Robot 6

American Library Association versus comic conventions

Derek Kirk Kim was at the American Library Association midsummer meeting last weekend, and he went through the Artists Alley with a video camera asking the creators what they think of ALA versus comic conventions. The lineup includes Dave Roman, Raina Telegemeier, Gene Luen Yang and Cecil Castelucci, among others, and the answers are interesting; several people focused on the way that the ALA attendees (who are, obviously, mostly librarians) are very engaged in the subject matter and interested in learning about something new, while comic con attendees tend to be looking for more of the same familiar comics.

Check out the video; it’s 10 minutes well spent.

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Shows of this nature are a big part of my business. I specialize in the creation of educational comics (I was a librarian at one point), and as such I get a LOT more work through venues such as this than I do through the mainstream American comics machine, which has no use for comedic/cartoony styles, presumably because they’re ill-suited to superheroes. This market has proven very lucrative for creators whose work has the potential to reach a broad audience, but goes ignored by the limited tastes of the direct market.

Mark my words, there will come a time when this market surpasses the US direct market.

There’s a difference between the two conventions. ALA conventions are professional conventions while comic-cons are fan and hobbyist conventions. There have apparently been conventions for comic professionals because I remember Peter David blogging about it.

Make no mistake, AdamYJ, many of us librarians are ALSO major comics fans! We just happen to like people like Derek Kirk Kim, Gene Luen Yang, Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, Faith Erin Hicks, and the other artists who came to ALA’s Artist Alley. We can behave quite fannishly – and we have! The Graphic Novel/Gaming Pavilion and Artist Alley were very different from the rest of Exhibits – we basically had a mini-con going on there in our corner of the Anaheim Convention Center. Definitely smaller and MUCH less crowded than any major comic con, but loads of fun.

While ALA is a professional convention, it’s not too difficult to get in… a pass to the exhibition floor (dealer’s room) costs $25. In Anaheim, the convention center was shared with a volleyball tournament, and I noticed quite a few teens wandering the aisles.

Librarians are hobbyists. While many librarians are new to specific subjects such as graphic novels, they almost all love books and helping patrons find the information they seek. Publishers at ALA sell lots of books, and authors and artists have long lines because of fans. Librarians are lucky, they get paid (never enough) to do a job they enjoy and love.

But yeah, ALA spoiled a lot of artists. Every artists alley table was a BOOTH, similar to the Small Press areas of most conventions. The GraphiCon, the mini-convention held at ALA-Anaheim, would have made an awesome comic con anywhere else! No, there wasn’t much superhero fare (aside from a rather minuscule DC signing where three creators signed copies of #1 issues… what a lost marketing opportunity!), but the artists who attended were amazing!

My report (with a list of professionals) is here:
http://www.comicsbeat.com/2012/06/29/book-con-american-library-association-annual-conference-2012/

Comics! Gaming! Cosplay! Zines! And even a media celebrity! Oh, and a rock band!

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