shows? And if they do, is it due to speculators continuing to buy solely for the assumed monetary value?
“Comic-Con began with a variety of exhibitors and chief among them were comic book retailers,” says David Glanzer, the organization’s chief communications and strategy officer. “That continues to this day. Of course the industry has changed a great deal in the past 50 years with digital comics, online retailing and other factors. But comics have, and continue to be, one of the main focuses of our event.”
Again, that’s not really certain. At least not the last time I looked. I remember when it became a political platform, exploited as it was by the pretentious Joss Whedon to vent his divisive leftist viewpoints. If that behavior continues at this year’s convention, that’ll be reason enough for the sensible consumer to stay away.
On which note:
An assistant manager at Comics-N-Stuff in Chula Vista, Estigoy will be on the exhibit floor with his partner and illustrator Asia Estigoy selling their small-print-run comics, including their better known “Peaburt’s Big Adventure” and associated merchandise.
But the retail store he works for, which has exhibited at the convention for nearly 20 years, won’t be in attendance this time.
Estigoy is confident that people who don’t make the event will drop by the store instead, just as they’ve done for years. “Collectible and comic book stores are traditionally larger retail environments, so it gives people who don’t get tickets that Comic-Con experience during the convention and year round,” he says.
It’s far better to visit an establishment where you’re only really paying for what products you want to buy than one where you have to buy tickets just to get in. And then, this article cites a consumer who’s purchasing the most predictable comic you could expect the paper to mention:
The haul for the San Diego resident and weekly customer includes comic book issues of “Batman,” the sci-fi fantasy series “By the Horns” and the apocalyptic “Penny for Your Soul: Death.”
This report makes no mention of Superman, or, if darker-themed books matter, Daredevil and the Hulk aren’t mentioned either, nor are the Spectre and Swamp Thing. If all they can mention is Batman, that too signals a pretty cheap route being taken by the journalists, proving in addition they don’t really care about the medium at all. Is it any wonder Superman’s franchise became a neglected stepchild over the past decade or so?
In the end, this is a sad sign of where the medium could be headed, as financial difficulties are another reason for the decline of conventions.
Originally published here.