A-Kon 1997 report

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Fireminer
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Re: A-Kon 1997 report

Post by Fireminer »

I don't live in America, so please forgive my ignorant, but is it weird that Star Trek codified the fandom? I would have thought that comic book fans would be the first to do so. I mean, superhero comic books were the first of the recently-created mediums to do multimedia (Superman radio shows from the 1930s and 40s for example), as well as becoming a "specialized" merchandise of source with the establishment of the comic book stores and the Diamond Comics.

(I recently have got a discussion with an American mecha fan who were also into media analysis. He presented the thesis that the reason superhero comics have been looked down for so long was because that they now were sold in specialized shops. Had comic books remained on the racks of newspaper vendors, they would had got the respect like manga in Japan. What do you think about this idea?)

Also, it seems to me like most organizers of fan conventions got burnt out after a few years from reading Dave's article. Who is the person that has averted this and been an organizer for the longest time?

davemerrill
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Re: A-Kon 1997 report

Post by davemerrill »

Comic book fandom was a separate fandom, for the most part. There was some cross over between the fandoms, and any large convention like the San Diego convention, or the Atlanta Fantasy Fair where I grew up, would have programming from comic books, SF movies and TV, gaming, and other areas. But the comic book fans were focused on Marvel and DC super heroes, with smaller groups interested in Disney comics - mostly Carl Barks "Duck" comics, and even smaller groups interested in older horror and crime books, etc.

The reason comic books aren't bigger in America is a complex topic, but to boil it down to a few points -
1. an investigation into crime and horror comics in the 1950s led to more adult issues being banned in comics and the institution of the Comics Code. However, even after the Code, sales continued to increase, and the best selling comics - Dell's Disney titles - continued to sell very well.

2. the collapse of a major newsstand distributor in the late 1950s led to the failure of several comic book publishers. Marvel was almost one of those publishers, but survived by being distributed by its rival, DC.

3. Sales of periodicals of all kinds began to decrease in the 1960s as more Americans got more televisions and moved to the suburbs, away from the corner stores and newsstands that were the regular sales outlets for comic books.

4. As sales of comics declined the major publishers focused on super hero comics to the exclusion of other genres - westerns, war, crime, funny animal, romance, mystery, horror, SF, and children's character comics all vanished in the 1980s.

5. The comic book industry in America became almost nothing but super heroes, which as fine as they might be, have a limited appeal. As the newsstand distribution network dried up, some comic book dealers opened their own shops and began negotiating with the publishers themselves, leading to the direct comic book distribution network we have today, which is dominated by one company, Diamond.

So basically to buy a typical 32 page color super hero comic today, the consumer has to drive to a comic book store and pick up an order he has made in advance through the store's account with Diamond. It isn't a very profitable business and comic shop owners carry pretty much all the financial risk. There have been several booms in the industry since the 1980s and they're always followed by a bust.

Most super hero comics are looked down upon because they are awful. Seriously, they're unreadable nonsense aimed at people who have spent years figuring out the elaborate back stories and universes of every character. In contrast, the best selling comics in America today are graphic novels aimed at young readers - they outsell super hero comics by a wide margin. Archie Comics outsell super hero comics every month, month in and month out. But you won't hear this from most comic book fans, because they feel super hero comics are the only "real" comics.


Star Trek didn't so much codify fandom, as build a framework that other fandoms took and used for their own interests. Letter writing campaigns to keep their favorite shows on the air, newsletters about the show and its stars and creators, fan fiction and fan art and fan videos, costuming, and conventions were all things that Star Trek built out in ways no other fandom had done, and certainly not in a visible way.

There have been SF conventions in the US since 1939, but for the most part, the strictly written SF conventions are almost hidden. There aren't any attempts to try and get the regular person to attend, there isn't any outreach to the public at large. In fact a lot of the literary SF conventions would prefer to be small, exclusive gatherings of only the "right" people. The Star Trek conventions, on the other hand, advertise on TV, and are welcoming to pretty much anyone who has an interest in Star Trek. That's the kind of attitude I tried to carry forward when we started our own anime con, this is something for everybody to enjoy.

I'm not sure of who the longest-serving anime con chair is. Meri Davis ran A-Kon for a long time but she stepped down from chair duties at some point in the 2000's. I'm not sure how long Marc Perez ran Anime Expo. I think Otakon has always had a regular turn over in top staff.

I don't think there is a way to avoid burnout if you run a large organization - even the President of the United States can only serve eight years at most. It's healthier for an organization to rotate through its chief executives, I think.

