Comic Non-Sans: Katsucon 2012 in the Artist Alley

First, a bit of business.  You may have noticed that we have been sans Non-Sans for a bit now.  As of now, we’ve decided that it’s going to become an irregular column, dealing with news and reviews and any big features rather than a week-to-week observational thing.  I think, at least on my end, this will be generally a better use of the space and make for more interesting and useful (albeit less frequent) content.

This past weekend was Katsucon 18 at the Gaylord National Harbor.  Katsucon has been growing steadily for as long as I can remember, and this year was even bigger than their backup planning accounted for.  I heard plenty of stories over the last few days about emergency runs to get more badges printed at the last minute, saw the registration lines, and got to (attempt to) move through the Dealers’ Room a couple times over the course of the weekend.  Perhaps it was the fact that they were hosting the World Cosplay Summit this year, or perhaps it was just their regular extreme year-to-year growth.  Fortunately, that growth didn’t mess with the quality of the con itself — staying at the Gaylord (referred to by many of the attendees as Macross City, and for good reason) means there’s plenty of room for everyone to get around comfortably.  The rooms are nice, there’s (generally) food handy, and the whole place is very pretty.

However, despite the attendance and venue size, Artist Alley was slow this year — and it wasn’t just me.

Here’s the weird thing of it.  A lot of people came through.  People walked by all day.  There was never a point when people weren’t around, even right as things were closing up.  But sales for most of the people I talked to were either low or nonexistent, and that includes people I know are generally big sellers.  The video game artist to my right made one sale the whole time I was around, and most people I talked with did about the same, if anything at all.

First thing everyone says (and probably rightly) will likely include the phrase “in this economy.”  And there may be something to that.  Sales at all the cons I’ve been to recently have had pretty low income for people across the board.  But the deadness of this seemed incredibly odd to me.  With my three-hour drive home, I at least got to give it a little thought.  There are a couple things I can figure.

1. Placement of individual artists. I was between two pros who had computer screens and cases of stuff and whatnot.  That has nothing to do with table setup — it presents a very different problem.  People at any sort of vendor tables at cons don’t understand how not to block things.  This is a universal truth.  What happens if you bunch an indie artist in with people selling major licensed stuff?  The line for the latter has to go somewhere, and it’s going to end up blocking off someone’s table.  (It’s also a universal truth that a kind, understated “Could you please scoot over?” doesn’t work.)

2. Placement of different types of artists. Now, before now I’d seen the weird thing of separating up webcomickers, mainstream artists, and cosplay-thingy makers.  It always seemed like a weird division to me; but now that I’ve seen them mixed together, I can understand why.  You’ve got a clusterf… you’ve got a big mess of people looking for one specific thing, clogging up space for two other things they’re not looking for.  I have no idea how the hair clip and Kyubey hat vendors did, but they were in spitting distance of me, and it felt very strange to see the mix and watch people trying to get around.

Now, yes, I know there’s been issue before with the “blurry area” where artists might also sell some sort of plushies along with their stuff.  But I was seeing wigs for sale around the corner from me.  I have no idea if being mixed in with artists did anything negative for their sales, and sadly I didn’t have a chance to get any info on that — but I have a feeling that even if they did do all right, people had a harder time getting to them than they might have if they’d had their own area.

I’m going to say here, too, that the Dealers’ Room also had an odd-feeling layout to it.  I don’t mean the table arrangement so much as the people arrangement.  It is indeed common practice now to mix in con representative tables and companies and things with goods dealers, but I got that same confused sporadic feel when I tried to find things there.  I’m not sure if I can call it disorganization, because from a managerial standpoint things went smoothly.  It’s once people got where they were going that things felt odd.

Final verdict?  I’m not sure what about the arrangement made this happen, but for an indie webcomicker, Katsucon was not good this year.  My only guesses are the ones I’ve already made.  I would be interested to hear from others on how things went — but while I love Katsu a lot, I’m not sure how much I can say for it from a seller’s standpoint anymore.  I hope that over the coming year’s planning period, whatever happened can be cleared up — if it is, in fact, to do with the con itself and not just an unlucky year.

Posted on February 21, 2012 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, Events, Eyes and Ears · Tagged with: , , , ,
  • Charles

    I noticed a lot of the same things on my end. I dropped off a number of commissions on Friday, expecting to see them at some point late Saturday or Sunday. They were ready for pickup less than 2 hours. 

    But I do need to remark on the caliber of artist: it was very high, and very affordable. Which is why I got 4 commissions instead of my usual 1-2