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SD Comic-Con’s Obscene Exhibitor Badge Price Increase

Creator Con
Artwork by Jeff Pidgeon

The San Diego Comic-Con is pushing forward with its misguided agenda of appeasing corporate interests at the expense of alienating the indie comic and animation community. Their latest bone-headed move is to increase the price of additional exhibitor Comic-Con badges to $200 each, up from $75 last year. As anybody who has ever exhibited at Comic-Con can tell you, artists typically don’t earn truckloads of money at the event, and when all the costs of booth rental, travel, and lodging are factored in, the obscene $200 exhibitor badge essentially guarantees that an independent artist will leave the convention empty-handed.

Considering the Comic-Con is a non-profit, it is inexcusable to increase the price of additional exhibitor badges by 266% in one year. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the artistic community is deserting the Comic-Con in record numbers. Even successful independent artists are fed up, like Flight and Amulet creator Kazu Kibuishi, who noted on Twitter today:

“This will likely be our last Comic-Con with a Flight booth. Will continue to attend the show, but as an author, not a booth manager.”

Comic-Con’s strong-arming of the indie comic and animation community only lends credence to the viability of a West Coast Creator-Con, especially one that isn’t operated by the Comic-Con organizers themselves. Personally, I exhibited at the MoCCA festival in New York last month and had a delightful time. It had the kind of low-key artist-oriented vibe that I would hope to experience at a Creator-Con. I also netted as much money at MoCCA as I did when I used to exhibit in San Diego, which is notable because MoCCA’s attendance is roughly 1/75th of Comic-Con’s.

  • startstop

    LOL I like that 1/100 number. Nice.

    Glad you had a good time at the indie con, and that it was profitable.

    My dream of going to the SDCC is now tossed.

  • amid

    Startstop – I just revised that number to 1/75th. MoCCA is only 2-3k people at best, compared to San Diego’s 140-150k.

  • marimba

    All these cons are killing the goose of the golden eggs. All they want is MORE, MORE, and MORE people at the expense of quality and a GOOD experience.

    It’s really annoying going to a con these days, all the panels you want to attend are full, lots of selfish and stupid people to deal with and lack of room to breath… The con scene is over for me.

    Great job comic-con….

  • I just want to second the comment about MoCCA. I split the table with a few friends and between us we made back more than enough to cover the table cost. And this was with a group of fairly new, unheard-of faces in the comic book world. On top of that, we all had a great time meeting artists and trading info.

    MoCCA is definitely where the con experience SHOULD be heading. Sadly, it looks like SDCC is where it IS heading.

  • Quit your complaining! Anybody with any sort of professional credit gets in FOR FREE! PLUS ONE GUEST! THAT’S TWO FREE TICKETS! PLUS ADDITIONAL GUESTS FOR $100 A TICKET! That’s a good deal.

    Comic Con has probably been burned by exhibitors asking for too many tickets that they don’t use, robbing people who would actually use the ticket from the opportunity to go. By raising the price, this prevents Exhibitors from requesting so many unused tickets.

  • Man, a couple years ago I went 2 years in a row and the experience was vastly different from one year to the next. The second year I went I could barely MOVE due to the rivers of people in every isle. If I ever get the chance, I’d love to go again… but for the people who have never been there its a little sad. I’ve been talking up the experience quite a lot to my husband. I’ll be very disappointed if we save up to vacation there and find that its as drastically different as people are saying.

  • droosan

    The fact that I turned down the opportunity to secure two of those FREE Professional Reg tickets this year — for the first time in over ten years — should say a lot. But I know they won’t miss me.

    I certainly won’t miss the crushing crowds, the ‘gimme-gimme’ attitudes, or the all-day hunt for a few specific artists’ booths sprinkled among the sprawling studio/toy pavilions.

    I’ll catch up with those same artists’ works at other, smaller shows — or directly via the internet.

  • Bob Harper

    This really sucks – I had a pal who lost his booth because he waited to pay during the regular period in stead of early. They told him he could be put on the 5 year wait list – whoopeee!!!

    Another pal registered online 10 minutes after it open, listed 12 possible hotel choices and still does not have a room.

    They’ve limited the number of professional guest badges, so I won’t be taking the kids who would surely talked me into buying something, thus helping out the dealers who are also struggling.

