creatorcon creatorcon

Artists Want Alternative to San Diego Comic-Con

Creator Con
Artwork by Jeff Pidgeon

A group of artists frustrated by the San Diego Comic-Con’s lack of emphasis on artists and art are pushing for the creation of an artist-friendly event called “Creator-Con”. They’ve started an informal Facebook page with this mission statement:

This page was created as a forum for the artists, writers, designers, self-publishers, retailers and fans that have become disillusioned and frustrated with what the flagship of comic conventions has become (y’all know the one…in San Diego).

The Creator Con idea was hatched a few years ago by a few exhibitor friends as a reaction to the popular media takeover of a convention that used to celebrate artists and creators. We were tired of being pushed further and further aside each year to make room for the bigger, louder and flashier attractions that had nothing to do with the convention’s humble beginnings. This page hopefully will give us all a platform to get the ball rolling on something new or at the very least, voice our opinions. So let it ring! We want to hear what you have to say.

In only a couple days, membership in the group has swelled to nearly five hundred people, which indicates not only the grassroots support for the idea, but how much discontent there is with the San Diego Comic Con’s treatment of the artist community. Many notable names in animation and comics have joined the group including Kazu Kibuishi, David Silverman, Stephen DeStefano, Scott Shaw!, Richard Sala, Katie Rice and Steve Purcell. Discussions are happening on the page about possible locations for a Creator-Con. Some are suggesting that it should be hosted in San Diego, while LA, Portland, Vegas and the Bay Area are also being name-dropped.

I’m in full support of a Creator-Con. As a former Comic-Con exhibitor (I exhibited three times with artists like Shane Glines, Gabe Swarr and Jim Smith), I eventually came to the realization that the Con wasn’t the most receptive outlet for indie companies and artists. The last time I attended (not as an exhibitor) was in 2007, and I cut my trip short after a day (a Thursday no less!). The emphasis of San Diego had shifted so far away from comics and artists that it was pointless spending any further time there.

In many ways, the very idea of a “comic-con” is outdated. Today, most artists practice across a wide range of artistic disciplines (comics, graphic novels, illustration, fine art, publishing, film, animation, toys, merchandising and branding, etc.). A Creator-Con that is focused around artists and their varied creative endeavors reflects more accurately how the contemporary visual artist thinks and works. The Creator-Con is an idea whose time has arrived–now it remains to be seen who will make it a reality.

UPDATE (6pm ET): Over 1,000 people have now joined the Creator-Con group on Facebook.

  • stone

    a creator con would be a great idea. however the bay area, portland and points north already have similar events while southern california is practically a wasteland for these kinds of events.

    and Vegas is a city about as far removed from the spirit of this sort of thing as you can get.

  • Bob

    I think it’s about time the east coast gets its own Big art convention.

  • richard fox

    i would vote for St. Louis as host locale.
    it is centrally located, easy to get around in,
    the people are very friendly, and it has a
    great convention center to house the event.

  • Wayne

    My family moved to San Diego when I was 8. My love of Disney cartoons made me instantly the target of endless teasing, and my inability at sports made me the most unpopular boy in the school! People don’t believe me when I tell them that San Diego is a jock’s sports city, with little tolerance for culture. One school I attended was formerly Albert Einstein Junior High School–now known as Ray A. Kroc Middle School. Apparently the man who built McDonald’s, and who owned the Padres ball team ranks way higher than the Nobel prize-winning scientist. San Diego probably isn’t the best place for Creator-Con.

  • In many ways, the very idea of a “comic-con” is outdated.

    There are more Comic Cons across the country now then I believe there have ever have been. And as to LA area cons, you have the Shrine show, the new Long Beach, Anaheim and Pasadena’s Rockin Comic Con and in the not distant past Wizard LA. That is a lot of shows for one region.

  • Dave O.

    There has been an alternative to Comic-Con for quite some time: SPX.

  • I’ve never actually been to a comic-con, but i kinda like the way that sounds, “comic-con”.

    Creator-con seems stretched.

    What’s the problem here? Is comic-con becoming too commercial? Are there too many “big” companies involved now?

