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A Report on the 2011 Motor City Comic Con
A report on the 22nd Annual Show
By Tim Janson
May 15, 2011
The Motor City Comic Con, Detroit’s oldest comic book convention, now in its 22nd year, took place this weekend in Novi, MI. The three-day event is part comic con and part media event as the show always features a diverse cast of guests from current and classic TV shows. Among the highlighters this year were Star Trek veterans George Takei, Brent Spiner, and Kate Mulgrew; Battlestar Galactica stars Tricia Helfer, Richard Hatch, and Dirk Benedict; Flash TV series star John Wesley Shipp; Lost in Space’s Marta Kristen; SAW film series star Betsy Russell; True Blood Star Kristin Bauer; 1970’s sitcom stars Mike Lookingland and Susan Olsen of “The Brady Bunch” and Cindy Williams from “Laverne and Shirley”, and a host of others. Motor City Con long ago ceased being about comic books or at least strictly about comic books. It’s a strength and a weakness of the show. On one hand the show’s roster of TV and film guests attracts a lot of people who are not comic book fans. On the other hand I know comic fans would love to see some of the more major talents and publishers.
Crowds were fairly light on Friday, the shows opening day, which is to be expected since kids are in school and most people are still working. The Crowd Saturday was elbow to elbow and thankfully it was only in the low 60s and not the 80-degree day we had on Friday. Star Trek guests always have long lines but fans were also excited to talk to the Brady kids, Kristin Bauer, and of course the guys wanted to meet former Baywatch babe Gene Lee Nolan, and former WWE Diva Torrie Wilson. This year’s comic book guests were somewhat lackluster. Probably the biggest comic talents were Howard Chaykin, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Tim Sale. To be honest, as I walked through the comic guest area the overriding thought I had was, “Who are these people?”. It was certainly great to see the Zenesope people on hand as I think they are one of the best new publishers to come out in the past decade and they put out great stuff but Motor City has never seemed to been able to attract the big publishers…Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse.
A survey of dealers found the following trends…As far as comics, the economy has definitely improved as far as the back-issue market goes, both at shows and selling online. Dealers don’t generally move a lot of higher end Golden Age books at show and the same was true for MCCC. But Silver and Bronze age books, especially in lesser grades (Fine or less) move very fast. In part this is due to deep discounts. Nearly every dealer I encountered selling Silver Age books was doing so at a 50% off the sticker price. Of course this might not be the great deal it seems as I found the original prices to be somewhat inflated. Still, sales seemed to be brisk, especially on bargain box comics priced $1 each or less.
Motor City Con always features dozens of toy dealers although the mix of toy dealers didn’t seem as strong this year. While there’s normally an a few dealers there with good amounts of Japanese toys like Gundam, Mugenbine, Kaiyodo, etc…the imports were non-existent this year which was very disappointing. Superhero toys like the Marvel Universe, and the DC Direct stuff was flying off the shelves. The Brightest Day, the new Green Lantern series, and the Marvel Select figures all proved hugely popular. Loose figures were moving as fast as packaged toys. One dealer who had made the drive from Dallas to Michigan had several tables and bins under the table loaded with thousands of loose action figures from superheroes to Transformers and his was one of the busiest booths on the floor. What’s not selling? Older superhero lines…Older apparently doesn’t equate to more collectible as there’s little interest in the Toy Biz Marvel figures from the 1990’s. Also having a slowdown is film-based toys. Where these once were hot sellers, I’ve noticed dealers now discounting these toys. But the toys that are the slowest sellers are Star Wars. It seemed every dealer with newer (past 10 years) Star Wars figures had hundreds that were selling in the $3 - $5 range and people still were not biting. All the dealers pointed to an over saturation of the line as well as obviously having no new movies to help promote them. But beyond that is the opinions of many that the generation who grew up on the second Star Wars Trilogy simply isn’t as passionate about it as the generation who grew up on the original trilogy.
The Motor City Comic Con is always well run and organized although I have to gripe about the ridiculously long wait to check in and receive my press pass. My ability to get in early ahead of the customers turned into nearly an hour wait as only two poor ladies were manning the dealer/guest/press check-in station. As a result, customers were inside before a lot of dealers and guests could get situated. MCCC is always a good time but there’s a distinctive “been there done that” feel to it. It’s a lot of the same guests from year-to-year and a lot of no-name guests on the comic side. A new comic show started up in 2010 called Detroit Fanfare which scored a major coup by featuring the legendary Stan Lee. With an emphasis on comics and being fan-friendly, the show was an enormous hit and is already moving this year to the much larger venue of Detroit’s Cobo Hall. Motor City Comic Con is no longer the only game in town and if it wants to remain as Detroit’s largest and longest-running show, it needs to re-energize itself with fresh guests and events to make the show more fan-friendly.