Montreal Comic-Con thoughts

Late last night I returned home from a 2-day visit to Montreal for the third annual Montreal Comic-Con, which is owned and run by Oscar and Alex – otherwise known at most comic book conventions across the continent as the dealer MAJOR COMICS. Last year, some of you may recall, I went to the show to promote the awards and to accept books on behalf of CGC (the comics grading company). While there I had a great time at a solid regional comic show — attendance last year was a little over 2,000 — a good showing for an event of this kind in it’s second year.

This year EXPLODED. I’m not sure what exactly happened this year, but attendance figures are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 7,000 attendees. A MASSIVE jump from 2009. Many guests and dealers had their own opinion on what it was that made the show click – but one thing that I did hear that everyone in Montreal really liked and think mattered was the presence of advertising for the Comic-Con on Montreal’s subway system at one of the busiest stations in the city.  Having Brent Spiner, Elvira and Billy Dee Williams, and to a lesser extent Peter Mayhew as guests certainly helped a LOT – all were big draws for the convention and there were a lot more people in costumes this year over last (the masquerade probably helped encourage young cosplayers). The addition of professional photographer Droo for professional photos was very well received by the Montreal fans and we worked to make it a streamlined process for all that seemed to work very well.

The advertised superhero wrestling was canceled before the event started. In my opinion, if it had gone forward there would have been serious issues with overcrowding and safety as the ring would have taken up a large part of the floor plan. That the ring was not set up before Saturday morning was serendipitous. It enabled us to shift the celebrity guests tables into a better controlled environment for autograph lines. I did not hear any complaints about the absence of the wrestling element. In fact, even those who asked about it seemed to think it was no big deal that it didn’t happen.

The presence of Tim Sale was certainly a big draw for many of the American art collectors I recognized who follow Sale around from event to event, Grateful Dead style. He had a long, healthy line for the duration of the event, as did Ethan Van Sciver, Darick Robertson, Herb Trimpe, Dale Eaglesham and many of the other comic pros that came to Montreal for the event. Montreal-based artists Yanick Paquette, Cameron Stewart and Kelly Tindall all had healthy lines and seemed very happy with the attendance and attention they were receiving.

The MCC was unique in that it attempts to bridge the wide gap between English comics and French BD… and from my perspective a lot of the gap was shortened by the presence of Barbara Canepa, who had long lines of French and English speaking fans there to see her to get their Sky-Doll comics signed and sketched upon. One thing that we noticed that was different between attending English artists vs. attending French ones was that the English artists would sign but charged for detailed sketches. Some, like Sale and Van Sciver did do free sketches in books if the time-permitted. French artists almost always sketched for fans who bought their books in the front of the books, producing fairly elaborate and in some cases full colour sketches for fans who brought them books to sign.

Les 400 Coups had a long booth with four stations at which creators signed and sketched in books and talked to fans. Robert and I were able to pass along their plaque from the 2009 ceremony and had a pleasant conversation with company reps about market penetration into other areas of North America, as Robert relayed some of his own personal experiences in dealing with the French BD distributors in an attempt to get product into stores. Hopefully we’ll have more to discuss on this topic as one of our goals is to get retailers across Canada information on how to order these great works for their own stores – or at least relay information to them and their customers as to what is available. The BD market is very Europe-focused and I think we’d all like to see some more awareness here in Canada as to the excellent work being produced.

One hopeful sign is the presence of La Gallerie Montreal – the store that sponsored Barbara Canepa’s visit and is now representing art sales for many Canadian artists from comics and BD. They are opening a second store in Paris, and there is some hope that the sister stores will help expose more work by Canadians to the European BD market and conversely to see the Montreal Comic-Con as a place to expose Canadians to more work by Europeans. This, I think, is the great strength of the Montreal Comic-Con — it is strategically placed to be the bridge between cultures and continents. There are many great festivals in Quebec that do this already, but to a strictly French-speaking culture. The MCC fits with our own perspective here at the JSA’s about inclusivity of promotion of all Canadian works regardless of language.

I was quite proud to be a part of the event this year. I ended up working most of the time in the celebrity autograph area, but I was also responsible for looking after the comic guests, and I brought along my assistants Matthew Allen (part of my Fan Expo comics team) and my girlfriend, the lovely and talented Ms. Debra Jane Shelly. They both did a bang-up job helping out this year and we loved working with the MCC’s other staff and volunteers! Bravo! The growth of this convention also requires a lot of changes and revisions for next year in order to make it better and smoother for all involved in the event – from the promotional side to the attendance side, but this was a great foundation on which to build an even better 2011 event.

Hopefully Robert Haines (who also went to the MCC) will share with you some of his thoughts and observations.

Kevin Boyd

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