    The name “comic-con” can also insinuate all of those artistic mediums(*ie. graphic novels, publishing, writers, retailers.etc..)

    What’s the problem??

  • Ariel


    Toronto is getting a Comic-Con real soon (*East coast!)

    Come on by! :)

  • It’s fantastic to see this getting momentum.

    I think Creator-Con is a perfect antidote for the ever expanding ‘Media-Gulch’ that has overrun the SDCC…I’ve been attending the show since it’s humble beginnings in the 1970’s, and it’s staggering to see what’s unfolded over the decades. Some of this growth can be attributed to the excitement and energy surrounding the ‘Popular Arts’, which is great, but gradually a loss in Creator-Emphasis and Comic-Emphasis has taken hold….

    The last few years have been especially hard-watching creator friends and coworkers and get frustrated and bail on the show due to overcrowding, Hotel unavailability, and skyrocketing booth prices.

    Something HOMEGROWN is overdue and I can’t wait to ba a part of it!!

  • humming

    So let me get this straight. I strive to go to the biggest comic con in the country every year but never do for all kinds of reasons, and NOW I hear that people are disinterested enough in it to form a NEW one as a direct retaliation?! I need to get in the loop!

  • I’ve been going to SDCC in a variety of positions since I was a kid in the 80’s. I’ve worked it for large companies and for my own small publishing setup. It has changed and I agree that artists have been marginalized at the event. If you look at how the Artist Alley section has shrunk every year and how it’s been pushed into the corner, that says everything. The only way for this to work is if it works similar to “Slam Dance” which was the concurrent film festival ran at the same time as The Sundance Film Festival. Which is in so many ways has a very similar arc as SDCC. SDCC has become a vacation spot and market place for media companies not a place for smaller creators to get the word out on their project. Having a show running at the same time as SDCC might take some of the crowd and bring some attention to how the shows was built on the work of comic artists but now lives on the support of corporate media. The show has to be at the same time and in the same city for it to be a statement.

  • droosan


    I’m so behind this! The main reason I go to Comic-Con is to collect sketchbooks and talk a bit with my artist ‘heroes’. But the media/toy booths — and the crowds they attract — have made that progressively more frustrating with each passing year.

    I hadn’t yet sent in my Professional Registration renewal for SDCC because I wasn’t sure I wanted to go after last year’s (somewhat) miserable experience. Now, I’m pretty sure I won’t bother.

    I’ll definitely keep ‘tabs’ on this event, and will do anything I can to help make it happen..!

  • I began attending the San Diego Con at the El Cortez Hotel many years ago. I knew that in time, the event would grow into an unmanageable monster, and it has.

    Yet, it’s been my experience that film studios follow the same trajectory. They start out fun and small – then morph into a corporate monster. Things change, and they seldom retain their original innocence.

    Guess what they call that? Success.

  • Oh sweet, I hope its in Portland…I would definitely go down for that. I love the idea of Creator-Con, I want to get bombarded with awesome artwork!

  • NC

    I always thought of CTN-Xpo as a “Creator-Con”

  • Maizekid

    Ive been complaining about comic-con’s treatment and squeezing out of actual artists for what seems like forever. I LOVE the idea of creator con, I personally don’t really go to comic con for anything more than to catch up with art friends I dont normally get to see, and to pick up amazing new books and to throw the Sketchbook Session on Saturday night, now maybe we can have a convention for the artists who are there for the art and not for the FLASH, BANG, and Boom Media Blitz that comic con has unfortunately become. Even if this only happens for a few years maybe SDCC will get the idea to bring back artists alley or to make tables more afforable and less a hassel to get again… I mean seriously do Sony, Image, Marvel, DC, and Hasbro need a space 200ftx400ft ? Though I could also ask does SDCC really need to make space for all the soft core porn chicks and other crap that has nothing to do with the convention… I dunno .. Im all for this Creator Con, let’s bring the creativity back.

  • JMatte

    I have not been going to SDCC for as long as some other people, but long enough to see it change.
    Change not in a good way.

