Monday, October 19, 2015

Grand Rapids ComicCon and other Cons

Just got back from the Grand Rapids Comic Con.  I planned to post this on Facebook but figured that since it was more than a paragraph, might as well make it a blog since I’m failing so miserably at keeping up with that.

No idea what the attendance was but the show was at the Devos Place which is a great facility.  I went solely with the Deadworld Zombie Soda and I’ll explain that decision in a minute but first just wanted to thank all the fans in attendance for the great reaction to the soda.

At first, I was a bit put off as we were placed in the lobby as we were considered a “food” vendor.  Not only that, we were put at the very far end so there was no reason for anyone to walk all the way down to where we were.  On Saturday, the Speaker’s Room opened next to us so that brought more of a flow towards us but it didn’t seem like we had anything to worry about.

I was there with Eric Reichert who is not only part of Caprice but also Caliber.  The soda company is small and we had one person in Las Vegas for a trade show and another person in Florida for a Zombie Fest (no, not the one with the shooting).  So, I decided to go to Grand Rapids with Eric as I know how busy the cons can be.

We had some intermittent periods of lull when the speaker room was full but when it emptied out, it was sheer madness.  Sometimes we had 3-4 lines going 5 deep for people to check out the soda.  We were servicing some 40-50 customers per hour during the peak periods and sometimes that would go on for three or four hours straight.  It might have been the most exhausting show I’ve ever done.  It was about the same as Cincinnati Expo but there, we had four people manning the booth instead of just the two of us.  The credit cards took up a lot of time so in the future, we’ll have to establish a separate line for cash versus credit.

So, we sold out of everything except I think we had a couple of bottles of Grape Soda left when the con closed.  We pushed the soda to local stores that carried it so customers could get more so it will be interesting to see if our distributor in that area gets more reorders for the product.

I mentioned that I decided to forego Caliber and just concentrate on the soda line and that is something that I have to evaluate each convention.  It’s hard to do Caliber unless there is enough room, after all, we have about 100 graphic novels released and that takes up room.  My feeling is that if I can’t do Caliber right, I’d rather not set up at a show and try to squeeze into a small space where I can’t even display most of the books. 

And I’ve also noticed the direction that cons are heading to and comics aren’t the focus area, even for these “comic cons”.  Of course, there are still some that are comic-centric but so many of them now are the family affairs with cosplayers and celebrities.  No, I’m not heading into a rant about how the cons aren’t about comics anymore because I realize that for the most part, these huge attendance numbers are in addition to the comics, not replacing them.  But it does give a whole different vibe to the shows and I think it’s important to recognize that.

What I’m seeing now is that the bigger “small” shows (which means newer and less established ones) are hitting attendance figures of 20.000-40,000 and most of them are NOT centered on comics.  There are still some of the large comic shows, of course, but it seems that the comic centric shows are hitting the 3,000-5,000 mark and that’s where you’ll find all the independent comic artists as well as a sprinkling in of the more mainstream creators.

As I’m writing this, just saw a post from Master Plot Comics regarding the same thing as they review Grand Rapids Comic Con here.  They have the same response as I do.  It’s not a bad thing per se, but it is different.  I guess if it brings attention to the whole medium, overall that’s good.

One disturbing trend that I have noticed and of course, other people have been talking about this for a while, is the use of prints produced on company owned characters.  Of course, mostly it is Marvel and DC but when approaching these other shows, it seems like a lot of artist start producing prints of top level movies and television shows.  I know Marvel and DC have turned away from coming down on artists as it’s a tricky situation of restricting someone promoting your product but when it comes down to selling prints of licensed characters, I think with the expansion of the medium, the big guys are possibly looking to start clamping down on it.

I’ve always been ambivalent about it since I’m not an artist but I think I’d be pretty pissed off if I saw someone selling prints of King Zombie or other Deadworld characters or other creations like Saint Germaine, Baker Street, etc.  Usually when I work with artists, even on jam sessions, I generally let them make prints and they can keep all the revenue because they don’t get much of a rate for doing the initial job.  That is part of the package and if they can sell a print of the art they did for me, good for them and I also feel better that they’re getting some additional revenue.  But if it’s someone who didn’t do work for me or who I don’t even know, I have to admit, I don’t think I’m going to feel too happy about that.

It should be interesting to see how all that shakes out with the growth of the characters into the mainstream (even though it really hasn’t penetrated the comics themselves to any reliable and great extent).  I wonder if a crackdown will happen sooner than people expect.

In a related note, I do get asked a lot to attend shows as Caliber…as well as Deadworld Zombie Soda.  Although time is the main concern, I do have to think about expenses.  I pretty much won’t do a show unless we are given space and that’s the main priority.  Travel and lodgings…that’s all negotiable but I’m not one to expect a full ride to most shows but I have to have the space.  And of course, the time factor.  Shows just eat up a lot of time and I am always at a show wondering how much I’m not getting down because I’m at a particular show but I do recognize the importance of doing shows at the same time.  So, it’s always something I have to take everything into consideration.


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