San Diego Newsletter #4!


As is my annual tradition, I spent two hours walking the aisles of the huge San Diego Comic-Con International this afternoon. My goal in this annual exercise is to gain some sort of perspective on not only the convention, but also the current state of our culture. What I discovered this year is that the convention has morphed into a venue where otherwise impoverished fans seek to gain personal power by being the first to 'Twitter', or otherwise contact their friends through online social-networking, about the latest entertainment news. I realize that this sounds a bit ridiculous, but it is clearly evident today that a great many of the fans who are attending the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International are already completely broke. The 20-30 dealers that I surveyed today all reported that their sales are drastically down from last year, with Saturday being the worst day yet. At the same time, the number of fans waiting in line for seats in the panel rooms for the popular media events (TRUE BLOOD, VENTURE BROS., FRINGE, etc.) number in the many thousands. Simply put, after paying for tickets, parking, and hotel rooms it would appear that most of the fans here at the show barely have enough pocket change left for lunch.

Marvel has a booth this
year, but mostly to high-
light their toy products
While the cash flow for the dealers exhibiting at this year's convention is down significantly, everyone is seemingly still having a great time. The crowds are quite large, but also very well-behaved and polite. In past years I have complained about the crowding and rudeness in the south area of the convention hall, which is dominated by the big media companies such as Mattel, Lucasfilms, and Warner. What I found particularly irksome about the media companies was their propensity to have shrieking, huckster girls throwing freebies into the crowd to create mania around their booths. Blessedly, the convention seems to have cracked down on that kind of ridiculous carney behavior. Freebies are certainly still to be had, but they are now being handed out in a reasonably sane fashion, so as to not create havoc in the aisles. Presuming that the convention staff actually did help tone down the chaos that oftentimes erupted last year, they are to be commended.

Returning to the topic of social-networking, the convention has definitely become a must-attend event for anyone worth their salt in Hollywood. There have been so many premieres and announcements of new projects here that it has become difficult for even the largest companies to be heard above the din. What information does get conveyed about new entertainment projects, however, is subject to immediate critique. A very interesting story that I heard on National Public Radio (NPR) the other day was about how new movies are now tanking (or gaining huge momentum) within hours of being released. The new Sasha Cohen movie, for example, died within a day of release, with a stunning 40% drop off in ticket sales between Friday and Saturday. That unprecedented decline was almost entirely due to negative word-of-mouth. At the same time, THE HANGOVER actually gained momentum as a result of extremely positive audience reaction. With people being able to instantly message their reviews of films to their friends, positive public opinion is of critical importance in deciding whether a project will make money. That, in a nutshell, is why all of the media companies are desperate to generate positive spin here in San Diego. The fans who attend this convention are viewed as the innovators and uber geeks who decide via their cell phones, Twitter accounts, and blogs the winners and losers in the hugely profitable entertainment world. That is why the studios will do anything, including spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on their booths and presentations, to generate a positive response to their new projects.

Since the fans in the
Marvel booth were
just there to get free
toys, they ignored
Jeph Loeb and
Art Adams
Sadly, where this leaves all of us in the comics world is totally screwed. With a reported waiting list of 300 media/consumer products companies lined up for booth space here at San Diego Comic-Con International, the convention feels absolutely no restraint as regards raising booth rent. What does exist is a totally uneven playing field, where mom-n-pop comics retailers, publishers, and creators are now being asked to pay the same cost per square-foot as the international corporate giants. That being the case, it should come as no surprise that we comics exhibitors are rapidly being priced out of our own house. I heard from several comics retailers who have been here at the convention for decades that they are either cutting back for 2010, or completely pulling out of the show. With fewer comics retailers exhibiting in San Diego each year, the incentive for individual comics fans to put up with the cost and hassle of coming here also greatly diminishes. If present trends continue, I predict with more than a small measure of sadness that comics will be a very minor part of this convention within five years. It will be the most incredibly wonderful media convention in the world, but the days of the San Diego Comic-Con are over. You can only lose so many comics exhibitors before all critical mass is lost. I do still have some optimism and faith remaining in the convention, however, as I know that many of those who run the show are still fervent comics fans. I genuinely hope that they will recognize that it will take some serious effort, and perhaps even some measure of economic subsidies, to keep the comics portion of this show alive and vibrant. Let's all hope that they act before it is too late.

Happy Collecting!

Chuck Rozanski,
President - Mile High Comics, Inc.
Advance Previews
of next weeks comics from
Archie Comics

Click on any of the images below for larger view

The Sideshow booth had
a fantasic HELLBOY image

The Vertigo artwork in the
Vertigo booth was incredible!

Blackest Night was
a huge hit for DC

Antarctic Press had one
of the nicest booths in
the Small Press Expo

Moving around near the
Fox booth (and the entire
media area) was almost impossible

The displays of new and
vintage toys were

The "Twilight" area
was the busiest place
in the entire show

Radical Comics
had a huge booth

My daughter, Rowan,
found the electric chair
simulators to be very creepy...

The giant Transformer
was really cool

Hasbro has a
fantastic display

As per usual, Dark Horse
has the classiest booth
in the entire show.

We encourage reading
at our booth!

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