Due to popular demand, I am bringing back my year-long comic con report card! It’s been a while since I posted a full recap of a comic con at which I exhibited, mainly because … well… I do SO MANY. I don’t want to brag.. ok maybe a little…. but I’m so lucky to live where I do (Philadelphia area) as there’s a plethora of conventions to choose from to fill up an entire year’s schedule. However, this comes with its own problems…. such as which to choose, conflicts, over-saturation of certain regions, and not booking so many that you’re too burned out to make more content to… sell at shows.
Sooo, yeah. I’ll be cutting way back in 2015, because of that last problem.
Overall, I’d have to say that 2014 was successful, but oddly not as good as 2013 for me. Almost every show did almost-as-good as the previous year, whereas previously I had seen a sizable improvement year-to-year. It was such a strange trend, that I have to think it’s not some weird fluke, but based on something over-arching in the industry or economy. Possibly, it has to do with me and what I have to offer, as well. Here’s some bullets that I could possibly attribute this trend to:
- The economy. People simply have less extra money to spend.
- Ticket prices have gone up, up, up. Especially at shows like Wizard World, New York Comic Con. People have to pay a ton just to get into the show floor… making the shows more about entertainment than a shopping opportunity.
- Cosplay & pop culture “hang-out crowds”. This may tie into the first 2 listed; young fans come to a comic con to hang out with others who enjoy the same things they do, take pictures of cosplayers, or dress up themselves. The purpose of the comic con is to be a cool place to hang out, not to discover new comics or support their favorite artists. Lack of money makes this even the more prevalent. If they do spend money, it’s on t-shirts or toys/merch, not reading material or prints.
- In the cases of bigger shows like Wizard, less emphasis on the artists and creators and more on the celebrities and vendors. Sometimes it feels like Artist Alley is being pushed farther and farther out/back, until one year we’ll be in the parking lot across the street.
- To own up to my own personal flaws.. I didn’t come out with a new book this year. My “regulars” that love to support me and buy whatever new item I’m offering had little to pick from. Last year, I had 2 new books. That could make a difference as well.
Only another year under the belt will tell if this was an off-year for me, or if the industry has hit the tipping point for creators like myself. But, the only way to survive is to be flexible and creative about how we adapt… so bring it on, 2015!
Lets Get to it! The Report Cards!
Amazicon (Essington, PA) • April 2014
- Didn’t need to be a 3-day show, Friday was D-E-A-D. Could feasibly be better as a 1-day mega show.
- Not my crowd, few kids/families, more browsers than shoppers.
- Super nice organizers!
- Offered a nice spread of pizza and sandwiches for guests & artists
- This show is 20 minutes from my house, and tables are cheap. That’s the only reason I’d consider it again.
AwesomeCon DC (Washington DC) • April 2014
- This show ballooned from 7,000 attendees to 40,000… in ONE year… thanks to a kickstarter that raised over $50K.
- Think Wizard World size, but with the artists represented much better– placed in the middle of the room, not the back. Celebs in the back, so people wander through the bulk of the show first!
- Kids section represented well.
- Kick-butt organizer, Ben Penrod. Knows how to advertise, promote. There are now 3 AwesomeCon Shows– Minneapolis and Indianapolis too.
- Not really sure why still, but I sold so much more at the smaller premier show in 2013. But this year’s was still quite successful. I can’t attribute much to he lack of sales, I liked my location and it wasn’t dead nor too crowded. I’ll be back in 2015 for sure.
Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con (Philadelphia, PA) • June 2014
- Wizard is really a Pop Culture show, not a comic con (despite the name).. so you have to keep that mind.
- This year Artist Alley was way off to the side in a very WIDE show floor. Many artists did not do too well. I was placed well, facing the incoming crowds, so I did as well as in 2013.
- I think after hearing others gripe about this show, that I still manage to do well because I offer family-friendly material. A LOT of families come to Wizard World. Even without their now-defunct Kids Passport activity, I still made a decent profit despite the priciest table costs of 2014. Other than that, I’m not sure why this show remains my most profitable each year.
- It’s 4 days, and Thursday isn’t worth it unless you live close, in my opinion.
