DENISE DORMAN DOES NOT BLAME COSPLAY for LOW CONVENTION SALES

Dear Readers,

I wrote my last blog moments after hanging up the phone with Dave, who was reporting in from GrandCon with yet-again low sales, so perhaps in my fit of rage, I was inelegant in wording things as perfectly as some of you may have written them. However, I want to say for the record, I do NOT blame Cosplay for low convention sales. I never said that. However, I realize the link-bait headline on Bleeding Cool News that many of you scanned without reading the whole story may have lead you to that misleading conclusion. I have friends who Cosplay. We let them sit in our booth, park their gear, and rest their feet, and we help them readjust their costumes. We give them food and drink as they need it. We know it’s physically demanding, hard work. We support the whole “Cosplay is Not Consent” movement and we believe that message should be posted widely at every show.

Dave and I love the art and creativity of Cosplay. Dave goes to Steampunk meet-ups at #SDCC to snap photos for his future art pieces. We rely on the 501st to pose for us for all of Dave’s Star Wars paintings. Did you ever stop to consider, in your huge hurry to personally attack me and jump to wrong conclusions, why in the wide, wide world of sports I would ever hate Cosplay, which has given us so much? Dave couldn’t even do his job without Cosplayers to pose for him!

What I had hoped for, igniting an HONEST discussion about what we, as exhibitors (and they the convention owners) could be doing differently and how to give the fans what they want and still be able to afford to exhibit, turned into something ugly. Online harassment. Threats. Hate. To the guy that said “Denise Dorman should just shut the hell up,” I respond, “Do you wear your wife beater shirt when you talk like that online, Troll?”

In the 200+ comments to my blog over the past few days, some great ideas and discussions did emerge, and I am grateful to all of you for those respectful and helpful discourses. I’d recommend you read through them and comment. There’s some great material there.

I think the emphasis on Cosplay is symptomatic of a shift in the larger Cons from being a commerce-driven event to being a social gathering-driven event.  Frankly, when I see someone who prefers to pose with a no-name Slave Princess Leia and completely ignores Neal Adams, that’s when I think the creators have been reduced to background wallpaper. And that’s what breaks my heart–when I see industry giants getting completely bypassed and ignored. It’s not the Cosplayer’s fault. They’re just being gracious and accommodating to the fans. That’s their role. It’s the new breed of attendees who are there because someone said it’s cool to be there; they are the ones completely unfamiliar with the comics industry. They are the ones who attend any hard-to-get-tickets event just to boast online. They are the people I take issue with. NOT the Cosplayers. Those are the people who care only about their selfies on their Instagram profiles. Those are the people who hijack events like #Burning Man, #Coachella and #SDCC with no understanding of why these events exist, or their raison d’être. Once they show up to the party, the event jumps the shark. 

Now, if one more single person accuses me of being anti-Cosplay, anti-Feminist, jealous of Cosplay, or blaming Cosplay for reduced convention sales, I have this very special message just for you:

Screenshot 2014-09-23 13.34.59

65 thoughts on “DENISE DORMAN DOES NOT BLAME COSPLAY for LOW CONVENTION SALES

  1. I still think you’re taking aim in the wrong direction when you take issue with people who are there to “see the show” rather than the artists.

    Those folks, the ones who pay the exorbitant ticket prices to take part in Wizard World Con and NYCC and SDCC and all that, they’re the ones bankrolling the event. The con is ostensibly FOR THEM because that’s how the convention organizers make money. More attendees = more money for the organizers. And the world spins madly on

    It makes no sense to complain when convention organizers give the paying attendees what they want: panels about Marvel movies, DC television shows, and science fiction or fantasy franchises. You might as well complain about a sushi restaurant where 60% of the menu involves fish.

    So, you’re left with the realization that the convention audience is not YOUR audience. No harm, no foul. No implied judgment of you *or* them. They just aren’t your audience.

    But, what do I know? I’ve been reading comics off and on for 20 years. I have no idea who Neal Adams or Dave Dorman are, though I fondly remember wanting a Whilce Portacio-inspired tattoo when I was younger. When I go to C2E2, I take a quick turn through Artist’s Alley and head right back on out when I realize that 90% of the stuff is not my thing.

  2. I think that maybe it’s not a bad thing that comic book conventions are turning out that way.

    San Diego Comic Con is a bloated mess of a convention, understaffed and so overcrowded that even with the panel lines, the Gaslamp, and the public exhibits as a measure to keep the crowd dispersed enough to create traffic, it’s a difficult and potentially dangerous mire to move through inside and outside the convention. Major publishers are holding onto their exclusives and selling them only at their booths to cover costs, exhibitors and artists are losing money trying to please fans and enjoy the show, and everyone seems to be paying a lot more money just to be able to get to San Diego, much less buy a print from their favorite artist or a keepsake from a booth that caught their eye.