    Just one example from a few years ago:
    to drum up interest for the release of the first Transformers film, the studio’s marketing decided it would be a good idea to put a van trailer, covered with a tarp and the autobot symbol on it right on the show floor.
    Friends of mine had been trying and failing to get table space to sell their books and art. This van trailer took some of that precious space instead.
    Many movie studios now put up huge floor covering display where creators’ tables could be.
    Big companies, big money. Can’t compete with that.

    The show gets sold out almost a year in advance now. It is getting away from being a public event; people walking by who may have been curious to see what is going on will be turned away. There’s also problem with lodging; not enough hotels or hotel rooms available (not unless you are willing to pay over 300$ a night).

    What was that rumor last year? To have the show being a whole week? I certainly hope not! 4 days and a half (yes, I count you preview night), is already exhausting enough, not counting the lost hours of productivity.

    I don’t know about creating a whole other new convention. There are already plenty out there that already fit better the idea behind creator con. Perhaps an alliance of sort could be worked out.

  • A Creator-Con you say? Here’s one:

  • MattSullivan

    This is a fantastic idea. Just great. I’m there if it ever gets off the ground and running.

  • This is unnecessary. There are numerous shows all over the country that fulfill the function this “Creator Con” is allegedly needed for. Like WonderCon in the Bay Area next weekend.

    Putting on a show is expensive, time consuming and call for a lot of specialized skills. That is why the San Diego show has grown–the Con Committee have built up an infrastructure and expertise over decades. Getting all “the world is unfair” and taking your marbles and quitting Comic Con in a huff is all and well but just having a Facebook page and a lot of “me too” join-ins is barely a beginning. And of course as with all things the proof will be when some money has to be put on the barrelhead plus real grunt work invested.

    Meanwhile I’ll be at San Diego again this year and as I have these opast few years will avoid the sales floor (except maybe Bud Plant) and enjoy the numerous panels and other events. But that is just me.

    Good luck.

  • Molly

    Fantastic idea! But there is a Creator-Con, it’s called APE! It’s in San Francisco every fall.

  • w

    Those interested in a more down to earth but really inspired ‘con’ should really look at joining the Toronto Comics Arts Festival – plans are for it to go once per year now.

    In 2004 it was an outdoor fest with people like Jeff Smith, Seth, Paul Pope, etc. giving talks.

    Now it’s in the gorgeous Toronto Reference Library. AND IT’s PACKED with great stuff and buyers of great stuff, no major entertainment corporations in sight. Organized by some folks who run a local ‘art comics’ shop, The Beguiling.


  • I’m assuming this is going to turn into the Image Comics of comic book conventions…

  • Christopher Cook

    I’ve got a more tangible reason for not going to Comic-Con the past few years. I’m broke.

  • After ten years of doing the Con, selling my own stuff under my company name, I pulled the plug last summer. My booth was, for the past two years, blocked by huge lines waiting to get freebies from promotions like Twilight. etc. This caused crowds down the aisle blocking traffic thru out the whole day. I spoke to the management about this the first year, and the way it was handled after that was not acceptable..I found myself in tandem with security constantly ushering people away from my booth and discouraging people from using it to set down purses on, etc.

    I came to the conclusion I had been out gunned. Big guy vs. little guy. I was simply in the way of giant movie companies, no accomodations were going to be made for my indie biz.

    So, goodbye Con!

  • I’m seconding APE. It’s run by the Comic Con guys but its emphasis is on small press and individual creators. There are occasional companies and collectives who show up, but they’re still based on the premise of putting the creators first.

  • Bobby

    Yeah, APE! at San Francisco is somewhat liked a Creator Con already.

    For Southern California, I recommended the artists to join the new convention, Long Beach Comic Con which it is liked the early days of SDCC. Last year was its first year, about half of the hall was artist alley.

  • Demetre

    I totally agree with fluffy and Bobby. Man, its great being in Cali. Well except for the traffic and taxes…pollution..high cost of living. Otherwise its great.

  • stone

    APE is definitely a great, small press venue and alternative to SDCC.

