Notes from the Canadian National Comic Book Expo

11 September, 2000

It is easy to dream of a future in comics when you are sitting behind a computer keyboard, or browsing the newest additions to the racks at the shop. It's another thing to see the reality of the business on the type of scale afforded by a comic convention.

And it is a business...make no mistake about that. For all the heroes, the horror and the humor of it, comics is very much a business....a LOT of money changed hands that weekend. From the retailer tables with their overpriced (or often underpriced) stock, to the artists with their often underappreciated sketches, to the memorabilia hackers with their little pieces of history (and their fair share of refuse as well), the commercial side of the art was definitely the order of the day.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. Certainly, there were some ripoff artists in the crowd, but generally, folks were just trying to make a living. There is nothing wrong with making a profit, and it is especially good if you can make that profit from something you enjoy. It's just that seeing the business of it can be an education to the aspiring only had to see the tons of overpriced Image "limited edition" books, and the number of Steve Rude's, Rick Veitch's, and Barry Windsor-Smith's wasting away in the fifty-cent bins to know that this is going to be one bumpy ride.

The strongest realization for me came when I actually got to meet Barry Windsor-Smith, and hear him talk about the fact that although he is an artistic success, he is not a commercial success, as if the two had to be mutually exclusive. And to see that among a crowd like Chris Claremont, Peter David, Jae Lee, Pat Lee, etc., he had the smallest lineup for autographs. Now, I am certainly going to bemoan the fate of "poor Barry", but I think it does say something about where we are right now that one of the originals of the medium gets passed over for his imitators. Is financial success truly the price one has to pay to achieve artistic integrity (oooh...that's an original thought, isn't it?)? As an artist as well as a businessman, I certainly hope not, but only time will tell.

Some of the positive highlights from the con:

To all the aspiring creators who read this, let me just say that if you really want to get a bird's eye view of comics, make the effort to take in a con. You won't regret it (unless you get snookered into buying a bunch of Dynamic Forces editions)


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