Philadelphia Comic Con: Where were the comics?

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Boooo! We totally beat England 1-1. Wait... What?

So most of us at MLD spent this past weekend at the former Wizard World East/Philly… which was renamed this year “the Philadelphia Comic Con.” This was an interesting move on Wizard’s part considering that there was virtually no presence at the event from the comic book establishment. Yes, there were comic book vendors and an artists alley, but completely missing from the festivities were representatives from DC and Marvel comics (as well as Dark Horse, IDW, Boom, or any other semi-major publisher). In fact, the only publishers I did notice at the event were Zenescope Entertainment, who publish a comic based on the defunct WB television show Charmed, and Avatar Press, who publish independent books from guys like Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, and Garth Ennis – none of whom were at the show. The lack of comic book companies showing up also meant there were none of the typical comic book panels highlighting what’s coming in the next year or announcements of any kind.

It has been a few years since I attended this show and so much has changed during that period.

Most significantly, Reed Exhibitions launched the New York Comic Con which has quickly become THE East Coast convention. But the Philly Convention has morphed greatly as well. The last time I attended Wizard World, DC had a huge booth and brought along big names such as Jim Lee. Marvel at least maintained a table for signings by whoever happened to be writing the X-Men titles that week. Movie studios such as Lions Gate had booths to present trailers for their upcoming films. Booths were also set up to play and promote upcoming video games.

Wandering through artists alley, you would run into guys like Peter David, Patrick Zircher, and Green Lantern creator, the late Martin Nodell in addition to the convention’s special guests. There were no surprises this year. I hate to say it, but the majority of the people in artist’s alley were guys looking to be discovered who still have a lot of work to do learning their craft before they’ll be ready to tackle mainstream books.

One trend that was clearly on display is the growing movement of artists depicting mainstream characters from comics and other sci-fi properties in a “cute” style clearly inspired on some level by anime and manga. I really liked a lot of the work I saw in this style, but what I can’t see is DC or Marvel putting out books with this look. As a result, I don’t completely understand the goal of these artists. Do they just travel around the country to shows like this selling prints of licensed characters? That cannot be a lucrative endeavor. I hope they’re all working on their own creator-owned books because I could definitely see the next Scott Pilgrim emerging from this sector.

Dr. Who by Dave Perillo from http://montygog.blogspot.com/

The show also featured your typical row of former celebrities. To be honest this row makes me feel uncomfortable. I want to remember Raven for his deadly DDTs and crucifying the Sandman, not for trying to sell signed photos. And who is paying for autographs from Johnny Fairplay or the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld and why? To be fair though, the Soup Nazi was a very friendly dude.

While it was kind of cool to walk-by and point at someone and think, “Hey, that’s Adam West!” or “Hey, that’s Spike from Buffy,” I definitely was not saying, “Hey, there’s Jake Busey!” And if I were someone who had paid $25 to get in, I would not be thinking, “Hey, I want to pay $60 for Patrick Stewart or Adam West’s autograph.” It just isn’t happening.

The biggest attraction of the weekend for me was definitively the 1966 Barris Batmobile brought to the show by Gotham City Supercars. Sitting in that made me feel like a little kid. Completely awesome and worth the price of admission.

Feeling like I was nine-years-old again!

Having said all that, the place was packed on Saturday to the point that they decided to keep the show open late. Wizard has described the event as “overwhelmingly successful.” Next year’s event has already been set for June 10-12, 2011. And most importantly, many of the people we spoke to seemed to be having a good time and felt it was worth the price of admission. I’m willing to accept that maybe I’m just old and cynical.

Wizard has set up or purchased a number of shows around the country this year, which seems to suggest these pop culture events represent the future of the company as magazine sales plummet. However, if you’re someone who enjoyed the Philadelphia “Comic Con,” I strongly recommend checking out the larger New York Comic Con in October 2010.

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