    And the worst part is that there are a lot of conventions that are trying to imitate Comic Con International’s business plan in order to

    One of my dreams was to have a booth at Comic Con for my comic book, but Comic Con scares me now. Not just from the increasing possibility of lack of sales, but the idea that all it would take is one accident and with all of those people crammed in there, there’s no telling how many would get hurt. There is a problem and everyone is feeling it in some way or form, but I just think it’s more and a lot bigger than Comic Con turning into a social event and people not paying. Then again, I hope I’m paranoid.

    • Thanks for your comment, Corey. The overcrowding worries me, too. The Previews Night that I was physically lifted by the crowd I was in the middle of, and carried off of my feet for about 6 feet, was enough to do me in.

  3. You tell em, Denise! I read the WHOLE article and thought your message was pretty clear. Reading a headline rarely gives a true story. I am glad you have cleared up any “misconceptions” and hopefully, this will lead the discussion in the direction you originally intended.

  4. Preach it. The bandwagoners ruin everything. They dont care about the industry, they dont care about the artist, the writers, the designers. When this tidal wave of “hip” leaves the conventions, I’ll be glad too- we can get back to being the supporting and loyal community that we use to be.

    • Look, as long as Marvel and DC are making movies and TV shows about their properties, these so-called bandwagoners aren’t going to be leaving. As someone who first got into comics from a) being a gay teen who needed characters to relate to in stories that weren’t the same coming out story over and over again and b) someone who watched the Marvel movies and wanted to learn more about the world of comics, I can say that more exposure to it definitely got me interested to the point where I’m now on my second year of volunteering at a convention here in the Southwestern US.

      What people need to do is actually be the “supporting and loyal” community you claimed to be now with these new people entering the world of comics for the first time because they loved seeing Guardians of the Galaxy and want to know about characters who were left out, or the older version of the story from the 70s. These people who are now getting to know names like Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know that much about which comic artists and writers are the famous ones, outside of the ones whose work I do know.

      For many people, especially first-timers at a con, they may be too afraid to meet one of their favorite creators in person, or not have enough money to go to an artist alley. But having people who cosplay, and I’m talking regular cosplayers here not just the professional ones, and are willing to let fans take pictures to appreciate their work, they’re still showing interest in comics or whatever they’re there for, just in a different way. So yes, tell me that someone who started cosplaying Captain America after seeing Chris Evans and how important his portrayal of him in a few movies is just a bandwagoner who doesn’t support comics. So again, instead of saying how supportive you used to be, actually be supportive of these new people because at the end of the day, we’re all just nerds and how long you’ve been a nerd isn’t important, it’s that you and these people who are now expressing an interest can bond over an appreciation for that format.

  5. Denise: Your latest blog was pure awesome (especially the meme at the end). As someone who’s exhibited at cons over the last several years, it really has become slim pickings for us and artists. Unless they are a major superstar, there seems to be little interest. So many great vendors and talented artists are ignored by this new wave of “fandom” who cares less about the books and artistry and more about status and personal attention/fame. I am really thinking that the big cons are no longer a place that is welcoming to exhibitors and artists. So, my advice to all artists and vendors is: Fuck the big shows. Stick to the small one-day affairs. Let the fame seeker and attention whores have the big shows. And maybe, once enough artists and vendors have stopped going to them, they may come to understand what it is they have lost. Nothing else is going to get through. Of that much, I am certain

    • James, thanks so much for that. I felt I owed it to people to re-explain things in a more measured manner. The first blog was written in a rant because I was so pissed over that phone call from Dave via GrandCon.

  6. I didn’t think you were blaming cosplayers specifically, at least not once I read your post after hearing that Bleeding Cool had posted something about Cosplayers being the devil or somesuch. And you did sound mad in your last blog post, but I interpreted it as you being mad at the situation and not the people. (I guess I was in the minority.)

    For my part, I don’t see it as being a shift per sae. Famous people (or famous to us people) will always bring in new blood to cons, but it’s hanging out with other people who love what you love that keeps folks there and coming back year after year. When celebs bow out of their con appearances (which happens quite often) people still attend. That isn’t a shift, that is how it’s always been. But there IS a shift in why they go into the “Dealers Room”, because we have the internet now. We can connect with and buy directly from artists, we can discover new things online instead of waiting until a con to see it at a booth. I still make a trip or two through booths when I’m at a con now, but it’s either because I want to meet somebody in person, hold/inspect an item I already know I want before I buy it, or allow myself an impulse purchase of some con exclusive.

    Also… There’s a certain… brand of cons I tend to avoid because I haven’t enjoyed them in the past. They must be well attended because they keep happening, but I don’t know many people who actually attend them for anything other than a specific “fan experience with X celeb” that costs extra because they want to meet that person.

    So possibly a survey of your fans/customers about which cons they want to see you at? Or do you already do that?

    • Thank you, Michelle! The survey is the best thing to do for sure – we do “casual” surveys but we definitely need to do a more formalized survey to our d-base. One thing we track is the zip codes from where are sales are prevalent to ensure we hit shows in those cities.

  7. Preface – I’m a huge Star Wars fan and I’m well aware of who Dave Dorman is (but I didn’t know anything about Denise). One of my greatest memories in my childhood was going to see The Empire Strikes Back in the theater by myself (I was 7). My parents dropped me off at the theater (small town, you could do that back then).

