|For those of you who follow me on social media, the fact that I attended San Diego International Comic Con this year as part of a panel discussing the independent comics boom in Australia, will come as no surprise. Bleeding Cool was kind enough to run a feature on it in the lead up to the panel, written by the ever resourceful Andrez Burgen and can be read here. It’s now been a couple of weeks since the excitement and energy of the world’s largest pop culture convention has passed, I’ve now returned home and had the chance to step back and think about the whole incredible experience.
To compare the event to anything here in Australia might be a little misleading as even the attendance figures at San Diego outstrip the combined total attendance across all cities for either Oz Comic Con or Supanova. Purchasing tickets as a regular attendee for San Diego is almost impossible and this year they sold out worldwide in just two hours. The event provides such a boost to the local economy that the city is able to provide, from early morning until midnight, free public transport for anyone travelling to and from the event with buses picking up eager attendees from their hotel doors. Outside the actual convention and throughout the city, in bars, galleries and hotels there are a great number of side events that take advantage of and enhance the convention atmosphere. The city is essentially transformed for these four and half days as the focus switches to celebrating comics, television and movie culture.
Access to the professional industry is the real difference with Australian conventions. In Australia, what there is of the comic industry is essentially a happenstance collective of impassioned creatives come self-publishers who work hard to produce books, self-market, individually contacting national stores and generating interest for their product in a small and clogged market of like-minded creators until they inevitably run out money and can’t afford to do it anymore. The literally one or two ‘next level’ publishers, are either so swamped for content and/or don’t make enough on the books they already produce that competition is stiff, nigh impossible and limited to those who, in the right place at the right time have built personal relationships with the right people.
San Diego International Comic Convention is by contrast a trade show, less for retailers and more for comic book publishers, television and movie industry professionals. There’s no doubt that its proximity to LA and Hollywood money is a large part of the convention’s success. A walk down Artist Alley is a generational who’s who of artists from the latest up and coming to seasoned veterans. In addition, there were sections dedicated to illustrators, independent publishers and small press – and not one stall peddling cheap plastic jewellery or fan art among them. The small press section was probably the most familiar in terms of content if not size. The independent press section was an interesting distinction between mainstream and small press with publishers like Magnetic Press producing some truly stellar books with top tier production values.
Of great interest to me was the opportunity for portfolio reviews, to receive constructive feedback from Agents, publishers and creative professionals. It’s something that is unavailable in Australia as we don’t have an industry standard. In order for the Australian comic scene to progress from a ramshackle collection of hobbyists to a professional industry, the first step will have to be open discussion and constructive critique. At some point, a bar needs to be set and a standard promoted and aspired to. This isn’t about tearing down people’s work, it’s about guiding creativity to the next level. I’d like to think that one day I won’t have to fly half way around the world to receive clear objective feedback. Perhaps, should this day ever arrive, we will then be able to turn our eyes away from America for a moment, however brief.
San Diego International Comic Com is a big effort and commitment to get to, particularly from Australia. At the end of the four and half days was it worth it? Did I make the most of it? I certainly pushed myself to do as much as possible, to meet people, to take advantage of whatever access to industry I could get. Even after four and bit days, I still didn’t see everything, even forcing myself to be as focused as possible there were times I found myself walking around with the zombie glaze of overstimulation. That said, I did get to meet people and forge ties that can be built upon. Now that the show is over, the work doesn’t stop and in many ways it’s just starting. There are a number of new opportunities now, possibilities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. The challenge now is simply to make the most of them.
|My fellow speakers on the Friday night panel, ‘Off the Beaten Track: The Australian Indie Comics Explosion’ from left to right, Clint Harris (Camera man), Alana Marshall (Presenter), Darren Koziol (Dark Oz), Me (Falling Star), Neville Howard (Melbourne Comics, Sugar and Space), W. Chewie Chan (The Exoneration of Doctor Fu Manchu), Christopher Sequeira (The Exoneration of Doctor Fu Manchu).|
|The first thing I see from behind the microphone (left) and horseplay (right).|
|San Diego the day before (above)… and the city transformed (below).|
|An Artist Alley to die for, both in content and patronage.|
|Just some original artwork for sale…|
|Some of Darren Koziol’s Dark Oz publications, Neville Howard and Louie Joyce’s Sugar and Space, and an indie publication success story…|
|Offerings from the Small Press section – Rachel Dukes’ Frankie Comics and Josh Shalek’s Falling Rock National Park.|
|Jeremy Bastian’s exquisitely illustrated Cursed Pirate Girl and Sketch Book.|
|Ted Washington’s book, More, of beautiful portraits and poetry, Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s Nameless, Eric Shanower’s seven-plus volume epic retelling of the battle of Troy, Age of Bronze.|
|I had to go all the way to America to buy French comics from the master – Moebius.|
|An age old adage may warn against this, but I was chuffed – blurbling at Mike Mignola… He was gracious.|
|My contribution to an initiative of Tom Racine’s from Tell Tale Radio – Drink & Doodle sketches for auction.|