I’ve been reading comics, following the industry and even working within the industry for five decades. Over these decades there’s been bubbles of not just unsustainable economics, but of popularity so there’s the post Star Wars boom, the 80’s boom brought on with works like Watchmen and Dark Knight, the 90’s speculator boom and the 2008 onwards boom we sit in today that started with Iron Man but didn’t hit a real head of steam til 2011 once the recession was clearing. So here we are in 2018 with comic conventions happening more often than EastEnders is broadcast and shops opening up everywhere.
Today’s conventions are a mass of multimedia and masses of casual punters who come because they may enjoy the Marvel films, or something else superhero comic related because let’s be blunt, this is the driver here.
The above picture is from an MCM convention in London. Right now in the UK the MCM conventions are the daddies of the industry, and conventions are very much an industry with people jumping on board to make large sums of money from them. Well, some make a decent living from them, many don’t as they see the pound signs and forget how to run a decent show. The cosplay model for conventions is now here to stay in some shape or form, but the issue I have is it reduces the medium of comics to reference material for costumes. Essentially comics are a sideline to all the other stuff you’ll see at a convention.
Now this isn’t all the fault of organisers. I know of some organisers desperate for comic dealers but in a vicious Catch 22, I know of dealers who won’t do these shows because there’s no money in them. At a time when comic related media is the dominant one in terms of output and in culture, there’s a disconnect between comics as a medium and the vast masses of folk coming into the scene who may like Iron Man but can’t stand, or can’t afford, the comics. Now there’s ways dealers can help. Selling comics priced at decent prices is a start. I’m tired of dealers moaning of a crap show when all their stock is at guide price, or overpriced. Then again con organisers need to push the comic side of things better as there’s some ”comic cons” that have absolutely nothing to do with comics.with the exception of the name. Turning up at these events it’s clear this is just late capitalism at it’s worst.
2018 is 50 years since the first ever British comic convention. It’d be nice if we took a moment to educate people and help them understand, get, and enjoy comics. As retailers we’ve got to make sure we don’t price the curious out. Let’s all play a part in educating people so we can ensure the industry, and the medium, continues onwards for another 50 years.