An Unshaven Rant: Should I worry about the 2009 Chicago Comic-Con?
Hello ComicMix dwellers (and loyal FOMAFers…). I come to you today a bit… deflated. Why you ask? Because I just took a sneaky-peak over at the Chicago Comicon’s exhibitor list and program schedule. Long story (…forthcoming…) short? It’s not looking great on paper. This angers and frustrates me to no end, but I digress. The more I get angry at this, the brighter the silver lining comes creeping in. Confused? Now, I ask unto you my loyal readers, all seven of you, to take this brief journey with me on the anger-train. After we reach the end of the journey, you’ll see why our last stop is in Happyville.
The Chicago Comicon (as long as I’ve known it, mind you) was built on the ‘Wizard World’ platform. (Yes, I know it predates Wizard, but that’s not how I experienced it.) Growing up on comics in the 90’s meant Wizard was my one-stop shop for all the hip and trendy news about comic books… whilst the “internets” was still in it’s primordial-ooze phase. My first con, sadly, was right prior to my senior year in high school. Even back then (and if you ask Glenn, or Mike, or Russ, or really, a lot of people patrolling this site) it wasn’t that long ago, this con was pretty darned cool. I’m a mid-westerner mind you, so trekking to SDCC is NOT in any Chicago-kid’s budget. But it never mattered. SDCC was always at the beginning of the summer, and Chicago’s was at the end. There was enough time for people to calm down, and as Dan DiDio says (said) every year… “Chicago’s con is always about the books. Always about the fans.”
Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image all put up HUGE booths where fans could grab free schwag like buttons, posters, and bookmarks. Samples and previews of forthcoming issues adorned tables behind which our favorite creators were signing piles of their own penned materials. Beside these mammoth booths sat smaller publishers, just as happy to show off their wares. And of course beyond that lay the monstrous sea of dealers, and beyond that still, the indie and mainstream friendly confines of Artist Alley. When time came that one could be sick of this massive room of geekocity, there sat a bevvy of panels where the pros came to sit and talk to their fans nearly face to face on a multitude of topics. Some came for the sneak peaks of the years books to come, some (like me) came for the free hints and tricks to learn in the schooling panels, and some came for screenings of geek-laden cinema. All in all, it was wrapping up Christmas Channukkah, my birthday, and your birthday all in one long weekend.
And every year since, for the next 7 years, I went as a fan. Last year I went for the first time as a “semi-professional (having published a graphic novelette in 2008. Over the course of these last 8 years now, looking onto my 9th, I’ve begun to see my “Rome” begin to crumble.
The 2009 Exhibitors
opened up the show exhibitor list and quickly snapped my apple-f find
feature to help me make sense of the dense show-floor-map I downloaded.
I typed in ‘DC’, ‘Marvel’, ‘Dark Horse’, ‘Boom’, ‘Dynamite’, ‘Devil’s
Due’… and you could hear the crickets chirping, if not for the ever
present ba-dum-Ba-Dum-BA-DUM of my heart slowly dropping. I looked back
at my show floor map. I realized the “warm-hug” of the big booths was
now gone, replaced with a veritable horde of tiny booths… swallowing
whole the part of the con floor I’d always thought would be rife with
buzz and activity from the mainstream mammoths of the comic industry.
In their wake, we’re treated to such industry giants as Tonner, makers
of dolls your girlfriend even finds predictably pathetic… Motor City
Comics, which I assume either makes or just sells copies of “8
Mile-Robocop”… and of course Aspen Comics (nothing bad to say about
them. I think they draw purty women.).
A quick shot over to sites
of the aforementioned mammoths reveals that “they’ll be there” but due
to “economic recessions” and the obvious closeness to the SDCC made me
realize that these giants didn’t feel the need to come back to the city
of big shoulders. What with the impending arrival of the C2E2 next year… why bother, right?
The 2009 Panels
fine, fine, I thought… If the big boys don’t have any major booth
space, CERTAINLY they could take the time to send some top talent to a
panel or two! We could open the floor to discussions about Dark Reign
and Blackest Night! We could discuss the rising costs of printing
verses the new-fangled-iPhone and tablet based comics-to-come! We could
open the floor to some REAL back and forth with our favorite
creators… tell them what we loved, and what we hated!
perusal of the scheduled panels swatted my exuberance as fast as Wally
West’s departure for the arrival of yet another silver-aged fuddy-duddy
coming back from the dead. Yes, Marvel and DC have their standard
panels (including a “Sunday discussion” for DC, and Marvel’s letting
Mark Millar out of his cage for an hour or two) but the veil has been
lifted from my eyes. These “panels” have so little to do when it comes
to celebrating the books themselves, and opening a forum for us fans to
tell them what we like and hate. Truth be told, they’re glorified press
conferences where our favorite creators swap inside jokes, whilst
putting on a slide-show of corporate approved previews.
coveted “Wizard School”? Well this year we get a digital painting
course from Greg Horn, and an “Art of Marvel” panel too! Too bad they
had BOTH of these panels LAST YEAR, and neither proved to be helpful or
exciting. SPOILER ALERT … You need a 21” Wacom Cintiq
($2000), a porn-star wife, a great light box, and some humiliating
story about an editor to really make it in the biz. Getting excited yet?
about some “off the beaten path” panels? Sure! We got “Reimaging
Comics: Depictions of the Hero and the Autograph”, which per the
description provided, is as riveting as the title suggests. There’s
“Sellouts: Transitioning from Indy to Mainstream”, which originally was
called “Robert Kirkman’s Career: How to Make Friends, Lose Them, Then
Slowly Gain Them Back While Writing Essentially the Same Deconstructed
Story Over and Over in Various Genres”. Want more? Billy Dee Williams
is answering questions. So is Ray Park, Lou Ferigno, and Kristanna
Loken. Better dust off some zingers folks, because I’m sure you haven’t
heard all the anecdotes from Star Wars Yet. Me personally? I want to
know which cameo as a security guard Lou liked doing best. The one from
Ang Lee’s Hulk, or the Ed Norton Hulk movie.
The Silver Lining
now, perhaps you’re starting to wonder just how I could find some good
in all of this. Perhaps you’ve detected just a bit too much venom and
anger in my words above. Allow me now, my loyal readers, to digress.
anger and sadness at the lack of mainstream support in the exhibition
hall, and my less-than-excited take on this year’s programming may make
you think I’ve began on my journey to “another grumpy comic fanboy”.
But it’s only after chronicling these thoughts that I realized where
the awesomeness in this years con may lay. It seemed, I had not looked
at the one list that was most important of all.
will be Unshaven Comic’s second year as artists (and writers) in Artist
Alley. One year ago we made a ton of friends, including those who run
this site. In looking over the list of people in this year’s alley, I
recognized plenty of names. The clouds of doom began to part. I
realized this year, in addition to the book put out last year, we’re
unveiling new material to new fans, and (gasp) potential “old” fans who
met us last year. In addition to this, Saturday will mark a fantastic auction, for Comix4Sight, where we’ll be helping where we can, in addition to making a donation of all our proceeds from selling our aforementioned stickers! Beams of light permeated the ever-growing gloom over-taking my heart.
Because in the end, I know there will be plenty of people in
attendance. Without big booths, we’ll have MORE people coming our way,
and we’ll have that much more opportunity to make some great new
friends… both fans, and industry insiders alike. Without panels that
empty out half the hall, more people will be apt to sit around and talk
about comics the way they should… in small groups of pessimistic fans
who remember when it was all so much better!
So, scratch my pissing and moaning friends. The 2009 Chicago Comicon is gonna be a blast! That is until C2E2.