San Diego Comic-con sure seems to be in the news a lot lately, and not always for happy reasons. One the one hand, it’s still one of the best places for creatives to forge strategic partnerships with other individuals and companies, and to reach out to the fans themselves. On the other are legal disputes like the one currently going on between San Diego Comic-con and Salt Lake Comic Con over the former’s attempt to enforce an alleged exclusive right to the phrase “comic con”.
At every major Comic Con I’ve ever been to, Mile High Comics has always been a fixture. Their enormous booth could be seen for blocks away inside the exhibit hall if you were looking in the right direction. The sight of their booth will be one fans won’t have this year at San Diego Comic Con 2017. Owing to a bizarre set of circumstances surrounding their attendance at last year’s convention, they’ve decided to withdraw. It’s the first time in 44 years that they’ve done so.
Here’s the letter posted on their web site from Mile High’s President, Chuck Rozanski:
To answer the numerous questions that we have been receiving of late, for the first time in 44 years, we will not be exhibiting at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. I wish that this decision could have been otherwise, but circumstances beyond our control made our further participation impossible. To explain, San Diego has grown far beyond its original premise, morphing from what was originally a wonderful annual gathering of the comics world, into a world-renown pop culture and media festival. As such, it has seen rapidly escalating costs, and also a dramatic change in the demographics of its attendees. Neither of those changes worked to our advantage.
To explain a bit more, my first little one-table booth in 1973 cost $40 to rent for the weekend. When we received our booth renewal for last year, our costs for our 70′ of space had been raised to over $18,000. While quite costly, that one factor alone would not have precluded us from returning, as we had paid $16,500 in rent the previous year.
What made the situation nearly impossible, however, was that foot traffic in the exhibit hall declined dramatically last year. Even at its peak on Saturday afternoon, our end of the building (which was primarily comics) was uncrowded. The San Diego Fire Marshals were partially to blame, as they put much stricter controls on the number of badge holders allowed in the building at any given time. That might not have been such a bad idea, except that it amplified the harm already being caused by the incredible proliferation of off-site events that are now being set up for upwards of eight blocks all around the convention center. When you can see GAME OF THRONES, POKEMON, and hundreds of other exhibits across from the convention hall for free, why bother going in to the hall? Many fans did not.
To summarize, we experienced rising costs, while at the same time foot traffic in our booth plummeted. That is never a good combination. That having been said, I truly loved the experience of exhibiting at San Diego Con, so I can assure you that I would have ignored those two major obstacles, and still renewed my booth. The final straw, however, was the utter indifference of the San Diego Comic-Con management to the fiasco that we endured at the beginning of last year’s show, when the freight handlers that they hired failed to deliver our comics to our booth.
So how could this awful thing happen? It beats the heck out of me. Our trucker was in line at the convention marshaling yard at 6:30 AM on Tuesday morning. At 9 PM that evening, with almost all the other vendors around us unpacked and completely set up, we still did not have our 40,000 lbs of freight. I had twelve workersscheduled to help us set up that day (included Will, Lynne, and Norrie who flew in from Denver that morning…), but all we could do was to sit around all day in our totally empty booth.
Making matters much worse, at no time during this ordeal (or during the show) did anyone from the convention management stop by with an apology, an explanation, or even just to commiserate. After 44 years of my supporting them through good times and bad, that was just too much indifference to endure. When you are in a relationship out of love and passion, but the other party could care less whether you live or die, you have to realize that it is time to move on. I will very much miss San Diego, but I doubt if the convention management will even notice that I am gone. Such is life.
Moving on to news from our online business, our new 30% off codeword is VACATION! This discount codeword applies to all ten million of our back issue comics and magazines, excluding only new issues, a few variants, and slabbed comics. Please note, however, that we currently are working down a 10-day shipping backlog due to the July 4th holiday and Denver Comic-Con falling on the same weekend. Your patience would be very much appreciated.
President – Mile High Comics, Inc.
July 5, 2017
Fans have noticed the contextual drift of San Diego Comic-Con for a couple of decades now. It’s finally gotten so bad that the raison d’etre of the convention – the comics – are starting to be squeezed out entirely. Can a fan run convention get so big that it completely loses touch with that which made it great in the first place?
What’s your opinion? Let us know in the comments below.
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