    I just happened to glance at one of the feed sites I normally read and stumbled upon your original post. I never saw it as anti-cosplay, but the dynamic shift that I’ve personally seen not just with the comic book conventions, but basically ANY convention. Many years ago I went to a Star Trek convention (let’s say 15 years ago) and I was able to get autographs from all the “featured guests” and got to interact with them for a specific amount of time. The price was reasonable and I was happy. Fast forward 13 years later and I attend a horror convention and a few month later a comic book convention. The first thing I noticed was that there was this huge shift – everything from how the “featured guests” interacted with fans to the entrance fee. Even adjusted for inflation my wallet wasn’t heavy enough to get more than a couple of souvenirs (autographs, t-shirt, art, etc). Instead of doing a photo op, I found some artists – some I knew, some I didn’t and it felt like the old Star Trek convention. I was able to have a conversation and buy art (at a reasonable price too).

    I know this treads on elitism (and I apologize ahead of time), but it seems like the comic book world now has their version of nouveau riche. And there have been a lot of us that have carried a torch for what ever genre in it’s popularity, decline, and beyond. I do worry that if this genre suffers a decline, who will be left to carry the legacy?
    There’s a whole legion of fans that may not be outspoken or enjoy the limelight, but just enjoy talking to the artists who create and are willing to help them make a living at it.

    I just purchased some really awesome art based on a Clive Barker story. I love the fact that is signed and how much care has been given to it. I didn’t get to meet the artist in person, but I got to have a conversation with him, and that I think is part of the big picture. I guess it doesn’t matter if it’s music, art, or anything creative, I like to talk with the people who created it.

    Sorry to have rambled for so long.

    Denise – I really like the idea of Dave signing products!

    • Hi Kenny, Thank you so much for writing. I wasn’t much older than you – I miss those days of being dropped off at the theater. I’d never do it with our 9 year old. I think you raised many valid points here – much appreciated. Dave will sign products for you all day long, and he will never charge you for it, either.

  8. You are still blaming the people that attend, which its not their fault. The ones in charge of the cons are the ones pulling the strings as to what is important and make money. Not the fans.

    Yes there are people that go to be seen, guess what we can’t change that. Maybe, they will get into comic books, maybe they won’t. But we shouldn’t discourage them either.

    Trying to exclude people just because they don’t read comic books is just as bad as excluding people because they read comic books. Makes the geek culture sound just as snobbish as those (who don’t identify as geeks) who act snobbish toward people because they are geeks.

    Also the last part is really immature. Which does not help your argument or paint you in a better light.

    • It’s the law of supply and demand. Where there’s a demand for certain products, the supplier will provide. Yes, the convention organizers share some of the blame for supplying what makes them the most money. And where does this feed back of what the con goers really want come from….YOU(US), as in our precious dollars and what we spend it on. It’s basic business management 101. It makes no sense for a company, organization, or corporation to supply a product that they know, by what we spend our money on, to offer a product that no one buys. If the “average” con-goer spends most of there money on meet and greets and other miscellaneous things the conventions supply instead of supporting the illustrators and artist….or I should say as well as supporting the artist (because all the other stuff is cool too), then the artist has no reason, still following the laws of supply and demand, to attend certain conventions and lose money. As such, the artist shares some responsibility as well. Artist, writers, illustrators MUST find better and more efficient ways to market their beautiful works of art to maintain their relevance in this area. The saying…”Don’t hate the player, hate the game!” rings true. This has turned into a new game for all of us and as such WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE for creating this monster of a empire. We are all to blame!

  9. These conventions are no longer strictly for comic books, so you really should stop blaming attendees. It is a good thing that the conventions are expanding to other mediums so more people can maybe get into comic books. Its the organizers you should have issue with, they are the ones who are deeming the comic book artists as unimportant and placing comics below TV/Movie/Celebrity/Pop culture tracks.

    • “It is a good thing that the conventions are expanding to other mediums so more people can maybe get into comic books.”

      Her point is that all this expanding isn’t getting the people coming to the con to get into comics. They aren’t coming for them, they aren’t interested in them, they don’t care about them and likely never will. So, why should comic creators bother going to a con, which is SUPPOSEDLY for comics, with a bunch of attendees who couldn’t give a tinker’s damn they are there? And she’s right.

      • Did you miss my point that the con organizers are failing? They are the ones who are setting aside comics/artists in place for the tv/movie/celebrity tracks to try to make more money and also the ones who then drive the prices up to again make more money so artists need to pay more for a table and attendees have less money to spend. Geez go to a con and see for yourself. Its not hard to grasp what is going on. Comic Cons have not been only about comics for a long time now. And no she isn’t right. Blaming the attendees is ridiculous. The organizers are the ones who should find a happy medium to include all fandoms and make the environment where great artists want to attend.

      • “Did you miss my point that the con organizers are failing? They are the ones who are setting aside comics/artists in place for the tv/movie/celebrity tracks to try to make more money and also the ones who then drive the prices up to again make more money so artists need to pay more for a table and attendees have less money to spend. Geez go to a con and see for yourself.”

