Fandom and Comi-Cons are ripe for financial stories

by July 22, 2014
Clark Kent shows his Superman shirt under his dress shirt

A make-believe Clark Kent hints at his super powers. Photo: Kevin Dooley

What’s a multi-billion industry that draws celebrities, corporate exhibitors and hundreds of thousands of free-spending enthusiasts to events in multiple venues nationwide?

No, not talking about NASCAR, the NFL or the beauty pageant circuit.  The movement I’m thinking of is the world of fandom – comic cons (comic conventions)  cosplay (costumed role playing) and related activities that pay homage to pop culture icons, video game villians, comic book heroes and other aspects of the comic, anime and fantasy worlds.

If you haven’t investigated the economic impact of all of the above in your region, you might want to do so soon.  It’s a fast-growing sector of the entertainment/hobby world and this week’s mega conference, the Comic-Con International in San Diego, which expects more than 130,000 attendees, is the perfect springboard to a story about the local scene.   Hashtag

It’s a financial powerhouse; SDMetro.com says the three-year economic impact of Comic-Con in San Diego is more than $448 million.  I don’t know why this whole subculture has flown under the radar as long as it has, but it seems time for financial writers to sit up and take note. 

People looking through boxes of comic books.

Beyond the costumes and zombie walks, Comic-Con finds its roots in comic books. Photo: Kevin Dooley

Corporations sure have; here’s a recent article, for example, about the automaker Hyundai transforming one of its vehicles into a Zombie Survival Machine for last year’s New York comic con.    Hollywood is involving TV and movie franchises big-time – The Wrap says there are more than 2,400 credentialed media representatives heading to the show and gives a round-up of PR efforts like parties and hospitality suites.  And and according to this report from NPR, promoting the shows is becoming big business.  Lego is offering a limited edition Hobbit figure in San Diego, to show you how household names are involved.

Can you find any local companies exhibiting at Comic-Con International or other shows?  (Check expo directorieson event websites, to start.) 

Many regional conventions take place; here’s a sampling in one directory, UpcomingCons.com, from which you likely can find a nearby event in 2014 – and be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page; you’ll see a list of genre-specific cons for devotees of horror, sci-fi, anime and even literature for those who like authors of science fiction, mystery and other tomes.

This WFAA report from Dallas is a good example of a local take – the station reports that the comic con in its market has had to move to a larger venue sooner than anticipated to accommodate a surge in attendees; it jumped from 5,000 in 2002 to 25,000 in 2013.  And this May report from the Deseret News says “Salt Lake comic con building revenue, loyal fan base.” It’s got some good detail you can pursue about the metrics of staging a local show.

Nathan Fillion at Comic-Con 2014 Phoenix

Nathan Fillion, fromhe television series Firefly, is a big draw at regional Comic-Cons. Photo: Ruth Anderson

Whatever is compelling people to dress up like Trekkies, Trons, Hobbits and Wonder Woman, they aren’t stinting on the supplies. Check out this Business Insider video on “Here’s How Much Hardcore Geeks At Comic Con Spend On Costumes And Toys” for ideas; it’s also a great reminder of how this story naturally lends itself to multimedia presentation.

This author might be an interesting source: Tim Leong has published “Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe” and judging by this review on i09 it offers a wealth of data on the industry, including attendance information.

Don’t forget about vendors; someone is selling all of these costume pieces and props.  I did a simple eBay search on ”Batman cosplay”, narrowing the location to within 50 miles of my ZIP code, and found a couple of sellers/stores that specialize in costumes and accessories; they’d make great profiles leading up to a local cosplay event.