Remember going to comic conventions and being filled with awe and wonder and excitement about discovering new work, things you didn't know about and new artists and talent that blew you away? Wondering where all that excitement went?
It lives and thrives at anime conventions.
I just spent three days in Artist's Alley at Anime Central 2009 (ACEN) and I was literally blown away! For as jaded as I've gotten about standard comic conventions, this show kicked serious ass, and raised the question; why aren't ALL comic conventions like this?
Sure, there was plenty of cosplay, teen hijinks and geek idiocy, but it was different. Good different. This is the first specifically "anime/manga" festival/convention that I've attended as an exhibitor, and I was amazed at how genuinely excited all the attendees were to be there, and how willing they were to try new stuff that they had never seen before. For God's sake, I met WhiteChapel posters there!
I was next to Spike Trotman (TEMPLAR, AZ) and both of us came to this con with low expectations of how people would react to our stuff; neither of us have a "house manga" style, we don't write what most people assume manga readers go for, and we're off the radar of most manga online communities. Both of us walked away from this con making more money than we have for the last three cons we've done. I damn near sold out of everything I brought, paid for my table with ONE customer's purchases, and sold out of my $25 LITTLE WHITE MOUSE OMNIBUS edition in a day and a half. I've NEVER done this well at a regular comic convention. Ever.
The question that occurred to me was this; where did everyone who isn't a white male, age 18-35 who reads superhero books go in this industry?
Answer: they went here.
Yes, this was a manga/anime con in title, but seriously, every other kind of fan and lover of the comic medium was here, in large, happy groups, dressed to the nines and loaded with cash to spend. And there was diversity, both ethnic and gender-wise, and overall a desire to find new stuff and take chances, to buy books they knew nothing about apart from it looked cool and had a story they were interested in. I do not (for the most part) see any kind of this adventurous spirit at the comic conventions I've been going to lately.
Granted this is not a new revelation, but it was spelled out in front of me all weekend that, for the most part, the superhero comic industry has not trained the next generation of readers to come to them, so the manga industry was more than happy to step up to that empty plate and deliver what a huge, wide and diverse set of comic fans wanted. I had comic book versions of my old LITTLE WHITE MOUSE series out for free on my table; 14 year old kids couldn't give a crap about those, and on two occasions, a kid was handed a free comic, put it back down and bought one of my trades instead. There's a whole new generation out there who do not see a comic book as an end product; a graphic novel/trade is real, comic books are a relic to them.
Here's my FLICKR set of photos from ACEN 2009
Paul S. Sizer... the "S" stands for "Quality"!