- I think it would take something pretty severe to keep me from Philly Wizard World… it’s so close and until I stop making money there, I’ll keep going. See ya again in 2015, for my 7th year.
Boston Comic Con (Boston, MA) • August 2014
- It was my first time this far north, and first time ever in Boston! I had no idea what to expect, but I managed to sell out of all my Z&F books; volume 1 was gone by saturday!
- Alliance buddy Tyler James told me beforehand that this was like a giant artist alley, and it was just that. Vendors towards the front, mixing in at times with artists. Very comparable to Baltimore Comic Con.
- One of the few CARPETED large cons.. sounds silly but man does it make a different aesthetically and on your body physically.
- I was listed as a guest and placed right down the center. I had terrific placement, among very popular artists, and I think that helped a lot.
- Crowds were INSANE. At times, stifling .. it got sweltering. I heard next year it would be moved to a bigger venue, even though the Seaport WAS a big venue!
- I had a free place to crash, which made this show worth the 5+ hour drive. I may be back in 2015, if it fits into my schedule well.
Baltimore Comic Con (Baltimore, MD) • September 2014
- Ahhhh good old Baltimore. This is consistently my favorite show. It rates highly on all my criteria: comfortable driving distance, affordable tables, emphasis on artists not celebrities, well attended but not stifling, and plenty of friends to hang with as well as networking opportunities. It truly IS the anti-SDCC.
- One little pet peeve: this year we were in the basement show floor, which was HUGE… but the check-in was on the 2nd floor. So, upon entering with your cart of stuff you found out you had to wait in line for an elevator to go UP… and then wait again to go DOWN. Not a fun way to kick things off.
- This year Baltimore upped the show to 3 days. Honestly, I wondered what took them so long to do so. But Friday this year was slllloooooow. Maybe it was a bad move, maybe it was just because it was the FIRST year and 2015 will have a more worthwhile Friday. Remains to be seen.
- The best Kids Section I have seen… well run by friend Mark Mariano, with lots of activities and panels (I did a workshop all by myself and did not puke!) I have been leery of being in a kids section as Z&F and my prints are enjoyed just as much by adults too. But next year that’s what I’m aiming for.
RetroCon (Oaks, PA)• September 2014
- It was close to my house and affordable, I gave it a shot. I knew it was more of a niche toy and collectible show, but you never know where you’ll do well until you try, right?
- It was a typical toy show. Artists and vendors were all mixed in, and there weren’t a ton of artists. People came to buy old collectibles and relive their childhoods. The voice actors (like voice of LION-O, Larry Kenny– whom is a sweetheart!) and celebs drew some attention but not as heavily as at shows like Wizard World.
- In previous years it was a 1-day show, but this year went to 2-days. Due to enough push-back, it will return to a 1-day show next year.
- I made enough profit back, considering, but doubtful I’d do it again unless I have a gaping hole in my schedule.
- End of show irk: vendors who start shouting “HALF OFF!!!” at the top of their lungs, and stealing any hope of last-minute sales from everyone else. Please. Don’t do that.
Cleveland Comic Con (Cleveland, OH) • October 2014
- I really wanted this show to be decent. It’s my first hometown show (I’m originally from Cleveland), and I made the 7 hour drive out for it. Mind you, I knew it was a small hotel show and had the mindset that this trip was more about FUN than profit… but some friends in the con-circuit raved about it last year. So, my hopes were up.
- It was a SUNDAY show…. in Browns-Town…. in October. Um, yeah. Way to torture Clevelanders, lol.
- The attendance simply wasn’t there. There were moments where the crowd and sales started to roll in, but it quickly died. By the time the cosplay contest started in the latter part of the day, the floor was dead. From what others said, it was less attended than last year and there were also less vendors/artists.
- It was clumsily split into 2 rooms. One big vendor room, and one smaller artist room (that some felt was forgotten/missed), although myself, Chris Flick and Lee Cherolis were in the vendor room. I’ve seen other hotel shows do the same thing and the small rooms in the back get the bad end of the deal almost every time.