    I’m 50/50 on attending this year – I do like to reconnect with fellow cartoonists but…

  • Yeah you know… I’m not surprised. Looking forward to another CTNX and the future Creator-con!

  • Steve Flack, exhibitors haven’t even had the chance to order their own or any additional passes. Seeing as 4 day passes sold out months ago, how many passes an exhibitor orders isn’t going to make any difference. Also, you shouldn’t assume that everyone associated with a booth is qualified for a professional pass. I’ve been a part of a booth since 2006, but this year is the first that I’ve qualified for a pro pass. But you’re also forgetting about spouses, kids, and anybody else brought in to help run a booth.

    It really angers me that they don’t announce this price change until well after passes have sold out and it makes me wonder if they’re still going to have set up/tear down stickers available. It would be cheaper to buy the $100 4 day pass and pick up some tear down stickers, than spend twice that for additional exhibitor badges. I would hate to have to set up and tear down everyday with half of our group stuck waiting outside when they could be inside being part of the booth that they helped pay for.

  • Zach Cole

    Here in Portland, we just did our annual Stumptown Comics Fest. It’s STILL a big price for a table, and artists don’t typically make much money, but no one in town has any desire to go to San Diego.

    Creator-oriented conventions are the only way to go. I don’t just say that because I’m opposed to the idea of giving more money to SDCC, and giant companies like Time Warner, DC, Marvel, etc, but also because I’m poor, and an indie comics fest is just way easier on my wallet (even if I do end up shelling out cash for mini-comics and other merch).

  • victoria

    Hey don’t forget Al Gore is gonna be right next door during Comic Con holding a health care summit, Comic Con is ALWAYS a wild ride but I bet this year is gonna be extra special.

  • I just wanted to support what ChiaCheese said, Steve. Exhibitor and Professional badges aren’t the same–and I know from experience what a nightmare tearing down and setting up it is even in the limited amount of time allotted pre and post doors opening, let alone having an exhibitor badge or not.

    The landscape of the con has indeed changed over the 20 years I’ve been attending and exhibiting. The rub is, fans love the opportunity to see stars–to have them ‘grace’ us with their presence to our menial little ‘gathering’. I’ve even been guilty of wanting to see sneak peaks of upcoming movies, or shows (good luck getting into those banquet halls, btw)–but the flipside is, that brings big studios to our show, with their gigantic displays, constructs, day models and…(sigh) bullhorns.


  • Magnusson

    MoCCA was a fantastic convention, and the vibe is the best part about it.

    (Making over $400 also helps my opinion a bit, too.)

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    My concern about SDCC is that it’s become a geek focus group, run primarily by and for established film studios as a way to flog their wares and to rub up against a core demographic. I fear that comics per se are becoming increasingly irrelevant at ComicCon.

  • Bill Field

    When it’s getting harder to find a comicbook at COMICCON, you might think …. THERE’S A PROBLEM?

  • Daniel J: “I fear that comics per se are becoming increasingly irrelevant at ComicCon.”

    You just noticed that? ;)

    I myself am looking forward to Pasadena’s Rockn’ Comicon over Memorial Day weekend. Pasadena’s a great locale and I don’t have to pay out the butt to go. Stoked!

  • DS

    I’m sorry but there have been SO many Exhibitors (and Pros) at Comic-Con that have abused their guest pass privileges that I don’t feel bad for them. Indie artists, etc. can get a Professional pass.

    I have seen Exhibitors get passes for BOTH, Pro and Exhibitor and as many “guest” passes for both sides usually with the same names on both.. Nice. You all know who you are. I blame y’all that did this to screw everyone else over. Maybe y’all should suggest to them to make Artist Alley larger? I think that would be a good idea.

    True, Comic-Con has changed it’s atmosphere since I started attending when I was in my teens. Have any of you seen the prices of comics these days? There is NO WAY a kid can afford to BUY more than 1 comic per month probably. I just went on FCBD and spent over $100 and got like 22 comics.. WTF? One store I have a discount card for, the other I didn’t but wtf? On top of that, the comics are THINNER. Less pages than I remember. At THAT moment I knew there was a reason why I stopped buying them. I love reading them but it’s getting out of hand don’t you think? Comics, I’m afraid, will be going by the wayside in a decade or so maybe. Now you have digital copies of them for the SAME PRICE? Again, WTF? Changes need to be made in the entire industry if you ask me.

