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An Appreciation for SDCC, the Largest COMIC BOOK Convention in the United States

After the first dozen or so similar themed complaint posts on blogs, message boards and the like, it really does seem to occur to me that there’s a distinct subset of comic book fans who attend SDCC that have forgotten the important fact that San Diego Comic-Con is the LARGEST comic book convention in the United States.

In other words, while I perfectly understand the fact that people are not exactly thrilled that Comic-Con has also become the largest pop culture convention in the United States (or is there any even bigger one? There isn’t, is there?)… come on people, this is still the largest celebration of comic books that there is!

It just doesn’t make sense to me to get worked up about the Twilight fans or the people just there to meet non-comic related celebrities when you have what is, again, the largest celebration of comic books that we have in this country!

My buddy Alex was just saying the other day on Facebook that he picked up more cool new books in one day at Comic-Con than he has in the last three months and that dude is ALL about picking up cool comic books.

Finally, when we constantly talk about making comic books accessible to new readers, shouldn’t we show the same excitement for making our comic book conventions accessible to new readers, even if 99% of them likely have no interest in comic books? If you can get ONE percent of the other attendees into comics, then isn’t that awesome? And if you can’t, then oh well, you’re just stuck attending (wait for it) the largest celebration of comic books that we have in this country!

10 Comments

Nah, I’d rather complain about not feeling all special in my nerd ghetto anymore.

As a newcomer to comics, I’ve not yet been to SDCC, so take my comments with a grain of salt. But I agree with your assessment. SDCC is a massive event for every fan of comics, gaming, sci-fi or any combination thereof. If you want a more purely comic experience, I’d say you should probably go to a smaller con. Nothing wrong with that.

However, I would disagree a bit with your last argument that making SDCC such a broad fan experience increases the chances for new comic readers. Certainly, I think there will be some folks who go to the Twilight panel and pick up the Twilight book and like it. But I’d guess many of the people who bought the 125K tickets for SDCC in a few hours have preferences that are set in relative stone. In other words, they’re standing in line for Twilight because they’re all about Twilight. They probably won’t attend a comic-centric panel. Although to say that never happens is not true, either, of course.

Also, very few new fans will gain exposure to comics at SDCC simply because I’d guess few new fans knew just how in demand those 125K tickets are and weren’t able to get tickets. So, they’ll never step foot inside the convention center to see all the crazy good new books, or meet the artists and writers or any of that. I’m not saying there’s a solution to that problem, but the combination of the tickets going to hard core fans (many of whom aren’t comic fans per se), and the fact that those fans’ tastes are well-established, may limit SDCC’s ability to expand to brand new or relatively new readers.

So? Maybe we’re looking at the Angoulême International Comics Festival in France, the Lucca Comics & Games Festival in Italy, or Comiket in Japan – all of which are bigger, better attended shows than SDCC and are far more comics-centric than SDCC – and asking why the hell America can’t get it right?

Did that ever occur to you, Mr. Cronin?

I wonder how small a gathering it would be if it were only comics.

The primary reason I haven’t gone to sdcc is ’cause I don’t have that kind of money. I’d mostly go for the express purpose of trying to talk to creators that I think are neat. It’s been something that I started doing more at cons recently. It used to be all about back-issues, but now I just like the whole nerd-gathering experience. Why people have to hate on other nerd genres is beyond me.

So, anonymous, what exactly is your point? That Europe has bigger, better comic conventions? OK. Totally not the point, but OK. Cool that you told us that, in case some of us didn’t know. Brian’s point stands. The wanting-to-be-picked-on weirdos in the US who are mad that “too many normal people” come to SDCC are shitty weirdos.

Travis Pelkie

July 14, 2012 at 1:09 am

I think if the complaint is that the original primary goal/focus of the con was comics and that comics get ghettoized within that, it might be a valid complaint, to a degree. I’ve read things (I think) about Artist Alley getting too expensive for small press people, and in general the Hollywood focus has seemingly priced the Con out of the hands of many who’d like to go.

But your points are all valid and sensible.

What’s good, I think, is that certain people in the comics field are looking at what SDCC has become and trying to do something that IS more focused on comics alone. I’ll bring up, yet again, the Boston Con, which was a decent size — big enough to have a lot of cool comics guests but not so big that I was exhausted or waiting in lines forever or stuck in non-comics related stuff. If there are more smaller regional cons that attempt to fill in that “gap” and focus just on the comics, I think that’s a good (unintended) consequence of SDCC hitting the big time.

Really, though, is there another field where fans and pros can interact for virtually no money? Musicians and actors might have meet and greets, and if you see an indie band you might get to hang with them after the show. Sports figures sell their autographs for a ton of money because they have no other way to cash in on their talents. But with comics, any cons I’ve been to, the admission is cheap, most people sign books for free, and you can chat with them for a while about all sorts of crap.

So…comics rule, is what I’m saying. Yeah.

Right on, Cronin.

And all the media attention SDCC gets, even if it’s almost never about comics, is always still referred to as “comic com” and that’s got to be good for comics.

Just out of curiosity, have you ever attended?

Disagree. It’s like if the Cubs and White Sox met in the World Series and only a small handful of Chicago baseball fans were even able to get tickets to it.

And then, the NFL decides that they’re going to hijack Wrigley Field and New Comiskey and play ten Super Bowls there while the World Series is moved over to a little league field.

And all the exposure and coverage is on the football games.

The only hope for those folks is that maybe the Bears play in the Super Bowl.

I agree with the sentiment, but the practical fact is: I haven’t been able to get tickets to SDCC in years. It would be cool if SDCC was available to non-comic-readers, but when I haven’t ever been able to get down there with my wife and kids (I live an hour away), it feels like somethings gone pretty wrong.

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