Two Nights In Tucson
Scattered impressions of this past weekend’s Tucson Comic Con …
It was very nice to be invited to the show, even if I didn’t do much more than sit behind my table for the weekend.
The show was low key and pleasant. The organizers seemed a little harried on Friday, possibly anticipating crowd issues owing to the show’s meteoric growth (jumping from 8,000 to 25,000+ attendees in just a few short years), but from my perspective everything ran smoothly. Certainly, the guest experience was superior and hassle-free — the organizers provided us with a good table location and checked in with us several times during the show, even bringing around water and donuts.
The crowd was steady on Saturday and the afternoon on Sunday, with Friday “preview night” a more relaxed affair. It was nice to see entire families in attendance — I’ve grown too used to San Diego Comic-Con, and overlooked how the demand and cost of that show has all but priced your average family of four out of attending. The attendees seemed a healthy mix of dedicated cosplayers and lookie-loos … I talked to several fans who were attending their first comic convention. The con business is one of the sectors where the comics business is growing, and this was reflected in the Tucson show attendance, near as I could tell.
NOT Tucson … yet!
The con had an old-school vibe, in that it was less about servicing fans with big panels and events than about facilitating the fan-to-fan experience. This is the “convention” part that San Diego Comic-Con is losing sight of more and more, where crowd concerns demand that fans keep moving on the con floor, rather than standing about and socializing. In this Tucson was refreshing and made me realize anew how much of a rat race San Diego can be in all its overcrowded glory. Most of the upstairs portion of the Tucson venue was given over to fan organizations — dueling tables for Justice League and Avengers Arizona fan groups, Star Wars associations, a Steampunk group, and even a Judge Dredd group that seemed in especially strong shape. If you were a new fan coming to the show trying to find your tribe, Tucson Comic Con had you covered.
My own experience was laid back and just fine, really … I expected to sell very little, and managed to sell even less (!), but mostly I viewed my table as an opportunity to sit on the convention floor and watch the crowd go by.
I kid, I kid …
I met plenty of nice folks — including Friend-Of-The-Longbox @Regeeken — and I got a contact high watching Transformers and Deadpool fans geek out over meeting my table-mate, Billy King, who did a brisk trade in prints of his original work. It would have been nice to put on a panel, and I regret that my crazy schedule in the weeks running up to the show prevented me from doing so. Maybe next time.
Billy King makes a Transformers fan’s day!
I did learn a bit about myself, manning that table and getting so little traffic. There was a time when I would have found it a crushing experience. In my professional days, I wouldn’t have been surprised, so much, that I didn’t get attention — in my old depressive ways, I might have thought it exactly what I deserved — but it would have eaten me up that other professionals at roughly the same level of expertise were doing better, or at least seemed to be doing better. I lacked the experience to understand that sometimes you are up, and sometimes you are down, and the difference between being “hot” or not is often down to things you cannot control, like the good fortune of working on a property people recognize, or some random whim of fannish fate that makes your particular steampunk/funny animal/hot girl pastiche the Rage of the Moment. Older and wiser geek that I am now, I could just let it wash over me, realizing that of course a guy offering 30-year-old black and white comics — and promoting a website and a yet-to-be-released webcomic on the side — isn’t going to get a lot of attention. It was no problem! I enjoyed the show for what it was and kind of regarded my own presence as a kind of performance art.
This was my first trip to Tucson, and the city does seem hard-hit by the recession. The recovery has been slow, and driving around the city at night it sometimes looked like a neutron bomb had gone off. Things were orderly, but also dark and deserted. Aside from a few thriving blocks downtown and near the university campus, we wondered where all the people and associated services had gone. There were some colorful characters on the streets — I saw one fellow eating his shoe, I kid-you-not — and there was another guy who’s very convincing zombie costume looked like it served double duty for clothes the poor devil must sleep in when he sadly curls up in an alley at night. There are people out-of-doors all over the country, of course, but it was especially tough to see when contrasted with the four-color escapism going on inside the Tucson Convention Center. Hopefully the city can turn the corner, and to judge by the many Deadpools and Harley Quinns walking the show floor, there are plenty of superheroes around town to help Tucson get off the ropes and battle back!
(And the less said about the many large guys unintentionally cosplaying as Jabba the Hutt, the better!)
definitely saw a lot of guys rocking this look!
It would be a grand thing for Tucson Comic Con to lead a city-wide revival, and crazier things have happened — early San Diego Comic-Con guests will remember being advised not to leave their hotel rooms at night, but now the Gaslamp and surrounding convention environs are thriving, both during the show and the rest of the year, too. I’m pulling for you, Tucson, and I hope to visit your Comic Con again!
Thanks again to Tucson Comic-Con for inviting me to the show!