Comic-Con Expo Report for Illustrators Who Have Never Been

  • Moderator

    I attended Comic-Con in San Diego on Thursday, and spent most of the time I was there on the expo floor. It was... really overwhelming. I was gifted with a day pass from my niece who was volunteering there (apparently they get 2 day passes for each of the 4 days of the con that they can share with their family and friends in return for 5-hour shifts each day).

    I live in San Diego, and it's hard to get tickets. Also, everyone local knows it's incredibly crowded anyway, so honestly it's not high on the priority list of "things San Diegans enjoy doing". But I hadn't attended since 1996, so I figured I should see what's up. I had two things on my agenda: see Artist's Alley and the free Art Gallery.

    Wow. It was really really crowded... I haven't been to a lot of cons beyond some very small ones, so this was just... overwhelming.

    I'm putting this post out there because I haven't seen anything like these before, and I know a lot of illustrators and self-publishers do conventions quite a bit. I know that Comic-Con is an anomaly because of its size, but it could be useful information for someone considering attending in the future.

    The artists I saw were essentially sharing folding tables, each having a standing banner or some other self-assembled display behind them. They spread their wares on the table. I think there were different "levels" of table options--some of the artists were in quite small spaces and others were a bit more spread out.

    I was impressed despite the overcrowding. There was SO much talent there, mostly using fanart to then segue into their own IPs. All of them had either original work or prints in various sizes and a good number of them had books--either their own reprinted sketchbooks or their illustrated stories. Lots of stickers.

    Other artists there had full on framed paintings in larger-scale booths that would be commensurate to a booth/tent at an Art Fair. Combined, Artist's Alley and these "Illustrators" and "Fantasy Illustrators" took up the pale blue, pale orange, and pale green sections on the map image below (clicking on that image expands it out to read it better).


    But there were a few surprising things there...

    Interestingly, there were quite a few Children's Book booths there, mostly brought in by bigger publishers like Random House and Scholastic. There were also a LOT of childrens, middle-grade, and YA-oriented books in the Small Publishers section (Which was one of the most crowded sections of the expo floor, in my opinion. It is the pale orchid section of the map above.) The Small Publications section was almost entirely made up of author-illustrators sharing everything the folks in Artist's Alley had available plus self-published work in a HUGE range--everything from strips about vegetables to illustrated erotic fiction...

    As I mentioned before it was quite crowded. I found some videos on YouTube that I thought might be helpful. I did NOT make any of these videos, by the way.

    The video below is a walk-through of Artist's Alley.

    Below is another 360° video walkthrough. Interestingly, he doesn't even go near the Artist's Alley. But it's engaging because you have the capacity to rotate the camera angle around.

    Finally, this last is a video of a walk-though specifically for Artist's Alley and the Small Press sections.

  • SVS OG

    I wish I was there! Someday, someday...😁

  • Moderator

    @Nyrryl-Cadiz Just an FYI: I've been hearing that the overcrowding is actually detrimental to sales, so if you do go someday, be aware of that. As an attendee, it was really difficult to actually talk to the artists because the aisles were very narrow, and you couldn't really stand in one place without having to seemingly "tread water" against the stream of people trying to get by in the walking paths. It was challenging to have a conversation without feeling like you were getting into someone else's business...

    From what I've been hearing, this has been a trend for a while--Artist's Alleys at a lot of conventions are allocated less and less space so the artists are getting more and more cramped. I would also be wary of the fees--this may be a high profile con but it may not be the place to recoup your investment... There may be smaller cons where you might be able to do much better.

    I don't mean to discourage you at all. Just make sure you make an informed decision. These were the fees this year, and it looks like the majority of the tables in Artist's Alley were either $600 or $1,100. And note that's contingent upon jury approval.


  • Thanks for sharing. Interesting. I'll check out the youtube vids. Comic cons have come along way since the early days. I remember in the early 80s, it was an event for "geeks" only. I walked the floor with yards of elbow room:-)

  • SVS OG

    @Coreyartus i don’t think i’ll be tabling any time soon at comicon since I live all the way in the Philippines but I still want to see it for my self even just once, even if it’s full of people. It’s on my bucket list

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