Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Year Called Comics, part 3a: Convention Retention

A Year Called Comics, part 3a: Convention Retention
(The third of an eight-part year-end analysis of the A Comic A Day project!)

Can your town accommodate 100,000 geeks? Imagine that, for five days every year, tens of thousands of comics and film fanatics converged right down the street, clamoring for the latest pop corporate giveaways, teaser movie trailers, and C-list celebrity sightings. As hardcore as you are, could you bear it? Welcome to San Diego in July. Consuming this otherwise beautiful ocean-side city for a week, not to mention the very stratum of subversive American culture if you believe the hype reported in Entertainment Weekly and on the G4 and E! networks last week, the Comic Con is the convention of all conventions, though by no means the only comics convention of significance. So, fortuitously, the next few days’ worth of marvelous immersion will provide a real time reflection of the role conventions have played in the A Comic A Day project.

Just in time, eh?

In the past several years, I’ve attended several California comics conventions and have decided that these venues can be classified into two categories: the convening and the convent (each maintaining the popular “con” prefix, thank you very much). The convening is perhaps more classically dubbed “the tradeshow,” in which retailers convene in one place to wheel and deal their wares. The most notable convening I have attended is the Frank & Sons Collectibles Show in the City of Industry, California, which is open both Wednesdays and Saturdays, is a prime source for both one’s weekly mainstream comics and obscure back issues and collectibles, and is advertised in the Wizard Magazine classifieds every month as a testament to its consistency. Another monthly show of note is the Los Angeles Sci-Fi Convention, and, although this show frequently hosts celebrity panels, it primarily offers floor space for dealers, retailers, and small press exhibitors. Basically, a convening is little more than a cooperative pop culture garage sale, but its sheer volume promises fortuitous returns depending on your objectives. For A Comic A Day, I pillaged twenty-five to fifty cent long boxes aplenty, sometimes selecting issues based solely on their peculiarity. The convening is a prime place to establish or expand an eclectic collection.

The convent is much more consuming and, as its title implies, is a veritable sequestering of one’s time, energy, and (if you’re like me) finances. This convention is a vacation, centered on a tourist-oriented metropolis like San Diego, San Francisco, Philadelphia, or New York, and devours days’ worth of programming potential. Comic Con and Wizard World are the two most influential convention circuits, each with its subsequent mini-cons throughout the year, dwarfing other venues which still survive thanks to their niche markets. (I’m looking at you, Anime Expo.) I’ve never attended a Wizard World, but considering the Comic Con schedule, attaining a hotel room is a mere luxury considering its near twenty-four hour cycle of activities and events, including industry discussion panels and late night kung-fu movie marathons. If hygiene wasn’t an issue, I’d consider crashing at the Con itself, or at least forgoing a night in a bed for an ongoing evening of geeky goodness. I’d literally live from dusk ‘til dawn, watching From Dusk ‘Til Dawn. Think about it.

In other words, this kind of show puts the “convent” back in “convention,” with all the habits the term entails. (Yeah, that was bad. Sorry.)

As of this writing, I’ve experienced nine and half hours of Comic Con programming, including the incredibly crowded Preview Night, and I’m already exhausted. I’ve purchased comic books I’ve wanted for a long time at a very reasonable price (specifically, Dell’s The Monkees and Get Smart adaptations at two for five bucks), acquired swag that in the wrong hands will make a small fortune on eBay, and beheld footage from Stardust, Iron Man, and J.J. Abrams’ elusive monster movie. I’ve seen Abrams, Leonard Nimoy, Neil Gaiman, Jon Faverau, and enough special effects artists to open my own Skywalker Ranch. While I’m not buying back issues with A Comic A Day in mind, as I did last year, I’m still a student to the medium and its many, now multi-media facets. Forget if San Diego can accommodate the crowd. Can my head accommodate all this information?

Obviously not, since this installment in my year-end report warrants separate parts in itself. To be continued!

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