My name is Eric, and I'm a recovering Comicon attendee.
Okay, that's a loaded opener and implies that I had an unhappy experience this year. I didn't; I just couldn't resist. But my way of navigating the show and finding ways to make it more enjoyable have definitely evolved over the years. I've been to every Comic-Con but one since sometime in the early-to-mid-1980s (and I'm only 39 -- you do the math), long before the current convention center was built. I've gone as a child, an adult, a fan, a retailer representative, a journalist, a publicist, and a publisher. I know my way around the show. And the way that I've found I can make the best of it anymore is, frankly, by making the least of it. I've given up on trying to soak in as much as I can and find I'm happier if I let go and try to soak in as little as I can. Work the booth, talk to fans, enjoy a few quiet dinners, go to the Eisners. That's about the extent of it. Forget walking the floor, forget hitting the best parties, forget cramming as much into as little time as possible. It's madness, and my body can't take it anymore.
So, Mike Baehr has already chronicled the Fanta goings on at Comicon far better than I ever could -- I still can't figure out how Mike had time to take pictures and tweet all day, every day, while he was also constantly helping customers and our authors and barely had any breaks for about six days straight. Mike rules.
But here's what I can tell you: On behalf of all of the Fantagraphics staff, I really want to thank everyone who came all the way down to our end of the hall with a little bit of money left in their wallets and bought some books from us. When you think about it, what with all of the hundreds of thousands if not millions of items that are for sale at Comic-Con, to know that enough people find what you're doing worthwhile enough to cover our significant expense of exhibiting is really kind of incredible. I say that as someone who knows our books are great; I just don't necessarily expect anyone else to agree with me. So when you do, well, it makes us feel good, and I know I can speak for everyone we had down there that we honestly enjoy talking to the people that read our books. We have a lot of really nice customers. My biggest fear about Comic-Con is that it is getting so big that casual comics readers unwilling to make plans a year in advance are getting squeezed out by hardcore fans who only want to see Twilight panels or whatever. That's not to sound anti-Hollywood; it's just the reality of the logistics of Comic-Con anymore.
That said, I kept telling folks all weekend that even though it's in my nature to complain, I had almost nothing to complain about in regard to this year's show (which I realize makes for a boring con postmortem). Yes, I find it weirdly condescending and annoying that every retail worker in downtown San Diego now seems to wear some generic comics-related t-shirts or capes for five days straight (especially when you know they're being forced to do it and probably resent it every bit as much). But so be it. When I go to a nice restaurant downtown, I can promise you that I'm not so hungry to relive my day on the floor that I need Green Lantern-themed cocktails or steaks named after the wild creatures of Pandora. But I will be famished enough to forgive it.
Oh, sure, I could complain about "Hollywood," I suppose. At the Eisner Awards, I was sitting with two nominees in one of the categories that the cast of Scott Pilgrim presented. Given that one of the other nominees actually was a Scott Pilgrim book, I guess I could complain that the presenters effectively eliminated any element of surprise over who was going to win. But really, we just thought it was funny. If you can't laugh during the Eisners, you're in for a long night.
So, I can dig it. My 13-year-old con-going self would have stabbed somebody in the eye to see a panel about an Avengers movie. Nowadays, I'm fairly ignorant to the pervasiveness of the cult of celebrity of Comic-Con. I'm good at tuning things out. This year, I noticed the creeping influence of tinseltown less within the show than I did outside. As soon as I stepped outside the convention, that's where I felt the constant, sensory assault of shameless hucksterism, with sidewalk salesmen shoving video game and movie-related hype left-and-right into my face and hands whether I wanted it or not (I didn't). The con itself is a breeze compared to walking up First Ave. on Saturday night at 7PM.
Within the con, I keep to the comics end of the floor and rarely set foot more than a row or two past our own aisle towards the "popular" end of the show. It's civil and peaceful; everybody likes each other. And if you get bored, there's a lot of good books to read, and a ton of really great cartoonists who will do free drawings for you. If you come next year, see for yourself. And if you came this year, thank you.
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