|Inage courtesy of Bleeding Cool|
I am turning 60 years old next March. I mention that major turning point in my life only because the last time that I did not attend a San Diego Comic-Con, I was 17 years old, and still in high school. Since I graduated, for all 42 years of my adult life, I have committed the heart of each of my summers to my personal obsession with experiencing the joys of the San Diego Comic-Con. I even passed this personal passion on my part on to my four daughters, all of whom spent their entire childhoods delightedly roaming the halls of the various incarnations of this great comics convention.
Sadly, that entire blessed reality may need to end after this year’s show closes tomorrow evening. I have not yet found the courage to reach my final decision, but my best estimate is that, at our current rate of sales, we will suffer a loss of $10,000 at this year’s show. As much as I like being a part of this wonderful gathering, I simply do not have the money to be able to pay $10,000 out of my own pocket for the privilege of providing the fans here with comic books. After 42 consecutive years in a row, it may finally (at long last…) be time for me to bid San Diego good-bye, forever.Before I go further, I would encourage those of you who have not yet read my newsletter from yesterday to first read my analysis of some of the seismic changes that have contributed to our loss. The one factor that I would ask that you especially note when you read my first essay is the fact that our entire 7-booth display that we are operating at this year’s San Diego convention was first premiered six weeks ago, at the Denver Comic-Con. Despite our having about 20,000 fewer comics available in Denver, and that convention being only three days long (with half the number of attendees as San Diego…), our sales per hour in Denver were double (!) what they are here. That made all the difference, as we turned a reasonable profit in Denver, as opposed to a massive loss in San Diego.
So how could an extremely successful back issue comics booth in Denver become so stunningly unsuccessful in San Diego? Because in Denver we were not being utterly crushed by the very publishers whose goods we sell on a daily basis. In a nutshell, the comics publishers with booths at the San Diego convention have so cleverly exploited the greed and avarice of comics fans through limited edition publications that are only available through their own booths, that there is no longer enough disposable income left in the room to sustain us. A sad state of affairs, but also completely true.
To illustrate my point, I had the leader of one of the major comics publishing houses stop by our booth on the way out the door last evening. This man has been our friend and ally for decades. He was absolutely ebullient yesterday evening in describing the amazing success that they were experiencing in their booth as a result of selling vast quantities of exclusive variants. I felt more than a little embarrassment and shame when I had to rain on his parade, by pointing out to him that the collective effect of his actions (combined with the other publishers and manufacturers at the show…) was devastating our sales. My response was not at all what he expected to hear. But as the validity of what I was expressing became clear, I could see awareness dawning in his eyes.All of the above having been said, my publisher friend is an extremely astute man, so he quickly understood the unintended consequences of his actions. Given that he was only seeking to cover his own costs of exhibiting in this dreadfully expensive venue, however, he could muster no material reply to my pain. In many regards, that was the most depressing aspect of this entire fiasco. Being obviated by lifelong friends is particularly galling, especially when we it is clear that we are nothing more than collateral damage, in a battle being waged by giants.So where does this leave us? As much as I hate to admit this, it now seems obvious to me now that we finally have to end a lifetime of exhibiting at San Diego, and instead seek out relatively popular comics conventions in other cities. Especially conventions where our publisher friends choose to not exhibit. Doesn’t that thought just drip with irony? Comics publishers have evolved to become toxic to their own retailers. Who would ever have thought that would happen? Even with all my many years of experience, I simply cannot believe that our world has now been so perverted by the mania for exclusive variants, that comics retailers can now only survive in the absence of the very publishers we support. No matter how you look at it, this is a profoundly sad day.
Mile High Comics is a legendary comic book dealer and warehouse in Denver, Colorado, and if you grew up reading comics in the 70s or 80s, the company's advertising in the middle or back pages of Marvel or DC books were ubiquitous. The company and its SDCC booth were featured in the Mogran Suprlock SDCC documentary "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope". While they have suffered losses here and there over the past two decades as the industry landscape has shifted (and in some cases, contracted), they've endured for decades. And although Rozanski rails against booth exclusive comics, Mile High Comics have offered a number of limited Mile High Comics exclusive variants themselves.
So what gives? With SDCC more popular than ever, are exclusive variants to blame for the company's crushing losses? The Comic Book Bin's Dan Horn doesn't think so. Here's what the Mile High Comics booth at SDCC looked like to him:
It was a mess. There was Chuck, complaining to a solitary customer about losing money hand over fist and blaming it on the con exclusives, while the exclusives Mile High were selling were pretty difficult to see or to find. This year they didn't bring any trades either. There also weren't any big ticket items like we saw the year that Spurlock made his film. I browsed the back issues for books to fill out my collection, but I was appalled by most of the prices: $6 for a comic book issue I could probably find at my LCS for fifty cents... The Mile High Comics booth was nearly empty all weekend while other booths with half-priced trades and comics marked-down below cover-price were incessantly swarmed with ravenous comics readers. These people weren't mobbing these booths for exclusives, as Chuck posited. They were just looking for something good and affordable to read. Many of these bustling booths didn't even have exclusives. It wasn't until Sunday, the final day of the con, that Chuck put out a sale sign, and guess what--business started booming for him as well. But it was too little, too late.And while Rozanski has talked about leaving SDCC for good before, this time it may stick. What did Horn think?
Part of me thinks, "Good riddance. That's a huge booth that's going to open up and maybe Dynamite Entertainment or Valiant will finally have a place to make their own in the exhibit hall. Or maybe a comics megastore like Mile High but with fair prices will move in. This could be a really great thing."
What do you think, dear readers?