- The organizer was quite nice, but hard to get in contact with. I had to hassle them about setting up our panel and confirming our tables, etc. But, we did get a free boxed lunch, which was unexpected & appreciated!
- Mind you, this was Plan B. Originally, we were signed up for another show called PopExpos in May that was supposed to be bigger and in downtown Cleveland. However, when Wizard World signed a 5 year deal with the same convention center, PopExpos suddenly cancelled, despite having sold out of tickets. I think Clevelanders must have a bitter taste in their mouths when it comes to comic cons now. I’m curious to see how well Wizard does in my hometown, despite the fact that it’s in blizzard-heavy February. I may return in 2016 for that show, if it does well. But this hotel show was NOT worth the drive, if it wasn’t for the company I had while hangin’ around my old digs, AND the trip to the OSU Cartoon & Comic Art Museum afterwards!
Great Allentown Comic Con (Allentown, PA) • November 2014
- Eh, you know, it was an Allentown show. For me, it never blows my socks off, nor is a total disaster. I have done a bunch of these shows as they are affordable and only an hour drive for me. Plus, I have a strange affinity for the dingy flea market/train display/wrestling museum venue it’s in. It’s surreal, but comfortable for me at this point. This was the 5th year anniversary and also the last one at this location. I felt I had to go, send it off.
- It felt somewhat less successful and less attended as previous Allentown shows. I heard from other vendors who felt it was worse than that (they said the July show was really good), so I guess I should be happy with my outcome. Was it worth the effort and drive, profit wise? Yes, it barely crossed that line for me.
- Good reliable vendors/artists, good staff, good volunteers, easy load-in and out. It’s a show you want to see do better.
- Look for the Allentown show at the Fairgrounds next year, and a new Great Philadelphia Comic Con in Oaks, PA, by the same organizers. I may try one or both.
VA Comic Con (Richmond, VA) • November 2014
- This show came HIGHLY recommended to me by multiple people who did well at it in previous years, especially the 2-day bigger show. So, I made the 4 hour drive and crashed with a friend to test it out.
- It’s a medium sized show in your basic con layout with decent attendance (lots of kids/families too) and the staff checked in on me a couple times. All signs pointed to it being a nice weekend, offering potential readers a chance to more casually schmooze with artists without overbearing crowds and loud PA announcements. I tend to do well at these medium-size shows.
- The sales just weren’t there. No one was buying much of anything. The bulk of the interaction I received both days (which was a lot, don’t get me wrong)- went likes this: “OMG, I love your style! Funny prints! Your comic looks really funny! Okay, BYE!” A key point: I didn’t see people carrying much of anything in terms of purchases. Maybe a print, or a plush, but that’s it.
- The majority of those who attended were either cosplaying or mainly interested in taking pictures with cosplayers. The costume contests sucked up the entire crowd. This show heavily promoted cosplay and guests like Ivy Doomkitty, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Should I see another show that heavily/solely promotes cosplay as the main draw, I will avoid it as that’s not whom I sell too (not even my prints).
Honorable Mentions (smaller shows)
- Haverford Library Comic Con (Havertown, PA): GRADE: A
– treated artists VERY well, free tables and plenty of food, close-knit community show, kid-friendly, ambitious & enthusiastic events manager. Also 3 mins from my front door.
- Lehigh Valley Fanfest (Allentown, PA): GRADE: D
– Cool venue (brewery with multiple floors), passionate organizer, lacking in attendance and promotion.
- Jersey Shore Comic Con (Toms River, NJ: GRADE: D
– Tiny show at a lodge, okay attendance but very few sales. Friendly organizers.
Did you go to any of these? Grade ’em!
You can see your peer’s grades HERE.
Dawn Griffin is the resident “crazy chick”. She likes steak, Cleveland sports, video games and oh yeah, comics. She spent her formative years either playing street basketball, pitching, or drawing comics and submitting them to syndicates. Once she –accidentally– discovered the world of webcomics, the syndication route became a pointless hurdle. After all, “Crazy Chicks” do things their *&%$ selves. Dawn is the mastermind behind Zorphbert and Fred, and you can find her portfolio site HERE. She can be easily bribed with ice cream.