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Harry McCracken on Comic-Con

Former Animato! editor and current PC World editor, offers a nice Comic-Con trip report on his blog. He perceptively points out how the Con today has little to do with its original mission statement:

The crowding would seem to have something to do with Comic-Con’s complete refusal to limit its scope or differentiate between the important, the worthwhile, and the abysmal. It certainly isn’t following its mission, which reads as follows:

Comic-Con International is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.

I have nothing against Sarah Silverman, but I fail to see how her TV show is relevant to that mission. I don’t understand why there are booths hawking swords and hard drives, or why it makes sense for Playboy Playmates to be signing photos on the show floor. It rankles me that the con’s program book celebrates every comic, TV show, and movie it mentions as a hit, a masterwork, or both.

If you have a Con trip report on your blog, share the link with us in the comments section of this post.

  • Hey Amid. I kind of agree with you on Sarah Silverman (and she was very funny at the panel) but Jenna Jameson was there to promote a new comic book with her in it by Virgin Comics. I’m not sure if thats what you meant by “Playmates”. This year was great at Comic-Con and Jerry’s panels were great too!

  • amid

    Gavin: I didn’t write that. Harry McCracken did.

  • If Jenna was there to promote a comic, she at least passes the “related to comics” test, if not Comic-Con’s own “historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture” one. But I was referring to an actual Playmate who was signing autographs on the show floor.

  • Well if SD comic con isn’t your cuppa tea. I’d say give APE or one of the other great indy cons a try. You certainly don’t see the bonanza you would in San Diego.

    for me I don’t mind the big show and actually enjoy the variety and the mayhem, the geeks etc. It entertains me. Granted selling swords etc. is a bit out of place and better suited for a renfest or a D&D con.

    Still the convention for me is a social gathering with old friends/artists. I like catching up with these people that i knew or have worked with. It’s different things for different people. I just roll with it. I’ve been going since 91′.

    Anyway…just like anything music, comics, animation, art, movies….you have to wade through all the bad stuff before you find the gems. I think that makes a great find all that much better. Even then it comes down to personal tastes.

    I never went to panels up until 5 years ago. I went to see William Stout tell some pretty incredible stories while showing pictures of his trips around the world and was floored at how good his panel was. Here’s an artist who once held the worlds record for climbing Mt Kilimanjaro the fastest and he did it completely by accident.

    Amid, Speaking of great finds…I know I haven’t wrote you yet…but I loved the copy of Animation Blast that you sent me. You helped open my eyes to some new things about animation history I didn’t know about. I’d have to say the article by Taylor Jessen “Twice upon a Time” was my favorite in the book.

  • In defense of the Sarah Silverman Program, I think it easily meets the “the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture” criteria. One of the shows creators and directors, Rob Schrab, first made his name in comics with Scud the disposable assassin. He was literally signing his comics at the Image booth just hours before the panel. And right next to him was one of the show’s stars, Brian Posehn, who was also signing a comic book that he wrote. If that doesn’t show the contribution of comics to popular culture, I don’t know what does.

  • San Diego Comic-Con is said to have had an estimated 150,000+ people coming through their doors… on one hand, how can you say no to all of that money? Dealers and exhibitors aren’t going to turn down the opportunity to cash in on that… if a retailer’s booth is seen by only 2% of the people there, he still has the opportunity to snag sales from some 3,000 individuals.

    On the other hand, I think what McCracken notes is inevitable of large scale conventions. What begin as by-fans-for-fans gatherings ultimately evolve into regional or national conventions, which in the end threaten to become nothing more than trade shows. Unless convention directors take a harder stance on exhibitors or the community board instills an attendance cap, there’s always potential for a medium to large size convention to grow out of control and out of focus. (Anime Expo has been critiqued for its sloppiness and inadequate care of guests of honor due to its large size)

  • Rick Farmiloe

    Comic Con has turned into a media event, no longer promoting just comics, art, animation, etc. It seems like ANYONE who has anything to sell the public is welcome as long as it falls under the ‘media’ label. Sarah Silverman is on TV, so there you go. I always have a lot of fun for a variety of reasons. I enjoy going to a few panels, walking (crawling) through the dealers hall, meeting new people, networking, seeing old friends, finding a few treasures, etc. There seems to be something for everyone these days, regardless of your interests. I still have a soft spot for the comics and animation art section at the far right…..while the mayhem transpires at the other end where the studios are pimping their new releases…regardless of any fantasy or action content. I have noticed that the con now seems to attract a more mainstream contingent, not just genre fans anymore. I frankly hate the whole gaming section. It seems as though it’s more of carnival, game show setting with guys yelling into mikes trying to get everyone riled up while they give away something or other. The place is nuts enough without these huge companies screaming for attention, while hundreds stand motionless in front of their displays making it impossible to keep moving. But….as I said, there really is something for everyone. I REALLY appreciate the oppoortunity to salute some of the older guys (Harryhausen, Bradbury, dare I say, Lou Scheimer) who were such a big part of the fantasy world for big part of the past half century. It’s a big celebration of The Wonderful World of Dreams, I guess….regardless of what form they take. Frankly, despite any flaws, I plan on going every year. It’s a great excuse for all of us…..regardless of age….to be a kid again for a few days, and maybe share that with our own kids……and to do so with no feelings of embarrassment or regret.

  • Hey sorry Amid, I didnt catch that. Executives and corporate people are just realizing how big Comic-Con is now and alot of people equals money. Sounds like everybody just wants to cash in. That doesnt suprise me.

  • Here’s my post about Comic-Con.
    I had fun!

  • Matt

    Playmate Tiffany Taylor had a small booth at the Con. (“Exhibitors tables” section of the hall map and she had a booth there last year as well.) She’s done some model work for Frank Cho.

    Like the swords and other such miscellany throughout the Con I can see why she’s there making some scratch of the prototypical fanboy.

    And I can understand why there’s a crush of media every year, it just makes it more work for me to be sure to see the stuff I want to see. Mainly, the “comic” in “Comic-Con.”

  • Another Comic Con Fan

    I’ve been going since 2000, and the comics section hasn’t shrunk. The place has just gotten bigger.

    The floor (in 2000 and ’01 at least) didn’t go through to Hall G, since they were still being built IIRC. Bud Plant and the other comics dealers are still there, and DC and Marvel have large booths, and Stan Lee (among others) still attend each year.

    A friend of mine picked up a Little Lulu and a 1969 Casper the Friendly Ghost comic for under five bucks this year, and there are plenty of dealers who sell graphic novels and independent comics.

  • I think this says it all for me. It also says it all for Tom Reed as well. We were both incredibly disappointed with SDCCI this year. It’s simply metastasized beyond any human control. The only facility big enough to contain what it has become is the monster convention center facilities in Vegas.