By Bon Alimagno
When I think of San Diego Comic-Con, I remember the Yogi Berra line, “No one goes there any more: it’s too crowded.” I never really got the wisdom of that till the last time I was at Comic-Con, two years ago when I thought I would die right there on the show floor. I was going from one end of the floor to the other and around the area where the video game companies, movie studios and DC Comics bleed into each other, I got quickly swallowed up by a dense river of humanity, compelled to keep walking in whatever direction the river flowed. I had no idea where I was going or when the crowd would thin enough for me to go my own way. I only knew that I had to keep walking, shoulder to shoulder, trying to keep from wondering if I was stepping on dropped ice cream sandwiches, foam tchotchkes or small children. This experience lasted for nearly the length of a football field. Any hesitation and I was sure to perish. Honestly, I am not kidding. Comic-Con has become a spectacle for spectacle’s sake. Much like Woodstock, one’s presence there is rapidly becoming a status symbol. “I was at Comic-Con” isn’t a declaration of geekhood, but a badge of honor: that you were courageous enough to enter such a vortex of bedlam and were still strong enough to survive.
Better crowd control, beginning with a significantly lower cap on attendance, won’t be enough to tame Comic-Con. Comic-Con by its very nature can not be tamed. That is now the point of it. Looking over the guest list, the programming, the torrent of announcements sure to come, Comic-Con is not so much a celebration of pop culture but an overdose of it. Where else can James Cameron, George Lucas, Tim Burton, John Lassiter, Matt Groening, Ray Bradbury and Hayao Miyazaki all be in one place other than perhaps the Oscars. And that is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg of Comic-Con luminaries. Now surely these are the names who will suck up all the oxygen in the room. Anyone else who makes news, like say the comic book publishers who are supposed to be the real stars of the show, will do so because their announcements are of such a spectacular nature that they can’t be ignored. Even then, publishers are dropping their bigger announcements Wednesday and Sunday to maximize their chances the press will notice. Last year, Neil Gaiman writing Batman wasn’t announced till Sunday when the show was almost over.
So imagine the decision we have to make: is it worth it to buy booth space, reserve hotel rooms, fly out there and ship at least a dozen large packages of comics and convention supplies to be anywhere from the 50th to the 500th most important thing going on at the show? Before we even land, we’re in a very deep hole with limited foreseeable return on investment. And when you’re a company as small as ours, you have to be wise enough to know how to make money and even wiser to know when not to lose it. The idea that anyone might get that magical lead at Comic-Con is a bit of a myth. With the internet it’s not that hard to get a hold of us. Anyone can reach us at the contact information at the bottom of Vampirella.com’s homepage or through twitter (@realvampirella).
San Diego Comic-Con is an effective marketing tool for those who don’t need it. It’s become an incubator of buzz for next year’s blockbuster, a launching pad for this winter’s viral marketing campaigns. But for all but the largest and well-heeled comic book publishers, it’s a humbling experience. In all likelihood the majority of comic book publishers in attendance will be an afterthought for 100,000 of the 125,000 people at the show, as they scurry from a Twilight panel in Hall H to a signing at the Nintendo booth. There’s little we could do at Comic-Con that would attract the attention the expense of going out there would merit. Just making a point about not being there may actually be more attention grabbing than anything we could do if we were there. I’d rather save the money and spend it on making comics. $1.99 comics.
Till next time…
Bon Alimagno is Director – Publishing & Editorial for Harris Comics, publishers of Vampirella.