Dennis O’Neil: Big Comicon, Big Business

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. • I Timothy 6:10

Vast marketplaces, comic conventions these days, and that has its upside, certainly. You get to complete your collections by visiting the used comics dealers and maybe see something you didn’t know exists but would enjoy owning and out comes the wallet or, increasingly, the credit card and the deal is done.

I don’t want to get all new-agey on you, but I think it’s good for us to interact with the universe of which we’re a part and money is a way to do that; you’re exchanging whatever effort got you the money for food, clothing, shelter, comic books…you know –life’s necessities All good.

The problem comes when money ceases too be a medium of exchange and becomes an end in itself.

But don’t you dare take my word for it!

Whose word should you take? Well, there’s some research I first saw mentioned in a book by Nobel prizer Daniel Kahneman titled Thinking, Fast and Slow. The claim is that money can have a negative on a person’s personality without that person being aware of it. Here’s a Googled quote from a website called neuromarketing that pretty much explains what we’re discussing:

In each experiment, the researchers subtly prompted half the volunteers to think of money – by having them read an essay that mentioned money, for example, or seating them facing a poster depicting different types of currency – before putting them in a social situation. In one experiment, the researchers gave volunteers a difficult puzzle and told them to ask for help at any time. People who had been reminded of money waited nearly 70% longer to seek help than those who hadnt. People cued to think of money also spent only half as much time, on average, assisting another person who asked for their help with a word problem and picked up fewer pencils for someone whod dropped them.

(For the record: the researchers referred to were Kathleen Vohs and colleagues.)

Are we ready for some connection to comics yet? Okay: it seems to me that a lot – but by no means all – comics conventions are big, big business. What seems most important at them are the commercial aspects and the presence of celebrities, which is part of the commerce, since the celebs charge for autographs and, in at least some instances, are paid for appearing.

What I’m afraid may be lost is the innocent enthusiasm for the comic book hobby, in whatever form, and the camaraderie like like-minded souls getting together and sharing. The whole scene seems to have coarsened. And that’s too bad.

And in the interest of fairness and balance, a brief anecdote: About four years ago Marifran lost her purse while we were attending the mother of all cons, the annual San Diego shindig, I thought, there are 140,000-plus strangers in that building and bye bye purse and money therein. The next day, the purse was returned, anonymously, with absolutely nothing missing.