Comic book conventions are a huge business these days. Wizard World brings in more than $1 million per event; Reed Exhibitions, the parent company under whose umbrella NYCC and C2E2 live, had a revenue of £707 million in 2011; and mega-cons like PAX and SDCC sell out thousands of $100+ tickets in mere hours.
So why is Denise Dorman saying her husband and so many artists like him are losing money on conventions when there’s obviously tons of money to go around?
Well, it’s cosplayers, Ms. Dorman says. Those silly little girls spend all their money on costumes (and, she grudgingly admits, the inflated ticket prices, expensive hotels, transportation, parking, and shitty but expensive food) so they just don’t have enough left over for the artists! It’s a travesty! It’s a crime! And by god, if something doesn’t get fixed, all these creators are going to take their toys and go home!
Give me a minute here, my eyeballs hurt from rolling them so hard.
I’m a cosplayer, an amateur one, not one of the deservedly famous cosplayers like Jay Justice or Belle Chere or Yaya Han. Still, on average, I spend 20 or more hours and more than a hundred dollars on each costume, from source review to patterning to buying fabric to costume construction to styling wigs to making and buying props. Cosplaying is fun, but it’s also stressful and exhausting, far more so than regular convention-going. But I do it because I love the source and/or character and the process—and yes, because I want to see and be seen.
Someone please explain to me how I’m the one ruining conventions for the pros?
The real answer, the one you can find buried under the layers of obfuscation and out-right bullshit in this opinion piece is, of course, that I’m a fake geek girl. I’m not doing conventions “right,” in Ms. Dorman’s eyes. Her theory is that if I hadn’t spent all that money on something dumb like costumes, I would spend it in Artist Alley, buying “real fan” stuff like books or prints. If I wasn’t so obsessed with Instagram or selfie culture or some other girly pastime, I’d be a better fan, and her husband and “artists equally in demand, equally famous” would be raking in the dough at cons, just like they used to. You know, back before girls were allowed into the clubhouse, when (white male) creators were gods, men were men, and women stayed home and did the laundry.
Because, let’s be quite clear here, the people Ms. Dorman are blaming for their business tanking are women and girls. Instead of pointing out all the ways that conventions and geek culture try to actively exclude people they don’t like, she’s going for the easy target. It’s not the for-profit convention companies who continue to charge ever-more exorbitant fees for badges; or the convention centers and hotels that milk attendees of every dollar; or the attendees themselves who make a point to harass women (those in and out of costume) and make them feel unsafe; and by god it’s definitely not old, white male creators and their misogynist fanboys who are growing increasingly out of touch with the reality of geek culture, and can’t (or won’t) adapt. Nope, it’s totally (young) women.
Here’s a thought, Ms. Dorman: if something isn’t working for you any more, change. There is money out there to be made—79% of attendees go to more than one con every year, and almost all of them spend more than $100 at each con. Perhaps you should be more selective on which conventions you attend, and be sure to have convention-exclusive merch. How about selling more prints online where the overhead is negligible, or offering a wider variety? Or maybe, just maybe, instead of looking down on these cosplaying girls, do something that will attract them and make them work for you—cosplayers are the hands-down best ambassadors for the characters and series they love. The ultimate accolade a cosplayer can receive is for someone to say, “I saw you in your costume, and I had to go out and learn about this character, and I’m so glad I did. They’re awesome!”
Conventions are changing, yes. They’re getting bigger, and more inclusive, and attracting thousands of new fans. Instead of wishing things would return to how they used to be, take a deep breath, and step with us into the future. We have pretty sweet clothes, after all.
I sneered so hard when I got to her complaint about cosplaying kids and their selfies. That is the quickest way to get me to totally discount your opinion on a thing, to bitch about (primarily) women and girls being confident enough to take and post photos of themselves.
And re: artists not making enough money… it’s shitty. I get that, and I always try to support artists at conventions by buying prints. But the big cons she complained about (SDCC and Wizard World) really aren’t comic book conventions anymore. They’re entertainment conventions, and despite the old guard waving their canes and getting mad about it, the focus for the majority of con-goers isn’t comic books or artists.
