For those that have been to comic book conventions you know that they are a place for nerds to gather and celebrate their shared fandom. But for the last couple years something has changed. Vendors and artist have started rumbling online about this and they are looking for someone to blame. One of the things they’ve pointed the finger at is cosplayers.
So the issue that some vendors feel that cosplayers distract con goers from spending money at conventions. Artist argue the cosplayers do not spend money and when a potential customer is at their table they get distracted by a cosplayer, walk away and don’t return. These arguments are so consistent that this year saw the first convention to ban cosplay, Elite Con. But these arguments are flawed.
If a potential customer is really interested in your wares the will return to your table. And as someone that’s worked behind many tables at conventions, cosplayers do buy stuff. So what is the real issue?
Conventions have changed, they’ve become more popular. With popularity comes growth, conventions attract a lot more people today. The comic book movie has become a large part of pop culture. Turning the comic book convention from nerd culture to pop culture.
If you go back to a decade or so conventions were small gatherings of comic book fans only. They didn’t have the attendance they have today and the biggest stars were b-level celebrities at best. And you could get a weekend pass for even some of the bigger cons for under 50 dollars. Autographs were usually under 20 dollars and you could take a photo with the celeb at the table for free. Plus artist/writers never charged for signatures and the vibe was just everyone was happy to be there sharing in the love of comic books.
Now the conventions are much larger, attracting 1000s of fans to the larger ones. Some of the biggest stars in the biggest movies now attend the cons. And the prices have skyrocketed. weekend passes are over 200 dollars now and autographs are around a 100 dollar a piece for the larger stars. Also now photographs have to be done by the professional photographer at the con and that can be another 60 to a 100 dollars depending on the celeb. So con goers can easily spend upward of 1000-1200 dollars before even considering the vendors and artists.
Plus most conventions now place more emphasis on the celebrities then they do the artist and vendors. Some conventions even putting the autograph area right up front when you walk in. This keeps people from even walking back to the vendor and artists. I don’t totally blame the conventions for this, because the do spend a lot of money to have the celebrities there in the first place.
Now the other issue is the popularity of comic book culture has given rise to the pseudo nerd. This is the person that goes, I liked the Batman movie, so I must be a nerd. They have no desire to ever read a comic and only have a passing interest in the movies due to their current popularity. These are the people that go to cons and never step foot into artist alley. Or they do wonder into the lions den, but don’t know the difference between a fan artist and Neal Adams or Todd McFarlane. So they end up buying a bunch of spider-man art from a guy who’s never even spoken to anyone from Marvel thinking they bought legitimate art. And prompting the cons to keep selling tables to these pirates. Cause again these shows are getting bigger so they have more tables to sell and less legitimate artist interested in going to the shows.
I’m not saying cosplayers are completely innocent. Like the pseudo nerd we have also given rise to the Instagram cosplay model, but that’s a whole conversation for another time. For now we will say there are a segment of cosplayers that have hurt conventions.
But to sum up you can see there are a lot of factors contributing to the decline of comic book conventions. Will the bubble burst? Eventually. Will all conventions end? No, the 2 big ones will survive (NY and San Diego) and there have been a crop of more traditional cons popping up. I think if people want to see what a good comic book convention can be like they should check out The Great Philadelphia Comic Con. But that’s just one great example in a sea of conventions. Let’s see where we are in another 10 years 😉
For now don’t forget to check out the latest Super Hero Speak here: http://superherospeak.com/wp/226-feige-island/