Fireminer
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Re: A-Kon 1997 report

Post by Fireminer »

davemerrill wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 4:54 am
The reason comic books aren't bigger in America is a complex topic, but to boil it down to a few points -
1. an investigation into crime and horror comics in the 1950s led to more adult issues being banned in comics and the institution of the Comics Code. However, even after the Code, sales continued to increase, and the best selling comics - Dell's Disney titles - continued to sell very well.

2. the collapse of a major newsstand distributor in the late 1950s led to the failure of several comic book publishers. Marvel was almost one of those publishers, but survived by being distributed by its rival, DC.

3. Sales of periodicals of all kinds began to decrease in the 1960s as more Americans got more televisions and moved to the suburbs, away from the corner stores and newsstands that were the regular sales outlets for comic books.

4. As sales of comics declined the major publishers focused on super hero comics to the exclusion of other genres - westerns, war, crime, funny animal, romance, mystery, horror, SF, and children's character comics all vanished in the 1980s.

5. The comic book industry in America became almost nothing but super heroes, which as fine as they might be, have a limited appeal. As the newsstand distribution network dried up, some comic book dealers opened their own shops and began negotiating with the publishers themselves, leading to the direct comic book distribution network we have today, which is dominated by one company, Diamond.

So basically to buy a typical 32 page color super hero comic today, the consumer has to drive to a comic book store and pick up an order he has made in advance through the store's account with Diamond. It isn't a very profitable business and comic shop owners carry pretty much all the financial risk. There have been several booms in the industry since the 1980s and they're always followed by a bust.

Most super hero comics are looked down upon because they are awful. Seriously, they're unreadable nonsense aimed at people who have spent years figuring out the elaborate back stories and universes of every character. In contrast, the best selling comics in America today are graphic novels aimed at young readers - they outsell super hero comics by a wide margin. Archie Comics outsell super hero comics every month, month in and month out. But you won't hear this from most comic book fans, because they feel super hero comics are the only "real" comics.

Star Trek didn't so much codify fandom, as build a framework that other fandoms took and used for their own interests. Letter writing campaigns to keep their favorite shows on the air, newsletters about the show and its stars and creators, fan fiction and fan art and fan videos, costuming, and conventions were all things that Star Trek built out in ways no other fandom had done, and certainly not in a visible way.

There have been SF conventions in the US since 1939, but for the most part, the strictly written SF conventions are almost hidden. There aren't any attempts to try and get the regular person to attend, there isn't any outreach to the public at large. In fact a lot of the literary SF conventions would prefer to be small, exclusive gatherings of only the "right" people. The Star Trek conventions, on the other hand, advertise on TV, and are welcoming to pretty much anyone who has an interest in Star Trek. That's the kind of attitude I tried to carry forward when we started our own anime con, this is something for everybody to enjoy.
Thanks for the clarification about superhero comics! Through interactions with American comic book fans online, I have this strange feeling that they always see their favorite heroes being made into a movie some kind of certification of quality, like even they considered comic books as an art in a lower level than cinema.

Also, speaking of SF, like people have talked on this forums many time, there some SF fans becoming anime fans in the 60s, 70s and 80s because of stuffs like Legend of Galactic Hero. So who was the oldest person of that type you can remember? What was the upper age limit? I mean, Jerry Beck and Fred Patten were only over 30 when they start following anime, right?

davemerrill
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Re: A-Kon 1997 report

Post by davemerrill »

I held onto the membership forms from our anime club in Atlanta in 1986-87 and we did have a space for 'age' and one for 'interests', and another space for 'other fan-type interests.' The ages ranged from 17, 35, 24, 22, 29, 18, 25 - the youngest was 13 and I think the oldest I had an age for was 36, though I do think some older fans were in the club. I was 17 at the time so, anyone older than their mid-20s seemed ANCIENT.

"Other interests" included things like "general SF", comics, "reading science fiction and fantasy", British television, old Chuck Jones cartoons, "samurai movies", "roleplaying", "Docter-Who" (this was one of the 13 year olds), Star Trek, model building, "live action Japanese sci-fi shows", Thunderbirds, Supermarionation, Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica.

There was some crossover between our membership and the literary SF fan circles in Atlanta, but not that much; one of the anime club's early members was a guy who had a reputation for being a creep among all the Atlanta fandom communities, so when he told people he was a member of the new Japanese anime club, everyone else all stayed far away. I'm sure every town has at least one of these characters, and we were unfortunate that he was there at the beginning.