Those cons exist either to promote entertainment properties in the case of SDCC or the make money in the case of Wizard World cons, which are run by a for-profit organization. So take it up with the con organizers who are charging ridiculous fees for badges and for exhibit hall tables, not with the con-goers who love characters enough to spend lots of time and money on costumes.
What’s sadly hilarious is I had no idea who Denise Dorman or her husband, Dave Dorman, were before her rocking chair on the front porch, get these damn kids with their social media and their cosplay off my lawn, article were before yesterday. I do now. I know not to give them my business, because they have no respect for my custom or type of fandom. I doubt I’m alone there.
She can say she has respect for cosplayers, but she noted this was primarily steampunk, a genre I do enjoy, but it doesn’t escape my notice that it’s also a side of cosplay that skews older. Older as in steampunk cons are normally the 30s-50s and up demographic. Just like the demographic of her husband’s customers.
She’s made it pretty clear she has no interest in nor respect for social media (outside I suppose blogging) and certainly not for the younger demographics that use it. Which is frankly, kind of fool hardy. The “household names” that are huge successes these days are active on social media. They engage fans of all demographics. And, oh yeah, a lot of them embrace the selfie culture that is about friendship, connecting, and self-confidence. The value of a live, positive experience. The same “selfie” that Dorman seems to use in the same context one would apply to a curse word or defecation in her article.
Fandom culture has and continues changing. The line between fan, creator, and celebrity becomes increasingly thin as social media eradicates many old social barriers. People who insist on keeping the walls high and stagnant between creator and fan are going to lose touch and eventually, will lose fans. Fans are active engagers now, not silent consumers waiting for you to open the door and put out a new piece. When they come to a closed door, they’ll move along to the open door or window where there’s interaction. The closed door, castle turret looking down on the field doesn’t work anymore, because the culture has changed. If you don’t change with it, you’ll find your castle a cold and empty place.
I don’t think her husband and their friends’ difficulties turning a profit at conventions have a great deal to do with cosplayers stealing attention, but rather more with someone whose height of popularity was in the 80s finding out what happens when a pop culture creator doesn’t keep up with the culture.
Where is the article about cosplayers ruining cons btw?
I have slowly come realize that in this selfie-obsessed, Instagram Era, COSPLAY is the new focus of these conventions–seeing and being seen, like some giant masquerade party. . Conventions are no longer shows about commerce, product launches, and celebrating the people who created this genre in the first place. I’ve seen it first-hand–the uber-famous artist who traveled all of the way from Japan, sitting at Comic-Con, drawing as no one even paid attention to him, while the cosplayers held up floor traffic and fans surround the cosplayers–rather than the famed industry household name–to pose for selfies.
The hard-working artists and creators who are the very foundation of this industry…the reason there even is an industry….those creatives who have busted their asses and spent money they perhaps didn’t have to spare in order to be there exhibiting for–and accessible to–the fans…have been reduced to being the background wallpaper against which the cosplayers pose in their selfies.
Capitalization, italics, and bolding by Dorman.
This is the article I first heard about it through that points out some of the holes in her complaints: [link]
"Dave’s fans are in their 40s and 50s. These shows are exhausting and expensive for them. And a lot of them are still feeling the pinch from the economic downturn. They were middle class and got wiped out."
The traditional fan-collector audience is getting crowded out by “broke hipsters,” Dorman says. “It’s all about getting the souvenir to show off at the office, to prove they were part of the cool scene.”
New fans are spending, but not on the same stuff. Research conducted by Eventbrite shows that the vast majority of convention attendees still rank “buying stuff I’m interested in” as the number one reason they go to shows, and fans across all demographic categories spend as much at conventions as they do through retail and online channels.
However, the new cohort of mainstream fans who come to geek culture through the turnstiles of the multiplex represent the generation raised on click-to-buy, digital downloads, and binge-watching. They splurge on media and experiences, but don’t value collecting stuff in the same way as those who grew up in earlier eras of the hobby.
What I’m hearing is Dorman and co. aren’t updating either their product nor their approach for a changing convention audience.
