San Diego Comic Con Frustrations


After months of effort, our semi-trailer full of trade paperbacks and hardbacks finally left for San Diego on Monday afternoon. We'll be picking up our two vans tomorrow morning, and start driving to California early on Saturday. Since we have to rent a 24' truck in San Diego to pick up our 7 pallets, we need to actually be there on Monday morning. We'll then be dropping off all of our many tons of books and stand supplies with the union, in the open-air parking lot that the convention committee has so generously allocated to all us riff-raff comics dealers for unloading. After that, all we can do is to cross our fingers and hope that our merchandise and fixtures will make it to our stands in time for us to set up our booth, starting on Tuesday morning. I wouldn't be so concerned, but my good friend, Bud Plant, tried to use the "marshalling yard" two years ago, only to have the pallets that he dropped off at 8 AM not arrive to the convention center until it was time on Tuesday evening (6 PM) for all dealers to leave. The convention committee worked out an arrangement by which Bud's crew (who had been sitting on their hands all day...) were allowed to work late into the evening to set up their stand, but that certainly didn't leave them particularly well-rested for the upcoming five days of extreme effort.

For what it is worth, after my scathing condemnation of the San Diego convention committee in Monday's newsletter, I had several other comics dealers who exhibit at San Diego write to me to express similar disgust and anger at the cavalier manner in which comics dealers are now being treated at the San Diego "Comic-Con." In all honesty, however, we are in this position only because we don't have the money that LucasFilms, Nintendo, or any of the other major media companies can throw around. When you spend $100 million creating a film, you have a set budget (usually of Other People's Money) for promotion. The heads of promotion for a film studio certainly are not going to get their hands dirty unloading a truck, so they are perfectly OK with paying the convention center decorator's union a many thousands of dollars to unload, unpack, and assemble their gigantic displays. They can also use OPM to pay for their trucker sitting in an endless line waiting for a dock to become available. For those of us who run our own businesses, however, every penny counts. Our profit margin for the entire show is perhaps (in a good year...) 10% of what we take in, so every single unnecessary expense cuts into our small rate of return. That is why, even though it requires us to be in San Diego a day earlier than we planned, we will be there to unload our truck into that damn parking lot on Monday, rather than paying a trucker to sit in line for us with his meter running.

All of the above having been said, I certainly understand the convention committee's prioritizing the companies that have money to burn, over those of us who do not. What irks me to the depths of my soul, however, is the fact that those ungrateful wretches do not in any way acknowledge the decades of contributions that do many of us have made in trying to help San Diego become the preeminent comics convention in the world. For those of us who have been around since the early 1970's, we can clearly remember when San Diego only drew about 900-1200 fans a year. In those more humble days, San Diego was just another stop on the circuit of little shows that were being held all around the country. Many of us can also clearly remember when the show just about went bankrupt after a director of the convention took the weekend convention receipts home on Sunday evening and put them under his bed, only to find them gone after he returned from the "dead dog" party held that night to thank the volunteers. The San Diego convention committee certainly wasn't shy in those days about asking all us riff-raff comics dealers to make contributions to help save the convention.

On a more personal level, I have included plugs for the San Diego convention in all of my millions of newsletters during the past 28 years, and even went so far as to give them free space in one of my extremely expensive Marvel ads. I've contributed endless amounts of time, money, and effort over the past 37 years into trying to help the San Diego convention grow and prosper. Now that they've become huge and successful, however, all their old comics dealer friends seemingly are now the equivalent of the proverbial chopped liver. Were we asked for our input before it was decided that only the guys who could afford to send palletized truckloads would be allowed to unload at the convention center? Nope. We did not even receive a courtesy phone call after the decision was made. In point of fact, not one person from the convention committee or staff has gone out of their way to call me (or speak with me at the convention) on any topic in well over a year. The last conversation we had was about trying to get dealers some sort of prioritized parking, but even that groundbreaking program has now seemingly been abandoned, after just one year. Peeved? Oh yeah, I am really, really peeved.

Where I am leading to with this litany of ill will is the fact that I will not be sending out daily newsletters about the convention this year. Given that the convention committee has sold their souls to Hollywood, you can watch what's going on at the convention on Entertainment Tonight. All the coverage there will be about the latest in media news, however, rather than comics. Sadly, this is as it should be. Unlike so may other shows that I attend with great joy, San Diego is no longer a comics show. Comics figure into the San Diego equation these days primarily as a seminal point for potential movie and TV content. Quite frankly, I'm going to put all my efforts in the future into promoting genuine comics shows, like Charlotte, Minneapolis, and Baltimore. The day may come when they, too, sell out, but for the time being at least, I still feel really good about encouraging you to attend those genuinely fun comics conventions.

Chuck Rozanski,
President - Mile High Comics, Inc.