        And why are the con promoters doing that? Because the attendees are spending their money on the tv and movie celebs, not the comics and creators. They wouldn’t be doing that, if that wasn’t where the money was coming from. Slice it however you like, the attendees set the tone for what the con promoters will do. And I have been to the cons. I’ve exhibited at them. Which is why I know Denise knows exactly what she’s talking about.

        “Its not hard to grasp what is going on.”

        Yep, which is why Denise is right.

        “Blaming the attendees is ridiculous.”

        Not when it is their money that is dictating to the promoters what will make them money.

        “The organizers are the ones who should find a happy medium to include all fandoms and make the environment where great artists want to attend.”

        The promoters will do what they see will make them money. It is attendees who need to show the interest in comics, to get promoters to do the same. But they aren’t. And they won’t. Just like the movies. The Spider-Man movie will make $300 Billion, but the comic will be lucky to sell 50,000 this month. Where are all those people who went to the movies at? Why aren’t they buying the comics the movies are based from? Because they don’t give a damn about comics. They went to the movie, because they wanted to see a new movie. Or it has their favorite actors. Or it was the thing people were talking about around the water cooler. But they didn’t go because they have any interest in the comics and the creators of them. They could not care less about them. That’s why comics don’t get much of any benefit from the successful films about them. And it’s why the expanded “fans” going to cons don’t give a shit about the creators and vendors of the comics. They have no interest in it. If the tv and movie celebs weren’t there, neither would they be. Believe me, plenty of people know what’s going on (although, you sure don’t seem to be one of them). And it is the attendees at the show who are driving the choices the promotes make with how and where they spend their money. And it isn’t on the comics and the artists or them. Until THAT changes, nothing else will. So, yeah, the attendees do foster (at LEAST) some of the blame here. The fact you want to deny that, is just another reason the situation is not likely to change.

  10. Well, at the very least, you’ve drummed up a lot of people/eyeballs/views to come take a look at your website/blog. I do not know who you or your husband is, I am not into comic books, and I’ve never been to a “con”, but yet I’ve come to this website and read two of your articles. Hopefully that helps you out a little bit and all of this attention transfers into more dollars for you and your husband.

  11. Pingback: Interview: Denise Dorman Discusses the Current State of Conventions | ComicBookRAW

  12. Denise,

    The comic book company I work with has seen unbelievable success at small events and absolutely soul shattering losses at big conventions recently. I think you have a point when you mention that the cost to get into these big cons ( To stay, to eat, to get the autographs you want) is too much.
    We even, to the absolute distress of our artist, started doing Fan Art prints, and they are the only thing that sells.
    We have had a lot of turmoil in our usually peaceful collective, and its really sad. The conventions are so fun, and you meet great people, but how do you survive on good intentions?

    We are sad and frustrated, thank you so much for bringing this conversation to light. I know almost everyone that attended SLCC suffered huge losses. For us about $5000.00 in total. At least you broke the seal, and now we all know that we have to put our heads down and adapt.

    • Thank you so much for writing to me, Apryl. It means a lot that you have empathy for our plight. And yes, we can’t survive on good intentions, either, and we definitely need to all put our heads together and figure out how to change things up in our marketing mix to either make way more $ in online sales so that it’s no biggie if we lose $ at the conventions, or tone down the convention exhibiting.

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  14. Hi Denise:

    As a convention runner I am going to read the (good) comments and see some ideas. I run a smallish regional SciFi/Fantasy convention in the Carolinas (not HeroesCon – I think Dave attended almost 10 years ago) and am always looking for ideas to make the convention more fun.

    I’ve noticed the explosion in convention attendance but with people who just stand around or, worse, plop down on the floor while you are trying to walk in a straight line.

    Oh, and the e-card you attached . . . yup, I need that one!😀

    All the best to you and Dave,

    ~Jada

  15. Are these just troll posts?
    SDCC hasn’t been about sales or artists for years, give your head a shake.
    If it were actually about sales the organizers wouldn’t charge people 100$ for a day ticket and Marvel/DC wouldn’t shanghai the entire populace with product announcements and celebrity guests.
    I understand it feels crappy and it’s not really great news, but this crazy #sorrynotsorry attitude is totally out of touch with reality.

  16. Okay, I’m gonna offer my two cents here as a fellow creator who also pays rent (or, this year, fails to pay rent) with comicon sales.

    Yes, sales are down this year. Yes, artists are talking about it, and trying to figure out why. No, we are not blaming attendees.

    Sales are down this year for almost every fan artist I know. The last convention that I did, my sales were HALF of what they were last year. I totally get it. It sucks, and it makes sense that you want to start conversation about it.

    However–and this is not a judgement, just a statement of fact–you are getting a LOT of negative press right now for both this article and the first one. For example, see these comments: https://www.facebook.com/themarysue/posts/748091555258552

    Here’s the summary of the comments I just linked: Your statements blaming a “certain type” of attendees makes you seem ungrateful and stuck up.

    Although you’re also getting lots of hits on your blog, so maybe that’s what you wanted in the first place.

