The Middle Ground #48: Why Smaller Publishers Won Wondercon
Much to my discontent, I wasn’t at Wondercon this past weekend – The first one I’ve missed in years, but apparently moving to another state makes attending these things more difficult… Who knew? – and so I was just playing along at home, checking headlines, announcements and tweeted commentary like everyone else. But the longer I did that, the more I started to wonder: Have the smaller companies taken over all conventions that aren’t NYCC, SDCC and C2E2?
Maybe it’s just my personal biases, but the major news of this weekend didn’t seem to come from either Marvel or DC (Did DC actually have any comic news at Wondercon, besides the “RetroActive” announcement? It feels like they were focusing much more on the Green Lantern movie and letting people see Henry Cavill in person for themselves), but IDW, Archaia and Dark Horse. And even though some of that news wasn’t really to my taste – Spoiler alert: I’ve never really “got” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, being simultaneously too old for the cartoon and too young for the original comic – it still felt as if those companies were doing convention announcements “right” in a way that the Big Two weren’t.
In one sense, that’s because Marvel and DC have both abandoned comic conventions as news sources in their own ways, for the most part; DC tends to announce everything on its own The Source blog, and just ahead of big conventions, smartly dominating the online conversation and priming con audiences for more details at the event itself, while Marvel seems to prefer letting mainstream news outlets like the New York Times and USA Today break stories and spoil some, along the way, getting the word out to as many people as possible in one fell swoop. As both companies become more entrenched in their parent corporations, their need for cons as news machines seem to fade.
But even with that in mind, IDW in particular still feels like its announcements were… well, announcements in the best possible way. Who, outside of those working on the books, knew about TMNT or the Walt Simonson Thor artists edition or the new Parker material ahead of time (Same with Nate Cosby working on the Jim Henson’s Storyteller OGN, over at Archaia, for that matter)? These weren’t just interesting, varied projects we were being told about, this was news. There was a sense of discovery as well as explanation, of something new as well as something we’d want to read, and… well, isn’t that what you want from a convention announcement?
Again, maybe I’m biased – Although, come on; Roger Langridge working on more Henson material? Oversize Darwyn Cooke and Simonson? – but I’d be happy to see this trend continue. Let Marvel and DC move away from making big announcements at conventions and towards wherever Disney and Warners want them to be making noise, and let the other companies fill the comic news vacuum they leave behind. They’ll fill the space with news of more surprising projects from a wider variety of creators and maybe introduce a few people to new favorites they otherwise would never have heard about. Isn’t that pretty much a nice definition of everyone winning?