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Pros and CONS

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What do you get when you take a cramped ballroom, stuff it with a few thousand people (half of which are there whoring themselves out), and then blend it all together with an overwhelming stench of Italian meat perspiration?

You get the bane of my existence… The comic convention, also known as the “con”.  Is it a coincidence that the shortened name implies a negative vibe?  I think not!

Let me explain.  It’s not that I dislike the concept of a comic convention, because there happened to be a period when I enjoyed them quite a bit.  In fact, I remember spending days trolling the aisles with my friend Josh, my backpack slung over my shoulder, searching feverishly through long boxes for additions to my own personal collection.  I’d leave the conventions filled with child-like anticipation, and sprint home for a marathon of sequential page reading that would last me a weekend.  It was glorious.

Unfortunately, those days are gone.

In recent years I have witnessed the ugly side of comic conventions.  Working within the industry has allowed me access to things a normal person wouldn’t see, and in a lot of ways, it has enabled me to look “behind the curtain”.

First and foremost, comic creators have monstrous, Cloverfield-sized egos.  I’m not saying all of them, as I have a number of friends within the industry who are as chill as Freeze Pops, but if you thought the corporate world had its share of ball waggers, then you haven’t seen anything until you’ve stared down the barrel of a comic writer/artist high on his own hype.

The thing is, I have worked a bit in the film and television industry, and worked for many years in music, and I can honestly say that the egos you find in the comic biz dwarf those that you come across in Hollywood and the recording industry.  I have theories about why this is the case, but I think I’ll share those thoughts in a future column (see, future tirade).  Unfortunately, the reason why it comes up in this particular column is because at a convention, you take all of the industry egos and overwhelming personalities and you put them under one roof, and suddenly they stop looking at each other as peers, and instead, they start seeing each other as competition.  Insert fake smiles and backstabbing here.

And then comes the self selling.  Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never been one to toot my own horn or talk about my accomplishments.  It’s like the old adage, if you have to continuously talk about how big your dip stick is, then there’s a good chance you’re overcompensating for your below-the-waist shortcomings.  I’d like to think of a career in the same terms.  If you have to continuously sell people on how enjoyable or innovative your work is, then maybe you’re spending too much time convincing people of your talent instead of spending the time perfecting it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for promoting your work, but if you have to play the part of carnival barker, hailing people to your booth as they pass by, then you should at least offer them the chance to win your book as opposed to dropping their hard earned dollars on it.  May I suggest setting up a few milk bottles and handing out a couple of baseballs?  The first passer by you coral into your space to knock them down gets the prize.

And maybe it’s just me, but haven’t the cons gone a little, oh I don’t know… Mainstream?  When Paris Hilton hosts a party at Comic Con, isn’t it time to slow things down a bit and remind ourselves why we started going to conventions in the first place?  Comics anyone?

The good news is, aside from the assorted few Hollywood producers who are looking for “the next big blockbuster” and the occasional attendee who is more interested in the free swag than the comics themselves, the fans who attend the cons are still as committed to their collections and their beloved characters as ever before.  They are what keep me going back for more personal anguish each convention season, and they will continue to draw me to the ballrooms and convention centers for years to come, if for no other reason than to thank them personally for their support.

But, if by chance I’m scheduled to be at a con and you don’t see me sitting behind the standard banquet-sized table staring off into oblivion, there’s a good chance I’m hiding out at a nearby pub, crouched in the darkness with a beer in my hand, trying desperately to ride out the current convention storm.

###

Named Best Indie Writer of 2008 by the Project Fanboy Awards, Jason M. Burns made the leap into the comic book industry in 2004 after being approached to write a short story for Dead@17: Rough Cut, Volume 1.  Since that time he has written and created a number of projects, including the critically acclaimed releases A Dummy’s Guide to Danger, The Expendable One and Curse of the Were-Woman.  While he has been working regularly in comics, Burns has been concentrating on a career in Hollywood as well, developing a number of projects for film and television.

Burns was born and raised in Massachusetts where he began his career as a journalist and public relations professional.  He is currently Editor-in-Chief for the newly formed Outlaw Entertainment.

www.outlaw-entertainment.com

www.jasonmburns.com

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Comments

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Jun 26, 2009 at 2:38pm

    Very interesting insights Jason (and best column title of the year!).

  • Kris Bather

    Kris Bather Jun 28, 2009 at 7:43am

    Now I don't want to go to Comic-Con anymore! Nah...

  • CA3

    CA3 Aug 23, 2009 at 12:57pm

    Well, this definitely isn't encouraging me to attend any comic book conventions in the near future.

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