    *shrugs*

    In regards to selling at Wizard World and SDCC:

    I sell significantly better at smaller, local shows that I ever do at the large events. Wizard World in particular (which you mentioned in your first post) is almost entirely celebrity-based. The last WW I went to had only 2 original comic artists in artist alley, which shocked me.

    Needless to say, it’s not a great environment for creators.

    So sure, maybe abandon the big shows if they’re not working for you. And check out the small shows. But even at small shows, things are changing. If you’re not willing to adjust to a new generation, learn about anime, get on social media, and court an entirely new type of fans….honestly, you’re probably just wasting your time.

    • Thanks, Erin. I know emails, blog posts and the like don’t have eye brows, and without personally knowing me, it’s impossible for you to know my heart, but I had no intention of fishing to get hits on my little blog, nor would anyone who knows me in “real life” consider me “stuck up” or “ungrateful.” I’m the 3 a.m. friend – the one who gets the call at 3 a.m. from a friend in need and doesn’t blow them crap about it. I appreciate our fans – heck, they stay at our home when they blow through Chicago – so that really isn’t a characterization of me even close to the truth.

  17. I realize a lot of that probably sounded snarky and mean, and I apologize for that. I’ve been watching all of the media coverage over the last few days about your comments, and I just…

    If you want to stay relevant in this business you have to embrace, not push away, an entire new generation. That’s all.

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  19. I have a lot more respect than before for the Fenners and the Wilshires as convention organizers for running Spectrum Live and IlluxCon respectively in perspective with the things you have written about in both blog posts. I saw that you mentioned both in the recent interview, too.

  20. I was a vendor at this year’s SDCC, and Denise, you are absolutely correct. The new breed of attendees is not that interested in what real fans used to be.

    The problem is that geekdom has become too mainstream, and it’s diluted the attendance pool with deadbeat looky-loos. In San Diego, as elsewhere, the hardcore collector geeks are being squeezed out by the throngs of casual visitors who saw it on Big Bang Theory or King of the Nerds, or Heroes of Cosplay, and thought it might be neat to go. This notoriety is the worst thing that’s happened to Comic-Con. It’s way too crowded for anyone to enjoy anymore. Who can be happy about a 24 hour wait to get into Hall-H? Or a dealer room so choked with bodies that you cannot find a seat to eat, and cannot pause or slow down while walking, without being rebuffed by security or smacked in the head by a wooded sword?

    I can probably name only 3 people (of the many money-spending, artist worshiping hardcore geeks I know) who were actually able to score tickets. If you have a hundred thousand hardcore nerds trying to get tickets, there’s now probably 2-3 million regular people beating them to the passes. Those people are just looking to see celebrities and take snapshots with cosplayers, and might buy a Star Wars tee shirt or a Batman bobblehead. But anything that’s new and waiting to be discovered will be ignored, as will any industry legend whose face isn’t on TV. Half these people probably think Stan Lee wrote and drew all of Marvel’s comics, and still does to this day.

    And to the people who say that it’s all supposed to be about the fans, and that vendors and sellers should just shut up– that is naive beyond belief. It’s HALF about the fans, and HALF about the producers– you know, the people who actually make the stuff that you claim to be fans of? The deal was supposed to be, we’ll bring the awesome talent and merchandise, and you bring the appetite for it. The new breed of fans are absolutely not holding up their end of the deal. And if they’re not, what’s the incentive for someone like me to pay $2000 to pitch my tent for five days in front of a bunch of people who won’t buy enough to break even? And that may be exactly what those people want. That’s fine with me, I do better sales with far less hassle online anyway. The way that conventions like SDCC are heading, they’ll become little more than movie and TV preview events.

    • Hi James, Thanks for note. I think with SDCC specifically, we need to go into it solely focused on communing with the fans and industry contacts. The other shows we do (and the online sales) will have to make up the difference, financially. But, it is our HUGEST financial investment of the year. If I were solely a financial planner looking at Dave’s and my situation objectively, I’d have a hard time justifying it.

  21. I never knew conventions were about commerce and sales. I thought conventions w were about getting together with other geeky kids who liked the same, or at least similar, shit as you and making friends. I’ve been attending conventions since 2002. I made most of my friends at anime conventions. I’m not really into comics. Never have been. And unless someone has a tag on their artists table telling me who they are and what they do and how popular it is, I think they’re another fan artist. I have no idea. Unless that comic creator also does a panel to talk about who they are and what they do, I don’t know them. I rarely go into artists alley unless I’m looking for someone I know or have met. Tell me about your work. Tell me about your comic. If you’re cool, I’ll probably seek you out. But with hotel rooms being $200 a night and badges being $50-$100 and travel and missing work to be there… I don’t get to many conventions. And when I do, I don’t have much money to spend AT the convention. I’ll spend later when I’ve recovered from missing pay and pay off my credit card debt.

    I believe this is part of what you’ve said above and I agree. It makes it difficult to participate. Especially when places like Amazon and Barnes and Noble and now even public libraries have comics and graphic novels. Conventions used to be the ONLY way a lot of us could buy our anime or comics or what have you. Now we are at the click of a button. Instant gratification.

