Convention Season is Upon Us Once More

Convention season. It seems to be the cornerstone of all things comic book, the sol around which all else revolves. If you’re anybody or want to be somebody, you’d better make your rounds and show up to at least one of the major conventions going on in the United States in a given year.

This weekend, we begin the 2009 comic book convention circuit with the 4th annual New York Comic Con. Honestly, it feels a little like the alarm is going off loudly, waking me from a deep sleep. Didn’t I just get to bed? It’s like a Monday, ending the weekend earlier than you expected. A couple weeks from now, it’s time for Wonder Con in San Francisco, then Emerald City Comic Con, then Heroes Con, then Chicago, then San Diego, then Baltimore, then sweet, blessed rest. But then, I just don’t like lugging a camera around for 2-4 days at a time. It’s heavy. Hell, yesterday it was announced that the people behind NYCC are adding another show in Chicago. Is that entirely necessary?

Of course, I’m being a bit facetious. Obviously, these comic conventions wouldn’t be the massive success they are if they weren’t actually fun. Think about it. There’s this relatively small community of devoted fans and producers of comics, but we manage to have so many of these conventions throughout the year that it’s astounding. If it’s your first big con, or you go once a year or so, it’s probably a the best time of the year, and rightly so. It’s a celebration of all things comics. For creators, it’s making connections, setting up jobs, and basking in some adulation. For fans, it’s a smorgasbord of all the things you like best.

However, for small press and creators just starting out, I worry that before too long, the expenses of conventions will just be too much, setting up yet another barrier to breaking in to a very difficult industry. Now, obviously, the world owes you nothing, and if you want to make comics for a living (or even for a small stipend) you’re going to have to go through a lot of hoops, in addition to actually having any talent. As you might know, sure it helps to be good, but that only gets you so far, but without actual contacts in the industry, getting published is pretty much impossible. Historically, conventions have always been great places to get to know people, and establish those all important contacts. Yet, if you’ve been to San Diego in the past 3-4 years, you’ve seen how massive it’s becoming. The other thing it’s becoming is expensive.

I did some research on what it costs to attend this years San Diego Comic-Con, and it ain’t cheap.

Looking to get a booth at the San Diego Comic-Con, but you’re flying in from, let’s say JFK in New York, for an example? You want to arrive on Wednesday, and leave on Sunday. A hotel near the convention center is going to cost you at least $800, if you happen to get lucky enough to get one of the SDCC blocked rooms. If that doesn’t work, you’d better book early, and expect to spend at least $1,000, but probably more. Your flight is going to cost you at least $300. A table in Artist’s Alley, provided you’re approved, will cost you $350, and the same for a small press table. A Comic-Con table will cost you $850. Other spaces are available for more than that up to $2,200. So far, to get there, and set up somewhere, you’re looking at a rock bottom minimum of $1,150, not counting food, supplies, or shipping anything you need at the show. It is possible to eat PBJ from the local Ralph’s all week, but if things are going well at all, you’ll no doubt have to go to a couple dinners, and go out to a bar or two. Finally, woe is the comic fan who can make it through an entire San Diego show and not buy anything. The amount of financial temptation on that floor is unrivaled, regardless of what your particular geek fetish may be. Also, while I’m thinking about it, you’d better have a fairly forgiving day job, or get way way ahead if you’re already freelancing. These prices must be getting harder to pay in world where the cost of everything is going up, but where it’s so hard to make a living making comic books.

I suppose my point is, it’s not easy, and it sure as hell isn’t cheap. If you’re out there trying to make a name for yourself, you’ve got to pick and choose which shows to go to, and how many you can afford, and which are worth it, since each show actually has a slightly different character, and an advantage or disadvantage for the creators and fans. While San Diego has the biggest reach, perhaps it’s a better bargain to go to the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, since so many publishers are based in the Pacific Northwest, like Oni Press and Dark Horse Comics.

The same choices apply if you’re a fan, by the way. Do you want sensory overload? San Diego is your best bet, with New York Comic Con gaining swiftly on its heels. The same goes for celebrities, if that’s your bag. You like a show with a lot of comics and comics creators, but you’re a Marvel fan? Try Heroes Con in North Carolina. A west coast equivalent would be Wonder Con in San Francisco, which feels more like a show in, well, San Francisco. Of course, the costs will vary, as Charlotte, North Carolina is a bit more inexpensive than San Francisco, California. Then again, if you like scores of creepy homeless people, missing San Francisco would be a shame. (I kid you, city by the bay!)

