Skip to main content

Can independent comics artists make it at Comic-Con?

Can independent comics artists make it at Comic-Con?


As Hollywood slowly devours SDCC, small press publishers carve out their own space

Share this story

By now, San Diego Comic-Con has long since outgrown its name. It's a show about Hollywood movies, blockbuster video games, and basically anything with the slightest whiff of geek appeal. Yet each year, independent artists and publishers still descend on the convention looking to find an audience. But is that even possible when all their would-be customers are stuck waiting overnight in the Star Wars line?

While the internet gives indies a way to be discovered, many still live and die by the convention circuit. The Devastator, an independent comedy publisher based in Los Angeles, says that around 70 percent of its revenue comes from conventions, even though it also sells books online and in around 40 stores. "That's about average for every indie press we know," says Amanda Meadows, one of The Devastator's founders.

Many publishers still live and die by the convention circuit

And with conventions going more mainstream, that could present a problem. The Devastator, like the other small publishers here, are selling a niche, geeky product: most of its books are parodies of properties like Goosebumps, Dungeons & Dragons, and MegaMan — the kind of products that rely on people with very specific interests finding and falling in love with them. And bringing those books to Comic-Con in hope of finding an audience isn't cheap. A booth can cost a small publisher around $3,000, which may mean making hundreds of sales before turning a profit.

Meadows has been bringing The Devastator to Comic-Con for several years now, and she says that she's seen some change as the show's focus continues to shift from comics to huge films and video games. A bigger show means more people who can potentially find her booth, but now, Meadows says, "You have to go through so many people to find the right people." Plus, getting in is expensive and a huge commitment for would-be attendees. "The young hipsters with not a lot of funds can't step in to find the weird stuff," she says.

And yet, Meadows and other independent artists and publishers at Comic-Con don't seem to mind the changing interests and audience. "I don't see it as a negative," says Yehudi Mercado, the artist behind SuperMercado comics. A few years back, "People were mad because Glee was here," he says, shrugging off the concern. "Some Glee fans will like something I do, I'm sure."

"Comic-Cons were the first way we got the word out."

The independent artists and publishers making it at cons are taking different approaches to success, but the general consensus is that they just need to be aware of the Con's audience. Mercado isn't selling only his comics — which includes a graphic novel about a pizza delivery boy — he's also selling small prints featuring his takes on famous characters, something that the discerning fan might want to pick up even if they aren't ready to buy a full book.

Immediate sales aren't the only benefit of showing up at a con either. Artists and publishers see it as a way of slowly building an audience. Even if someone doesn't stop by their booth this year, they might recognize it the next year and finally take the time to check it out. "Comic-Cons were the first way we got the word out," Meadows says.

The show is also a place to build connections with other artists and publishers. The entire industry descends here — it's an obvious place to do some networking. Part of it, Mercado says, is being able to "walk away from a convention with gigs," like being hired to do cover art for another publisher's comic.

Lonnie Millsap, a webcomic artist who's been posting single panel jokes since 2009, says he'd rather walk out of Comic-Con having met someone who can help him sell several hundred more comics next year than move a few more units at this year's show. "There's no expectation that we're gonna be the next Warner Brothers," he says.

"Being in the small press section at Comic-Con validates what I do."

In fact, these independent publishers and artists aren't even able to make a full-time job out of it yet. Meadows says that she and another founder of The Devastator are both only "80 percent full time." Millsap has a management job, and Mercado is the art manager for Disney's Playmation.

Still, there's an emotional component to being here. "Being in the small press section at Comic-Con sort of validates what I do," he says. And it allows him to actually meet the people who are buying his books, something that Millsap says he's taken a surprising satisfaction in. Meadows says the same is true of those running The Devastator, that part of being there is for the existing fans. "Enough fans would be disappointed if we weren't [at Comic-Con]."

Those familiar faces may become few and far between as Comic-Con's focus grows and it becomes harder for all audiences to show up, but that growth is still bringing in people who love geek culture and are looking for something new. "It widens the audience," Mercado says. "That's the best thing. That's better for everybody."

And really, it's not like there are many geeky publishers that would want to skip Comic-Con, anyway. "You can't not do this show," Meadows says. "It's Mecca, right? Everything's here."

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Striking out

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.

A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.