Toronto Comicon 2016 in Review!

That was fast. Even though Friday and Saturday seem to be long stretches, Sunday buzzes by and once again the convention weekend is over.

This was no different.

Running from Friday to Sunday, March 18-20th, Toronto Comicon hosted several celebrities—from The Walking Dead, Starship Troopers, Ghostbusters (the original), TVs Dark Matter and Killjoys, among others. But aside from the Dark Matter panel, I didn’t really see any of them. As part of SillWill Studios/Press, my sister, Alison Williams, and I stuck mainly to our 6 foot table in Artist Alley selling copies of our books—The Sorcerer’s Children, The Adventures of Astrodog, The Ruby Warrior—sketches, limited edition fair trade chocolate bars with The Sorcerer’s Children labels on them, and talking with many of the fans that passed by.

So, how was the convention experience? Not great from a business POV. The sales were very low for us. As expected, Celebrity autographs/photo-ops, Marvel, DC Comics, Manga and Anime still reigned supreme. Lots of people attended and the convention will probably brag that between 20 000 and 30 000 fans attended. But that’s a really arbitrary number as far as small press comic publishers are concerned. Just because that many people attended doesn’t mean they were there for anything other than the mainstream selections. And they weren’t for the most part. From our experience we (meaning small press publishers in general) were probably on the bottom of the list of priorities for show fans. Celebrities, Marvel/DC Comics merchandise, ‘famous’ comic book talent (artists in particular, who are all selling sketches at a relatively steep cost, as well as in some circumstances selling their autograph.), Cosplayers (who are just there to showcase their work and not buy anything, and if they do it’s corporate owned properties), fans of Manga/Anime, were what was popular. This is not the conventions fault nor the fans—they simply want what they want. In fact there is no real fault in this regards. The allure of the big name characters has long been around and, thanks to the movies and TV shows, is at an all-time high now. And that naturally leaves publishers like us in the dust.

How do we know for sure? Well, not only by the low sales numbers but from the direct interactions with fellow small press/self-publishers as well as the fan attendees. You can see it all around. You hear it from them both directly and indirectly and countless times over: “That’s impressive art! Wow! Incredible. Thanks!” and then they walk off, not having purchased anything, their Deadpool and Sailor Moon prints clutched tightly in their hands as they move on.

This has become the evolution of the traditional comicon for us. Disproportionate rising costs placed upon us from the conventions, the rising costs established professionals demand from their fans for their commissions and even signatures, the ticket costs for fans, and the further disinterest of the general attendees for what we do has had a growing impact on our sales. And, unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of increasing the prices of our books each year like the show organizers and celebrities typically do.

The fun part—and yes there were fun parts—were meeting several cool people. We had GREAT neighbours all around us. Selina Muriel was a young women selling her art and crafts. She was sweet, nice, personable. Shi Anne and Brooke Wayne across from us, also self-publishers, were awesome to talk with.

The InnerSpace gang from Space TV were great to see again. Morgan and Teddy are always personable and cool. Ajay, I have to add, was so awesome, as he came back Sunday, stopped by our table and chatted—as well as bought one of our chocolate bars. Great guy!

The atmosphere, vibe, and air of the whole event was immensely positive. Everyone was smiles and laughter, there to have a good time. And they did. The convention staff and volunteers were nice and helpful and easy to spot.

For those who were into the big name attractions, they found it. Rob Liefeld, Mike Zeck, Scott Kollins, John Ostrander, etc … and I’m sure they had a fun and profitable time.

To top things off—and we chuckle at this—was something that has never happened to us before until now. Since the convention was in a large open center, a couple pigeons managed to get in. And, yes, one flew into the rafters just above our table. And, yes, disturbed the dust and spray insulation above that fell onto our table below. But that wasn’t all. You guessed it, moments later, SPLAT! Right onto the table inches in front of where I was sitting. Missed me thankfully, but not the business card Selina had just given me or our custom table cloth. You just gotta laugh at these things. No real harm done. That darn bird could have splatted several of our books, but it didn’t and I’ll take that as a win.

Overall, we enjoyed the experience personally and are glad we went to Toronto Comicon. Whether we’ll be back in Artist Alley or not next year … we’ll have to seriously think and consider whether it’d be worth it professionally.