Every year before, during, and after Comic Con International: San Diego (aka San Diego Comic Con or simply “SDCC”) detractors decry the event on the internet saying that it’s all about Hollywood and comics take a back seat at the convention.
Some of these comments come from people who were not able to attend con and they help themselves deal with not being there by convincing themselves that SDCC is really not that great anyway, much like in the Aesop fable “The Fox and the Grapes”. Sorry, folks, you DID miss out. SDCC is the greatest comics convention on the planet.
But that is not the only category of people speaking out against the convention. Plenty of people who attend gripe about it too. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Nothing is. Were there things at SDCC this year that bugged me? Sure. But those things were vastly overshadowed by the things I loved about the convention.
Let’s talk about Hollywood’s presence at the convention:
Is Hollywood (movies/TV) there in full force? Yes.
Are there massive lines for Hollywood focused panels & events? Yes.
Does news media coverage of the con focus on celebrities & Hollywood? Yes.
Does the Hollywood stuff get vastly larger attendance/attention than pure comics? Yes.
BUT… Does that equate to comics taking a “back seat”. I’d argue that it does not. Follow my reasoning:
Generally “taking a back seat” means that something is relegated to an intrinsically less important role. While the general public is more interested in Hollywood than the comics that offer the inspiration for many of their projects, I’d suggest that if comics were really “taking a back seat” you would be hard pressed to find panels focused exclusively on comics, comics creators, comics publishers (both big & small) and booths selling comics. This is certainly not the case. There are more panels at SDCC focused exclusively on comics, comics creators, and comics art than any other 2-3 conventions COMBINED. There were well over 150!! Hundreds of creators (maybe close to 1000!), pretty much every major comics publisher.
Just because many people are swayed by the allure of the Hollywood properties does not mean that there is not plenty of comics focused stuff to keep anyone hopping for the entire convention if they actually choose to focus on comics. THAT is the important thing. Comics are at SDCC in full force for those who want to focus on them. After doing a full count in the aftermath of SDCC, it turns out that I attended 22 panels this year. Not a TV/movie panel in the bunch.
I talked to 20-30 creators in the small press and self-publishing arenas about their comics work. I stopped in and talked to creators, editorial, and/or marketing folks at the booths for 2000AD, Abstract Studio, Action Lab, Arcana, Aspen, Avatar, Big Dog Ink, Boom!, Broadsword Comics, Cartoon Books, Dark Horse, Drawn&Quarterly, Fantagraphics, IDW, Image (including Skybound & Top Cow), Oni Press, Slave Labor Graphics, Top Shelf. I was able to have short conversations with comics legends Neal Adams, Sergio Aragonés, Walt Simonson, Stan Sakai, and Jim Steranko and at least 40 other creators at their own booths, at signings, and in artist’s alley.
And what about the Eisner Awards recognizing excellence in comics that were handed out Friday evening? This is the Academy Awards of comics and had an all-star cast of nominees and winners. Take a moment to look at the list of nominees and winners for 2014. The ceremony has really transformed over the past few years, in my opinion and is something truly special for the comics industry.
I could have spent an additional 5 days and not experienced all the pure comics goodness that was at SDCC!! I didn’t have time to visit every booth I wanted and I didn’t come close to “walking the floor”, I saw maybe 20% of the show floor since I pretty much targeted specific booths and creators with the time I had available to me. Also note that I didn’t even go to the Marvel/DC booths and the majority of their panels/content. You could spend the entire con immersed in the “Big Two” if that’s your passion (but there would be some lines to stand in…) There was a tremendous amount of super-hero content at the con, but just as much covering comics that have nothing to do with the cape-and-cowl crowd. I was happy to see Image Comics generating Marvel/DC level lines for their signing and panels featuring their hot creators and titles (like Saga).
If it’s comics and you dig it, you should be able to find it somewhere at SDCC. Comics are there for anyone who wants to look for them (and you don’t have to look particularly hard). If you think comics are taking a back seat you are almost certainly on the outside looking in. Media coverage (even on the big comics news sites CBR, Newsarama, and Bleeding Cool) focuses on the things they think will get them the most hits and reader interest:
2) Hollywood/TV in general
3) People in costumes
4) Super-Hero comics
….then everything else. I can assure you that as an attendee standing on the inside for his 24th year, there is plenty of focus on everything to do with comics at Comic Con International: San Diego!
COMING NEXT: Bob’s “Top 10″ List for SDCC 2014…
Bob Bretall: firstname.lastname@example.org
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