Finally, one more tip, if this is taking up your whole vacation budget and time off for the year, and you’re married, you’d better hope your spouse loves the same things you do. Either that, or you’d better trade off comic book vacations with real vacations to a place where it’s much more unlikely you’ll run into Robert Kirkman or Igor Kordey. Don’t ask why I know this.

Remember, even though we joke, having been to many, many, many conventions at this point, they can be a ton of fun. You’ll meet great people. You’ll also meet complete whackadoos, but try to avoid them if you can. So have fun at your conventions, good luck if you’re there on business, and remember to get lots of rest and get plenty of fluids when recovering from the inevitable illness you will acquire in the process!



  1. Don’t forget DragonCon down here is Atlanta, Georgia.  Comely, buxom, southern lasses in tight corsets.  Yes, please.  [Sorry if I just offended our female reader base, but you have to admit that if I told you Jamie Bamber (aka Lee "Apollo" Adama) was there last year (he was) with his shirt off (it wasn’t), you would be all over it, too.]

    @Conor – Tell me you don’t want to come down here, eat 15 pounds of cheeseburgers and fries at Varsity, get drunk on some fine Kentucky bourbon, and then spend some quality time with a Southern Bell enamored with you New York accent.

  2. Isn’t DragonCon more of a sci-fi/cosplay kind of thing?

  3. Hope Conor ends up passed out in a gutter while Ron & Josh board a plane without him. As usual. XD

  4. Baltimore is the only show I do, and every year, it’s a highlight. Great guest list with a not-too-large crowd allows for some time to chat with creators (and stand in line behind people chatting with creators). However, I’m so wiped after two days, I can’t imagine having to check out of a hotel and get on a plane, let alone lug around video equipment. I don’t say it enough – thank you, iFanboy for your continuing con converage.

  5. I can’t wait for the Emerald City Con, mostly because it’s the closest for me. I’d love to make it to San Diego again, but who knows if that will all come together. It’s a whole different math equation when you’re looking at a 22-hour drive.

  6. They should start having a comic book convention in Atlantic City.  We have had a kick ass convention center for nearly a decade now.  We had a porn convention once but I missed it, damn!!

  7. It’s much smaller than the rest mentioned up here in Michigan we have the Motor City Comic Con (40-plus miles from Detroit, whatever).  I’m sure its much smaller than all the others I was amazed last year at the amount and variety of guests from both comics and other media.  I’ve enjoyed it in the past and look forward to this year being the 20th anniversary.

  8. Don’t forget Mid-Ohio Con in Columbus.  It’s a later con (usually in the fall around October or early November), but it does draw some decent talent.

  9. @josh – Yes, it is more of a sci-fi/cosplay kind of thing, but there are some comic book booths and signing.  I don’t recall who came last year, but I am sure their site contains a guest list for this year.  Also, I saw roughly 10 people wearing iFanboy t-shirts in an 8 hour span, so you have some fans down here.

    I completely understand that you can’t go to every con and that you need to pick those that are most relevant, just wanted to remind you that DragonCon is a pretty big event and a relatively untapped market for you guys to infiltrate.  

  10. It’s interesting to see those prices tallied up and know with absolute certainty that I will never be at SDCC as long as I live. What do they recommend you bury a dead dream in, a shoebox or a coffee can?

    I can’t understand: I live in a town that has cradled everyone from Roy Thomas to Denny O’Neil to Steve Gerber, a town with 370 comic shops in it. Right around the corner is Kansas City, with its Matt Fractions and Jason Aarons and Tony Moores and B. Clay Moores. Why in the f*** can I not get a decent convention within driving distance? Oh, Chicago gets another con? Awesome, it was time to make that an even dozen.

  11. @Jimski – It’s only a 12 hour drive to DragonCon.  How much closer can you get?

  12. @Jimski- I live in KC and Tony Moore, Jason Aaron, B. Clay Moore, and Matt Fraction will be at the KC’s convention.  Check it out at:  Never been so can tell you how it is, soory.     

  13. I’m lucky my wife will put up with going with me to Wonder Con 🙂  And not only for one day, but two–possibly three days!!

    I would think one of the smaller cons is a creator’s best bet for actually getting time to meet with someone about their work.  Granted less of the big wigs show up to the smaller cons, but still.

    Either way, I plan to wear my iFanboy members only shirt all weekend at Wonder Con.  I might even wash it too!!

  14. Ah, the cons.  I wish I had the money to go to one at some point.  There’s prospects that I might be moving close to one once my fiance finishes med school, so that’s a plus.  Or maybe after I get married, before kids, I can convince her to come to one with me.  Sigh.