    I understand the base you’re going for here. One, it’s HELLA expensive for creators to spend their own money, take time out of their jobs and attend low paying conventions. It’s why I don’t make it to book conventions. I just don’t have the money to drop to not sell. I’ve wasted plenty of money sitting around artists alley waiting. It’s not lucrative for me. I’d rather rub elbows with other attendees than try and peddle my wares.

    Convention goers have changed. But it’s our job as both older fans and as older sellers to evolve. We either change with it or be buried by it while waving your cane and yelling at them to get off your lawn.

    • Thanks for your post. You are right – conventions are equally about the camaraderie of hanging with our “tribe” who share our geek interests – no doubt about that. But like you, we’ve experienced the financial struggle of exhibiting, and it’s tough. Yes, change is-a-coming – like every other industry.

  22. Hi Denise,
    My name is Chris and I’m one of the five artists and creators of Webcomic Alliance. last night, we recorded a podcast that discussed this issue since it was so topical. It hasn’t been posted yet but will be soon. Once it gets posted, hopefully, it will be interpreted as a fair and balanced assessment not only of your original article but of the general state of various conventions as well.
    That being said, I am an Webcartoonist and Artist Alley grunt and have been doing shows since 2008. When I read your original post, I had a feeling there was going to be a backlash about the Cosplaying headline that was applied to it but having read the article, I realized how misleading that headline actually was. I also have a LOT of cosplayer friends – in fact, my Facebook friends list is absolutely filled with cosplayers.
    What I took from your original article was the frustration of how some shows can be. Believe me, I have been there and done that. I think it can be even harder in Artist Alley where we are usually packed together side-by-side like sardines and the competition for the random dollar can be really fierce.
    That being said though, I have tried to be extremely smart about my convention strategies. Although I am not a big name like Dave, over the years, I have managed to accumulate a very humble little fan base but that lack of a “name” keeps me away from really big shows like SDCC, Emerald City or WW Chicago. I am located in Northern Virginia and decide to only do shows I can travel to by car or that I think i can reasonably afford even if the show turns out to be a downer. That’s why I have never done any New York or Boston show either. They are beyond my budget. But there are lot of great shows that are either popping up or have been around for awhile that are trying to either find a good balance between being an “artist” show and a “celebrity” filled show. My good friend, Ben Penrod runs Awesome Con DC and does this quite well. I would suggest getting in touch with him and seeing if the show is a good fit for you and Dave (if you haven’t already been to the show before). Heroes Con is also another great show for artists and is usually looked at as an “artist centric show”.
    And lastly, you are right that there are lots of things that are making comic conventions be less “comic centric” and it has been hard on some of my friends that do conventions and freelance art full-time. I’m lucky enough that doing conventions is a part-time gig for me so I’m not always under the pressure to have to decide between not doing a show or trying to make as much money as possible while you’re at a particular show. That has to be really tough and just wanted you to know you have my sympathies from a convention-going, artist alley grunt.

    • I have heard AMAZING things about AwesomeCon! I’m glad you mentioned it. Dave spent his high school years in Friendly, MD and is eager to do a DC show. Yes, HeroesCon is another great one for comic book artists, writers and creators. Thanks for your sympathies and empathy.

  23. Well you threw the cat amongst the pigeons, didn’t you!
    I read your first article after Bleeding Cool’s sensationalist headline, curious that someone actually put into words a topic I had been thinking about. I didn’t think you blamed cos-players but it was clear that you feel and see a shifting demographic amongst attendees.

    In 2010 I made the long haul from Sydney to SDCC and loved it but saw that it was more about celebrity than comics and in that celebrity I include Marvel, DC etc. In 2012 I attended the NYCC and saw a huge shift again in interest. Last year I attended SupaNova here in Sydney and saw a lot of walk-bys and buys in artist alley. This year artists alley was slow, my table opposite some friends whose faces were tired and concerned. Thousands attended Supanova many of my students attended. What did they go for, because they did not swing through artists alley, they came to have their photo op with Stan Lee, Captain Kirk etc. The few that did swing down artists alley did so to say “Hi” and show me their stash from all the big names and they had no money left for Indies.

    The point you make about new fans is valid, they don’t come because they love comics, they come because they love celebrity. It isn’t their fault, the organizers play to the money. Those people generally don’t convert to true lovers of the art form at all.
    I just very recently decided to not attend any more comic cons I can sit at home for four days in the comfort of my lounge room I don’t need to get a sore butt on an ikea chair. An indie convention run by an indie co-op, now I’d fly from Sydney for that:) It would require a different sponsorship model. The Peanut Growers association Local businesses etc but I do think it needs to stay clear of the Marvels etc or it will get highjacked. Onwards and upwards.
    Judex

  24. Denise – I have to admit, I was a little annoyed with some of the comments made in your posts here and your interview at ComicVine. I’m also a little frustrated, because to me and many others in the same position, the writing has been on the wall for years – and we could see the storm clouds brewing. But, this isn’t the place to argue about who is right and wrong – you’re looking for answers and suggestions.