Other comics creators respond by discussing the need to update your self to the changing model rather than getting sour about it changing. [link]
Each show has its own feel. You have to figure out which types work best for you and try new ones to expand your reach/engage new fans. Convention culture changes/evolves. Unfortunately you can’t do the same thing each time and expect the same results.
This year has been one of the best in terms of my overall sales, but I also have a lot of books at different publishers going concurrently.
It’s an alchemical mix of visibility, product, fan base, price point, and salesmanship… and it varies from show to show.
I don’t think it’s a cosplayer thing, I think it’s the changing nature of collector culture and how we consume media as a whole. When we were younger, having a collection was a big deal: music, books, movies, whatever. It was part of an identity. Now we all have massive digital movie, book, and music collections at our fingertips. Some still collect, but it’s more focused/selective.
When you come up to my table, it’s rarely just a cold “purchase and go” scenario. It’s a social interaction and it has to be genuine. You bought something but you also had a conversation and an interaction, something personal and hopeful a bit memorable.You can buy the book cheaper on Amazon. You can get it at your local comic shop or pirate it online. I have to offer something unique. And what I have to offer is me, the interaction and the signature and my genuine appreciation of you, the reader. That’s the whole point. When I finish a day at a show, my throat is hoarse and my brain is fried. I push really hard to be ‘on’ at shows. Ask anyone who’s met me. I have a handful of seconds to make an impression on someone and, if it goes well, they could be a loyal reader from then on.
I genuinely love it, but it’s exhausting. I totally understand if that’s not for everyone, especially if that wasn’t required in the past. But, with time and experience, it gets easier to recognize and plan for different kinds of shows (or avoid ones that don’t work).
Bolding of this last block by me.
Precisely. You set the bar too high for entry into that side of the fan world, so yeah they’re going to be interested in the more accessible stuff.
Plus, it’s about what we grew up with too. The nostalgia factor. A couple of decades ago, superhero comic books were the grab-and-go fast consumption entertainment model for kids and teens. You hit people that grew up in the 80s-90s-early-2000s, it was manga in the bookstores, not superhero comics and Japanese anime was as common as regular cartoons, and certainly outstripped superhero fare. It had enough uniqueness and smart story lines to keep it’s audience the extra years to become long term fans. It was what they (we) had in the space that had been superheroes for older generations. Unless you had someone actively pulling you into the superhero medium, you weren’t as likely to jump in that intimidating mass of continuity. And anime made related products aimed more evenly at multiple genders and age ranges. Of course it hit big. Of course it became the home-base fandom for a couple of generations. It makes sense.
Comic books became mainstream and accessible to newbies again via the films, TV, and cartoons. It’s a gateway. That’s great. But if the older fans insist on gate-keeping right inside those doors, no one is going to get bast the foyer, and the rest of the house is going to rot, and they’ll have blasted their own holes in the floors and roofs.
The you owe me your time, money, and attention attitude isn’t going to endear you to anyone — much less new customers.
If you’re no longer making money at cons, either stop going or refocus. It’s not other peoples’ fault that your business model no longer caters to them.
Yes. That article infuriated me because it was basically someone from an older model of con culture who refused to updated their product to a new target audience blaming younger con-goers for not being interested in things that are not being made to meet their interests. Your audience is primarily in it’s 40s-50s and not attending cons as much because of the crowds so you’re not selling as much? But you refuse to alter your products or selling strategy? Then maybe cons are the wrong marketplace for your product. Business models have to change and update. Blaming passionate folk for being younger and spending their money on things that cater to them isn’t them doing wrong. It’s you refusing to meet a customer demographic. Blaming cosplayers? Yeah, how dare these folk be the height of con passion. If you think they aren’t spending money, I promise you aren’t paying attention. They do spend money, apparently you’re not looking to see what they’re spending money on. Market research. Try it.
When I go back to the hotel room at a convention
This is it. This is the pinnacle of nerdom. This is the greatest height of nerdery that has ever been reached before.
Peter in Loki’s body on a bus downtown to the real Loki and making an excuse that he’s going to a comic convention.
Never will such levels of pure fucking nerd ever be seen again, it’s just not possible. This is a beautiful day, I am glad I am alive to experience this, god bless.
