Comic-Con International 2004 is the largest comic related merchandise show in the Western hemisphere. It’s also the destination where toy and collectible retailers find out what’s hot in comics, interactive games, and movies products that are inspired by comics. During July 22-25 this year, Comic-Con presents an almost endless display of brand new comics releases, games, videos, and action figures in its sprawling 500,000 square foot trade show floor at the San Diego Convention Center.
Comic-Con International, a non-profit educational corporation, has undertaken this enormous event since 1970, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. “The show’s purpose,” says David Glanzer, director of marketing and public relations for the event, “is to increase public awareness of comics and related popular art forms.” The first show drew 300 visitors who talked with industry professionals only about comic books and movies. This year, Glanzer expects 75,000 attendees at the four-day event, who will sample a broad range of artistic products and merchandise that have mushroomed from this industry. “The exhibit floor alone will take a whole day to see,” says Glanzer.
Besides the exhibits on the show floor, there will also be a film festival featuring independent and Japanese anime offerings, an art show and auction, and a special section will be devoted to Press that produce independent and fan publications. In addition, two floors will house hands-on workshops, seminars, panels, and lectures presented by a slate of industry professionals.
There is something here for everyone. “The show attracts 8,000 industry professionals: cartoonists, gamers, writers, and manufacturers,” says Glanzer. And there has been a crossover into the general market during the last five years, drawing a wide public audience. For toy retailers, that can be a side benefit by seeing the reaction of the target consumer (males, ages 18-34) of these products first-hand.
In addition to examining new products and talking to industry professionals, retailers will also have their very own meeting room. In this quiet, comfortable space, retailers can drop in to talk with colleagues from around the world or schedule meetings with company representatives. There will also be retailer-oriented programs on Thursday and Friday of the event, including the “Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer” Award.
Because this year is a pivotal year for the event–it’s the 35th anniversary–special displays and events will mark milestones in Comics art. This year will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Godzilla and 75th anniversary of Popeye, Tarzan, and Buck Rogers. Some of this year’s special guests will be authors like science fiction writers Greg Bear and Kevin J. Anderson, veteran comics illustrators like Tom Gill ("The Lone Ranger") and Walt Simonson ("Manhunter, Fantastic Four"), and new generation write/illustrators like Mike Mignola ("Hellboy") and Craig Thompson ("Good-bye Chunky Rice").