Comic-Con: it's no laughing matter
- by Bruce E. McKinney
Comic-Con San Diego
Is it that time of year again? Yup. The festival of printed cartoons ran July 18th to July 21st in San Diego as in past years. It’s close enough to Hollywood to attract real life cartoon characters and close enough to the Mexican border to reach the drug stores one may need to recover. The event is organized by Comic-Con International, “a non-profit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art.” Thank God somebody has their back. Mickey, Pluto and Superman are safe after all. The fair manages to attract 100,000 visitors over 4 days and also manages not to be the only fair of its kind in the United States. Chicago, Miami, Boston and Denver [among others] have their events. Comics are no laughing matter.
Comic Con San Diego has been around for a while and I spoke with two San Francisco comic book store principals who have had long associations with the event, in both cases most of ten years. James Sime of Isotope Comics didn’t go last year because of a death in the family [his cat] and didn’t go again this year to see if he could continue his addiction recovery. “The show is a little much,” the crowds milling like the bulls at Pamplona.
Natalie Jumper who is a partner with Gary Buechler and Anthony Rivera in Comic Outpost [www.comicoutpost.com] were there and had a new attraction this year, video interviews with some of the real comic book characters; Dan Jurgens who wrote the Superman comics for a while, Gerry Duggan who writes Deadpool for Marble, Cody Vrosh, a free lance artist and Darick Robertson who draws the art for the smash comic title Ballistic. England may have its royal family but so does the comic book world complete with capes, uniforms and disguises.
If none of this sounds familiar that’s okay. Comics have become their own language and have their own blue bloods. [Does this sounds like a new comic book title to anyone else?]
I asked Natalie what its like to be in the comics business. They mainly sell new material to about 500 people visiting their shop on Ocean Avenue each week. A typical transaction runs from $20 to $80 and she describes the business as very good.
For an east coast perspective I then called George Vasilakos at Zombie Planet in Albany, New York to see if they had sent anyone to the show. Not this year and not in ten years since he moved east. He does however take the family to the New York Comic-con for three days in the November each year. “I wouldn't miss it.” George, who has had his shop for 10 years and an active comic book business for five, said business is good, several hundred fans and collectors coming in each week.
For George the New York show is a family affair. Mom and their three children 18, 16 and 10 will all be going with him for three days. “I’m the obsessed collector but my children also collect. They have been attracted by the images and become interested in the stories.”
I then spoke with Tom Key, a lifelong collector, who works at Oxford Comics in Atlanta, Georgia. Tom is 46. He didn't attend the recent Comic-con show either but expects to go to the Dragon-con in Atlanta in September. Comics are a big part of his life. “New comics are typically released once a month and, working here, I get an early look and sometimes buy.” To the question, “is it an investment” he replied he hasn't bought comics with that expectation. As to his collection, “I have them stored. If I could I would look at them electronically.” Condition is very important. He has about 2,000 examples in his collection.
About the field generally – “Comics aren’t as taboo as they once were as movie studios have made superheroes a part of everyday life.” As to women, “comics continue to be a man’s game. The heroes are action figures, male power figures.” He then mentioned “manga,” Japanese comics that many women prefer.