  15. That Kansas City con has a great lineup, and it’s on my birthday! It must be fate.

  16. Has anyone ever been to the Philadelphia con before? It came and went a couple of weeks ago but I really didnt care for the line-up of people they had there…..Actually I think they had Esad Ribic which would’ve been a dream for me. But I dont know if anyone ever goes to that con in general.

  17. you guys have to come out to Wondercon, its a great show.  Last year in the costume contest, there was a disco reenactment of StarWars where Yoda was played by this really really old guy in his wheelchair and he got crotchety with his lightsaber and refused to swing it but just shake it in the air.

  18. See you guys in Seattle.

  19. Are these shows really that different from one another?  I mean, I know that San Diego Comic-con is like a media extravaganza, but other than that, it seems like you should just go to the show that’s most convenient.  I can walk to the Moscone Center from my office, so Wondercon it is for me.  Is there a reason to fly to another city for a convention?

  20. I went to Fallcon (a little con in minnesota) and got to meet Peter Tomasi. It was great!

  21. @PudgyNinja – Yes, they are different, by virtue of who’s showing up, and also that different regions of the country are vastly different.  Not sure if that’s worth a trip for you, but there’s definitely a different feel to various shows around the country, and I’m sure the world, if you were to look into it.

  22. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @TNC- Which Philadelphia con?  Wizard World Philly is in June/July.  Usually good for sketches and buying stuff, not so much for panels.  

  23. I’m planning on going to San Diego this year. It’ll be my first con and my first trip overseas.

    Anyone got any advice?

  24. @reg5000 – Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle.

  25. ahhhh im totally at NYCC this weekend!! just got my comics together and now im considering San Diego this year too

  26. @ TNC

    The Philadelphia comic con usually happens about once a month and it really isn’t a convention. Basically it’s just a big sale where you can get trades and floppies for 50% off. The real convention is wizard world.

  27. are there any meetups planned at any of the conventions?  of course for new york con, but what about the others?

  28. Don’t forget that Fantigraphics is a Seattle Company!!!! The Emerald City Con is great. There is a huge artist alley and tons of great panels. It gets better very year.

  29. I second WadebeforeSlade’s post.  We better be having something for WonderCon.  Isotope usually does some sort of pub crawl right?  At the very least, they will be throwing one of their awesome parties!

  30. Okay, for the first time ever I’m considering attending a convention. I live here in Seattle, thus the Emerald City Comicon would make sense.

    Should I get a ticket early? Are there a maximum number of people can attend? Or is purchasing early just a price thing?

  31. I’m still annoyed that WizardWorld L.A. got killed. I’m too financially strapped to return to San Diego or make the trip up to WonderCon (must-have-tiki-bar-walk!) in addition to the stuff I’m already doing. I guess it’s the Shrine Auditorium shows for a while. *shrug*

    Of course, I could *not* go to, sa, Burning Man this year, but shit…there are other things in my life that aren’t comics. 🙂 Besides, one of these days I’m *certain* to run into Grant Morrison in Black Rock City!


  32. Dragon*Con has already been mentioned but it’s worth repeating.  Alcohol flows and it’s so damn fun.  This year, there’s going to be more of a comic slant to it.  Darwyn Cooke and Mike Mignola are scheduled to be there, so that’s something to note. 

  33. I think that there should be some sort of ifanboy thing – I mean, doesn’t Ron hang his hat in SF? 

  34. I would wear a silly outfit all weekend if it got me to a con. I mean I live in Sioux Falls, SD, which is yes the biggest city in the surrounding area (Twin Cities the East and Winnipag for the North) but come on! I think I’ve got at least 3 other people mostly convinced to go with me to Dragon*Con, but mostly convinced can quickly turn in to "Sorry Betsy, we’re too poor and so are you".  Stupid recession. 

  35. @BetaRayBilly – Wow! I had no idea we were getting Darwyn Cooke and Mignola this year at Dragon*Con.  That is incredible.  I can’t wait.

  36. Let’s not forget all the alternative press shows that are popping up and holding it down for years, too. Shows like Stumptown in Portland, OR and APE in SF are good places to get a table and hoc your wares while getting a name out in a relatively low-key environment. I’ve met a bunch of professionals face-to-face in those smaller shows.

    Also, I just read on their site that Super-Con in San Jose, CA is getting Eduardo Risso as a special guest this year. This definitely one of the smaller local shows so meeting Mr. Risso and getting some good time with him at the table might actually be an option here.

    Oh, and homeless San Franciscans can be fun! Stop hating Josh. 😉