    What you’ve been blowing off steam about isn’t a new trend that’s been emerging, I’m sure you can agree. Because you’re at a higher level of sales than other indie creators, these problems that have plagued the little guys like me are only now working their way up to you and your peers.

    Folks in webcomics have seen this “shift” in interest as early as 2009-2010. For most, SDCC and NYCC were the pinnacle events for indie artists because they’re the most commercialized and have the widest mainstream draw out of all the conventions and shows out there. Being granted the ability to sell at SDCC meant ‘you made it’ as a creator. You were worthy enough to hang in the same hallowed halls as the industry heavyweights, even though it was tucked away in Artist Alley – the flea market of the convention.

    But the best of us have been getting squeezed out of SDCC for years and have rang the alarm bells… no one listened. Now you’re ringing the bells, and folks like me can’t help but feel a bit slighted because we tried to warn you. (There are others who feel like saying “told ya so” but that smugness doesn’t solve anything.)

    If the problem with shows like SDCC and NYCC are oversaturation and mismatches in demographics, the easiest solution would be to source shows in your neck of the woods that can support you. Wizard World, SDCC and NYCC are NOT comic conventions and haven’t been for a long time – not since the influx of Marvel movies, pre-dating the economic meltdown years ago.

    We need to look at blazing our own trails rather than following the same path everyone else takes. Because eventually you come to a chasm, and if you’re on that rope bridge when it lets go, you’re screwed. Build your own bridge across it, or find your way around it.

    If there’s an issue with a lack of education or respect about Dave and all he’s accomplished, you may need to find some methods to raise his profile and make him more relevant to a younger crowd. Selling original art, prints and books of his work (even though it has sci-fi and pop-culture content) isn’t enough. If you’re trying to get more sales from a newer crop of comic book fan, you need to have things that appeal to them.

    A lot of people have an omnibus. A lot of people have a webcomic. A lot of people offer prints and original art – but what is it about Dave that REALLY stands out?

    He’s a master artist. Maybe you should consider having Dave do a series of training or teaching modules – like the Dave Dorman School of Sci-Fi art or something along those lines. Take in a small class signing up online to go through the modules, have some one-on-one critiques and encouragement from Dave himself, and at the end have a little graduation certificate and a potential endorsement from Dave (if warranted.) Once the production of modules are done, the hard part is out of the way – the online classes use the same course material and you’ve created an easy passive income stream that requires little extra work on Dave’s part, other than a weekly check-in or review.

    Team up with other artists and do more speaking engagements at cons. Dave gets paid if there’s 5 people at an engagement or 500.

    As mentioned in other comments – video reviews or recommendations. You can’t overlook video and social media. If you want to raise Dave’s profile, he needs to be visible where people are directing their eyeballs. If Dave doesn’t want to commit to doing it, you can hire a ghost-writer to handle it. It’s a common thing – as long as the content is stuff that Dave is willing to endorse or vouch for.

    Webcomics on innovative platforms like Scrollon or Mark Waid’s Thrillbent line… I’m sure there’s a bunch of options available for enhancing Dave’s sequentials for viewing on Tablets and phones.

    These things don’t cost a lot – I realize you’re on a budget. But, you’re gonna have to commit to the hustle again, because the OLD system of showing up at a con and running game isn’t going to work anymore. People are greedy and lazy and you have to spoon feed them everything. They will pay for it, but its gotta be convenient for them.

    Anyway – I just needed to get this out. Sorry for dumping… I honestly felt like your posts were more about finding a scapegoat than finding a solution. Everyone needs to vent. Me included.

    I wish you both the best of success in the future and hope things turn around for you.

    • Thank you for taking the time to write all of this – these are all excellent ideas – I actually started working on a Dave Dorman art school concept a few years ago (right after the last Star Wars Celebration) and prior to that, a Comix Academy with some of our other artist friends to tie into SDCC, but logistics got in the way of accomplishing it successfully. I still believe it’s an idea with merit. Dave has done tutorials with The Gnomon Workshop, Baby Tattoo, etc. and even ConceptArt.org/Massive Black at their event a few years back, but clearly, he needs to do more of that.

      I am unafraid of committing to the hustle.

      I apologize to you directly if my comments were somehow offensive to you – that was never my intent. I sincerely wanted people to be straight with me about what they thought was going on and how we can reinvent where we’re all going. I want EVERY ARTIST to be successful regardless of their medium. If I ever won the lottery, the first thing I would do is establish a scholarship program and grants for artists because I know how it REALLY IS, from our side of the equation – the struggles, the self doubt, the depression that sets in and affects creative output. I hope you never experience any of that. It’s not fun. As for what makes Dave really stand out, I’m too close to the situation. I’d say it’s his amazing art, but I’m biased. Perhaps you have a more clear view. This needs to be answered by someone outside of our situation, and we’re grateful to people like you for these many ideas and observations.

  25. Perhaps one reason you and other sellers aren’t doing well at cons is simply because the merchandise you have isn’t what many customers there want. Maybe you should take a look at your wares and ask around as to how to improve your products?

