Decrypting the Booming Collectibles Market"). And for the record, I’ve never seen anything go from "weird future thing" to "world-conquering trend" to "NFTs: threat or menace?" quite so fast.
But luckily, that means I can write about other stuff now. So what’s on the radar?
may have heard, Fan Expo HQ, the pop culture arm of global events company Informa, hoovered up the popular Denver Pop Culture Con last week, "joining forces" with the nonprofit Pop Culture Classroom that had been running the show since its debut in 2012 as Denver Comic Con. FanExpo runs the eponymous event in Toronto that’s one of the largest fan conventions in North America; other FanExpos in Dallas and Boston; and Orlando’s MegaCon.
Whatever form this "joining of forces" took (terms were not disclosed), it was probably a lifeline for the independent Denver show which had to cancel its 2020 edition on relatively short notice and has prudently called its 2021 edition as well. Denver has had some turmoil in its management over the years, something that its mission-driven non-profit status might make worse rather than better.
According to Pop Culture Classroom’s most recent tax filing, the organization ran over $3.8 million in program service revenue (that is, money derived from running the convention) and had $2.2 million in the bank heading in to 2020, but with 29 people on the payroll and the costs of running the show at about $3 million, you can see why they’d be hurting with their event on ice.
That said, in the before-times, word is that bidding for Denver and Phoenix Fan Fusion, another big independent show serving the metropolitan center of a large geographic region, was hot and heavy, with all the big players showing an interest. It’s interesting that Fan Expo HQ, a Canadian company, ended up on the winning end of this deal, especially given that the US-Canada border remains closed with no plans for a reopening anytime soon. One imagines that will be sorted before Fan Expo moves forward with the placeholder Denver event they teased for later in 2021, ahead of the 2022 Denver Pop Culture Con proper, which is usually in April.
It’s also bittersweet for fans and exhibitors used to the local, personal touch of an independently-run show, even one with some of the issues that Denver had in the past. FanExpo, like ReedPOP, is a large, centrally-managed company that gets economies of scale from running lots of similarly-styled events. Fan Expo is keeping Pop Culture Classroom in the mix at some level, and is making all the right noises about keeping the local flavor of DPCC, but time will tell whether economics prevails over sentimentality. I know where I’m laying my bets in that contest.
Dynamite Entertainment, who, in my perfect world, would get the license to run a "classic DC universe" featuring continuity from the 60s, 70s and 80s, added longtime DC executive Jim Sokolowski as Vice President-Associate Publisher (see "Dynamite Adds ‘Ski’ to Team"). Ski had previously done stints at Archie Comics and Marvel Comics before his recent run as VP – Comic Book Specialty and Newsstand Sales for DC. The company also added Vince Letterio, former Director of Publishing Operations, as Dynamite’s new Director of Direct Market Sales (see "Dynamite Hires Vince Letterio"). This gives Dynamite a formidable one-two punch in the direct market as it ramps up its line of popular licensed and original books.
Michele Wells, who headed up DC’s highly successful middle grade and YA initiatives before spending six months sharing the Editor-in-Chief role with Marie Javins, has moved over to Tapas, the mobile webcomic and content platform. She will serve as Chief Content Officer there – presumably a super-EIC helping to guide the company’s overall strategy. (see "Tapas Taps Michele Wells as Chief Content Officer").
Tapas is coming off a booming 2020 that saw a 5x increase in revenue, according to founder/CEO Chang Kim. The majority of Tapas readers are women age 18-24, and Kim understands the secret to the success of the company’s format is to get readers hooked in the first few episodes of a long storyline. If DC couldn’t find room for Wells’s talents and approach, Tapas could end up being a better fit.
Finally (for this entry, anyway; there are still good DC folks floating around), IDW Publishing snapped up former DC Executive Editor Mark Doyle, who headed up the company’s buzzworthy mature content Black Label imprint, to be Editorial Director of Originals (see "IDW Announces Three New Hires"). Honestly IDW could use some muscle in this area and Doyle is a proven talent with the kind of storytelling taste that could help IDW consolidate its position in the middle tier of the market, particularly with original and creator-owned work.
It’s unfortunate that the senior member of comics’ Big Two no longer had room for these folks, but it’s good that the business is big enough, and doing well enough, for them to find new gigs that keep them involved doing the work that fans, retailers and creators find so valuable.
Since the late 90s, he’s been largely absent from the scene, rarely turning up at conventions, much less in print. Word was he was laboring away on some massive magnum opus that might someday see the light of day.
Well, the moment is nearly at hand. Monsters, Windsor-Smith’s 35 years-in-the-making graphic novel (see "Fantagraphics to Publisher Barry Windsor-Smith’s ‘Monsters’"), is due out from Fantagraphics Books next month and it is a beast! The hardcover volume clocks in at over 350 pages of beautiful, lovingly-crafted art and story. The story is complicated and multilayered, unfolding at a pace that would not have been well-served through serialization. The artwork starts from the very high standard he set earlier in his career and ascends from there, full of delicate hatching and intricate detail, but shorn of most of the action and "special effects" of his mainstream work.
I’ll have a full review elsewhere but wanted to raise the flag here for retailers who might not make it all the way to the Fantagraphics section of the order form. This isn’t Conan or Weapon X, but it’s a super-generous serving of prime new work from one of comics’ most celebrated creators and it deserves a place on the shelf.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
Rob Salkowitz (@robsalk) is the author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture.
Column by Rob Salkowitz
Posted by Rob Salkowitz on March 16, 2021 @ 3:40 am CT