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DKop
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Re: A-Kon 1997 report

Post by DKop »

Akage wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 9:41 pm

That's kinda how Animazement has become. Last year I only went because Robert Woodhead wanted me on his AnimEigo panel to be a talking head, so my cost for the ticked and hotel were covered, can't complain with that and very grateful for it. I felt like I barely got to meet with you when the year prior I was with your gang the whole time, it's just one of those things. It's nice that AZ got canned this year since it would be hard to go back since it was the last time I ran into one of my brothers old friends from our neighborhood, and he sadly passed away at ECU in late August 2019. It's just not the same without seeing him there accosting street preachers and trolling them, and then laughing about it and grabbing a Jimmy Johns in the plaza across the street and catching up for an hour or so. I get to see old friends when I'm in town and that's about it.
I've already been a blubbering idiot the past couple days about this and you want me to continue this here?! I miss the gang. I missed my 6 hour drive to Animazement after spending the week hanging out in Tennessee and learning that asking a butcher for ground chicken took some serious mental processing on his part. I miss the movie theater with the huge seats. And that diner you recommended with the man who drunkingly complained about his shoes. And WaHo and Cracker Barrel...curses...now I really want Chick'n Dumplings! I miss getting A drunk (approximately 2 small cups) to the point where he strips on the way back to his hotel room (but P's horrified expression was priceless and has convinced me to continue this tradition). And most importantly, I miss sharing my snackies and plum wine with you guys because y'all know I always come prepared.

No worries about last year. I knew you were working for Robert and if that would help your career, who am I to disturb that for shenanigans? Besides, T fell down the escalator and couldn't walk for the entire convention, so we watched a lot of Netflix, drank and then yelled at the young'uns to keep it down after 11 because, dagnabit, old people need sleep.

Now I'm just gonna have to drown my sadness in Japanese Yuzu Sake Kit Kats...
That year in 2018 when I hung out with A,P,T and you I had a free schedule to do whatever since I wasn't down in the dealers room dungeon bouncing for my friends game booth (they were fun times but 7 years in a row doing that gets to you after a while). I had a wonderful time seeing Deadpool 2 and Solo with you guys. I absolutely am making a tradition to hit up that diner, the Gypsy Shiny Diner in Cary, NC. It's just nice to hang out with people once in a while since for a long time I was always a lone wolf a cons, meeting people here and there but always tending to myself and doing it my way. But it's nice to hang with a group and give up that independence for building friendships, its absolutely worth it! You still got my number so you can always give me a text or call at a con to meetup.

My career at AnimEigo is really just side volunteer work that will pay off in the long run. It maybe a pinky toe but its something in the anime industry, and I know people would love to be in the position that im in. Robert got it made to get help from fans who are as passionate as him, if not fanatically more :lol: . I got my parts for the Kickstarters to do and I get done with what I can, and ive enjoyed every bit of it. I stated more than once in the AnimEigo panel last year that I was blessed and humble to work for Robert and I mean every word of that.

Funny enough I bought (and since drank) a good bottle of Japanese Whiskey a week ago or so. I'd have to try those Kit Kats eventually, which will come from you of course! :D

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Char Aznable
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Re: A-Kon 1997 report

Post by Char Aznable »

davemerrill wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 4:54 am
Most super hero comics are looked down upon because they are awful. Seriously, they're unreadable nonsense aimed at people who have spent years figuring out the elaborate back stories and universes of every character. In contrast, the best selling comics in America today are graphic novels aimed at young readers - they outsell super hero comics by a wide margin. Archie Comics outsell super hero comics every month, month in and month out. But you won't hear this from most comic book fans, because they feel super hero comics are the only "real" comics.
Many super hero comics today seriously suffer from lack of both writing and quality art, however they still outsell Archie. The top ten monthly bestsellers are usually a mix of DC/Marvel superhero titles. Every now and then you'll have an IDW title, or a Spawn issue, hit the top ten. Last year, the Walking Dead hit it, but that's become rare. For example, in January 2020, Archie vs Predator 2 #5 (the best selling Archie title that month) moved only 7,000+ est units, while Wonder Woman #750 moved 160,000 units.

davemerrill
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Re: A-Kon 1997 report

Post by davemerrill »

The sales figures you see for comics, for instance, on the Comicron page, or ICV2, don't take into account newsstand sales, and are mostly just direct-market numbers, aka Diamond's figures. Admittedly that's a more reliable number, at least in terms of what actually gets shipped to comic shops. I see the number one selling title for March was yet another Spider Woman #1, selling at 140,000, which would be spoilage numbers for a typical run of Walt Disney's Comics & Stories back in the 1950s.

It's kind of an apples to oranges thing, comparing sales of Archie books to super hero comics - Archie comics have a wider distribution reach via supermarkets, convenience stores, and other mass-market periodical avenues, mostly thanks to their digests, that Marvel and DC only sporadically attempted to challenge. On the other hand, you can walk into any drugstore, grocery store, all-night gas station, or Wal-Mart, and find Archie comics waiting for you or your bored kids. And those Archie books get read, passed to other kids and read again and again, while, for instance Spider-Woman #1 will probably never come out of its protective plastic bag.

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