  • when the LA Laker girls have a prime booth spot there(which they did 2 years ago) it’s time to shuffle on.

    i’m down.

  • The Renaissance has Begun. Join us Nov 19-21, 2010. :-)

  • I thought the alternative to Comic-Con was the Alternative Press Expo.

  • DJM

    Great idea that’s been done well by other venues. APE, SPX, Stumptown, MOCCA, etc. are all good examples. And that thing Desert Island and PictureBox started this year, too.

    As a side rant, am I the only one who is annoyed by the separation of comics and graphic novels? They’re the exact same thing. They’re comics. “Graphic novel” is just a term people use to hide their embarrassment.

  • I think it’s a valid point that there’s plenty of events out there that may already be doing what CreatorCon wants to do. I don’t know much about most of them, but I think it’s worth discussing whether or not CC fans are re-inventing the wheel, and which existing event might work for us instead. I’ve set up a new topic at the discussion board, so feel free to speak up!

  • h park

    After reading this post, I don’t feel alone. :) Hopefully they do it in SF Bay area soon.

    Hey I was dreaming up doing the similar convention. Being a long time Anime fan, I’m disappointed that my local Anime convention has became a weekend teenage party ground.

    My convention idea? Demystify the creative process behind Japanese animation and comics. Inspire local illustrators, animators, and filmmakers explore their craft further.

    Granted that Japanese animation & comic don’t mingle too well with western animation & comics. Being a pop art, I hope to see more international collaboration and exchange of ideas between these two creative cultures. Since Stan Lee asked a Japanese animation studio make animation based from his idea, then there shouldn’t too much obstacles between two cultures.

  • Jeff C

    Austin gets my vote.

  • back in the nineties there was the ‘spirit of independence’ conventions (driven by dave sim). whatever happened to that? probably the most creator focused con i’ve ever been to.

  • The idea here, folks, is to generate an alternative to the con, not a con for alternative comics alone (ie, APE, SPX, STUMPTOWN, MoCCA). This sort of event that we’re shooting for might be better visualized as an American Angouleme of sorts, something that embraces the history of comics as a medium, from its inception through today, mainstream, indy, underground, alternative, whatever. As long as it stems from comics, it should be welcomed. Kinks are being worked out and all ideas and comments are welcome at this stage. It’s organic, like comics themselves, so try not to get defensive about there being shows “like this” already. The goal is to create a show that is unlike anything out there, pure comics, with a vibe that people can’t resist and feel welcome at.

  • Comic festivals like MoCCA and TCAF have the right idea about giving comic creators a crowd eager to see what they’ve done. Honestly, if something like that could be stretched out to more than just an alt/indie crowd, that would be something I’d want to go to.

  • Ok, Scott. Thanks for clearing things up.

  • Hans Kosekranius

    Sounds like another tea party brewing!

  • me

    Baltimore Con has always been about the artist and the comics. check it out Aug 28 – 29

  • rose_quill

    Creator Con will eventually end up just like comic-con, my guess is comic con wasn’t always the flashy commercialized event it is today. But on the supportive side… I went last year and my thoughts were along these lines, that I felt it lacked artistic emphasis, and was all about selling and gimmicks, did get to see a few of my fave creators though! hi Jhonen V!!!

  • George ISbell

    I suggest booking space at the Hilton Bay Front. Right next door
    to the convention center; Fans will walk the short distance; feed off
    the CC; Start small and grow or have CC do it.

    The gigantic Consumer Electronic Show in Vegas uses the LV Convention Center and the convention facilities of the neighboring Hilton (coincidental) because it’s too big besides MANY other facilities;
    Break-offs occur-The Adult Video Show used to be part of the CES, but now is completely separate entity but uses the Sands Expo (in the
    Venetian) with the CES;

    Maybe the CC can branch out and rent the space for the Artist Alley;
    maybe they have already investigated this option themselves; the infracstructure is already there-bus service, etc.; my suggestion is
    organize a committee and approach CC as there is no sense in reinventing the wheel; IF CC won’t help, then do it yourself…