  26. I just found your site thanks to icv2. I am one of the few people that go to conventions to meet the artists and get sketches in my sketch books. I actually plan who I will visit and have 2 sketch books to maximize my number of pieces of artwork. Then again, I am in my late 40’s and grew up on comics and love art in general.

    Cosplay is big and seems to take over the place at times (Katsucon). But it is all the fun of being seen and to socialize. Meeting people with the same likes and meeting those you admire.
    Even as a con goer, I felt out of place – LOL.
    Your past post was right on target and some people just are jerks and trolls for no other reason than to harrass.
    Hope to one day meet up with you and Dave as would love to get a sketch done:-)

  27. I share your disillusionment with the current state of the comic book convention. I started attending these things decades ago. I took my teenage daughters to some in the last few years and am frankly disgusted with the shameless profiteering of celebrity guests, convention organizers, and many of the dealer room shops. I drove my eldest over four hours to a con that she paid $100 for, paid $20 for parking three blocks away, just so that she could stand in line most of the day to pay $80 for an autograph.

    While she was in line, I spent a pleasant few moments talking with Berni Wrightson and his wife, who were fairly unnoticed at a booth on the back wall. I gladly purchased a book from him -which he graciously signed. I had no problem with that. I understood that he had to pay for that space, and frankly, I wanted the book anyway. It was a welcome bonus to have him sign it. But that was all I could afford at the con with the $10 hot dog lunch.

    I have worked trade shows all over the world, so I know the convention/trade show business model pretty well. Captive audience, charge a lot for everything you can charge for – parking, food, hotels, drinks, booth space, electrics, wi-fi, drayage, etc. Trade shows (and that’s really what things like Comic-Con are) are bloody expensive marketing, period. The celebrities are making a profit. I saw the number of people in line with my daughter. Eighty bucks a pop, in addition to an appearance fee, I’m sure, and most likely comped accommodations. The dealers are making money, because they have a motivated market, many of whom don’t know that a lot of it is available online, seeking instant gratification. I think the cons are making money for the most part. The gate prices are ridiculous, and they are all now selling special packages and upgrades- some charge extra to attend a panel once you’ve paid to come in to the con.

    It’s sad that the only people who are not making money at the comic conventions are the comic creators themselves. I saw Neal Adams at a recent con here in Houston. That is, I saw him sitting at his table, signing one thing after another while a helper collected the payments. He didn’t really interact with the fans – he didn’t appear to have time. With a three space booth, I imagine he couldn’t afford to stop and have a conversation.

    Jim Steranko on the other hand, even though he charged $10 for a signature, personalized it to me, shook my hand, and we talked for about ten minutes. Made my day. Obviously, though, I’m not a teen fan. I have the very sad feeling that these moments are some of the last I will experience, because the business of the con- the “mainstreaming” of fandom, is eroding the ability of artists and creators to interact with their fans, at least on the con floor.

    The upside is that we do have this space – on the internet, social media, etc. to interact frequently and freely. I don’t know if it has the same “thrill” for a real fan as meeting face to face, but I think the tool can be used to both gauge interest and generate responses when considering the expense and hassle of a con.

    The mainstream audience is fickle. It participates in what the media tells it is the newest next cool thing (forget that iSquatch 7, the new iSquatch 7a is here). The cons, in an effort to profit, court a market that has no loyalty, and thus no longevity. Perhaps the problem will resolve itself – the mob will lose interest, the popularity will wane, and prices will come back down. At worst the great bloated mega-media cons will collapse on themselves and make way for more fan-oriented smaller events.

    Those of us who believe, just need to stick together, weather the storm, and wait for it to pass.

    • Hi Larry, Thank you for this amazing post. It’s a changing world, and we will just have to figure out our place in it, or move on. FYI, Jim Steranko has always been a wonderful and kind professional to Dave and me – he had a really fun idea one day – he suggested that he and Dave and a bunch of artists do an art book where each artist did their own interpretation of the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” I often wish the project took off, because it would be really fun to see the diverse art!

  28. As a comic fan, and former member of the comics retail force, I think that the reality is people like the CULTURE of comics, more than the comics themselves.

    Sure comic sales are up in the last few years, but if 200,000 people (just picking a number), compare that to the greater world numbers of people who attend cons, cosplay, etc…

    It’s frustrating for me. I’ve wanted to publish a comic for years, and I see the realities of the industry, and I see what happens at cons. If my life mission (aside from writing comics) could be promoting comics and getting paid for it. I would do that job 20 hours a day, 6 days a week.

    I like video games and TV and movies… but I LOVE comics. They were important to my development, and I wouldn’t be who and where I’m at today without them, and by extension the writers, artists, inkers, colorists, letterers and editors that produce them.

    So thank you Dave and Denise for your continued work in and around comics, if I see you at a convention I will do my best to stop by and drop some money at your table.

    If you love comics, sing it to the mountains. Don’t just keep it quiet, let people know you love them. Put them in their hands, get them hooked. Become a drug dealer, push comics.

    There’s no harm done, except maybe to wallets… they’ll recover.

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