One of the strange things about writing a weekly Internet column such as this one is that it can be on occasion an instantaneous thing, especially when youíre used to writing things months before anyone ever sees them. But some times, even a matter of a few hours is a long time to elapse between the writing and reading of a work. It is Thursday morning as I write these words, and Iím preparing to leave later this afternoon for WizardWorld Chicago. (This column is one of the last things I have to do before I go. Obviously Iím in a rush so itís going to be a brief, haphazardly dashed off installment of Advocating Comics this time around.) Youíre reading these words, however, on Friday afternoon, and Iím already at the convention itself. In some strange way then, this weekís column, which is all about preparing for a convention, focuses on a point already moot by the time you read it. Still, we press on.
In some ways, Iím excited about the convention. Iím looking forward to meeting some of my favorite creators (although for the second year in a row Jeph Loeb has backed out of the con in the eleventh hour, again delaying the time I will meet him face to face after all our web-based conversations). Iím going to be covering the con for both Broken Frontier and Newsarama, so the simple idea of getting to put my journalism skills to use for the first time in years is a pleasing one. Iím also just going to enjoy the camaraderie and the comfort of being around people who are all like me in some small way; to talk comics with my fellow fans with sheer, unadulterated fervor for the medium is a joy unto itself.
In other ways, my excitement for the con is not as great. ďComicĒ conventions are often anything but, and Iím not looking forward to having to deal with the skate park that was set up last year at the con. Iím not going to this comic book convention to gawk at porn stars like Aria Giovanni, to buy HeroClix, to dress like a Star Wars character, or to meet Lou Ferrigno. For me, itís all about the comics, and I think itís a shame that at times these conventions are about everything but the comics themselves.
Still, a con is what you make of it, I suppose, and I intend to make the most of it. This year I have decided to shelve one of my usual agenda, after I tried in vain last year to advocate comics (specifically advocating that people try Doom Patrol) to no avail. A comic book convention is not a place to advocate comics, not just because youíre preaching to the converted, but also because usually people go there as fans of something in particular. Convention-goers are a different breed of fans, ones already so engrossed in their niches that they have often built up sub-groups, smaller cliques within cliques. Thus the convention is not always the easiest place to convince people to try new things. I did have some success last year when I gave some issues of Box Office Poison to a girl I met who was there solely to meet Terry Moore and get her Strangers in Paradise trades signed, but she was like the exception to the rule, someone still on the outskirts of the niche.
Instead I look at the con as an opportunity to replenish myself for future advocacy. I am going to buy trades on the cheap to loan out to students. I intend to leave Chicago having made a deal with some creators to be my guest speakers when I teach my class again next year. And I will have spent a great deal of time talking to creators about their stories, looking for some insights they can give me which I can then share with the uninitiated.
But also I hope to further the cause of advocacy by talking with my fellow fans about the issues raised here in my column over the past months. I want to discuss with them how we can best advocate comicsónot just us but the publishers, the shops, the magazines and websites, everyone. I hope to convince the fans I meet that we need to be reaching out to others more and more, to escape the niche and draw in everyone we can, to help the industry survive.
As youíre reading these words, Iím already on my mission. Will I be successful? Come back next week and weíll hear straight from the mouths of fans, creators and publishers what they think of my cause.