    I still buy comics when I’m at the convention, but only special issues or ones I missed. I don’t know many people any more that buy REGULARLY. Everyone has bills to pay, etc. The economy sucks. Well, sometimes I splurge and buy like I did on FCBD. Guess what? At one of the stores, they didn’t even have any official FCBD comics. Sad. I won’t name names. I will just not go back. Another thing, no one buys comics, magazines at full price any more. Good luck to that store. The comics were not even NM. Oh well.

    Also, attending Comic-Con doesn’t have to be expensive. I did it as a kid and pre-registered AT the convention each year to save money. So don’t cry about how much is costs to get in. Try going to the Disney D23 event. Now, THAT was expensive for one day.. LOL

    Less than $25 per day as an attendee is not bad for Comic-Con if you plan things out right. Remember, it’s all about planning. Sorry if things change but they do. (I do understand that too.. unfortunately).

    I would like to see this Creator Con get going.

  • Charles

    Comic-Con is literally living up to its name in the sense the whole affair has become a “con”! Conning everyone to believe it remains a marketplace for comic consumers, peddlers, and creators to wheel and deal and a sanctuary to exalt the art form. A prime example that nothing stays the same!

    Well, at least we have bonafide comics and artist conventions sprouting in almost every city with integrity. Let’s enjoy them while the integrity lasts! LOOL.

  • Greg Rickard

    I personally have had exhibitor and artist friends offer to ‘sell’ me a badge for rates ranging from $75 to $300 last year.

    Just go scan Craigslist and Ebay the week leading up to the convention. Check out the insane scalping going on, it’s sick, and LOTS of them last year were offering PRO and EXHIBITOR passes. I remember one that said something like “Get into the room early to score your exclusives with this Dealer pass!”.

    Saying Comic-Con doesn’t have any comics is just whiny and ignorant. Having been every year for the last 15 years, there are TONS of comics. I personally buy a bunch of Graphic Novels each year, esp. from that one vendor who’s name I forget who sells the scratch and ding copies for like five bucks a pop. I probably drop two hundred there alone.

    Have you looked at the Pasadena website? It looks like a glorified autograph show, barely better than Wizard World Anaheim, and that show sucked. There were barely any comics there, why don’t people bitch about that? I wanted a refund that was so freaking bad.

    Yeah, the crowds suck. But, be honest. We all enjoy the buzz of that many comics people in one place. Some of the smaller panels are amazing, I skip the big super crowds ones usually, but at least there is programming. Insane amounts of it.

    I do wish there were more, smaller creator con type of events. PAX was cool too. I’d like to get up to APE sometime, but the timing on that is always bad for me.

    I also wish that you could find a place to eat during comic-con. i’ve always managed to find a hotel or someplace to stay, but there are nights when I just couldn’t get into any restaraunt without hauling my ass all the way down to the downtown area down by that big shopping area place

  • I think the bigger issue is not why aren’t there more comics at comic con, the true issue being is there any hopes of comics ever returning to prominence. With a typical issue of superman selling about 30K copies and Batman around 50K, all of these numbers continues to drop every year.

    Blame Comic Con if you want but the truth of the matter is that Comic Con is following the interest of Youth and Popular Culture, into all the new areas that kids care about. We all remember going as kids because that was the place to find comics. Now kids go there because they will find video games, movies, toys and some comics too.

    Things change and events cost money (just try going to Disneyland)

  • To me the bigger gaffee of Comic Con is they gave no advance warning that for 2010 they limited the number of 4 days passes sold that also allowed you into Preview Night. And despite the promise
    “We know this has caused a lot of concern for people who would like to register early on Wednesday but who do not attend Preview Night. We are working on a solution for you” nothing has been announced as to a fix.

    BTW, am I correct Creator Con is getting nowhere? A bunch of clinched fists and “we are taking our marbles and start our own show” so far looks to result in lots of noise but little action. And has been pointed out before there are plenty of events held all around the country if you want to participate in a less monster-sized con…

  • Georgia

    DS said: I have seen Exhibitors get passes for BOTH, Pro and Exhibitor and as many “guest” passes for both sides usually with the same names on both.. Nice. You all know who you are. I blame y’all that did this to screw everyone else over. Maybe y’all should suggest to them to make Artist Alley larger? I think that would be a good idea
    Oh so true… why do you need one of each for yourself and your spouse and four other people? All the duplicates make it seem like more tickets are sold, and turn, some people dont get tickets/passes at all. All because someone wanted both.
    Make a choice people.