Bear witness, this is the San Diego MTA (trolley and bus) system for the next few days.
Coming-Con International has announced a fairly major policy change this year, though it’s one that will only affect those who plan to line up for Hall H before the first panel - so basically, a lo…
Hn. Interesting. I suspect this will largely not go over well. Mostly due to actual execution when the wristbands don’t mean you get in for certain, people missing wristbands because bathroom breaks, it only applying to first panel of the day, and if you’re implementing wristbands why people still have to sit in line all night. OH. And announcing this new policy so close to con. Sheesh. Could have been done better.
Stuff like this makes me wonder. When I was younger (like 20 or so years ago…) I went to a game convention in New Jersey. It was only $5 for a full weekend pass, but you signed up for games, and there was a fee for each game. If you wanted in on an AD&D game run by RA Salvatore, that was $15 a seat. If you wanted to play some pre-release Warhammer 40k armies with Games Workshop, that was $25 a seat. So on and so forth. I’m curious if we’re approaching a point where the con tickets themselves drop in price, but they sell tickets to Hall H panels.
(Also, why aren’t they hiring professionals to record the panels, then edit out the sneak peek copyrighted material and make a blu-ray to send out to con attendees and sell on their website. Bought a ticket for SDCC? A month later you get a blu-ray in the mail with all the Hall H panels. Couldn’t make it to SDCC? For $30 you too can have all the Hall H panels in glorious 1080p yadda yadda yadda…)
(If they are doing that dvd/bluray thing, please let me know… I can’t afford the trip out to San Diego, but I would spend a few bucks on a disc to see all the panels…)
There’s some massively nostalgic price tiers, wow. Today you’d probably be looking at $40/$50+ depending on fame levels of the guests involved.
There’s a general dislike at cons for “nickel-and-diming” attendees as it does run counter to the fan convention concept of buying a badge to attend the event. The idea of buying tickets to specific panels becomes increasingly difficult given the schedule does not come out until a couple of weeks prior to the event. It would also encourage increased scalping from what SDCC is already subject to. (Check out San Diego’s Craigslist ads during SDCC, I’ve heard of 4-day badges being sold for a couple of hundred bucks.) While several cons do engage in “ticketing” (usually free) for major events (i.e. AMV Contests, Masquerades, concerts) or have pre-event participation sign ups (i.e. gaming contests) primarily as a way to control seating and the number of tickets match the number of seats available exactly — this is not something that can be applied to “smaller” things like panels that might be moved or might overlap schedules. These events are usually set for a known time well in advance, are timed to minimize potential overlap with regular daytime panels, and are considered special events rather than panels. Panels are intended to be the main content of a convention, the reason you buy your badge. Ticketing for every panel would be quickly become absurd, charging extra for these might cause riots. Trying to pick which are “big enough” to get called an event and be ticketed might result in some nasty posturing and bidding wars from the industry guests. Plus, every panel deemed an “event” would become the fresh hell that is SDCC badge registration repeated multiple times over, that or the Hall H line just moves to point at a ticketing booth inside the con rather than at the Hall H doors. It’s just not terribly feasible.
Plus, SDCC has been very anti-change regarding their panel system. Multiple people have suggested something as simple as clearing rooms between panels and limiting when people can start officially lining up (both fairly standard convention practices). Combining these two practices and adding some sort of marker like wristbands to avoid line jumping would do loads to prevent people spending their entire con in lines and others taking up space in a panel they don’t care about waiting for one several hours later. The biggest disadvantage would be forcing people to choose which panels they really wanted to attend. SDCC Admin think the insane lines are a proper part of the con experience and are more concerned about backlash than making the con more pleasant for the majority of attendees.
There are professionals recording many of those panels, usually they’re part of the company that is running the panel. Uploading or selling even the non-exclusive parts would involve licensing and contract changes I doubt either side is willing to do at this point. Plus, the stuff people are fighting to get in to see is the exclusive content and the time in the same room as a celebrity. Everything else (and the exclusive content too, honestly) ends up on the internet within a week or two of con, so it’s not likely DVD/Blu-Ray sales would be worth the production and contract costs.