Now that my last two comic conventions of the year are over and done with (*sniff sniff*) I wanted to take a moment to compare and contrast these two mutually awesome but SUPER different shows. Since I'm a Baltimorean, both Baltimore Comic Con and SPX are local and driveable to me (although next year I think I'm going to finally throw in the towel and get a hotel room! Boo hour drive each way!) which makes it even more interesting how much they vary from one another.
BALTIMORE COMIC CON
A fairly typical, big convention you'd expect from a city -- hosted in a convention center and chock full of retailers with back issues, Dr. Who stuff, cosplay, and a section devoted towards "kid's comics". But still boasts the most diverse audience I ever see at a show, which is HUGE.
PROS: No big push for the "CELEBRITY GUEST" and "POP CULTURE" nonsense you tend to see at most big comics shows these days. They have a pretty sizeable Artist Alley as well as an Exhibitor pool full of a lot of comics people too. Lots of comics retailers and just COMICS everywhere in general.
CONS: Long wait lines, high fees to get in, LOTS of ground to cover to get to see things. (one of the reasons I started up Bmore Into Comics was to make it easier for people to happen upon comics, rather than slog through all the line waiting/exorbitant door fee nonsense) Also, this year Artist Alley was wedged in the back, so there was a lot of retailer/merch stuff you had to wade through before even encountering the comics creators. Also - and this is a common complaint at a lot of shows - no navigation to tell where you actually were in the convention center. I would love to see conventions as a whole adopt little fun arrow signs directing you at every intersection (see: SPX's GENIUS solution for this below)
AUDIENCE: I'm beginning to realize just the term "comic con" in your name now implies a certain thing to the masses. More people who've never been to a comics show or picked up a comic will come out for "comic cons" because the assumption is that these places represent comics as a whole. As depressing as that could be, I think it provides an opportunity for smaller indie comics creators like myself to reach that larger market. Over the years I've seen more women, families, and teens show up at comic cons like visitors to a strange planet - they've heard tales about the grown men who exist here in superhero costumes and places where nothing is too nerdy - but they didn't quite BELIEVE it until this moment. I love these first-time con goers because no matter how foreign the experience seems to them, they're always expecting a POSITIVE one - and that's huge. Somehow the message has gotten out to a lot of people not picking up comics that they should expect a GOOD TIME at comic cons - and I love that.
Ultimately, I love Baltimore Comic Con for a bunch of different reasons, but this year I really felt like its main treasure is that it gets comics out in front of a lot of people who don't know (yet!) that they'll love reading them, not just basking in all their character cosplay glory.
SPX was RIDICULOUS this year. I've been going since 2002, and each year the show just gets more and more well planned, executed, attended, and well - ADORED by its attendees and exhibitors alike.
Like many others, I don't have any pictures of the actual show (but the SPX tumblr is a GREAT resource for all the post-con lovefest recaps right now) because I was mobbed with customers. I'm not someone who ever gets mobbed with customers, so this wasn't only a super successful show for me, but validated me as a comics creator in a number of ways.
See, it's a common thing for a lot of us creators to zig-zag back and forth between being incredibly encouraged by and then horribly negative about comics, and a lot of times it just whittles down to a show-by-show experience. Do REALLY BAD at one show and throw away all your pens, then go to another one and plan on quitting your day job on Monday. Constant wiggle-waggle of emotions that a lot of us (even though we even it out by encouraging eachother and remembering that we LOVE DOING comics anyway) have learned to deal with over the years, but they can still get to us. Especially as we get older and our friends/families keep staring at us with a "you do what with your free time?" glance. I mean, I'm sure they think we're cool. They think we're cool, right?
PROS: SPX brings in tons of people by getting the word out like a CHAMP. And these people know comics and read them and love them and appreciate them. My three top selling items were COMICS, which also never happens. SPX also somehow cultivates a really cozy atmosphere that just feels comfortable and inclusive and snuggly. It could be all the gold decor and spaceship lights, I don't know. No matter how jammed that exhibitor floor gets, I never get my NYCC people panic. Also - THEY HAD AISLE LETTER BALLOONS THIS YEAR. Nailed it.
CONS: I know the lottery vs. the legacy table assignments this year was a source of panic for a lot of creators, but I just think that means - we need MORE SHOWS. More ways for indie creators to showcase their work. More Bmore Into Comics-style shows, but EVERYWHAR! The more we can create shows like SPX (or casual, tinier ones) the more people might expect to see comics and keep an eye out for them on the regular.
AUDIENCE: SPX still doesn't really reel in those people who don't know anything about comics as much as generic BIGGO COMIC CONS do, but I do think that's been changing over the years. There's always a tendency with indie comics shows to get REAL inclusive and kind of precious art-y, but SPX has managed to still be welcoming and all-inclusive, which is amazing to see.
All in all - I had a blast, I LOVE conventions in general, and I love being delightfully spoiled in particular by these local ones. BIG CLAPS TO CON SEASON 2014 Y'ALL!!