another misAdventure

"We are all of us living in the shadow of Manhattan."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Shrinkage (Comicon Report)

Yep, to me it'll always be Chicago Comicon. Report after the break.

The con seemed smaller this year than last year, and a lot of the reports I've seen after the con back that up. First impressions -- there were a LOT fewer small press booths than in previous years, and some folks that would normally be in artists alley seem to have moved to the small press area. This leads me to think that they may have dropped the booth price in that area at some point in order to flesh it out. I'd also swear that the aisles in the dealer area were wider, with the implication that there were fewer actual dealers. Or maybe it was just fewer attendees (Dal at Graham Crackers thought probably some of both).

I know that there was no spill over area for artist's alley, so definitely fewer of those tables. And I never did figure out exactly where the gaming area was for WizKids or the few other games.

And, taking up a huge area in the major publisher area, right in the middle of everything, was a full size wrestling ring, promoting some martial arts "league" that's supposed to be starting up (and has all the trappings of WWE wrestling, and likely the same legitimacy).

Oh, yeah, not to mention the skateboard ramp (half-tube, probably 10' by 15' and 5' high) that was there to ... hmm, I'm not sure I remember why they even had that. I know they were supposed to raffling it off at some point.

DC had the same booth as the last couple years, but moved back further into the room. Marvel had an area much further forward, just to the left of the entrance, that consisted of ... a large swath of carpet and two tables for autograph signing. Oh, and a balloon sculpture Captain America that apparently didn't survive past Friday. And the front and center booth was ... Spike TV?

It was a weird con. And spent quite a bit of time there getting game demos, probably more than I did at Gencon(!).

Oh, and Tjarkseque. Well, there were a lot fewer of the APA friends there this year as well. Tjarkseque consisted of the family plus Chris and BJ. I.e. something we could have done any other weekend of the year. :-) But we kept the tradition going, and it gave Dwight someone to call. :-)

Anyway, here's what I did at the Comicon:

  • Cruised the dealer areas and bought a Supergirl action figure (Crisis on Infinite Earths version) and a few of the "Who's Who" "collectable" figure packs (cheap).

  • Bought a few comics from Christopher Jones (the four issues of "Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink"). Talked to him for a few minutes -- he had been a tagalong with Mark Stegbauer at a previous Tjarkseque -- and got the issues signed by Chris and the colorist (Melissa Kaercher).

  • Saw Peter David in the men's room. No, I didn't talk to him or ask for an autograph or something stupid like that. He's commented on that before and though it's certainly not hard to imagine someone being that dumb, it ain't me.

  • Played a demo of "Clout" and got a starter pack of the game and a booster, and a promo piece. Later I got the same starter pack at Gencon in the Origins swag bag. The game is OK for a quick play, but I won't spend any actual money on it. The pieces (poker chips with "collectable" faces) could become large-size markers for D&D games, though I already have plenty such things.

  • Went to the DC Nation panel, where I though Dan Didio actually had moments showing he can be thoughtful about what makes good comics and has some idea where the whole DC line ought to be going. He was also willing to ignore some well-thought-out arguments from an audience member when it didn't fit the immediate agenda (this regarding the Captain Marvel/Shazam! franchise). I enjoyed the panel.

  • Got a demo of Comicbase (collection management software), though neither he nor I could really hear each other because the speakers for the "International Fighting League" (or whatever) were blaring just 20' away. He said the the con was going to get their booth moved the next day.

  • Got a demo of DC HeroClix -- Not that I haven't had the demo before and played a bit of Clix, but if I took the demo I could get the swag -- which was a DC Icons booster. And in that booster I got a Superman fig, so it was well worth it.

  • Got a demo of the new Battlestar Galactica collectible card game. It was decent. Again, I won't spend any money on it, but it had some OK ideas.

  • Over at the Wizards of the Coast booth, I got demos of Dreamblade (my thoughts on that align with Matt's in his recent post) and Duelmasters (Magic: the Gathering simplified for the kids). I had no interest in Duelmasters, but the guy demoing it had noone else at his table at the time, and I knew of him through RPGA (it was August Hahn, for those who know) so I chatted a bit about that. Oh, yeah, and I won't be spending money on Dreamblade or Duelmasters. After that, I didn't get a D&D demo, but I did talk to the guy there and got a promo mini and a demo stamp/validation from him, since I didn't need a demo of D&D, and he and I wound up talking about RPGA stuff and Gencon.
    Oh, and I already spend plenty of money on D&D.

  • Rolled the die for the Wizards of the Coast giveaway, with my three demo stamps, and got a D&D minis booster -- though I shouldn't have. They had the area set up wrong, so with my roll I should have gotten one of the prizes below the minis boosters, but they had the Abberations boosters hanging way over into the area marked for the total that I did roll, and I'd picked the booster as my prize before the guy could tell me that it wasn't part of that level, so he let me go ahead. Abberations is probably the set Ihave the most of anyway, so I didn't get anything too exciting in the booster.

