Mike Gold: Tales To Diminish
I’ve been going to big-time national comic book conventions for 45 years. This amazes me because I can’t imagine doing anything for 45 years. I’ve got a very short attention span.
The first major shows were run here in New York by Phil Seuling, and they were wonderful. Just about everybody in the industry was there, surrounded by more fans than anybody thought existed. In 1968, attendance was around 300 people – 300 fanboys, virtually all fan boys, virtually all asking themselves the same question: “You mean, there are 299 others who are just like me?”
The following year, Seuling’s comic con grew to over a thousand, and many think twice that. Attendance continued to grow like Hank Pym on crack. Conventions proliferated to the point where, perhaps a decade ago, they started attracting extremely serious “support” from the sundry media industries and running a comic con became big-time business.
So this past weekend, 45 years and three months after Phil’s first, we had the New York Comic Con. Numbers are all over the place, but the show sold out some time ago. Evidently, some 135,000 people showed up – if true (and we’re not counting guests, pros, speakers, and press), then the New York Comic Con attracted a larger audience than the San Diego Comic Con, but, to be fair, both are severely limited by a lack of floor space and a lack of navigable aisles.
That’s not all NYCC has in common with SDCC. If you want to buy a Chevy, you could do it on the convention floor. If you want to insure your new car with Geico, you could do that as well. If you want to find out if you’ll get a parking space anywhere near the convention center the next day, there was a psychic there who might advise you accordingly.
Whereas NYCC had an enormous amount of media attractions and booths and panels, SDCC still has more because, essentially, Hollywood moves down to the border during Con week. Nonetheless, it is clear that NYCC shares at least two things with SDCC.
The first is that the aisles are clogged worse than Chris Christie’s arteries. If you’re trying to go from aisle 100 – where the ComicMix booth lived – to Artist’s Alley, it was a 20-minute walk, with the wind. If the Javits had decent taxi service, I would have considered using it. 135,000 people in the building built to comfortably house half that many at best means “you can’t get there from here.” There are lots of friends I wanted to see but couldn’t get to without borrowing vines from Tarzan.
The second is that neither show has all that much to do with comic books. NYCC still beats SDCC on that front, but only by a very narrow margin. It’s an autograph show, it’s a media frenzy, it’s a celebrity clusterfuck.
I believe I went to six major shows this year. Of those, I personally enjoyed only three, and those are the three I always enjoy. The MoCCA small-press show in Manhattan is always inspiring – it’s a two-day affair full of youth, creativity and energy, and it only requires one day of my life. The Heroes Con show in Charlotte North Carolina is truly about comic books. It’s large but it’s very well managed, and Reed Pop!, the people who put on both the NYCC and Chicago’s C2E2 (and who seem to know very little about comics and clearly care even less) should go out there and take notes.
My favorite show remains the September Baltimore Comic Con. It’s been growing steadily and attracting enough pros and decision-makers to sink the Titanic. It’s all about comics – strictly comics, to repeat myself for the sake of emphasis. The Harvey Awards dinner always is one of the highlights of my year, and it would be even if they didn’t hand out the best swag-bag that one can barely lift, let alone carry.
This year the Reed folks added something to their NYCC. They had chips on all the badges. You had to stand in line until a staffer scanned your badge with an iPad in order to verify your legitimacy. That’s annoying, but it’s even more annoying to leave the place. You had to stand in line for another chip scan in order to get out of the building. If you left at the end of the show day, it could take you a half hour to get from your last roosting place on the floor to the scanning line and then to the door.
I don’t know what would happen if your badge came up invalid when you were leaving. What would they do? Throw you out?
That would have been faster.
THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil
THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweeks!