Most people's idea of a Comic Con (Convention) is a group of geeky, overweight, beer swigging guys sitting in a darkened room sweating and drooling over a pile of Marvel first issues.
Well, this may have been true some 20 years ago but a lot has changed since then...
Originally most Comic Con were held to promote, buy, sell and swap comic books.
A place where traders, publishers, artists and their fans could meet and talk about...
These events were generally held in local charity halls, small hotels, and just about anywhere that could provide cheap space.
The events were also usually organized on a local basis and weren't heavily advertised or promoted.
So how did they become so popular and BIG?
As the comic industry grew and its popularity so did these geeky local comic meets and comic-cons.
Comics have always been a popular collectible mainly because their connection with our childhood memories.
As the comic cons popularity began to increase and attracting a wider audience other forms of collectibles started to creep into the Comic Con, such as autographs, trading cards, and movie posters etc.
Then Star Wars was unleashed on the world's screens.
And its effect and influence of surpassed anything that had come before it.
Star Wars changed everything.
Not just movies.
But the whole industry.
It changed how movies were made, it changed the merchandising, it changed the marketing and it changed people.
For the first time a movie gained a huge fan base and loyal following.
People started to collect anything and everything connected to the movie.
Kids and parents stood in lines outside their local toy store waiting for the latest Star Wars figures to arrive.
And suddenly the whole 'collectibles' market became mainstream.
And Comic-Cons became the ideal home for many of the dealers and traders who catered to these markets.
And so the traditional Comic-Con became more of a multi-media event.
There are now thousands of Comic-cons taking place every weekend but there are only a few really worth mentioning.
One of these is:
The San Diego Comic Con (SDCC)
Probably the largest and most popular of these is the San Diego Comic Con which has become a huge international affair and is touted as the biggest of its kind in the World!
This year's SDCC reached its max capacity before it even began meaning that only pre-registered attendees could get in which, is in the range of 125,000 people.
This is a far cry from its humble beginnings in 1970 when the very first Comic Con was held at the U. S. Grant Hotel and drew 300 people.
Other locations in the convention's early years included the El Cortez Hotel, University of California, San Diego, and Golden Hall, before being moved to the San Diego Convention center in 1991
Many now feel that the SDCC has reached its capacity and there's been talk of moving the event to Los Angeles or Las Vegas when the current agreement with the San Diego Convention Center ends in 2012.
Originally the convention showcased comic books, science fiction/fantasy and film/television and related popular arts but the convention has expanded over the years to include a larger range of pop culture elements, such as horror, anime, manga, animation, toys, collectible card games, video games, webcomics, and fantasy novels.
The most apt description of the San Diego Comic-Con comes from the press packet which bills it as the "largest popular arts convention in the world."
Many fear that it has become too big and that 'corporate America' is in danger of taking it over, but the organizers say they will restrict the number of large media companies allowed.
For many people the yearly trip to the San Diego Comic Con is anticipated like a 5-year-old looks forward to a Disneyland trip. And like Disneyland, you're bound to meet crazy costumed characters, end up spending a lot of money, wait in long lines (for autographs though, not rides), and have an unforgettable time that will be remembered for years to come.
The crowds at these events can sometimes be overpowering particularly if you're walking in aisles that have the most traffic, which is towards the middle of the convention floor; and both ends of the conventions.
When it's crowded it can take forever just to get to the next table or booth. a few feet in front of you. There is no way possible to be in a convention without people bumping into you (and you them), so if you like your own personal space, forget it.
Although The San Diego Comic-Con is probably one of the biggest events of its kind it is NOT the largest Comic-con in the world.
The big ones in Tokyo, ComiKet (Comic Market, which happens twice a year, Summer and Winter), are over 5 times heavier that Comic Con with attendances upwards of 500,000!
Many of these events have now become huge multi-media shows or conventions with star guests autographing, guest panels featuring comic book artists, movie directors and game developers, Q and A sessions, movie and TV premiers and previews as well as a large video game presence.
Many of the big studios are in attendance to promote their next blockbusters and TV Studios touting the next big TV hits.
Then there are the memorabilia stalls selling anything and everything from Star Wars costumes to life sized Predator props.
Is this a good thing?
Many traditionalists believe not.
I enjoy them both as a visitor and trader because:
Without the large media companies involvement many of these shows would probably have disappeared years ago.
It is these same companies that have actively encouraged the collectors market with their aggressive marketing and merchandising, so although it may seem they are 'taking over' the Comic-cons its important to also remember that without them the industry would be as big as it is now.
My main regret is that the industry is becoming less 'creative' and relying more and more on a few large licenses or franchises to make their money.
A prime example of this is McFarlane Toys recent decision (2008) to cancel all the previously announced in-house action figures.
My fear that decisions like this will stifle the talent and creativity in the industry as the larger companies increasingly rely on few BIG licenses to make their money and unfortunately many of the smaller manufacturers don't have the money or resources to risk releasing an untried product.