  • Went to the DC coming attractions panel. Not as interesting as the DC Nation panel the day before, but it was OK.

  • Went by some of the celebrity tables where they were selling autographs, mainly to see what they looked like now. The main one I was interested in was Joyce DeWitt, from Three's Company. And she looked pretty good for being 25 years older.

  • Found where they'd moved the Comicbase booth and bought a copy of the software, so I can try to get my collection cataloged properly. I'd looked at this in previous years and never thought it was quite right for my needs, and a bit expensive. Now they've evolved the product to the point that I think it does pretty much everything that I'd want it to do, and the price (with the con discount) was more along the lines that I thought was worth it. Now, though, I've discovered that I can do some things with it SO MUCH FASTER if I just had a barcode scanner, so I've ordered one. By next week, I should be scanning in a good chunk of my collection. I'll start this weekend with older comics with no barcode, so I'll just enter them the manual way.

  • Went to the Peter David panel on writing stories. The room was packed, so I stood in the back. The tips he was giving were fiction writing 101 and so stuff I'd heard plenty of times, but Peter is an entertaining speaker so it was well worth it for entertainment. He used "The Karate Kid" (the movie) as the perfect example of three-act story-telling, and also talked about the character arcs and some of the themes in the movie so that he could use it to illustrate all his points.

  • Left early on Saturday -- in more than ample time to return home for a D&D game (a zero for Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness).

And that's it. There just seemed to be a lot less excitement around the con this year, with even the Kevin Smith panel not having the same buzz around it despite the recent release of "Clerks II". I had a ticket for the Cubs game on Sunday with Bob so I didn't bother with the con that day. I gave my three-day pass to Ryan, but he also didn't bother.


  • It sounds as if the con's suffering at least in part from being so late in the season, along with the cons being so uniform. That the Internet has taken so much of the point out of conventions for most businesses. By this late in the season the comics companies don't have as much new material to push that hasn't already been showcased or simply leaked. It also seems (especially along with the cancellation of the Boston convention this year) that a saturation level's been reached. On top of all that, the somewhat bleak Rosemont location can't be helping.

    Wizard World East (here in Philly), held back at the start of June, has been growing each year, fortunately - despite this year the disappearance of all the video vendors (we're still not sure what happened in that respect) and almost no one showcasing weapons. While we had a prominent SPIKE TV booth, mainly pushing BLADE: The Series and whatever wrestling stars, we didn't have a wrestling ring; mostly it was a platform (second tier) for some lame DJ to accompany surgically-enhanced women periodically getting as many under-sexed males as they could gathered around the front, cheering for free t-shirts.

    Dan DiDio seems to be keeping his act going, at least. I attended two DC panels at WWE, too, though the first one was a post Mortem for Infinite Crisis, and the second was the DC Nation panel. Did they still have those cool, metal Superman logo tie pins to give out at the booth when one brought a coupon from one of the panels?

    The DC panels at least demonstrated some focus, whereas Marvel remains fragmented, a consequence of energies not only being split between the mainstream universe and the Ultimates one. Even with the mainstream Civil War arc just then kicking off it was clear that even among the mainstream creative teams it's a matter or too many shows going off too independently. Whether or not one is thrilled with the direction at least DC is putting on a good show of trying to present a universe. As such a long-time Marvel fan this continues to leave me sad.

    The Artist's Alley and small press areas showed more overlap this year for us, too.

    Sorry the turnout for the Tjarkseque was so low. It's always one of the highlights of my convention weekend when I make it out that way. You and Ellen always make everyone feel so welcome, and it's a nice spot to kick back and unwind after the first day of the convention.

    Skipping the third day of the convention seems to be the norm for many of us. While I haven't dropped to the single day Grant has, a great deal has to do with who one has around to hang out with. Still, the only way I see myself going for the Sunday at WWE next year is if I want to get in more Heroclix games. Aside from that, Sunday finds most of the guests burnt out from the previous two days, not to mention the likely late hours and heavy drinking, and already mentally halfway home. It's likely still the best day to go if one's looking to get the best deals on comics, etc. that weren't items to sell out beforehand, but as I'm not looking for much of anything...

    Ah, Comicbase. It's something I've been interested in since I first started seeing it being promoted back in the early '90s. At first the price and especially the way it seemed more developed for an Apple system at the time made it little more than a curiosity and the beginnings of a nice idea. In later years it was mostly just the price that kept it as one of those things I haven't moved myself to get into. Part of it is also that I cannot help but tie it into the whole speculation debacle, and cannot help but look at the price and be aware that part of what I'm being asked to pay for is for someone to come up with price guide info. Westfield has a regular sale spot for them in their online catalog each month, so every month I at least see it peripherally. I'll be very interested in reading how it works out for you, though.

    By Blogger MJ Norton, at 8/26/2006 5:06 AM  

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