  • I had a table at Comic Con in 2006. Every year since I’ve only made it onto the waiting list. And I was there with the two other partners in my venture (artist and co-creator). I don’t know off hand how many badges a table gets you, but I do know I couldn’t afford another $200. I wonder why they’re doing it? Maybe they’re making it prohibitively expensive in an effort to cut down the number of bodies in order to make room for more booths. If that’s the case, I guess it’s kind of good because it means they’re looking to accomodote more exhibitors altogether. But that’s giving them the benefit of the doubt.

    I was in NYC last weekend and made it MoCCA (the gallery, not the show). Great space and great people running it. I’ll definitely be getting a table at their con next year. It’s good to hear how good a show it is, and also to know that both me AND my artist can attend without dropping an extra $200.

  • ChiaCheese

    If you can prove you’re a working professional, as it stands right now, you can order a complimentary pass for yourself and a guest. If you spent the money for a booth, part of that purchase includes 4 exhibitor passes. If you are a professional and an exhibitor, then there is nothing wrong with getting both. We have 6 people invested in our booth. I need an exhibitor badge to help set up and run the booth, so that leaves us 2 badges short. It would be stupid for me not to order Pro passes that I qualify for so that all the people I’m sharing a booth with can be there.
    But I do have a problem with people selling their pro or exhibitor badges and I believe that SDCC has a policy of banning any exhibitors caught selling their exhibitor passes (which is a great idea just for security reasons alone), as well as stripping the eligibility of any professionals caught selling their pro badges. I could be wrong, but I think I read that in the fine print somewhere.

  • Hey, check out the CTN animation eXpo. Tina Price and the Creative Talent Network are putting “The Talent” center stage for their second year in Burbank. It’s small, focused and features “the talent”. Some guy named Jerry Beck will be on hand moderating and some blog named Cartoon Brew is sponsoring the VIP Lounge. I worked the event last year and it was a blast.

  • Well, that’s the last straw for me. I was already thinking that this would be my last year to exhibit at SDCC. But this seals it. It’s not enough that they raise the price of a booth every year? Now this?!! They obviously hate having indie publishers and creators like me at this show. This makes me wish I could pull out of this year’s show, but it’s too late- I’d lose money by doing that. This will definitely be my last year to exhibit at this show.

  • Paul J. Mular

    Lately we have been going to the San Francisco Wonder Con. Yes it is owned by Comic-Con, but it seems much friendlier to the independent artist & comic book fan.

    There are still some big starts attending tio keep things interesting & PIXAR is always there with new stuff.

  • Wonder-Con, APE, MoCCA, NYCC, E2C2, ECCC, Staple, Space, Dragon-Con’s Comics and Pop Art tract, and, of course our home town Stumptown (of which I have been the Festival director for the last two years), to name a few, are far more comic focused if that’s what you are after. SDCC is THE top pop-culture event in the world, and that sort of circus is not for everyone. I love it, and have for decades, but ti get my rounds at most of those listed. No thing can be all things to all people. Your concerns and disappointments are valid, but Comic-Con International continues to work diligently not to become a victim of it’s own success and strike the delicate harmony between art and business. I’ve seen first hand what it takes, and it is well beyond impressive.

  • It sucks that so many people were abusing the system and selling extra exhibitor badges. I don’t blame CCI for wanting to curb that. But by raising the costs that high it’s taking it out on the rest of us who bought extra badges because they actually needed help setting up/breaking down before and after the show floor closes. “Pro badges” do not allow you on the con floor before the con officially opens. So as small-presser from out of town who exhibited with 4 artists I always had to buy at least 2 extra exhibitor badges for my booth mates (tables only come with 2). One year we tried bringing all the boxes in and out from the hotel to the convention center with only two people (our 2 other boothmates with pro badges had to wait outside) and it was murder! $75 per person was a bit pricey but seemed worth it for the to avoid being harassed by con security (one year they roughed up one of my booth mates for having only a pro badges a half hour after the con ended on sunday). But $200 per person? For 2 extra badges that’s almost the price of the table itself. So to man a small-press table with 4 people that makes it near impossible to ever even dream of making back our investment (we barely ever break even because of the cost of hotels and travel).